Listen, we’re not suggesting you agree to seeing your ex. In fact, there are many reasons why that’s a terrible, ill-advised thing to do. But, one day, it’s possible you’ll say yes to catching up with this person who confuses “your” and “you’re.” How else will you know if they’re surviving without their single greatest asset (you)?
We divided this guide into six scenarios, all based on the reason you’re meeting up with your ex. So if you need to iron out some details about who’s getting the security deposit back or if you sent some drunk messages and now you two might get back together, use this to choose an appropriately platonic (or maybe romantic) spot. All we ask is that you avoid bringing up that time they dropped the L-word two weeks into the relationship when you were both standing outside of the AMC Village 7. No one needs to relive that.
When They Need Something
Your ex sent you an email. A f*cking email. In said email, they explicitly noted that they need advice about work stuff. For some reason you agreed to meet, and now you need somewhere that feels appropriate for a professional conversation with a former lover who has “drummer” listed on their resume (but isn’t actually in a band). Banter is an attractive Australian cafe that can be used for anything from a light lunch or dinner, to just two black coffees. When they ask you to connect them with an old coworker of yours (or simply for you to be one of their references), you’ll at least be sitting somewhere pleasant.
You two just need to talk logistics after the still very fresh breakup of your four-year relationship. The best neutral territory for a conversation like this is a coffee shop. Double Dutch Espresso in Harlem is particularly good for this occasion because it shares a backyard with the bar next door. So sit back here, have a hard conversation about what you’re going to do with the cat and how your most recent tweet has absolutely nothing to do with them. Then, once they leave, go next door and get a strong martini.
Well, your ex is inviting you to their wedding and wants to make sure you don’t feel too weird about it. And while you’re not quite on bad terms with them, you don’t exactly want to listen to them talk about their over-curated Santa Barbara venue during dinner. Instead, go get drinks at Automatic Slims in the West Village. It’s small, there are just a few tables, and it’s overall very plain-feeling. You can think of this place as a non-descript “bar” set in the fake play of your life. Oh, also are you really going to their wedding? Yikes.
When It’s An Amicable Catch-Up
After many months (and unfriending each other’s moms on Facebook), things finally feel good between you two. It’s all fine, you’re just two adults who used to sleep together and no longer choose to do that. Allswell is the perfect place to keep things from turning into a big deal. It’s a half-bar-half-restaurant right by the Bedford stop in Williamsburg, and it’s usually easy to get into. The best thing on the menu is their classic burger (but there are some good vegetable dishes too, like the tomato salad and the crispy sourdough with spicy edamame), but maybe get two instead of splitting one.
Even if you broke up years ago and are happily dating other (better) people, you might not want to get a full-on meal with this ex. If that’s the case, a place like Bar Veloce on West Houston Street is relatively convenient for anyone who works in Manhattan. It’s not quite datey, but it’s not divey either. And they have Happy Hour every day from 5-7pm. Let’s face it, you could hang out with virtually anyone if there’s a $7 glass of wine involved - even if they spend twenty minutes complaining about their current significant other.
When Things Are Amicable, But This Is Still Random
You’re not entirely sure why you were even summoned to this bizarre evening in the first place. Why now? Why you? Whatever the reason is, you may as well get some excellent pizza out of it. Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop is ideal if you need things to be extremely quick and low-key. It’s counter-service, and you could clock a dinner here in 25 minutes and maybe less. Also - there’s not much that could ruin the grandma slice, even if your ex casually asks if you changed your Netflix password from cookie57 (and also wants to know what the new one is).
You should not spend a lot of money on behalf of someone who broke up with you two days before your birthday, even if you go around telling people that it was mutual. The key is to come to this East Village spot during Happy Hour, order some al pastor tacos and a discounted margarita (singular), and talk about where all of your overlapping friends live now. We’d recommend finding a spot at the bar rather than taking over a whole booth. That way, you can leave after an hour and say your legs are really sore from all the working out you’ve been doing.
Then again, it’s possible a restaurant (even a counter-service place) will be too inherently romantic for the occasion. Instead, go get drinks at Earl’s Beer & Cheese on the UES. If you do get hungry, the bar food here is actually great - especially the beer cheese and their surprisingly light kale salad. Earl’s typically plays host to groups of second-year residents from the hospitals in the area. So let those nice people in scrubs remind you that life is precious and that you should spend your remaining years with someone who has decent morals and a water pick flosser.
When They Want To Get Back Together And You Do Too
Based on a few serendipitous run-ins and a DM follow-up after you liked a very erotic photo of them in Mykonos, it seems fairly clear that something is going to go down between you two. Even still, you don’t necessarily want to show all of your cards at one dinner. A relaxed place like Malatesta Trattoria is perfect because it can be as romantic or platonic as you need it to be, and the pasta is always good. So if, for some reason, you end up dabbing the tomato sauce off of their chin with your napkin, no one in the restaurant (or in your friend group, for that matter) will be surprised. Just make sure to bring cash, they don’t take card here.
Lokanta isn’t necessarily date-y, but eating at this low-key Turkish spot in Astoria will almost certainly involve sharing food with someone. And that means sharing saliva - which is essentially a pre-curser to sex. The Turkish food at this Astoria place is all simple and delicious, especially the lamb dishes and the muhammara dip. Plus it’s BYOB, so you can pick up a nice bottle of wine at the store down the street and reminisce about how you first met.
Sally Roots is a Bushwick spot where there are constantly people at the bar drinking rum cocktails with names like “Cool Runnings” and “It’s Lit.” The fun and casual atmosphere will help you both ease back into the whole talking-to-each-other thing, and the excellent Caribbean food is all the sort of stuff you’ll think about later on (when you’re naturally replaying each moment of this dinner). If the weather is nice, try to sit on their patio outside and make sure to avoid eating too much of their white garlic sauce - it’s incredible but will certainly ruin your breath for 12-18 hours.
When They Want To Get Back Together And You Don't
We’re sorry to inform you, but you have made the wrong decision by agreeing to see this person who’s still in love with you. It’s too late to back out now though (since it’s happening in 45 minutes). Going to a restaurant is absolutely out of the question. Instead, you need a bar that’s dark, semi-sterile, and the opposite of romantic. The Ginger Man should do the trick. It’s a giant bar in Midtown East where most of the people standing next to you probably work in finance - a career with very little left to be desired.
Another option is to go to a big beer hall with communal tables filled with lots of people so that any accidental elbow touches won’t be misconstrued as you being flirty. Radegast in Williamsburg is pretty overwhelming in this regard, and you won’t want to hang out there for very long. But that’s kind of the point. Also, the bathrooms are spacious enough to have a nice, cathartic cry without everyone in the bar hearing. Just in case things come to that for either of you.
You need to somehow make it clear that you’ve “romantically moved on” from this vile, immature person. And while your mirror speeches have all been Oscar worthy, you can just go to Fish Bar and have that do the talking for you. This dive bar on East 5th Street in the East Village is decorated to look like a dark, aquatic tank and the drinks are almost irresponsibly cheap. All of that should send the message. But, also, you should still say something. You’ve got this.
When They're a heartless narcissist and you want to yell at them
We get it, you want to get some things off of your chest. Even though it’s been a vision of yours to have this dramatic face-off happen in a bar or a fancy restaurant, it’s best not to do this inside any establishment where people are being paid to serve you. Try the street, or the courtyard of a public library, or maybe just a stoop somewhere you don’t even live.