Good news: date night is on. Bad news: you didn't make any plans. Good news: we have you covered.
Whether you got out of work earlier than expected and thought it'd be nice to go out for dinner or are just generally bad at making plans but still committed to romance, planning a date night last minute can be tricky. To solve that problem, the following are places that are walk-in only (but not places that will have a three-hour wait) as well as great restaurants where you can usually get a reservation fairly last minute. Now stop considering that 10:45pm slot at a restaurant that doesn't seem that great anyway, and try one of these instead.
Getting an elusive reservation at L'Artusi is a bit like saying you'll get Hamilton tickets: you keep saying you'll do it, when the time is right. You're sure an opportunity will present itself eventually. Although an actual reservation is very hard to come by here, there's actually a better option, and it doesn't involve standing on the street in Times Square. L'Artusi's very long, walk-in only bar is actually the best place to sit in the restaurant. Give the host your name and number and grab a drink around the corner at Employees Only while you wait.
Marlow and Sons is either a) one of those Williamsburg restaurants you always mean to try, b) one of those Williamsburg restaurants you've been to many times over the years, or c) neither of the above (perhaps you're new around here). Whatever the case, an evening at Marlow is always a lovely one - it's the kind of restaurant - small, homey, doubles as a market - that will make you very happy you live in New York City. They've started taking some reservations, so give that a try, but know the majority of the restaurant is saved for walk-ins.
The best way to understand Houseman is to take a look at the neighborhood (far West Soho, right by the river) surrounding it: quiet and full of people in expensive sweaters, but with a distinct feeling you're downtown and not on the Upper East Side. Perhaps because of its not-quite central location, Houseman stays under the radar, meaning you can usually get in last minute. But both the food and vibe are excellent and worth going out of the way for.
Another place that would probably be mobbed were it in a slightly more accessible location, Virginia's can be done one of two ways. First, you can sit at a table, and order a lovely meal of risotto and scallops and fancy carrots and other stuff like that. Or second, you can roll up to the bar and order the almost offensively rich burger, which is only available there. Just don't fight with your date about this dilemma.
True romance at Tuome comes in the form of sharing the restaurant's signature item, "The Pig Out For 2." It's like The Notebook, but with crispy pork and spicy peanut noodles. While the Pig Out can be fun, there's something for everyone at this Chinese-influenced spot - from fancy deviled eggs to a nice piece of fish. The small brick-walled space in the East Village has good vibes all around, and it's usually not too hard to get a table last minute.
Simply put, Jeffrey's Grocery is a new classic you might not think about often enough these days. It checks all the right boxes: charming West Village location, nice but still low key environment, great cocktails, delicious seafood.
Walk in to the always-crowded ground floor of The Nomad Bar (connected to, but separate from The Nomad Restaurant), and you might think getting a table is a no-go. But tilt your head slightly upwards and you'll see that there are usually several two-tops for the taking on the balcony. Get a burger or a chicken burger (both are destination-worthy), one of the tartares, maybe some vegetables and obviously some cocktails. This is the best last-minute move in the Nomad area.
Meadowsweet is the restaurant that led us to invent the phrase "The Feel Good Factor," so if you can't have a good time here, it may be time to rethink the relationship. The menu is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a place called Meadowsweet: you'll find burrata, grilled octopus, a section dedicated to local vegetables, arctic char, and so on. All of it's great, and you should be able to pop in or nab a reservation day-of.
In Nomad but feeling anxious about not having a reservation? Head to Hanjan, where you should be able to snag one last-minute on most evenings. The modern Korean food is top-notch, and the dark room is definitely date-y.
Are you guys excited about the idea of eating beef tartare with smoked cheddar? Is at least one of you going to get real nerdy about the potential of "quince toast with lardo and olga cheese"? We have no idea what olga cheese is, and that's just the point. A walk-in only spot serving only natural wines, Wildair is the best no-planning required place to get serious about food.