photo credit: Noah Devereaux
The One-Two Punch: A Date Night Dinner & Drinks Guide
The ultimate guide to dinner and drinks.
It all starts out so well. You’ve picked an awesome place for dinner, the meal is great, the conversation is easy, you’ve found out you have tons of things in common (you both like exercise! and music!), and you both want to keep the night going. SUCCESS.
But then you stop, a cold chill runs down your spine, and you realize you have no idea where the f*ck to take this person next. You were so caught up in picking out a dinner place you didn’t even think about where to drink afterwards.
Don’t let this be you. The one-two punch, dinner-then-drinks date is your proven road to date night glory, whether it’s your third date or thirtieth. And we’ve plotted all the best ones out for you. We can’t promise these plans will convince someone to go home with you, but we can promise they’ll be a rock solid foundation on which to seal the deal.
The One-Two Punches
Going out to new restaurants is a great way to trick someone into thinking you’re exciting. But if you’re past the point of pretending, it can be just as (if not more) enjoyable to go somewhere not new - especially a not-new place you know will deliver. Walter’s is a rock-solid neighborhood spot, where you’ll be treated like you’re a regular even if you can’t ever remember the difference between Fort Greene and Greenpoint. Get a booth, and split some raw bar items and a burger or French dip for best success. Nothing boring about that.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
All of the one-two punches on this list are designed for efficiency. But none are as easy as this one - because Karasu is the Japanese cocktail bar through the hidden back door of Walter’s. Despite sharing the same roof, these two operations feel like fully different experiences. At Karasu, order freely from the interesting cocktail menu, drink from a glass that’ll make you want to go to more estate sales, and settle into the vibey (but not sceney) environment. You’ll want to stay a while.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Be the first to get expert restaurant recommendations for every situation right in your inbox.
photo credit: Jesse Hsu
You’re going on a fourth date with someone who you’re pretty sure you want to go on forty more dates with. When you asked what they’re in the mood for tonight, they texted “Somewhere casual. But fun!!” F*ck. What does that even mean? We’ll make this easy: it means Cocoron. This is a tiny, laid-back spot - but also the kind of spot that’s impossible not to like. Partly because the menu has confusing cartoon characters on it, partly because you can play with your food here (if that sounds up your alley, order your soba “dipping” style) - but mostly because the Japanese soups here are awesome. And probably unlike anything you ate on your first three dates.
Another reason to set your sights on Cocoron: it’s 400 feet from a Greatest Hits bar - Mother’s Ruin. You (probably) already know the drill: small room, always lively, alcohol slushies.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Paulie Gee’s is like a giant cave of pizza, and if that doesn’t sound like something you want to be inside immediately, we don’t have much else to say. When you want pizza, but you also want a place that feels decidedly different from your couch, you come to Paulie Gee’s. You’re going to encounter a wait, but that’s what this next step is for.
After you put your name down at Paulie Gee’s, walk around the corner to our favorite bar in Greenpoint. Ramona is the kind of place that hip wedding venues aspire to look like: all white, high ceilings, covered in fancy lighting fixtures, full of attractive people who probably own organic cotton underwear startups. Also important: Ramona makes an excellent cocktail. Be careful - it’s easy to get swept up in things here and miss your spot in line at Paulie Gee’s. And Paulie Gee’s waits for no one.
We get this question all the time: “Where’s a really hot/cool/trendy/romantic new place I can go tonight that I don’t need to make a reservation for and that I won’t have to wait three hours to get into and that will probably get me laid?” The answer is nowhere. You’re living in the wrong city. But it’s okay, because this city also has places like Uva that are going to save you: the Italian food is great, the wine list is big, the setting is date-y, and there’s even a back patio if it’s nice out. This is one of the most reliable date night spots on the Upper East Side.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Eli's Night Shift
As for the getting laid part? That’s on you. But if you want to continue to move things in the right direction, head to Eli’s Night Shift. It feels much more like a place you would find much farther downtown. And in this case, that’s a good thing.
