Scheduling date nights is crucial at any stage of a relationship. From that pivotal first outing with a friendly stranger to the 251st dining experience with your soulmate, date spots should always feel just a little bit special. So whether you’re trying to impress a potential partner with a low-key jazz bar or agreeing to give your joint Seamless account the night off, use this guide to find the perfect date spot to suit your needs in NYC right now.
“Do you think Rihanna’s reggae album will finally drop this year?” There’s a great ice breaker to use with your next match that could lead to a date at Public Records. Once you both accept that there’s no use in speculating, find something else to talk about in the big, covered outdoor garden at this Gowanus music venue. And by “something else” we mean which live shows you want to see here soon - a discussion that should pair well with some kimchi fried rice and other share plates from the vegan food menu.
Getting drinks and snacks at Tiki Chick might be the closest you can get to an oceanfront honeymoon on the UWS. This tiki bar has a moss-covered ceiling, dim lighting, and plenty of seats at the bar where you can sip on frozen cocktails and eat a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich topped with grilled pineapple. On most nights, Tiki Chick has a full room of people winking at each other over two top tables covered in strawberry piña coladas until 12am.
After temporarily shutting down for over a year, this oyster and cocktail spot in Williamsburg has finally opened up again. And if there was only one place we could bring a date for drinks and oysters in Brooklyn, we’d choose Maison Premiere every time. Come here to find craft cocktails with ingredients like falernum shrubs and tobacco-barrel-rinsed alcohol being made by bartenders who wear suspenders with pride. The big U-shaped bar upfront is usually crowded with rowdy regulars, but you can always book a leather booth in the back for a more laid-back, candlelit date-night experience.
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photo credit: Hannah Albertine
Sona in Flatiron is a fantastic place for anyone looking to see what Indian fine dining currently feels like in NYC, and how it’s evolved from its white tablecloth beginnings in the latter half of the 20th century. This restaurant - partially owned by Priyanka Chopra - is sleeker than it is formal, and serves a long menu with sections dedicated to Mumbai classics and globally-influenced dishes (like a grilled chicken with lemon mustard dressing and a dosa with gruyère). Remember Sona the next time you and your partner want to visit an upscale place for people-watching and excellent gin and tonics.
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photo credit: Teddy Wolfe
Red Hook Tavern
The people who run Hometown BBQ opened this old-school feeling American spot on Van Brunt Street in 2019. The important thing to order here is the burger, which you can think of as a distant cousin of the one at Peter Luger. It’s a minimalist sandwich with one thick patty, some salty melted cheese, and a bunch of semi-sweet onions resting on top like they’ve had a long day. Red Hook Tavern also has a great wine list, so order a bottle with a date and split one of the city’s finest burgers.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
This Japanese jazz bar is one of those rare Midtown spots that makes you forget you’re half a mile from Auntie Anne’s in Penn Station. But now they’re offering live music, sake, and delicious cod roe spaghetti on their sidewalk every night starting at 5pm. Music typically starts around 6:30pm (with a $10 cover charge only on Friday and Saturday nights), but we’d recommend showing up early to get a seat since they aren’t taking any reservations.
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Thanks to all the tree-lined streets and stunning brownstones, Fort Greene might just be the most date-worthy neighborhood in the city. And that’s probably why this French bistro, which is right across the street from Fort Greene Park, is usually packed with couples of all ages. It’s the kind of place you visit when you want to gaze up at some trees and share a bottle of sparkling wine at a sidewalk table. But you can also swing by for lunch, dinner, or brunch with someone you might want to explore Paris with in a few years. But above all else, you should know that Cafe Paulette has a live jazz band on Tuesday nights and takes reservations ahead of time online.
