The Best NYC Restaurants For Date Night
photo credit: Emily Schindler
“Date night” can take many forms, whether you’re just getting to know someone, heading out for your weekly “we need to keep this alive” outing, or celebrating the anniversary of the first time you saw each other online 10 years ago. No matter what stage you’re in, this guide has some of your best dinner options in the city.
Raf’s is one of the most attractive restaurants in NYC. The dining room of this French/Italian spot in Noho features crown molding, distressed mirrors, and thick white tablecloths, with sepia-toned lighting that’ll make you look like the romantic lead in a commercial for mass produced engagement rings. Bring someone you’ve been dating for at least six months, and eat some roast chicken and a plate of crackers topped with parm and cured ham.
Sit in the dark, drink wine, and eat a variety of grilled meats at Kafana, a casual East Village spot with brick walls covered in black-and-white photographs. This place specializes in satisfying, unpretentious Serbian food, and it’s the ideal venue for a date night with someone you’ve been sharing a bathroom with for the past decade. The Balkan-centric wine list has a good number of bottles under $55, and just about everything on the menu is under $25.
You're well aware that your date wants to try Dame, but you blew off the reminder you set 12 weeks ago to make a reservation because you were in the middle of a 10-hour PS5 marathon. It’s gotten a bit easier to find a table there, but if you can’t, you’ll still get some points for getting a table at Lord's, Dame's sister restaurant in Greenwich Village. The space feels like a cross between a Hogwarts professor’s office and a trendy bar, and the menu is filled with solid takes on classic British fare like scotch eggs, pig’s head terrine, and a seasonally rotating meat pie.
The view from Manhatta makes every other New York City restaurant seem boring and pedestrian. You can see most of Manhattan and Brooklyn from this spot on the 60th floor of a building in FiDi, so try and snag a table by one of the floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu is New American, and, while that might sound boring, the food is actually pretty unique, highlighted by a barbecued freshwater eel with bone marrow and red wine.
Thinking about the future can be scary, whether it’s worrying about your long-term compatibility, or rising sea levels. If your relationship feels secure but that second part gives you anxiety, check out Rosella, which makes the future of sushi (at least) significantly easier to swallow. This East Village restaurant almost exclusively uses ingredients found within the US, from bigeye tuna from North Carolina, to fluke sashimi that might have just taken the afternoon train from Montauk. Reservations at this laid-back spot can be hard to come by, but they keep the bar by the window open for walk-ins.
Between the light khaki-colored walls, natural wood, and simple lighting fixtures, a date at Claud’s feels like a night at a very fancy East Village apartment. Only it’s not a night in. It’s a night at one of our favorite wine bars, with some choice European wine and some of the best produce the Hudson Valley has to offer that week. And while normally you should try and get the table that looks right into the heart of the open kitchen, on a date night, it could distract you from the reason that you’re at Claud in the first place. Grab a bottle, split the dover sole for two, and talk the night away.
Lilia is one of the best restaurants in NYC, and sister restaurant Misi isn’t far behind. Both Williamsburg establishments serve consistently perfect pasta and interesting small plates that make great use of seasonal produce, but we slightly prefer Misi for a fun date night. The space feels laid-back and buzzy, and it’s always full of couples saying things like “How is this pasta so good?” (The answer is butter.) Just keep in mind that it’s impossible to get a table here unless you book a full four weeks in advance.
Ingas Bar is a premiere date spot, disguised as a neighborhood tavern on a corner in Brooklyn Heights. You won’t have to jump through any hoops to get a reservation here, but it’s the sort of candlelit, negroni-drinking place that will impress whoever is lucky enough to join you. They’ve got a pretty splittable double patty burger and other date-worthy small plates, like a tangy celery victor salad, and mortadella showered in grated brown butter. Share it at a butcher paper-covered table in the dining room with someone you like a lot, and don’t worry if you’re too full for dessert—you’ll be back soon.
Huda in East Williamsburg is a useful, yet still festive, place for an impromptu date at a last-minute two-top. It’s a neighborhood corner spot, with floor-to-ceiling picture windows, but inside it’s still dark and sexy enough to remind your partner of how attractive you are. A glass of arak with mint and an upbeat global playlist gets the evening going. Continue it with sharable plates of Levantine food, like a shredded carrot salad, some grilled squid with hummus, and a side of batata harra. And don’t miss the beef-stuffed shish barak dumplings.
