It’s five o’clock and you’re in charge of choosing your date night destination. Bored with your go-to options, you want a place that will bring a different energy to your evening plans. Sound familiar? Luckily, there is an offering for every mood. Here are three that may be lurking under your radar. 

Tucked away less than a block from the Capitol, Tornado Steak House is a throwback supper club amidst newer, trendier bars and restaurants in the area. All-over wood paneling and stained glass hanging lamps give the space a hazy warm glow. Cozy round booths near the bar and collection of semi-private alcoves in the back support quiet conversation and encourage lingering for a drink after dinner. 

Ashley Maier and Mike Weier of Waunakee made Tornado a special destination recently to celebrate Weier’s birthday. He chose the place because of its “old school, 50s-60s vibe” as well as its great steak. It was Maier’s first time, but she was already grooving on the atmosphere. They agreed that the laid back, slightly “Mad Men” vibe was exactly what they were looking for. Many regulars concur, so reservations at peak hours are helpful, or enjoy the steak and seafood on the late night menu until one a.m. 

On the other side of the Square, Opus Lounge offers a place to see and be seen. The narrow venue feels spacious due to high ceilings and shiny-yet-spare Deco-modern fusion décor. Bartender Luke Semenas sees a lot of couples come through, noting that first dates and committed pairs alike “tend to end up [at Opus] at some point in their night. People come to impress someone.” 

One way to impress your date is to order the best new cocktail creation that hasn’t yet made the already extensive menu. Semenas and his colleagues always have new inventions they’re excited to share with adventurous patrons. Crowds are hit-or-miss, especially earlier in the evening. You may get the whole place to yourself or catch a swarm of young professionals checking out DJ Vinyl Richie’s handiwork. 

If you venture away from downtown to the Near East Side, consider stopping in to Jolly Bob’s, where you’ll be forgiven for temporarily forgetting Madison’s often frigid temperatures. The acid yellow walls, photographs of island life and glowing blue fish tank in the middle of the dining room set the stage for a tropical escape while the tequilas and mango nectar-infused drinks seal the deal. 

Although the ambiance at Jolly Bob’s isn’t traditionally romantic, you’d be hard-pressed to find a hangout where patrons seem more relaxed. Free-flowing laughter and animated storytelling fill the establishment with an easygoing, friendly air. For something even more upbeat, visit after ten on one of the many nights when local DJs take over at Jolly Bob’s to spin a diverse selection of dance music. 

Cozy and classic, stylish and social, or breezy and bright: consider switching things up with a new landing-place for romance. Any way you want it, Madison has you covered.