Blume is an open-air, Austrian wine bar tucked below a sandwich shop on the UES. If this sounds familiar, you might also recall this spot’s Alpine-ski lodge alter-ego Hütte, which operated in the same space last fall. Now, the covered patio at Blume has pink and purple flowers scattered across the ceiling, rainbow-colored dining chairs, and a bunch of potted plants hanging on its walls just in case you forget which season we’re in. The huge wine list and floral details make this one of the more romantic outdoor options in the neighborhood, but you and your date can still choose to either keep it casual with a dozen oysters or go all-in on some schnitzel and few lobster rolls.
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Epistrophy is a casual neighborhood Italian spot in Nolita where you can eat zucchini fritters on a Monday morning, but it’s also a great first-date spot. You can go the drinks and appetizers route, or easily have a more filling meal involving several kinds of pasta. Grab a little table outside and split a bottle of wine, or stop by for Happy Hour when you don’t want to pay full price for drinks with a relative stranger.
Think of Ernesto’s as the perfect neighborhood spot to drink some interesting wine and make small talk with a date. Although (unlike other neighborhood wine spots), they serve a mountain of potato chips and ham. This Basque spot on East Broadway is open for outdoor dining every day (the restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday, but the cafe is open then), and we especially like pairing a glass of syrah with the gilda skewer with tuna and the delicate potato croqueta. It has a bechamel center that tastes like the lovechild of chicken noodle soup and macaroni and cheese.
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Sally’s is the second Caribbean place from the people behind Sally Roots, and it’s also where you should have your next early-in-the-game date in Bed-Stuy. The combination of curry crab rangoons, pork buns, and creative cocktails, make this neighborhood spot feel more like one a tiki-themed rooftop lounge - just without much of a view. None of the food costs more than $20, and you can almost always walk right up and find a table on their patio without much of a wait.
If you’re simply looking to drink something that tastes good on our next date in Queens, head to Dutch Kills. This excellent cocktail spot is one of the best bars in the borough, and while most of their high-quality drinks cost around $15, they also offer Happy Hour from 4-7pm Sunday through Thursday.
In 2021, Yopparai moved from their second-story Rivington Street location on the LES to a bigger space on Clinton Street. The result: more room to set up kotatsu tables where you can sip sake, eat some delicious Japanese food, and share a blanket if it’s cold out. It’s one of our favorite date-night moves on the LES, since you can simultaneously eat chirashi loaded with crab and ikura and play footsy with someone you’re attracted to.
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Oiji is a great Korean restaurant that’s good to keep in mind if you have a last-minute date in the East Village. It’s in a dark room with brick walls and a bar in the corner, and we’ve usually had luck walking in without a reservation and getting a table. Get the fried chicken, the ssam platter, and their only dessert - vanilla ice cream with honey butter potato chips. It’s a huge portion, but if you say please, they might halve it for you. In other words, you have no excuse not to try this.
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June Wine Bar
This natural wine bar in Cobble Hill is one of our favorite summer date spots - their semi-secret, string-light-covered backyard is the perfect place to share whipped ricotta and chicken liver pate with someone you hope likes you back. In addition to a wide range of wines from orange to chilled reds, June also does great cocktails and desserts that’ll make you want to become a regular. Even if the weather isn’t great, you can always relax in the pleasant hardwood-and-mirror-covered space inside.
If you visit Guantanamera in the daytime, you might think it’s just a Cuban restaurant with tiki ceiling fans and an empty stage setup. That’s because, like owls and most bodegas, this kitschy 9th Avenue spot comes alive at night. The live band, crowded bar, and kind man selling hand-rolled cigars are the real reasons why you should come here. So the next time you want to hear some live music while simultaneously eating a cubano and learning how to mambo, try this place.
From butter chicken with too many flavors to count, to everything coming off the tandoor grill, this Indian spot is one of your best dining options in LIC. And for the first time, they’re serving their fantastic food outdoors, with eight tables available by reservation from 5-9pm any day except Monday. So instead of trying to impress your date with fancy clothes or a new haircut, just go to Adda and ask them to breathe in the saffron-scented steam from the dum biryani.