If you’re going out with the kind of person who appreciates drinks made with things like falernum shrubs and tobacco-barrel-rinsed alcohol, consider a one-two punch starting at this classic Williamsburg cocktail spot. (You don’t have to know what falernum is to enjoy it.) Maison Premiere is one of those places that feels like it’s going to be around for forever, and with good reason - despite how pretentious it could be, it’s fun as hell. There’s a good menu of seafood here to keep you from getting over-served on stop #1.
Half a block away from Maison Premiere is your second stop. Fresh Kills might be much newer than Maison Premiere (it opened in 2015), but it’s another cocktail place that feels like an instant classic. This place doesn’t have any of the old-timey atmosphere - it’s just a well-designed, modern cocktail place that we’d happily go to for a nightcap every night.
Think back to the last few restaurants you’ve been to. Did they all serve either a burger or a pasta? It’s time to change things up, and a very good place to do it is Bunna Cafe, an excellent Ethiopian place that happens to also be vegan. Bring someone here who’s down to eat with their hands (because that’s what you do here), and revel in the fact that you’re not paying $18 for a cheeseburger.
Let’s say you’re using this date to really get to know someone. You already saw how they responded to watching you stuff your face with your hands, so you’re off to a good start. But now you might be looking for a place to drink where you can actually hear each other talk. Make moves to The Narrows, an aptly-named little spot where you can get a good drink and park yourselves at a couple barstools (or outside on the back patio) until you’ve discovered each other’s pretend band names and favorite colors.
It’s been scientifically proven that any given date has zero percent chance of going wrong if a Rubirosa vodka pizza is involved. The sausage cavatelli certainly won’t hurt either. And OK, throw in an order of the arancini. And the mozzarella sticks. And a tiramisu. The leftovers will just be an excuse for needing to wake up in the same place tomorrow.
Speaking of a time when cigarettes were good for you, what ever happened to taking someone out for a nice steak dinner? Instagram and green juice happened. But Quality Eats is here to bring the steakhouse experience into 2016 - meaning it looks nothing like a steakhouse. It’s fun, it’s vibey, and there’s ice cream with birthday cake crutons. In other words, it’s perfect for your Instagram. And for your date.
Fedora is permanently closed
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
You ate some steak, you finally remember what it’s like to have red meat coursing through your veins, and all you want to do is keep the good vibes rolling. Do it at Fedora - this is what date success looks like: stiff drinks, a dark room, and action everywhere.
While on a date, a lot of things are running through your mind. You’re thinking about whether you can picture yourself with this person - Will you be excited to travel with them? Will you have the same apartment decorating style? Will they like your pet gerbil? A trip to Llama Inn can help you with at least the first two questions. It’s basically the next-best thing to a trip to Peru, and the place looks like something you’d see in whatever the hip version of Architectural Digest is. Oh, and the food is highly tasty - adventurous enough to be fun, but not so adventurous that it’s intimidating.
Night of Joy
Next stop on the gold medal third date tour: Night Of Joy. It’s basically a cocktail dive bar that feels like a cool Grandma’s living room. And if that doesn’t sound like a place to seal the deal, we don’t know what to tell you.
Walk a few steps down Avenue C and you’ll arrive at Mace, which has the benefit of being a new-ish East Village cocktail bar your date probably hasn’t already been to 27 times.
So, you’re really into this person you just started seeing, but you checked your text history and realized you sent them somewhere in the ballpark of 75 emojis yesterday. Time to hit the breaks. You want to come off as easygoing and natural, not high on fourth-date success fumes. The move here is a casual sushi dinner at Kanoyma - it’s reasonably priced, the fish is great, and the environment keeps things simple. Do make a reservation, though - just because you’re proving you’re “chill” doesn’t mean you have to be dumb.
Sake Bar Decibel
After sushi time, it’s sake time. Head down the stairs past the “On Air” sign and you’ll end up in one of the coolest bar rooms in the city. It feels like a speakeasy, only, you know, more chill.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
Al Di La
Taking a date to Al Di La is basically like taking them to meet your grandma - it’s the ultimate test of whether they’re right for you or not. With its insanely good rustic Italian food and insanely charming dining room, it’s the kind of place you’d kind of have to be soulless not to love. If your date doesn’t eat every last scrap of Tagliatelle Al Ragu, you’ll know it’s time to move on.
