Not Your Normal Date Nights

By Travis Harrington & Thomas Colantuono

Date night often gravitates toward simple ideas, a movie night or the restaurant you both love, and while there is nothing wrong with consistency, it’s healthy for any couple to break those cycles. Well, it can be —so long as it doesn’t end with y3g4a0322-800x533ou waking up naked in the desert with a trash bag on your head.

However, one thing is for sure; it’s quite impossible to go on a successful date alone, and it’s fair to assume that any attempted ‘solo date’ is far more depressing than any missed connection at the end of a conjoined one. So, it was from this thought that this article was bred.

As two lonely friends tired of lamenting our lack of courtship and correspondence, we decided that we would take each other out to some locations instead. And, since this is a rather atypical approach to rectifying any lack of romance, we figured that we should try our best to visit places that embody the same theme of shirking normality. (Note: our observations took place over a two day period, but if any couple attempted to do all of these in one day, it would make for quite a spectacular experience.)



Hopping in your parents’ car and splitting a milkshake and some fries with your date at the local ‘burger joint’ is a ubiquitous trope of courtship that’s been romanticized in just about every dated teen film. It’s a classic, simple way to enjoy some quality time out with your squeeze, but for any exceptionally health conscious or dietarily deviant couple, replicating this scene could be difficult.

But, Root —a newly opened, bistro style restaurant in Monkey Junction that boasts an entirely plant-based menu with all ingredients (other than the bread, but they’re working on that) freshly prepared in house, could be the answer! The menu itself is simple, comprised of various sandwiches, wraps, and salads, and with a quick substitution of a smoothie and some buffalo cauliflower poppers, you and your date could be on your way to making your fantasy a reality. Thomas and I went together for an early lunch, splitting a dish called “Kelp Me” and a BBQ sandwich. The “Kelp Me,” a dish of chilled kelp noodles seasoned with black pepper, cashew cheese and sauteed kale, was a savory substitute for any alfredo lover. As for the BBQ sandwich, the namesake was prepared from marinated jackfruit topped with a simple coleslaw, and stood as a powerful protest to any hubric carnivore whose only idea of delectability involves meat. Check out their page at for photos, updates and more.  – reviewed by Travis



Usually if a date entails being surrounded by snakes, it has gone horribly wrong. But, at Cape Fear Serpentarium, potential fear becomes intrigue when observing the many lizards, alligators and deathly poisonous snakes from around the world on display. These cold blooded creatures backdrop the warmth of a blossoming or established relationship with a subtle contrast that nurtures the inquisitive nature of early dates, and negates any potential for awkward silence. Travis’ and my fully immersed experience together garnered two hours of interesting conversation interspersed with an education on a subject that some are usually reluctant to admire. Even though the reptiles are safely encased, there were still unexpected moments as we sauntered around such as a Nile Crocodile suddenly opening its mouth and keeping it agape until we left, or a Rattlesnake (from our lovely North Carolina!) reacting to us by rattling and coiling, poised to strike. And maybe the living reminders of pockets of extreme danger in this world will break down any inhibitions barring you from appreciating the compassion of another, or help enforce the realization that this date should be the last. For more information see their website at or visiting at 20 Orange Street in downtown Wilmington. reviewed by Thomas


Old Books On Front St.

Reading your date’s mind is daunting, but discovering what your date loves to read may help. Ideally, a date should be an opportunity to learn about your significant other, and Old Books provides the perfect setting to peer into one another’s minds in ways spoken words can’t convey. The store holds a collection of books to please any mind; although you may have to do some searching through the nearly two miles of used books. For those with less time, there are some new releases behind the counter, but it’s the alcoves hiding decades old books that contain the real romance. Searching side by side, Travis and I found books in the Science Fiction section that sparked conversation that left Earthly bounds – this would have been hard to come upon through small talk over coffee. While there is nothing wrong with small talk and coffee, it is hard to compete with literary talk over a beer or glass of wine from Old Book’s drink list, which also has various juices and other non-alcoholic beverages. For more information visit their website at – reviewed by Thomas


Jamaica’s Comfort Zone

If you and your date love to eat, but are tired of bourgeois representations of southern classics or quick fixes that seem a bit too quickly fixed, why not try something a bit less localized and a bit more earnest? With a full menu of traditional Jamaican dishes and a home-cooked atmosphere nestled within the University Landing shopping center, Jamaica’s Comfort Zone is a perfect lunch or dinner spot to try something new and perhaps find a new favorite dish that you and your date can reminisce about for weeks to come. Thomas and I decided to arrive between typical lunch and dinner hours, and to our pleasant surprise, had the place to ourselves. The owner, Valerie Lingo, was warm and accommodating as she took our requests and brought the food out. The oxtail and brown stew we ordered arrived quickly. Both dishes were remarkably tender and seasoned with a prowess that only someone who has experienced these flavors for a lifetime could manage. The sides of fried plantains and dumplings were a heavenly compliment to the spicy broth, and after we left, I felt a wholesome fullness that would typically only follow a thoughtfully prepared family meal. For a full menu and information visit – reviewed by Travis


Defy Gravity

Bodily coordination isn’t something required for a romance to prosper, but if two soulmates-in-training put themselves in a situation where the lack of it becomes flagrantly apparent, it could become a bit difficult for love to find its way. Even still, they say that the feeling of being enamored is comparable to a sensation of floating. So, maybe you and your sweetie should ditch the idea of cruising, hands clenched, across the dimly-lit linoleum of the skating rink and leap over to Ogden’s Defy Gravity instead —plus, there’s a lot more protective padding. First things first: when you approach the counter and they ask you how much time you’d like to buy, you’re going to severely overestimate how much energy you and your partner have, no matter what. Once you accept that your date is going to see you in a position of extreme physical exhaustion, relax, and realize that maybe —if the date goes well— this won’t be the last time they’ll see you like this, and maybe it won’t be the last time you’ll see them sweaty and satisfied either. Thomas and I ended up purchasing an hour’s worth of time —which was honestly around forty minutes more than we should have. But the hour gave us adequate time to soar, giggle, wheeze, tumble, rest, and breathlessly engage in well-rounded conversation. Just make sure that if you go during the day that your vehicle has reliable air conditioning; the hot summer air does not greet disobeyers of physical laws with kindness. For more information visit their website at – reviewed by Travis  



