Maybe you enjoy double dates. Maybe you hate them. Either way, you’ll probably find yourself on one at some point. If you’re lucky, you’ll like both halves of the other couple. But the truth is, there’s a good chance one of them is the type of person who complains like it’s an Olympic sport - and eats all the bread.
No matter the circumstances of your double date, you need a certain kind of restaurant. Someplace where you won’t have to awkwardly stand around waiting for a table, and the food will be good enough to make up for potentially boring conversation. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up having a really good time.
You’re pretty sure your double date dinner conversation will touch on the same topics you four always cover (TV, work updates, your mutual friend’s controversial engagement, and vacation). But at Llama Inn in Williamsburg, you can also bank on talking about how good the Peruvian food is. Get some small plates for the table and then one of the very shareable large-format options, like the beef stir-fry with french fries on top.
There’s no official contract that says you have to split everything on a double date, which is good because some people love sharing, while others have done their best to avoid it since kindergarten. Elea will work for everyone. The menu has a good variety of Greek dips and small plates, as well as fish and meat entrees in the $25-$30 range. So you can get a few things to pick at together, then go your own way. It was good enough for Fleetwood Mac, and it’s good enough for you.
It’s possible you’re looking for a week-of reservation for four people, and striking out. Houseman in Soho is generally easy to get into, and has the atmosphere of a cool neighborhood spot - it’s comfortable and trendy in understated kind of way. Try the chicken or the two-patty burger with caramelized onions and cheese, which is worth a trip here on its own.
You aren’t totally sure how this night will go, since you met in a West Village dog park after your doberman and pug became best friends, and you’ve talked for a grand total of around 17 minutes. Loring Place is a good spot to figure out your dynamic, since the seasonal American menu has options for pretty much anyone, including people who just want to eat some pizza. This place is on the more upscale side, so leave time to change out of your dog-park sweatpants before arriving.
If you’re meeting up with out-of-towners and it’s relatively last-minute, Holy Ground is a good choice. It’s not that hard to get a table here, but it still feels like a sceney, old-school spot (despite the fact that it just opened in 2018). The below-ground space is impressive on its own, with red leather booths, chandeliers, antique art on the walls, etc. - and the BBQ-inspired food ranges from tender wagyu brisket and tangy mac and cheese to smoked chicken with a sweet sauce and flaky skin.
For dinner with a couple you genuinely know and love, go to Cote. This Korean steakhouse/BBQ spot has a prix fixe meal that makes group dining really easy: their “butcher’s feast” costs $54 per person, and comes with four cuts of high-quality meat, plus banchan, two different Korean stews, egg souffle, and soft serve for dessert. Since you definitely aren’t coming here without a reservation, you won’t have to worry about waiting awkwardly in front of the restaurant, getting hangry before the meal, and saying something you don’t mean (like “I didn’t even want to go out tonight, Sean”).
The American menu at Diner changes all the time, which is probably why you’ll never see a printed copy of it. Instead, your server will write down all the options on a big piece of butcher paper when you sit down. This makes it slightly hard to plan for specific food restrictions or preferences, but on the upside, you’ll get to try new things almost every time you come here. One thing that remains the same, though, is the burger - it’s one of our favorites in all of NYC.
You’ll want to order a wide selection of things from this Tribeca Chinese spot, so it’s good to come with a group of at least four. Try the shrimp with rice cakes in a salted duck egg yolk batter, and the whole fried fish that’s covered in a sweet, tangy sauce. The dining room looks a little like a 1920s-themed Hollywood set, and you can usually get a reservation pretty easily.
If you want something on the less expensive side, this Taiwanese spot on St. Marks is a good option - as long as you don’t mind a dining room that’s relatively loud and crowded. It’s pretty dark inside, so you might briefly forget that we have a sun, moon, and stars while you’re in here (as opposed to living in a world illuminated by purple neon lights). But the world outside can wait, since you’ll be content eating a great fried chicken sandwich and a rice bowl with bamboo shoots and pork belly.
The Detroit-style pizza at Emmy Squared is the kind of thing you’ll be making plans to eat again before you even leave the restaurant. The East Village location has lots of space, so there’s a decent chance of walking in and getting a table without too much of a wait. Come here and split a few pizzas (we like the Emmy and the Colony²). You won’t end up dropping a ton of money on dinner with your cousin and her new boyfriend.
Some would call Sisters a “super cute” restaurant, and they wouldn’t be wrong. This Clinton Hill space is remarkably pretty, with a big marble bar, black brick walls, and a skylight. The menu has good range of options, too, so someone can get a good kale salad and someone else can get a fried chicken sandwich with spicy mayo (or you can split both). There’s also a back room with a DJ. Check their Instagram to see if there’s an event (whether that makes or breaks your dinner plan is up to you).
It’s perfectly normal for two couples to do things like shop for carpets together, right? Maybe not. But two couples can definitely go to ABC Carpet & Home in Flatiron to try some garlic shrimp and fancy tacos at ABC Cocina. The space is sort of industrial-flashy, with chandeliers, exposed piping, and brick walls, and it looks like it could plausibly exist in Vegas (where the high prices would also fit right in). As long as all four of you go into this dinner knowing that two fish tacos here cost $21, you’ll have a fun night out.
At Taladwat in Hell’s Kitchen, you eat dinner at a communal picnic table. And it’s possible you’ll run into another double date, which at that point would be make this a quadruple date (a slightly terrifying concept). You can see all the Thai food here simmering in pots in the open kitchen in the back, and they have a “pick and mix” deal where you pay $18 for two entrees and rice. Multiply that by four, and you’ll have yourselves a feast. To add even more to the party, order the fried whole mackerel on the side.
If you’re near Bushwick and everyone in your group agrees that thin pieces of raw fish are delicious, try Bushniwa. You can come here and get a sushi combo for under $30, so it’s perfect if you’re just looking for something casual and affordable. In terms of space, there are a few bigger tables where you won’t have to smush your shoulders together and play defense when someone goes to drink from their water glass - and if you have an especially good time, there are plenty of bars nearby where you can head afterward.
Ammazzacaffe is a crowd-pleasing Italian restaurant in Williamsburg that not too many people seem to know about. But you and your partner are very informed and cool (and also don’t want to spend a ton of money on a meal that may or may not devolve into an awkward staring contest between four people and the last forkful of pasta). This spot is pretty casual, and the pastas, like an agnolotti with almond pesto and a reginette with pancetta, are all around $20 - so get an extra one just in case. And in the summer, try to sit in the backyard.
You can get in and out of Trapizzino for around $25 per person (including spritzes or some wine), but it still won’t seem like you’re intentionally skimping on a casual, inexpensive place because you technically forgot this dinner was happening. This Italian restaurant makes $8 Roman-style pizza pockets filled with different things like eggplant parm and pesto, or stracciatella and anchovies. It’s a relaxing place to hang out, and a little bit more interesting than the same old pizza place you’ve all been to a hundred and four times.