The Griff

Date night: A downtown date in three acts

Downtown

Date night: A downtown date in three acts

There's plenty to do downtown, both inside and outdoors

It’s February. If you don’t know what this month means for your love life, then you need more help than I can give you in the next few minutes (need a hint? Flip ahead a few pages. Got it? Good. Let’s move on).

Finding activities that are both fun and romantic during one of winter’s colder months might seem like a bleak prospect. Cold snaps, snow dumps, and slick roads are par for the course in this city — and enough to put anybody’s social calendar on ice — but it would be a mistake to try to “Netflix and chill” through it all. So toss the remote, lose the sweats, and suit up, because the griff has your downtown date night covered from head to toe, starting with dinner and drinks at the Hat.


ACT I: THE HAT RESTO PUB —
10251 Jasper Avenue

Two doors down from the old Paramount Theatre, the Hat serves traditional pub fare alongside a handful of inventive fusion dishes. For the purists, there are crowd-pleasers like chicken wings, fish and chips, and a dozen burgers to choose from. Diners looking to mix things up can take a stab at the perogy nachos, butter chicken poutine, or maki-style mac and cheese.

Before laying eyes on the menu, the first thing you’ll notice is atmosphere. Soft music sets the tone for conversation. The wooden floor, tables, and 15-metre bar running down the shotgun interior give the pub a casual feel, while the metallic ceiling and dark, silky wallpaper add a touch of class that echoes back to the building’s origin.

As one of Edmonton’s oldest restaurants, the spot used to be known as the Silk Hat, a popular part of the dinner-and-a-movie combo back in the day and a hot spot for tea leaf readings. Venture into the back and you can still see the old neon sign mounted on the exposed brick wall for show.

If you want to add a bit of intrigue to your night, or if the conversation runs dry, ask the staff about the mysterious tunnel hidden in the basement.


ACT II: The RUSSIAN TEA ROOM

— 10312 Jasper Avenue

The Hat’s fortune-telling days are a thing of the past, but if you’ve got room for dessert, and an open mind, a stop at the Russian Tea Room may lie in your future. It’s a short walk from the pub, across the street and half a block west.

A restaurant in its own right, your next stop has a full menu if you’re still feeling peckish, but I’d draw your attention to the wide selection of cheesecakes, tortes, and pastries housed in the display case.

After you’ve satisfied your sweet tooth, look past the tchotchkes and kitsch to the tables in the back; there you’ll find the in-house fortune tellers reading everything from tarot cards and palms to tea leaves and crystal balls.

Are you in the right job? Who were you in a past life? How is this date going? Sit back and relax (or not) as your interpreter channels arcane sources to answer these questions and more.

The mystical arts don’t hold water for everyone, so if peering beyond the veil isn’t your cup of tea, try having fun with it: invoke freewill and challenge your fortune, or use the session as an opportunity to reflect. At the end of the night, it’s your dime.

Readings are offered until 10 p.m. and are usually handled one-on-one, but if you’re adventurous, and a fan of full disclosure, try sitting for a couples reading. It’s never too early to know if your stars are crossed.


ACT III: OUTDOOR SKATING —
Sir Winston Churchill Square

So you’ve made it this far, and your date’s roommate hasn’t called to report a freak apartment fire or pet emergency. You’re on a roll. Score a hat trick with one more slick, but romantic, gesture: outdoor skating at the City Hall ice rink.

Bring your own skates or take your chances with the limited rentals available on-site. Either way, you can put away the wallet because this part is free.

If you’re out on Feb. 14, take a trip back to the ‘70s and join in the Valentine’s Day Disco Skate and Dance. There will be music and fire-roasted bannock for added value.

The rink is open until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 5 p.m. on weekends, so adjust your schedule accordingly. Poor ice conditions and extreme weather might put a kink in plans, so keep that in mind. If that’s the case, you can always head back indoors for a late-night movie.


Photography supplied.