If you're feeling burned out with the same old dates, it's time to "update." Several classic experiences have been modernized, including some activities you might not have even thought about since college. With that in mind, here are three updates for you this summer.
Tuck Room Tavern & iPic
For starters, there is the old standby: dinner and a movie. Nobody is upgrading that ambience more than the iPic in Westwood, which offers in-theater drinking and dining, along with reclining seats.
The space also houses Tuck Room Tavern, overseen by two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Sherry Yard. Artisanal cocktails and a vast selection of craft beers make this an ideal spot to begin your date. I recommend the Booth 50, which combines Evan Williams bourbon, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, wildflower honey and yuzu. Looking for something eye catching? Try the Coconut Grove, a blend of coconut water, housemade Coco Lopez (a sugary, creamy coconut product), Bacardi 8-year rum, El Dorado 8-year Demerara rum and a dash of Balsam American Amaro presented in a split-open coconut and, of course, elaborately garnished.
The fare is gastropub-meets-farmers market. Start with The Avocado, a grilled, stuffed Haas avocado, shallot mousse, topped with breadcrumbs and Cotija cheese. You could share, but you probably won't. Also, consider splitting the mac-and-cheese fries or Reuben croquettes, both are deep-fried and addictive.
As far as entrees, order the mango & habanero baby back ribs -- just the right amount of heat and sweet. Don't bother with a fork and knife, the meat falls right off the bone. The sides on the dish are equally indulgent, honey-glazed cornbread topped with whipped goat cheese paired with tangy coleslaw. Looking for something lighter? Order the wild sea bass, served a light salad and farmers market heirloom cherry tomatoes.
Save room because Chef Yard's specialty is dessert. Yard served for years as Wolfgang Puck's executive pastry chef and partner for his worldwide operations. Her desserts have been featured at the Academy Awards Governor's Ball, the Grammy Awards and the Emmy Awards.
Yard creations, pictured below -- the Black 'n Blue Pot Pie and the Red Velvet Pavlova -- aren't to be missed and, frankly, are worth a visit for their own sake. The pot pie serves up the sweetest market-fresh blackberries and blueberries in a light puff pastry, topped with a housemade blackberry crumble swirl ice cream. If you don't mind some extra time in the gym, also order the pavlova, which combines vanilla meringue, red velvet raspberry chunk ice cream and whipped cream.
And don't worry, the waiter will time your meal to make sure you get to your movie on time, that is, if you're not too stuffed to walk a few paces to the theater.
Hitting the Santa Monica Pier for a summer concert? Drop into Pier Burger for a classic burger and a shake. The burgers are 100% certified angus -- a thick, juicy patty topped with homemade sauce and incredibly fresh tomato and lettuce. Not into burgers? They also grill up an indulgent hot dog topped with cheese and bacon.
The fries are skinny and crisp -- you can order to share, but be honest with yourself, they're too good. Make sure to indulge in one of the concretes, a dense frozen East Coast-style custard bursting with flavor. I'm partial to the peanut butter cookie concrete, with vanilla custard, Reese's peanut butter cups and bits of cookie dough. My date opted for the creamsicle float, which was also an amazing sweet treat.
The boardwalk-inspired space features indoor/outdoor dining and views of the pier, and is adjacent to the midway games, roller coaster and ferris wheel. How's that for a modern take on a classic?
One of my favorite college pastimes was bowling. Bring your Lebowski lexicon down to Bowlero in Westchester. But this isn't the bowling alley that I remember. Bowlero has reinvented the experience, offering signature cocktails, a gastropub menu and servers who come right to your lane.
Huge burgers and hot dogs -- and I mean huge! -- will feed everyone in your lane and the next one over. The Wonder Dog, for example, served with coney sauce, onions, chili and cheese, is two feet in length. There are also a variety of more grown-up bites, like filet Mignon and bleu cheese, bacon-wrapped scallops and coconut shrimp.
The cocktails are as modern as any bar in this part of town, and are an essential part of the bowling experience. In fact, a round of shots is the order of the day. Consider drinking games, like doing a shot everytime someone throws a strike (I only endorse this if you throw strikes as infrequently as me and my crew -- if you've considered turning pro or are in a bowling league, I strongly recommend against this game, as it will probably end in a trip to the emergency room).
On a lighter note, this is a great place for double dates or group dates. And after you're rolled out, hit the arcade, which features classic video games, pinball and the kind of games of skill you'd find on a midway or on a boardwalk. Movies are projected above each alley lane and a DJ cranks out the tunes.