There are first dates. And second dates. And third dates. And then there are 20th dates. And 61st dates. And 111th dates. Props if you’re still counting at that point. “Date night” can take many forms, whether you’re just getting to know someone or are out for your weekly “WE NEED TO KEEP THIS ALIVE” outing. Either way, here are our favorite spots for general date night excellence.
Il Buco has been around for a few decades, but it’s still extremely romantic - like a Nicholas Sparks novel printed on white chocolate, read aloud by Colin Firth. They’re also still serving the same exceptional pasta and risotto, and, for a place that’s been so good for so long, it isn’t as impossible to get a reservation as you’d think. Plus, the space used to be an antique store, and it still sort of feels like one. This is a good thing for a date.
Hart’s is a tiny place in Bed-Stuy, and if you bring a date, they’ll be impressed that you know of such a cool neighborhood spot. The food is Mediterranean/American, and you can expect things like ricotta with stewed vegetables and some quality seafood. They also typically have a good soundtrack going that may or may not involve Ja Rule and Ashanti, and it’s nice and dim with a candle on a very table.
I Sodi is one of the best Italian restaurants in NYC, but you aren’t going to feel like you’re on a prom date here. It’s a simple but upscale spot in the bottom of an apartment building in the West Village, and there are only about eight tables (as well as a bar). Seeing as how there isn’t much space, it can be tough to get a reservation - but if you want if you want to impress a date with a 26-layer lasagna that you will not have to make yourself, this is the place.
Secret things are cooler than non-secret things. That’s a fact, and every person you will ever meet knows it. So if you want someone to think that you’re at least a little bit cool, take them to Karasu. It’s a Japanese restaurant and bar hidden behind another restaurant and bar in Fort Greene - and while you could call it a “speakeasy,” it doesn’t have any of the pretension of most places in that category. The cocktails are different, the food is great, and the space is intimate. Just be sure to make a reservation.
Let’s say you have a somewhat important date, but you don’t want to eat at a place with white tablecloths and servers wearing nicer clothes than you. Book a table at Pasquale Jones. It’s a modern Italian restaurant in Nolita, and it has pretty much everything you want from a date spot: excellent food, a wine list that will help you choose something good even if you know nothing about wine, and an upscale atmosphere that isn’t too stiff. It can be tough to get a table last-minute, but you can always stop in and try your luck at the bar.
If date night rolls around and you realize you have nothing planned, don’t panic. Just go to Sauvage. It’s a French-ish place in Greenpoint, and it typically isn’t too hard to get a table here. The dining room feels like a nice bistro that you’d find in Paris (which is typically a good thing for date night), and there’s a lot of sidewalk seating for when the weather is nice. As for the food, it’s good enough to keep you happy, but not so mind-blowing that you’ll forget to talk to each other. The chocolate tart makes for a strong finish.
We like slice joints, but if you try to bring a date to a place like Joe’s, he or she might be slightly disappointed. So if you want to eat pizza romantically, go to Ops. It’s a nice neighborhood pizza spot with brick walls, a tiled floor, and a rotating selection of natural wines. The pizza is also very good (especially the square one), the service is exceptionally friendly, and everything is pretty affordable. It’s in Bushwick, and there are plenty of bars nearby for a drink afterward.
L’Artusi has been the ultimate Infatuation date night spot for some time now. Sit at the bar, order pasta and some excellent, well-priced wine. And then sit back, and let the service and the vibe carry the evening. L’Artusi, simply put, is fool-proof.
Why do Australians keep opening cool restaurants in New York? Not entirely sure, but we’ll keep going to them. Dante took the space of a famous old Greenwich Village cafe (also called Dante), and turned it into a fun, casual, extremely useful and impressively tasty restaurant. Points for history, and also points for negronis on tap.
Mimi might be the straight-up sexiest restaurant in New York. If that makes you picture some rooftop lounge with views of the Empire State Building and shiny leather booths and elevator music in the background, we don’t mean that kind of “sexy.” Mimi is legitimately sexy thanks to a combination of attractive French waiters, tightly packed tables, and a marble bar that turns out ice-cold martinis. The food is funky, modern French stuff like beef tartare with quail yolk.