A date in the Italian countryside is the ideal scenario, but you used all your vacation days before summer even started, and besides, your passport expired five years ago. The next best thing is dinner at Il Buco. This spot in Noho looks like an old rustic farmhouse with copper pots and pans hanging everywhere. The menu changes very frequently, but you can't go wrong with the bistecca with salsa rossa or the lamb chops. If it’s available, make sure to order what might be the best risotto in the city.
Our favorite place for a Monday date-night, Mắm is a vibey street-stall of a restaurant on the Lower East Side. They rotate through different Vietnamese specialties, which might mean steaming hot pots of cá om chuối dậu with pork bone broth one day, and platters of bún dậu with blood sausage and tofu the next. It can get crowded, which is great for when you want to lean in close over a fragrant hotpot, and fish out choice bits of meat for your beloved. Depending on the weather, you might end up eating on one of the plastic stools outside. Specials are announced on Instagram, and while you can walk in, it’s better to book on Hotplate in advance.
If you woke up this morning and realized that you forgot to plan an anniversary dinner that’s supposed to take place in 72 hours, take a deep breath, then book a table at Cosme. Open since 2014, this Flatiron Mexican restaurant is as impressive as ever, although it’s not nearly as hard to get a reservation here as it used to be. The room looks like the darkest minimalist furniture showroom you’ve ever seen, and the creative, frequently changing menu always feels exciting. Be sure to split the duck carnitas.
La Vara is Cobble Hill’s best and most charming restaurant for a date night, and you can get a table without much planning. Our favorite dishes here combine classic Spanish proteins with Middle Eastern and Jewish cooking, like the fried artichoke hearts lying in hammocks of ibérico de bellota sausage (which is where our hearts would like to hang out, ideally). For a romantic outdoor setting, try the back patio.
The Peruvian-leaning menu at this East Harlem restaurant is full of standouts, like a whitefish ceviche with sweet potatoes in a chuggable citrus marinade and a plate of tender short ribs smothered in spicy, peanut sauce. And that’s only half the reason why we like this place. The service is notably thoughtful and attentive, so you can focus on your conversation rather than why no one has asked if you want another drink.
For a date that involves food that you won’t find elsewhere, try Silver Apricot. This spot on Cornelia Street serves New American/Chinese dishes like mini flaky scallion puffs, deviled tea eggs with chili-ginger-garlic aioli, and a duck-confit grilled cheese. The menu changes constantly, so some of these things might not be available when you come—but the charming back patio is always there.
If you’re into wine and/or small plates, you’ve probably heard of The Four Horsemen. This tiny place in Williamsburg specializes in natural wine, and the staff will gladly answer any questions, so you can have a fun night learning about and drinking stuff you’ve never had before. On top of that, the food here is really impressive, and it’s fun to sample various dishes as you plow through some skin contact malvasia and Slovakian chardonnay.
We know what you’re thinking: date night at that dark bar in Union Square that’s been slinging burgers since 1892? Really? And to that we say—yes. Because although Old Town Bar is full of big groups at long tables drinking $32 pitchers of beer until they’re ready for bed, a wooden booth on the (slightly quieter) second floor is an underrated option for some red meat-centric romance. Sip on gin martinis, share a big bowl of chili, and then order under-$20 cheeseburgers for a date night that will cost you less than the price of a steak elsewhere.
Sure, you can head to an Italian restaurant in the West Village for a romantic night out, but guess what? You're not the only one with that idea. Go to SoleLuna in Sunnyside instead, where you can share some spaghetti alle vongole and a bottle of wine in a charming room with lots of windows and exposed brick. Pay special attention to the dinner specials—creamy gorgonzola fregola is a past favorite.
Uva, an essential Upper East Side date night restaurant, won’t change your life, but it will provide you a nice, romantic evening with some solid Italian food on 2nd Avenue. It’s open until 1am almost every night, so it’s ideal for when you’re sitting around your house at 10pm, get a little antsy or ambitious, and decide you want to go out and eat pasta with someone who has the same urges you have.