Yes, we’re talking about blind dates here. But thanks to the internet, going on a date with someone you’ve never met before isn’t a novelty. It’s just called dating. And it’s stressful. You want to make a good impression, but you’re also looking for subtle hints to suggest if this person could eventually sit next to you as you fall asleep at the dinner table on Thanksgiving and most Friday nights.
When planning one of these dates, you need a place that’s quiet enough to hear each other’s questions about your siblings, but interesting enough that you can smile and say “cool place” whenever there’s an awkward silence. This place should also allow you to bail after half a glass of wine if necessary, or share some food and hang out for a few hours when you discover a shared passion for trolling the comment section of music videos on Youtube. Here are 15 places that get the job done.
When you’re meeting someone for the first time, you don’t want a shoulder-to-shoulder bar where you have to shout about how your Craigslist roommates are fine, but how you can’t wait to get your own place. St Tropez is a little French spot in the West Village where you get your own table, but you can order French wine and small plates as you go, making a quick exit that much easier.
If you or your date has an interest in wine beyond rosé at the beach and having seen Sideways, then share some wine flights and oysters and beef tartare at Terroir in Tribeca. The massive wine list is annotated with quotes and facts, and should keep you entertained during lulls between discussing Samson and Kennedy (your childhood golden retrievers).
Park Slope isn’t just populated by married couples who’d like their four-year-olds’ finger paintings to be graded on a curve. It also has single people, and a surprising number of bars. Blueprint is our favorite cocktail spot in the neighborhood, with excellent drinks and a secret back patio that you can count on to impress someone for at least two minutes.
If you’re a hedge fund manager who owns half of Finland’s debt and you’re getting back into dating, then you can go anywhere you want on the Upper East Side. Enjoy Daniel or The Modern for us. But if you’re looking for something more affordable, there’s Kaia, a casual South African wine bar with many wines by the glass, along with oysters and shareable small plates like elk carpaccio.
The same questions always follow awkward silences on first dates. “So have you seen any good movies recently?,” or “Where did you say you grew up again?” You won’t have to deal with those questions at Donna, though, because if your conversation hits a lull, you can just talk about how the whitewashed space looks like the church in the wedding shootout scene in Kill Bill, and after that you can try to decipher what the hieroglyphics above every cocktail on the menu mean. This is one of the best-looking bars in Williamsburg, with a huge menu of tropical drinks that should keep you occupied for a while.
It’s not socially acceptable (or advisable) to invite a first date to your living room. But it is more than acceptable to tell them to meet you at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a Soho wine bar that feels like a very nice living room filled with tasteful wallpaper and plenty of comfortable velvet chairs. This is one of our favorite wine bars in the city, where you can share some small plates at the bar or small candlelit tables.
Blind dates can be stressful, and one proven cure for that is whiskey. Preferably, good whiskey. Highlands is a dark cocktail bar in the West Village that’s good for both blind dates and drinking whiskey. There’s a standing-room bar where you can get a first drink, and if you make it past initial pleasantries without talking about your favorite fan fiction, then sit down at a table in the adjoining room and order some good bar food.
D.O.C. feels like a Sardinian bed and breakfast where the elderly owner smiles and nods as you taste the house wine and local cheeses. It’s a very cozy Italian wine bar that’s great for a low-key date in Williamsburg. The big Italian wine list has affordable options by the glass and carafe, and there’s a large selection of cheeses and charcuterie. And housemade pasta if you decide to stay.
Porchlight is a huge cocktail bar in Chelsea that always seems to be just the right amount of crowded. You can usually get your own table, but the dark space also has some communal seating and a huge bar area filled with dates and big groups. This place makes very good cocktails, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and there’s a room in the back where people play Jenga and eat Cajun bar food.
Thursday night is a time block that you may not want to risk on someone you’ve never met. But you also don’t want to meet someone at a bar when you’ll be the only ones there. Cafe Standard would be a good place to make your next 6pm-on-a-Monday-night date feel a little less weird. The bar in the East Village Standard Hotel is ideal for early evening drinks and bites, when you also won’t have to compete for a seat with the Italian tourists in leather trench coats who tend to fill the space at peak times.
You could stick around Amelie for a full dinner, but we prefer it for Happy Hour, when you can try half glasses of any three wines on the menu for $12. Whether you get seats at the long bar or any of the high-tops in the narrow space, French servers will bring you tastes of various wines and offer curated wine flights that you should definitely accept. You can share some mussels and tartare if he passes your rigorous initial screening criteria (of actually looking like his app picture).
Bar Goto is a small, dark Japanese-inspired bar with some of the best drinks on the Lower East Side. Have a martini with cherry blossom in it and impress your date with the kind of chicken wings you would never expect to find in a fancy cocktail bar like this. You need at least one order - although two would be more impressive.
The Dead Rabbit is our favorite cocktail bar in FiDi. The old-timey tavern is also the best first date spot in the area. This place feels like a set out of Gangs Of New York, which you and your date can talk about while drinking cocktails out of fancy little teacups.
Regardless of whether you ever intend to see this person again, at least you know that meeting him at Leyenda won’t be a waste of your time. All of the mezcal and rum drinks at this dark Carroll Gardens cocktail bar are great, and the small plates are also good enough that after you say goodbye, you’ll want to go back inside to eat some guacamole and tacos on your own.
If you both happen to be huge Rangers fans who love wings and light beer, then there are a ton of bars where you can get to know each other in Midtown. But for a more low-key place where you won’t have to awkwardly ignore people cursing at the TV, we’d recommend Faces & Names. In fact, it’s one of the only places we’d send you on a first date in Midtown.