Lilia is a knockout in every way: stunning space, awesome pastas, fried cacio e pepe, great wine list, and soft serve ice cream with sprinkles on top. This restaurant just does it all right. We would usually tell you that the best place to experience a place like Lilia would be to bring a bunch of people and try everything. But the actual best way to experience Lilia? Bring one other person and try everything.
Whether you’re just starting to really get to know someone or you’ve known them for a while, it can never hurt to remind someone that you know where the cool sh*t is. So point your date night in the direction of Wildair. On first glance, it just looks like a casual wine bar - but the food here also happens to be pretty incredible. If your ideal date night includes interesting wine, interesting food, and the feeling of being much more French than you actually are, get involved. Know that you can’t make reservations, but it’ll be worth the wait.
The essential Upper East Side date night restaurant, Uva won’t change your life, but it will provide you a nice, mildly romantic evening with solid Italian food on 2nd Avenue. If you can, sit in the garden.
Fedora feels like the kind of place where New Yorkers in pinstripe suits and furs would have hung out fifty years ago. And maybe they did - this place has been open for even longer, and was originally operated by a woman named Fedora, who seems like she would have been friends with people that would wear pinstripe suits and fur. Fedora might no longer own the place, but it retains its classic New York appeal: low lighting, leather stools, stiff drinks, and great food. The fur is optional - a date is not.
Prune is best known for brunch, when no reservations are taken. And if you’re willing to wait, the food (and the Bloody Marys) will be great. But we actually most strongly endorse Prune at dinner-time, when the restaurant feels like the experimental American version of a cozy little French bistro. The menu is interesting, and yes, they even take reservations.
The perfect date night spot falls midway between safe and sexy. You want to be 100% sure it’s going to be excellent - but you also want to avoid being too predictable. (This is what we call expert strategy.) Al Di La hits the sweet spot: incredibly good, rustic Italian food, in a charming but not cutesy environment, in a neighborhood you probably don’t frequent. Make it a one-two punch by heading over to Blueprint for a great nightcap afterwards.
If your idea of date night involves eating some tuna tartare and maybe a few oysters if things get crazy, somewhere near midtown, Virginia’s is not your spot. Located on Avenue C, the food at Virginia’s is about as rich as it gets - expect plenty of butter, and expect risotto to pretty much always be on the menu. Work it off with the not-short walk to the subway afterwards.
Some things should never change. Like Maison Premiere. Their combination was pretty much made for date night: impressive, delicious cocktails, excellent raw bar offerings, an insane back garden, and a 1920s vibe that feels actually cool, rather than dated. Whether it’s your first stop to kick off your evening or you make it the main event, MP is a place you can count on.
Or maybe you need to not take your date to Maison Premiere for the 13th time. Switch things up with Hotel Delmano, another Williamsburg cocktail bar that gives MP some stiff competition across all fronts: cocktails, raw bar, and atmosphere. But most importantly, Hotel Delmano never fails to make us feel like we’re in one of the coolest rooms in Brooklyn. Your date night routine needs more of this place.
The Four Horsemen might be a tiny room, but it’s the kind of space you walk into and immediately decide you’d be happy to stay a while. (Also, built-in intimacy is never a bad thing.) It’s a natural wine bar, meaning you’ll have no idea what any of the wines are. But this also means The Four Horsemen provides a built-in activity: talking about, learning about, and drinking stuff you’ve never tried. On top of that, the food here is really impressive, and it’s fun to sample from the small plates as you try funky wines.
Some small plates places are ideal for groups. Estela is not one of them. This is a small plates restaurant for date night. It’s cramped, it’s crowded, it’s... slanted, it’s loud - but more so than all of those things, Estela is an excellent restaurant. Come with someone who is serious about food, and it’s pretty much a given that you will have a great night.
Many date nights, you’re not looking for a big production - you’re just looking for something that feels slightly more special than your typical Tuesday night go-to. Littleneck is the ideal casual date spot: a subtly sexy version of a beach shack in the middle of Gowanus, serving lots of seafood and one excellent burger. A great bar, low lighting, candles on the tables, and a solid cocktail list give the place more ambience than the usual spots where you’d get a great lobster roll around town.