Making dinner reservations can be a drag, especially in our rapidly growing cities. I get the added bonus of being a food writer, which means most plans start with my date uttering my least favorite phrase: “You pick.” No, you pick. I pick all day!

But I do love food, as most of you reading presumably do. And dates are the best excuse to indulge in shared plates, which, to me, is the ultimate test of compatibility. (Will they hoard their own entrée and get your goat or actually get the goat and share?)

For a more casual date, take advantage of our sprawling food scene and test the waters at eateries off the beaten path.

Here are my three go-to culinary adventures, perfect for dates or just a solid hang with a best friend. Himalayan Range in Morrisville serves Nepalese curries and dumplings at very affordable prices, which means you can order a meat entrée (get the coconut goat curry) and a plethora of inexpensive vegetable items and feast. If you feel like dealing with Brier Creek traffic, meet up at Flame Kabob. The super casual strip-mall restaurant offers shareable sampler platters, heavy on the kabob, perfect for getting to know someone while you linger over lunch. For anyone (me) who has no qualms about messy eating, Raleigh’s Soo Cafe is the spot to dig into hot Korean fried chicken and K-pop videos.

In warmer weather, stroll through east Durham’s Green Flea Market, past the sparkly tulle quinceañera gowns and norteño cowboy hats, to food stalls full of delicious options, such as Salvadoran pupusas, the most luscious pork tacos at Taqueria Jalisco, elotes, and churros. (Bring cash.)

If you and a new love are at that lazy-Sunday-morning sweet spot, brave the drive-through at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in Chapel Hill and take your breakfast next door to Caffè Driade. Sit at an outdoor table with a couple of books, submerged in a forest, and bask in your cuteness.

In Hillsborough, a fun daytime date begins with an easy walk on the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail, before a stop at El Restaurante Ixtapa for a snack. Whatever you order from the coastal Mexican menu, make sure to indulge in a giant green coconut. You’ll catch someone slicing the top off with a machete out back, leaving you with a straw and a sense of adventure, no matter how the date ends.