Spring has sprung. Young love is filling the air like pollen, inspiring swollen eyes and runny noses in those uninduced by the birds and the bees.

You know what else has sprung? 

Boys: into action asking girls on dates. Spring is known to bring new beginnings and I’m incredibly happy for all the relationships budding around me. I don’t mean to bulldoze over these relationship seedlings, however, I’ve noticed at an alarming rate, the lovebirds all flocking to Val’s on Freret.

Out of a house of five, I’m the only one that hasn’t been on a date to Val’s. Two of my roommates went on first dates there within the past month. Though Val’s is a phenomenal restaurant, I believe that in this lovely, lively city there are more options to explore. So, for all the wonderful reasons you may have chosen Val’s for your rendezvous, I have researched and carefully selected a new recommendation for you.

If you chose Val’s for its outdoor ambiance try Seafood Sally’s 

What Val’s does so well with its retro, Southwestern mechanical vibe, Seafood Sally’s brings with its cozy, East Coast cottage, crab boil core. Both were started by seasoned (pun intended) restaurateurs and have risen to their own successes. With a classic New Orleans veranda and sprawling patio to enjoy, Seafood Sally’s is a similar, but totally different vibe. If your first date is the morning after, their brunch offers a bloody mary like no other: The Crawfish Blood Bath comes with a crawfish as garnish so you and your date can drown out last night’s mistake or cheers to its success.  

If you chose Val’s for its price point try Barracuda 

Barracuda is a Margarita oasis and taco stand on Tchoupitoulas. Super informal, you order at the window and find seating at communal tables in the backyard area. Tacos are $5 and under and drinks, all under $10. You can order tacos individually depending on the depth of your stomach and cocktail pitchers together depending on how much you and your date want to remember getting to know each other. At the moment their specials are Louisiana Strawberry Margaritas and Shrimp Macha Tacos. 

Pro tip: Tipitinas is right down the road so if you and your date hit it off and want to hit the town, make your way over to Tips for some live music. Concerts are held almost every night and tickets are typically around $20. Find their concert schedule here

If you chose Val’s for its proximity to campus try Cure

Tucked behind a speakeasy-esque door down the street from Val’s is a stunning, secretive courtyard and bar home to the best-trained mixologists in New Orleans and called by Conde Nast Traveler “arguably the most interesting cocktail experience in the city.” Cure was started by the same team who opened Val’s so just know that all the things you love about Val’s, Cure did it first. As far as ambiance, you can expect a nicer feel and a price point to match. Nothing astronomical unless you’re in the mood for their finest spirits, but expect to spend around $13 per drink if you’re ordering off the cheapest menu. 

If you chose Val’s for its tacos and margs try El Pavo Real 

El Pavo Real is a neighborhood gem worth visiting if you can brave crossing South Claiborne, located in Broadmoor. It has a hefty menu of Mexican food favorites including tacos, tamales, enchiladas, and all-day breakfast options like huevos rancheros. Overall, much more robust in options than Val’s curated collection. Its margaritas are enlivened with a house agua fresca and its frozen watermelon marg is especially celebrated. Drink options hover around $8 and the restaurant vibe is family friendly and cozy. 

If you chose Val’s for your date’s captivating conversation try a trip to Trader Joe’s 

A girl who shops at Trader Joe’s already has great taste and if she’s chosen to go on a date with you, I’m sure that makes it impeccable. But a great girl doesn’t mean a great fit and there’s no better way to know if you and your date get along than taking her for the ride of her life. All the way to Metairie. You’ll know how fruitful the relationship will be based on the banter in the produce aisle. Take your knockout out and knock out some errands while you’re at it. 

For real though, if you both can hold a conversation without the distractions of a dinner out, you’re one step closer to the monotony of married life. 

If you chose Val’s for its drink takeout window try New Orleans Original Daiquiri  

If you and your date don’t have time to stop for dinner between adventures and just need a drink for the road, try New Orleans Original Daiquiri. The location on the corner of Saint Charles and South Carrollton is a walk in with a range of cup sizes and flavors, and the Jefferson location offers a drive thru so you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own car. The frozen style daiquiris are reminiscent of the famed seasonal frozens at Val’s, though can be ordered in a gallon size for a double, triple, or maybe even quadruple date ( for only $25). Whether you’re heading to a picnic at the Fly or into the backseat, these daiquiris will be a yummy treat for both you and your date. 

Featured image via Ian McNulty for nola.com.

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