Best First Date: Bat 17

Paulina Firozi, Development Editor

1709 Benson Ave., 847-733-7117, bat17evanston.com

With the opening of a newly expanded space in addition to the old cozy haunt that Wildcats love, Bat 17 is bigger and better for all your potentially awkward first-date needs. The restaurant’s menu has everything from corned beef sandwiches on hearty loaves of bread to caprese-style sandwiches piled high with tomato and mozzarella. And each sandwich and burger comes with a side — fried potatoes, fresh fruit, corn or black bean salads, sweet potato fries or specialty potato chips. This place has a meal combination for every palate. Even the salads are fit for a healthy appetite, so make sure you and your date show up hungry. Funny story: I’ve actually had a first date at Bat. I ordered a salad, and he ordered a sandwich. And before he could make fun of me for ordering the weaker meal, my beautiful bowl of tossed greens, feta cheese and kalamata olives came to the table and was twice the size of his. The ambiance is also perfect just in case you find yourself lost for words. It’s pretty crowded for a restaurant but not as packed as a sports bar, and there are always several games playing on the half-dozen screens around the bar. Non-sports fans be warned, your date may ignore you, but I guess it’s best to know early on. Either way, the food is great, the scene is great and your first date will be great. My biggest piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to take your date’s fried potatoes when he or she doesn’t eat a single one. That’s my biggest regret. — Paulina Firozi