Date Night is my favorite night of the week. My wife Jenni and I have made a commitment to go on a date at least once per week. It has really infused fun times and memorable experiences into our marriage. Weekly date-nights over the past 5 years has inevitably helped us to acquire an extensive knowledge of Fresno area restaurants, movie theaters, fun things to do and other miscellaneous activities. All our friends are always asking for restaurant suggestions. When going out on a double date, we repeatedly hear the phrase, “you guys always know about all the good restaurants – you pick!”
So, I’ve decided to write a regular column for the I Love Fresno blog called “Date Night”. And this inaugural post is specifically centered on my personal favorite date night combo: Dinner and a Movie. My wife and I are both huge movie buffs and huge foodies. (Sometimes, in our spare time, we even watch The Food Network and enjoy shows about cooking like Chopped, Worst Cooks in America, and The Great Food Truck Race, and restaurant reality TV business shows like Restaurant Impossible and Restaurant Startup.)
Here are my top 5 restaurants to sit down and really enjoy your date night dinner, along with my top 5 theaters to catch a great flick with the love of your life.
I’m rating the restaurants based on 5 key factors: Food (flavor and quality), Service, Ambiance, and Romance Factor.
I’ve been here three times in the last month if that tells you anything.
The food is amazing. This is the only restaurant in town where I will order a Rib-eye. And that’s because of Costco. Costco has such good Rib-eye steaks that the finer restaurants seem like they’re serving gristle and fat on a plate. But I’ve never been disappointed in my Carne Asada made with a high quality cut of beef. The chef is in the kitchen and she knows how to cook!
Food: You must try it!
Service: Impeccably good. The staff cares and it shows.
Ambiance: A feast for the eyes. The design is unlike anything else you’ve seen.
Romance Factor: The dining room is small, but every table feels like you’ve got plenty of space. It makes for an intimate dining experience.
When you want to go someplace very special, Cracked Pepper Bistro is the place to go. The flavors on this menu are certainly an experience you’ll enjoy.
Tip: Buy the gift cards from Costco and enjoy a bit of a discount.
Food: I dare you not to moan blissfully after every bite!
Service: Men and women who are passionate about your experience will serve you with a smile.
Ambiance: Dimly lit. Can be loud if the place is busy.
Romance Factor: Very romantic. Ask for a booth.
This place is our go-to when we want a fun, live-music vibe, especially during certain times of the year. They have an open-mic night Weds – Sat which draws some decent local talent. Inside the restaurant though, it gets so loud that you can’t hear your date. But in the early spring and autumn months when the outside temp is perfect for their large outdoor patio, the dining experience is unparalleled. Something about the sound of live music coupled with eating amazing food in the not-too-hot evening air fills my happy place.
Food: Very delicious.
Service: Can’t really complain. “Casual” I guess?
Ambiance: Like I said, go in April on a Thursday night and sit on the patio. Amazeballs!
Romance Factor: Not super romantic, but if you do have to sit inside on open mic night, sit on the same side of the booth as your date. Then it’s super romantic!
The romance factor is a bit diminished for tables of 2 because there is almost no distance between you and the table next to you. Don’t get me wrong, this can sometimes add to the fun factor, since you will be hearing your adjacent table’s conversation, and they yours, you can sometimes meet new friends or mix it up a bit. However, this can also be quite awkward, like that time when the couple next to us went out to dinner at the Annex to discuss ending their marriage. Uh…Check please?!
Food: Chefs from around the world rave about the food here.
Service: Professional and courteous.
Ambiance: A large fire sets the stage as you walk in via an enormous door. The cooks are all visibly working their behinds off.
Romance Factor: Not so much. I’d recommend coming here in a party of 5-7 so you can sit in one the circular booths.
The best steak I’ve ever had in my life was at The Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Fresno, California. I’ve eaten at some of the top restaurants in the nation, and I can confidently say that none of them came close to this.
Tip: No reservations? Sit in the bar and you can still enjoy full service and fine dining.
Food: Best quality possible.
Service: Cream of the crop.
Ambiance: You feel like a better person just being here.
Romance Factor: Very romantic.
Theaters are rated on Film Experience, Service, Comfort, Cleanliness, and Price. I don’t eat popcorn or drink soda, so I can’t rate the snack bars in this post. Leave your comments about Best Snacks in the comments below!
This place used to be 3rd on my list. However, not too long ago they added these wonderful reclining seats which catapulted Manchester up to the solid top spot on my list.
Film Experience: Primo
Service: The lines here are usually very long, especially for concessions. However you can purchase your tickets, and pick out your seats ahead of time by buying from their website.
Comfort: The ultimate in theater comfort.
Cleanliness: Never had a problem
Price: Worth it.
Edwards is a pretty decent theater. They show 20 minutes of previews, so don’t worry if you’re running a few minutes late.
TIP: Don’t bother paying extra to see IMAX movies here, it is not a “real IMAX” so you don’t get the same experience as you would, say, in San Francisco or Seattle.
Film Experience: 5/5
Service: The lines can get kind of long.
Comfort: Very comfortable
Cleanliness: The floor isn’t too sticky.
Price: A bit high
The Maya theater is the newest theater in Fresno. I
Tip: Make sure you check out the MPX theater, which, I believe is the largest screen in town.
Film Experience: 5/5
Service: Great! The employees all seem to possess basic interpersonal communication skills.
Comfort: Luxurious, boasting extra large arm rests with large cup holders that even your popcorn bucket fits into.
Cleanliness: Very clean.
Price: Just right.
This theater is in Clovis, and they only show “second-run” movies. But I’m including it because the ticket prices are only $4. Sure, the sound quality is sometimes off, but if you’re wanting to save a few bucks and still see a film in the format the director intended it, UA 8 will do in a pinch.
Film Experience:Better than an old VHS tape.
Service: Very Friendly
Cleanliness: Not too shabby.
Sometimes the movie you want to see is not playing at the correct time. In fact, it seems like all of the movie start times are more geared toward when they end, rather than when they start? If you meet at the restaurant for dinner at 7PM, the best movie start time should be 8:30, right? Well, good luck finding any theater that regularly starts blockbusters at that time.
However, on occasion, you can find the movie you want to see at the time you want to see, and all you have to do is drive way out to Broadway Faire.
Film Experience: 4/5
Service: Just okay
Comfort: It’s an older theater, and it feels like it.
Cleanliness: Relatively clean.
Price: Can’t remember.
Are you on the Keto Diet? Next month, be sure to check out my next post: Fresno’s Best Keto Bites