The Best NYC Restaurants For Date Night
Where to eat with someone who likes you back.
“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.
photo credit: Kate Previte
If you don't think great views make a romantic night out better, you're lying to yourself. You can see most of Manhattan and Brooklyn from this revamped 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 food is New American, which might sound boring, but the kitchen combines ingredients in unexpected ways. Chilled cherry tomatoes and whipped sesame tofu taste wonderful together, and bone marrow provides a rich, slightly sweet contrast to barbecued freshwater eel.
There are quiet date nights when you want to talk about serious things like moving in together or the possibility of procreating. On all the other nights, you just want to have fun and explain why you've decided to become a "tequila person" this year. Everyone at this Mexican restaurant in Astoria is always having a good time, and you'll see people ordering margaritas until 1am, but it never feels like a frat-boy cantina. For food, focus on the taco menu—the tender filet mignon tacos come on toasted handmade flour tortillas, and their take on al pastor includes a buttery slab of char siu pork belly.
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The first thing you need to know about Kru is that some of the dishes pack some serious heat. If the person sitting across from you still wants to hang out after watching you sweat and wipe your nose for a couple of hours, you two just might make it. The food at this dimly-lit Williamsburg Thai spot is vibrant and vegetable-heavy, making liberal use of quality produce sourced from Hudson Valley farmers. We love the Thai relish plates and spicy beef tongue curry. Tables are generally easy to reserve in case your date is a last-minute get-together.
A dinner at La Mercerie makes you feel like a royal visiting their vacation home. This upscale French restaurant in Soho serves flawlessly-prepared dishes such as boeuf bourguignon and the best bittersweet chocolate-doused profiteroles in the city. The space here looks like a furniture store because it kind of is one. You can purchase almost everything you see here, so if your date is admiring the dinnerware, it would be a pretty strong move to buy them a set on the way out.
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. Head to SoleLuna in Sunnyside instead, where you can share simple pastas like spaghetti alle vongole and bottles of wine in a charming room with lots of windows and exposed bricks. Pay special attention to the dinner specials—creamy gorgonzola fregola is a past favorite.
photo credit: Eric Medsker
This place is like a lot of East Village restaurants in that it’s small, dark, crowded, and pretty loud. But Ladybird stands out because of their completely plant-based menu, which makes this spot a popular destination for vegans who want to have a fun night out. Our favorite dishes are the cheesy and creamy ones. They serve the best vegan mac and cheese that we’ve had, and it’s a genuine accomplishment if you can stop eating the coconutty crème brûlée before it’s all gone. Whether you’re a vegan or not, Ladybird is the perfect place to bring someone on a third date when you’re both ready to consume things other than alcohol in each other’s presence.
photo credit: Liz Clayman
Kingfisher is the perfect spot if you're on an unpredictable date that could go south fast, but also has the potential to last all night. This Prospect Lefferts Gardens restaurant is from the owner of & Sons, and it features wine and small, elegant plates of seafood, which makes it easy for you to order a few dishes to start and to add on as necessary. There's some surprising stuff on the menu like a refreshing mix of razor clams and apples and a mixed seafood plate guest starring spicy chorizo. With its white brick walls and unfinished wood, this place feels like an inviting kitchen that could be the backdrop of a Martha Stewart spread.
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. You'll probably 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 fare like scotch eggs, pig’s head terrine, and a rotating daily meat pie. Brown bread and marmalade ice cream for dessert might sound wrong, but it tastes very right.
Yes, arranging a date in the Italian countryside would be pretty epic. But you used all your vacation days before summer even started and, besides, your passport expired five years ago. The next best thing is a dinner at Il Buco. This spot in Noho looks like an old rustic farmhouse with copper pots and pans hanging everywhere. You can't go wrong with the bistecca with salsa rossa or the lamb chops, but if you have to order just one thing, get what might be the best risotto in the city.
photo credit: Flynn McGarry
This place feels more like a dining room in someone's house than a restaurant, and that might make you feel more relaxed as you're explaining why you're a "songwriter" who majored in biology. Just make sure that both you and your date are into natural wines—because that's mostly what's served here. In terms of food, you can order small plates (think charcuterie and lamb tartare) as you go, in case you need to cut the evening short. Gem Wine is only open Monday through Friday, so it's perfect for when you aren't quite ready to sacrifice a Saturday night for someone.
Di An Di
Before you come here on a date, you should know that Di An Di is always packed and loud—but you'll see a ton of other people on dates, so you won't feel out of place. The menu at this spot covers the spectrum of Vietnamese cooking and includes a shockingly good shredded chicken salad. So if your dinner turns into a non-stop string of awkward silences after talking about how Greenpoint needs more subways, you'll at least get a great meal out of your evening.
Matsunori on the Lower East Side stands out because of its reasonable pricing, casual feel, and BYOB policy. For $68, you’ll get 12 pieces of high-quality and decently-varied fish, plus an appetizer, a handroll, and homemade mochi for dessert. There are five nightly seatings, and you should make sure to bring your own booze, but not so much that you'll start sharing more about yourself than you initially intended.
La Vara is Cobble Hill’s best and most charming restaurant for a date night—but you can still get in here without much planning. Some of 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.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
The Peruvian-leaning menu at this East Harlem restaurant is full of standouts, like a whitefish ceviche with sweet potatoes in a drinkable citrus marinade and a plate of tender short ribs smothered in spicy, peanutty sauce. The service is notably thoughtful and attentive here, so you can focus on your conversation rather than why no one has asked if you want another drink.
Small talk can be pretty awful, and if you haven't had to do it in a while, you'll probably be pretty bad at it. So instead of asking your date about their cat’s dietary habits, focus on ordering as many momos as possible from this Himalayan/American spot in Sunnyside. This place is perfect for a casual first dinner date, and there's a sidewalk patio for when the weather is nice.
photo credit: Carlo Mantuano
This spot on Cornelia Street serves small plates like mini flaky scallion puffs with butter (their best item), 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. A date will think you put some serious thought behind choosing this place for dinner.
photo credit: David A. Lee
The menu at this Caribbean spot on 5th Avenue in Park Slope is full of Jamaican staples like jerk chicken and escovitch snapper, and it also has some options like fried chicken and a NY strip. The energy here is high, so come for a fun date, and make sure one of you gets collards (but keep in mind that they have a lot of scotch bonnet spice). If it's a nice day, grab a seat on the first come, first served patio out front.
Ops is perfect for when you want to eat pizza in a setting that’s significantly more romantic than a living room or slice shop. This place has brick walls, a tiled floor, a rotating selection of natural wines, and some of the best pizzas in the city. (We especially like the square pie.) Also, the service is exceptionally friendly, and you probably won’t spend a crazy amount of money here. If your dinner goes well, there are plenty of spots for a nearby drink afterwards.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
The Four Horsemen might have a tiny room, but it’s the kind of space you walk into and immediately decide you’d be happy to stay a while. It’s a natural wine bar, meaning you’ll have no idea what any of the wines are. But this also means there’s a built-in activity: learning about and drinking stuff you’ve never tried before. On top of that, the food here is really impressive, and it’s fun to sample the small plates as you try funky wines.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
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 also 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.