If they pass the Al Di La test, it’s time to celebrate with drinks. Walk a couple blocks to Blueprint, home of the best Negroni in Park Slope. Ok, so that’s not exactly that tough of a title to win, but this is the kind of place where the bartenders know what they’re doing.
The Wayland has long been a date night go-to, and Goodnight Sonny (opened by the same people) is following precisely in its footsteps: good cocktails, good crowd, good vibes.
We call this move: the bar-THEN-dinner date. It’s called being unexpected, people, and your date will love it. Hotel Delmano is one of our favorite bars in the entire city - it’s charming without being cute, it’s sexy without trying too hard, and it just feels like one of those places where good things happen. Start the night off here (on the early side, as you may have to wait later on), with their excellent cocktails and raw bar/charcuterie offerings.
Once you’ve worked up a proper appetite with drinks and the kind of snacks that only make you hungrier, make your way right across the street to Colette and order one thing and one thing only: the burger. The conventional thing would be to split it, but get crazy and each order your own. Trust us, you’re going to want it.
France really has it all figured out. Their wine is better than ours, their cheese is better than ours, their language is sexier than ours - we could go on. Wildair brings a little sliver of that cool, casual French dining sensibility to New York, and we only wish there were more places like it. While the food is great, and the wines are unique, this is really a place where you can just sit back and focus on the person across from you. Better make it someone you really like.
Before you roll your eyes at yet another unmarked, you-don’t-know-unless-you-know, doorman-guarded speakeasy, know that while Attaboy is all of those things, it’s also really great. It can be tough to get in, but once you do, the drinks and space make it all worth it.
El Quinto Pino
We don’t find ourselves in this situation very often, but sometimes you don’t want to feel so ridiculously full after a meal that you can’t function as a normal human being in society - let alone on a date. Tapas are the answer here - a little bit of this, a little bit of that, nothing too big or unwieldy - and El Quinto Pino is one of our favorite places to consume them.
As you might expect, Danny Meyer runs a tight ship at his cocktail spot - everything from the design, to the menu, to the cute aprons all the bartenders wear is carefully designed for an ideal drinking experience.
Are you a cool young person who enjoys eating at cool young people restaurants? You and your date will probably like Kiki’s. While it’s very much a neighborhood restaurant, Kiki’s has the vibe of being distinctly cooler than you, but in a way that almost makes you want to win its approval. As for the food, it’s straightforward Greek favorites. Come armed with breath mints.
Beverly’s is where you go when you’re really sick of $16 mixology nonsense. It’s not a dive, but it’s also not fancy. Show your date you don’t need a bacon-infused Manhattan to have a good time.
Prune is a brunch legend - it’s the holy grail of places people are willing to wait hours for to get some scrambled eggs and pancakes. While its mythical brunch status is a real pain when you’re actually trying to get brunch, it also thankfully distracts people from the fact that dinner here is just as excellent. At night, it feels like a charming little French bistro, with food that’s different than what you’ll see at most other places, but that you’ll be very excited to eat. Dinner at Prune is a pro move - use it accordingly.
Continue the theme of knowing what the f*ck you’re doing by walking a block and a half to Bar Goto in the Lower East Side. It’s an awesome, tiny Japanese cocktail den - if one of you is female, the purse cubbies alone will impress.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Marlow & Sons
When planning a dinner date, you have some tough choices to make. Do you go classic, or do you go new? It’s like choosing between George Clooney and Ryan Gosling - impossible. But the beauty of the one-two punch is that you don’t have to choose. Combine something classic with something trendier for one perfect evening. Start off at Marlow & Sons, which, like George, has only gotten better with time. Whether you’re just getting some wine and oysters, or going full-on meal with the brick chicken, you can count on Marlow & Sons to deliver an excellent experience.
For the Gosling element of the evening, we nominate Loosie Rouge. The music is bumpin’, everyone has an accent, and the cutoff age appears to be around twenty-seven. Your night has come full circle.