A bsence makes the heart grow fonder, doesn't it? If you were out of town for the holiday, it's likely that the Flatirons look a little lovelier than you remember, and that lady friend you've been seeing (or even just eyeing) is shining a little brighter than she was at the end of 2012.

Even the nostalgia of dingy standby venues -- K's China, the Sink and the Walrus -- may have a more appealing air than they have since freshmen year.

That's where things get dangerous. Don't mistake that glad-to-be-back glow and the sentimental veneer that makes Chipotle seem like a good date night -- it's not -- as permission to take your lady for granted.

That said, it doesn't take a herculean effort to upscale your ideas. Here are three easy upgrades for nights out that would have disappointed a date.

Disappointment: Five Guys Burgers and Fries followed by beer pong at your place.

Easy Upgrade: Keeping things fun and casual is cool, but don't cop out on the date-night feel by making your plans an afterthought. Give your burger-and-game agenda the opportunity to actually give you some quality downtime together -- without your roommates. If you've got wheels, head north and listen to some live music while you get your burger fix at Lyons' Oskar Blues (303 Main St.; oskarblues.com).


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After your meal, walk 30 steps north for one of the best pinball game collections this side of the Mississippi at Lyons Classic Pinball (open until 11 p.m. on weekends; 339-A Main St.; lyonspinball.com). No wheels? Head to the Dark Horse (2922 Baseline Rd.; darkhorsebar.com) early and it'll still be quiet enough to enjoy some quality time playing the shoot-'em-up video game and a round of pool. When the games get crowded, enjoy one of the best cheap burgers in town and wait for the BINGO game to start (at 9:30 p.m.).

Disappointment: Standing-room-only live music at a coffee shop -- that doesn't serve booze.

Easy Upgrade: Not having a place to hang your coat makes for a stressful setting, no matter how smooth the tunes. And tea isn't exactly a relaxing on a date. Instead of a busy Pearl Street coffee house, hit up South Boulder's Caffe Sole (637R South Broadway; caffesole.com) for reliably great music, good small plates and a lively atmosphere that's still relatively undiscovered. Show up for dinner or for a glass of wine after the mealtime crowd has left (the music starts at 7:30 p.m. on weekends) for an intimate conversation table in the back, or for a close-to-the-dancing table up front.

Disappointment: Crummy nachos and mediocre beer in a bar with more TVs than patrons.

Easy Upgrade: There's no excuse for bad bar food or beer -- especially in this town. And remember how multitasking makes you worse at everything? The story's the same for watching more than one sports game at a time and trying to hold a conversation. You can find the some of Boulder's best bar food -- Nachos! -- at the quiet Corner Bar in the Hotel Boulderado (2115 13th St.; boulderado.com). Even better: This Saturday they're hosting a three-course beer and food pairing of tasty bites, like gourmet pierogis, fish and chips and dessert. They start serving the $26 meal -- which includes three beers -- at 4 p.m., so you can get there early and still enjoy some quality couch/TV time later if you really want it.

Kristy Holland writes about date-night ideas once a week for the Colorado Daily. Tell her about your date ideas at boulderdatenight@gmail.com