Where To Have A Nice Date Night Without Spending Over $100
Dining out is getting more expensive, but that doesn't mean you can't do romantic dinners on a budget.
Unless you’re one of the lucky few doing donuts in the sky in Jeff Bezos' rocket, you’ve probably noticed that things are getting pricey. You don’t even need to go to a particularly chi-chi spot for your bill to creep into the $150-$200 range for two. So where do you go when both the economy and your love life are experiencing a period of inflation? Here are some of our favorite spots for a nice dinner date at suborbital prices. At all of these restaurants, you can get two entrees, an app, and drinks or dessert for under $100.
Dhom is a super cute Lao spot in the East Village with not-boring food and a great bar. The tight menu centers around $8 BBQ skewers, which you should supplement with small plates like crispy rice salad and tuna laap (ranging from $5-$20). Even better, they’re big on Happy Hour here. There’s one from 3-6pm Monday through Friday, with an additional late-night Happy Hour Thursday through Saturday when you can get a drink and a skewer for $14. Dark wood and brown leather make this place feel just formal enough for a date, and the restaurant is in prime East Village territory, so you can keep the night going after dinner.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Chances are, you’ve never heard of Il Passatore. But if you have friends who live in East Williamsburg, this is probably where they go for a date night that involves too much pasta. Most pastas are around $18, and they do generous pours of wine for under $10 a glass. With its paper napkins and haphazardly arranged string lights, books, and trinkets, this place isn't trying too hard. It's just a nice little spot tucked away on a mostly-residential street where you and your date can get away from the rest of the world.
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If you live in Astoria or LIC, Milkflower should be on your radar. And even if you don’t live over there, it’s a good spot to know about. This pizza place isn't especially fancy, but the rustic, wood-paneled room becomes a prime date spot once they dim the lights in the evening. The majority of the pies are $20 or under, and we recommend getting two to share. You'll have plenty of coins leftover for an app and drinks.
photo credit: Kenny Yang
Tomo21 is perfect for when you’re in the mood for something nicer than your go-to Seamless sushi spot but less expensive than an omakase that costs more than what you pay for a year of Netflix. The fish is high quality, and the portions are large, so each piece feels like a two-for-one deal. A sushi dinner with eight pieces and a roll costs $35, and the restaurant is BYOB, so you can easily make a night of it for under $100. The no-frills space can get pretty crowded, but you’ll rarely encounter a long wait.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
At this Mediterranean small-plates spot on 9th Avenue, you can share wine, Turkish flatbreads, skewered meats, and fondue (the date food du jour of the '90s). There’s a fondue list with five variations for $21 per person, with the option to add meat and vegetables for an extra charge. In the front of the restaurant, there’s a nice bar and a few tables, but the back room is where you should try to sit with a date. It’s brick-walled, has big windows, and is generally quiet.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
If you’re looking for the kind of meal that will make you wax poetic for weeks after it’s over, head to Nargis in Sheepshead Bay. Start your Uzbek feast with an order of non, then share a whole, charcoal-grilled fish ($25). Portions are large—a $55 mixed grill platter is enough to feed four—so you’ll have enough food for two no matter what entree you order. There’s no alcohol, but they’ve got plenty of desserts to choose from.
At Oso, you can enjoy a procession of tacos and an app for under $50 in a unique industrial space where skulls are abundant. There’s a sugar skull mural, stray skulls of different sizes scattered about, and a glowing bull skull that stares down at you as you share guac at a candlelit table. With a little mood lighting, all of this is surprisingly romantic. Wine and cocktails go for $12-$15, and they also have a Happy Hour from 12-6pm in case you’re already in the early-bird special stage of your relationship.
The East Coast outpost of this popular San Francisco ramen shop is one of the better options for a quick bowl of noodles in the East Village. Tonkotsu ramen, starting at $16, is their speciality, and the pork broth here is some of the richest, creamiest we’ve had. The space is fairly nondescript, and it's quiet enough for a low-key, intimate date. The only noise you'll have to talk over will be the slurping of your own noodles.
Taking a date to Thai Diner is like taking a date to a house party at your most fabulous friend's house. The inside of this Nolita spot sparkles like a disco ball, and it's perpetually mobbed. Which is to say, don't come here for deep conversations about your date's relationship with their parents. Come here to eat from a flawless menu. You won't find anything over $30 (aside from a few $100+ seafood towers), and most things are under $20. Favorites include a comforting plate of cabbage rolls stuffed with turkey and jasmine rice, a sai oua breakfast roti, and an awesome coconut gelato sundae.
photo credit: Adam Friedlander
Slice shops are great, but if you bring your date to one, it might seem as if you don't value their time. So go to Leo instead. This is a sit-down pizza place in Williamsburg, and the personal-sized sourdough pies are mostly in the $20 range. The room feels like a casual, minimalist wine bar, partly due to the fact that they take their wine seriously here. Get a few glasses, split a chopped salad, and eat a few pies, and you should just skate under the $100 threshold.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
Does your date like chicken? If so, choose The Fly. (And if not, go elsewhere.) This Bed-Stuy restaurant specializes in rotisserie chicken, and it's pretty much the only thing on the menu. Add a few sides, like fries and green beans, and you'll still only pay around $50 total for your food. That leaves you with plenty of cash leftover for a few glasses of natural wine (or a cocktail or two). Tables are first come, first served, but we suggest you just grab a few stools at the U-shaped bar up front. This place has the ambience of a casual neighborhood bar at sunset, and it's perfect for when you need to impress someone without seeming like you're trying too hard.
photo credit: Abigail Faelnar
Double Chicken Please
Double Chicken Please is a cross between a cocktail lounge and restaurant, and, with its sleek wood panelling and moody lighting, it feels pretty upscale. But you can eat dinner here for under $20 per person. This Lower East Side spot specializes in fried chicken sandwiches, all of which cost $16 dollars or less. Sure, the cocktails are mostly $18, but just don't go overboard on those (even though they're worth the price tag). You can sit in the casual bar area up front or book a table in the dining room in the back. Wherever you sit, order the hot honey chicken sandwich.
photo credit: Chris Stang
J.G. Melon is a New York City classic, on par with such establishments as the MoMA and the Barnes & Noble at Union Square where you can always pop in to use the restroom. If you and your date have never been here, stop by for a fun, nostalgic dinner. The space looks like a neighborhood tavern from the 1970s, with an abundance of random wall art and plenty of green-and-white checked tablecloths. You should, of course, order a burger and a side of cottage fries. Glasses of wine start around $11, and you can get a beer on tap for $7. Just remember to bring cash. This place too old-school for credit cards.