If you’ve been talking to someone who might get excited about fizzy pét-nats, meet up at Winona’s. This laid-back natural wine bar on the border of Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy is perfect for a first-date spot whether you want to dip after thirty minutes, or linger for a casual dinner that might last a lifetime. Winona’s has a heated outdoor patio where you can stop by for a glass of natural wine or coffee any day of the week, but dinner is only served Thursday through Saturday. On Sunday and Monday nights, expect a rotating menu of dishes from a weekly pop-up dinner series.
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Uva is the ultimate Upper East Side date spot. It has the whole brick wall and chandeliers thing going on inside. But if you want to eat outdoors, you can either sit on the sidewalk out front, or at a table in the greenhouse-like space in back. Unless you like to keep track of how congested our New York City streets are, you’ll probably prefer the latter. Book a table underneath the vine-covered gazebo in their backyard and go heavy on the pasta.
Bernie’s feels like a neighborhood tavern from the 1970s. And while its dark dining room with stained-glass light fixtures and red-and-white checked tablecloths is closed right now, you can still grab one of their patio tables on a first come, first served basis. Like most great taverns, Bernie’s serves a great burger, mozzarella sticks, and shrimp cocktail. In other words, this is exactly the type of place to find out if someone cares more about personality or appearances.
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Ras Plant Based
Ras Plant Based is the vegan Ethiopian restaurant love child of a couple that met while working at Awash’s Cobble Hill location together. The Crown Heights spot opened back in March 2020 and managed to shift its menu of tender mushroom tibs, spongy injera, and creamy shiro to a takeout and delivery-only model soon after. Now, Ras Plant Based has opened its mural-covered dining room, plus its string-lit covered sidewalk patio for dine-in service. From the flaky sambusas and crispy cauliflower wings to huge platters of Ethiopian classics like kitfo made with pea protein, all of the plant-based dishes should give you and your date more to talk about than the change in weather.
Claro’s big backyard full of trees, string lights, and aqua-colored patio furniture is one of our favorite places in the city to eat outside. They don’t crowd the space with too many tables, so you won’t have to listen to a bunch of other people on dates having conversations that are worse than yours. And there’s a big outdoor oven where they make their own tortillas. Whenever it’s nice out, you should bring a date here, and, when you do, try as many of their Oaxacan-inspired dishes as possible. Especially the molé.
The original Jing Fong is a classic dim sum destination up a flight of escalators in Chinatown. And while that lower Manhattan dining room has unfortunately closed, Jing Fong does have a second location on the UWS at 78th and Amsterdam. Stop by and get some siu mai, beef ribs, and sticky rice for dinner. This place is significantly smaller than the huge downtown location - but it still has plenty of patio tables where you can reenact the Lady and the Tramp pasta scene with pan-fried noodles.
For an impressive dinner or brunch date in the West Village that you’ll think about for several weeks after, Llama San is your best bet. This Japanese-influenced Peruvian restaurant (from the people behind Llama Inn) serves dishes like duck nigiri, lobster with beef heart, and hamachi tiradito with uni and matcha foam that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. The food is equal parts inventive and delicious, meaning your date will likely be too busy gasping in between every bite to ask about your dating history.
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Unless you’ve been seeing someone for several months, a date at a pub generally isn’t the best idea. But when the pub has a backyard garden with picnic tables and umbrellas, it just might work. That’s what The Bonnie in Astoria is like, and they’ve also set up a new sidewalk patio in front of the restaurant. And if things go well after drinks, you can order everything from burrata and steak to tacos and cheese fries from their huge dinner menu.
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The city has a lot of spots to drink by the water and even more places to drink good wine, but if you want to do them both at the same time, you should go to City Vineyard. They serve good, affordable house wines (made nearby at City Winery) on tap, and the roof deck next to the Hudson River in Tribeca has lots of tables, bar seats, and couches overlooking the water and FiDi. It’s an ideal spot for day drinking with someone you’d like to impress, and even though the views are some of the best in Manhattan, the huge outdoor space means you’ll rarely have to wait for a table.