Matt and Isadora

It has been nearly five months since the COVID-19 pandemic imposed unprecedented restrictions upon our lives. We’ve gone through lockdowns, socially distanced, bought all the masks, and washed our hands a million times a day – all just doing our best to try and get through 2020. Now that we are here at the end of summer – with cases still rising and no end in sight – we are having to adjust to life in this new normal.

Even with all the changes, life doesn’t stop, and spending quality time with those you love is more important than ever. How do you maintain some semblance of fun and romance in these trying times? For my husband and I, this has meant finding ways to enjoy meals together without taking unnecessary risks to our health and the health of others. We also wanted to make sure we continued to support the restaurants we love because they have suffered with the regulations and shutdowns.

On a personal note, our world also changed even more as we became parents in the middle of all this upheaval, bringing our daughter into the world in early May. They told me parenthood was challenging, but it has been considerably harder than we expected given the restrictions of life in a pandemic. Thankfully, we have some devoted family and friends who have tested negative for COVID-19 and have relieved us for some date nights here and there, though what that looks like is really different now.

We aren’t comfortable dining in at restaurants, so we have taken to planning our meals around local spots where we can get food to go and find picturesque or interesting places where we can eat them outdoors away from others.

Below are some of our favorite options for pandemic date spots – “pan-dates,” if you will – where you can find great eats to share with those you love.

Bell Street Burritos at The Stove Works
112 Krog St NE #1A, (678) 732-9122
Regular ground beef burrito with potatoes, onions, pickled jalapenos, sour cream, and grilled. A side of chips and queso, and a Mexican Coke. Best enjoyed on the shady patio or sitting alongside the Beltline for superior people-watching.

The Deli at Candler Park Market
1642 McLendon Ave NE,
(404) 373-9787
Candler Club Deli Sandwich with turkey, ham, bacon, pimento cheese, lettuce, and tomato. A side of fries and sweet tea. We like to picnic in Candler Park. Pro tip: bring a blanket and tray to enhance the romance, and ice in a mason jar with a lid will keep your sweet tea cool and keep the bugs at bay.

Grindhouse Killer Burgers
433 N McDonough St., Decatur, (404) 400-0509
Double beef burger with American cheese, junior beef burger with American cheese, lettuce, onions, and chipotle ranch. A side of “frings” (fries and onion rings) and a Coke. Decatur Square is an excellent place to grab a bench and watch folks meandering around, and if you’re lucky you will be serenaded by local musicians playing on the streets nearby.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
545 N McDonough St, Decatur,
(470) 891-8095
Who doesn’t love a cold treat on these sweltering hot days? My go to is a waffle cone (made in-house, yummm!) with a scoop of milkiest chocolate and a scoop of darkest chocolate. Keep in mind that their new policy is that all cones are served upside down on a disposable plate. I recommend finding a shady spot on the lawn or taking a stroll around the square with your honey.

Nick’s Food To Go
240 M.L.K. Jr Dr SE, (404) 521-2220
Falafel pita with added feta cheese. This family-owned Greek restaurant is a local gem and a personal favorite of ours. Operating out of a nondescript building just off Memorial in Grant Park, they have been offering delish fresh casual meals for more than 20 years. Place an order at their window and take it over to the nearby Oakland Cemetery for an unconventional meal among the dead. Contemplating your own morbidity has never been more timely – or romantic.

Isadora Pennington

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.