Preparation for a date isn’t as simple as arriving after a long day of work with sweat stains in all sorts of crevices, carrying a drained expression and clothes clearly worn 2 days in a row with hopes that the real you shines through; it requires deliberation, and a delicate touch. Raw fish must be approached with the same forethought before it can become ceviche. Just as you would sparingly apply your favorite scent, or dress yourself in the most complimentary manner, the fish is marinated and paired with a blend of ingredients that create a marvelous dish to share with a dashing date. The restaurant’s menu extends far beyond their namesake with two pages of Panamanian inspired cuisine that is all made from fresh ingredients, many of which are locally sourced. There are 3 separate seating areas all accommodating different situations; a lively bar, a dining room for larger parties, and an outdoor seating area. Sitting in the forest green bar, we were enthusiastically attended to by our waitress (thanks Miranda!) and shared 5 smaller dishes, allowing us to explore more than usual and create a communal atmosphere. The two ceviches we ordered were the Corvina, a fresh and acidic flavor, and the Langostina de Coco, which was creamy and rich. Sancocho (a traditional soup so good it’s the national dish for several countries) was harder to share, but worth the effort. I would happily ruin any chance at a second date to have it to myself. The order of Yucca Frites was reminiscent of classic fries, but healthier and heartier. To negate any healthy karma we may have accumulated we shared an order of the Tres Queso Empanadas, fried pockets of a holy trinity totally unrelated to religion but which I gladly would have worshipped. The lively atmosphere kept our conversation at a parallel pace and we sat and shared stories over coffee when our meal was done, a meal that I wish could have been shared again. For more information go to their website at  – reviewed by Thomas


Sunset Swim

Distaste for the extreme urban congestion of tourism, applications of frugality in parking practices, fear of heat stroke, inability to handle glare on account of lost sunglasses, fair complexion; look, we all have excuses (albeit valid ones) for why we try to avoid the beach during the height and heat of the summer daylight. But, considering you’re currently reading a magazine called Cape Fear Living, which logically presupposes that you’re a resident or —at the very least— someone who frequents this fine area, as such —you at least have to possess a slight inclination of favor toward this community’s pride, our coast. Like I said, I understand —the beach can be absolutely dreadful midday, and while it’s really not even much of a captivating departure in choice of date venue, a simple shift in the timeframe can make it one. Rather than attempting to aimlessly find parking with your sunscreen crusted back stuck to the car-seat, locating a spot finally —but realizing that you forgot your sandals at home and that the payment kiosk is quite a hike away, trudging painfully across blistering asphalt, sand, and shell fragments to find —squinting— that the only acceptable spot to make camp amid the large body of people is uncomfortably nestled between an aggressively sand-stirring game of Frisbee and a family whose children are attempting to feed seagulls potato chips; instead of all of that, why not just go later in the day? Thomas and I went as the sun was setting, and it was simply wonderful. The sky modeled textures and hues of the most vivid impressionist paintings, and the ebb of the tides sang with placid joy. Keep in mind that this is the only spot on this list that costs nothing to enjoy, except maybe time. But, as you and your date begin to really settle in, you’ll both find that you’ll have no issue with spending plenty of it here at all. – reviewed by Travis      



IstanBulls is an oasis of pleasure surrounded by reminders of life’s impending responsibilities: a Walmart, a childcare agency and a casket and urn store. It is a sanctum to melt into the cushions, order a tea, beer or glass of wine and veil your worries in the smoke of a hookah. The flavors range from fruit to herbs, and more curious mixed flavors like Queen of Sex, Maybach Melon or Magic Dragon. After one of the owners kindly let us sample some of the aromas, we settled on Queen of Sex, a floral based flavor with hints of fruit. Travis ordered a Turkish tea and shared several sips with me, which smoothed the mellow hits of the hookah even more so. The lighting and plush cushions created a seductive environment that would be the perfect conclusion to a date night after a romantic dinner, or could be the beginning for a nocturnal couple. For more information visit their website at – reviewed by Thomas


Booty’s Soul Food

The weekend can mean a lot of things, but to most, it means a respite from responsibility, a departure from the day-to-day, and most importantly, it means fun. Ask anyone who frequents the nightlife in Downtown Wilmington and they’ll confirm it; the weekend is a time to indulge. After a few drinks, some dancing, and a wonderful exchange of sparks throughout the evening, you and your date decide to grab a late night snack before ending the night together. The only problem is —it’s 1 AM, your date’s not in the mood for pizza, you know that Cookout is going to be absolutely slammed, and now you’re at a loss for where to go. Why not try Booty’s? Located on the corner of 10th and Castle St, it’s probably on the way back home anyway! Open exclusively on the weekend from the hours of 10 PM to 4 AM it’s the perfect place to grab a great snack after a wonderful night out. Dine in or take it to go, the soft spoken man known simply as Booty will take your order and whip up an amazing spread of soul food staples ranging from sides like fried okra to pork chop sandwiches. Thomas and I decided to try the fried chicken —a great choice, it’s the best I’ve ever had. Afterward, the strange hours made more sense; if I could make food that delicious, I’d make people wait for it too.

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