Bar/Restaurant Alternatives for Changing Lifestyles?
May 10, 2016 2:21 PM   Subscribe

We're segueing out of our hard-livin' days, and are finding it difficult to think of ways to be out and about, around other people, that don't involve drinking or eating. Where do you go to get your socializing fix?

One of us doesn't drink, the other does but minimally, and we're both trying to eat healthier. We used to just stop by one of our regular restaurants or bars, chat with other regulars and friends we'd run into, and happily call it a night. Now, though, the bars are kinda annoying and we're trying to eliminate the temptation of restaurant food.

Where can we go or what can we do that will scratch our social itch like bars and restaurants used to? Specifically, where you run into the same people and develop a loose friendship but aren't committed to making plans together in advance--so more like 'spend a leisurely morning at the local coffee shop' and less like 'have people over for game night'. If it matters, we live in a small town so some answers may not apply, but I'm open to any suggestions!
posted by stellaluna to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My neighborhood farmer's market scratches this itch for me. It helps that I have a standing crowd of friends who often go, but even if not, I find that the vendors are always up for a chat. And there is a bit of a "regulars" culture, which is probably more pronounced if we're talking about a small town market rather than my huge urban one.
posted by Sara C. at 2:24 PM on May 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

Are there any board game cafes in your town? These usually tend to draw a regular crowd.
posted by monologish at 2:27 PM on May 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

My gym has always served this purpose for me.
posted by telegraph at 2:31 PM on May 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

There's a knitting group at the library that I don't go to but many folks do, regular evening. There's also pub trivia which may be too bar-like but some people go after work and just have a single drink and mostly just hang out. There's a regular dog walking group in the neighborhood that meets at 7:30 to walk the pups around a little and we have a weekly fun run (not really running) that is more of a drop-in thing and you can run or walk, say hi to everyone and get outside.
posted by jessamyn at 2:36 PM on May 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Coffee shop or cafe? Just limit yourself to plain coffee or tea (no lattes or anything if you're trying to keep calories down), and no snacks.

Any outdoorsy clubs you could join? Hiking, biking, walking, etc.
posted by erst at 2:40 PM on May 10, 2016

2nding looking for a board game group.

Museums sometimes have semi-regular groups that attend various functions at them.

Night classes in something like philosophy that tend to be dialog oriented if you have a college or adult education center close to you.

If your town is big enough to have people creating meetup groups, if you sign up for a membership and leave the e-mail notifications on, they'll send you a weekly e-mail with what's going on that week.
posted by Candleman at 2:41 PM on May 10, 2016

Maker spaces? Churches?
posted by mskyle at 2:42 PM on May 10, 2016

Meetup is great for this, if you have other interests. Hiking and book clubs are popular in my area.
posted by cnc at 2:45 PM on May 10, 2016

pool hall + iced tea + jukebox
posted by j_curiouser at 2:46 PM on May 10, 2016

The Y.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:48 PM on May 10, 2016

Best answer: Trivia night. Yeah, usually in a pub, but we drink tea and kick ass. Very social!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:25 PM on May 10, 2016

My after-work cycling group serves this purpose for me, but I didn't realize it until I read this thread.
posted by uberchet at 3:29 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Church! Start shopping around, one of them might be a good fit.
posted by myselfasme at 4:02 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bowling! League or otherwise. Bonus points for "cool" bowling alleys that have interesting food and drinks - you can get some of the same ambiance while doing something active.

Otherwise, board gaming, definitely.
posted by daikaisho at 4:40 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Things that have worked for myself or people that I know:

- gym/weightlifting classes
- rock climbing
- ballroom dancing
- group singing/music lessons
posted by hooray at 7:27 PM on May 10, 2016

Get a dog! I've made one close friend, a couple of other friends, and a ton of nice acquaintances in my neighborhood since I did. We wind up walking together for an hour or so at least 4 times a week without any advance planning.
posted by snaw at 7:32 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Social sports leagues - either organised, where you form a team with people you vaguely know and get a schedule, or pickup, where you just show up between 5pm and 7pm on a Tuesday and a bunch of people will be there playing. A running group can work as well, if there's one near you.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:22 PM on May 10, 2016

Apologies if you're trying to quit drinking entirely, but have you tried an older bar crowd? Specifically one that skews 50+?

I was the same way as you, done with dealing with bar drama and coerced into just one more. Then, I magically found an older place full of retirement types and the occasional young person. Most nurse drinks over the course of several hours, full of regulars and doesn't tolerate the shot taking types.

My previous experience was twenty something bars. Even the nice ones got loud, bartenders would buy me shots, etc. I really missed the social interaction, especially as someone who works from home. Tried suggestions listed above and a lot were too commitment oriented. Sometimes I just want to be spontaneous. I feel as if non-bar cafes are filled with too many teenagers to be pleasant.

FYI if you do go and don't drink, especially trivia nights, take care of the staff. You probably know this but bringing you a water is just as much effort on their part as bringing you a beer.
posted by geoff. at 3:46 AM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think this depends on whats available where you live. For me, I picked up rollerskating because there's enough rinks within 45 mins of me that have "adult" sessions on various nights of the week, so you can just drop in and the same skating crowd sort of travels around to the adult sessions on any particular night.

Maybe there's something similar near you, a pool that has open adult swim nightly, a dance center that has drop in lessons on various nights, drop in arts centers, community groups at libraries, drop in volunteer hours at shelters (pets or people), social dancing / contra dancing / square dancing / country dancing, etc, Community Access Media, etc

I think your parameters need to be:
1. Drop in format - i.e. non committal
2. Multiple day and time options (either through one venue or several venues close enough to you)
3. Buildable skill / knowledge (This seems to draw "regulars" to these kinds of things as the activity in question keeps from getting stale by having something new to learn/ try or a personal best to beat)
4. For Adults
posted by WeekendJen at 9:14 AM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would second volunteering along with team sports. Also educational classes that are at the fun/informal/cheap end of the spectrum.
posted by aerotive at 4:30 PM on May 11, 2016

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