Maybe this is a second date, maybe it’s the fifth, or maybe it’s the 25th. The point is, you’ve both decided that you might not dislike each other, and now you need somewhere to sit down and eat while you figure out how many more times you want to do this. If you’re on the Upper East Side, here’s where you should go. These places are fancier than your average weeknight dinner spot, but they aren’t so formal that you’ll freak out your date.
Amali isn’t Daniel-expensive, but your wallet will lose a little weight here, so save this place for when you’re at least 75% sure that you like the person you’re about to eat with. Order some duck that was raised within biking distance (probably) and have an heirloom something-or-other. This is a Mediterranean place that works with local farms, and the dining room is un-stuffy and modern - so you and your date can plausibly pretend that you’re both downtown.
Sfoglia looks like it was built for a wedding reception. For a wedding that takes place in a meadow, with birds flying overhead. Birds that don’t poop. There are vintage tables and chandeliers and vases with real flowers in them. All that, and their pastas are excellent. That’s what you order here. It’s pricey, but if you want someone to look at you and think of a meadow with birds that don’t poop, this place is worth it.
You might feel like you’re in France here, and that’s usually a good feeling for date night. Your waiter will probably have a French accent, there are outdoor cafe tables, and you can eat an entrée-sized portion of steak tartare. Which seems like something a French person would do. Overall, this is just a nice little bistro. Not life-changing, but if you and a date have been lost in Central Park for three-plus hours, it’s one of your best last-minute date options on the east side.
We like Yefsi. Enough that we don’t really care that it looks like a generic upscale Greek place from the late 90’s. Hopefully your date will agree. (They will if they like good food.) Yefsi does a good plate of octopus, and we’re down with their meatballs and kebabs. Also, the prices are right for date night - not so low that you seem cheap, but not so expensive that you’ll be forced to dine-and-dash on your potential future spouse. Although that would be a good story for your kids.
Eastfield’s is from the same people behind The East Pole, but it feels younger. Sort of like something you’d find in Nolita. Just like The East Pole, you can get a “macro bowl” here, but you can also have a burger or a pork chop. It’s a good mix of healthy/unhealthy, although there are always a lot of vegetables on the menu. The dining room itself is sort of nautical-themed, and it gets dark and romantic at night.
How’d that first date go? Did you order a chardonnay then talk about your cat for just a little too long? If you get a second chance, consider Beyoglu. It’s a Turkish place, and your date might think you’re interesting for choosing it. Come here, share a mezze platter, have some kebabs, and try to say something that makes you sound smart. Like, “I’m skeptical of all art that isn’t good.” It’s also pretty casual here, so you don’t have to get dressed up.
There are a lot of good tacos in the city these days, but this upscale Mexican restaurant still makes for good date. If you’re trying to impress someone, have some grasshopper tacos. Or, if your date isn’t impressed by awesome things, go for the brisket or lobster ones. They also do steak, ceviche, and miso black cod (for some reason). If it’s nice out, sit on the outdoor patio.
The road is more of a street and the house is more a wine bar, but you probably didn’t take that name literally. This is Manhattan. There are no houses or roads. Come here when you want to show someone how much knowledge you have. They’ll be surprised that you know of such under-the-radar places where you can eat however much you want, drink a bottle of wine, and wipe your mouth with a flowery cloth napkin. Just know that this place is very small and that this only enhances its charm.
If you squint, this place looks like a brick house in the Italian countryside - and if you really squint, it look looks like your eyelids. The food at Uva is also pretty good. Not the very best Italian on the Upper East Side, but also not the most expensive. So take someone here when you want to look like you’re trying, but not too hard. You can have some gnocchi in truffle sauce while you drink a little too much wine and ask what your date’s insecurities are.
Felice 83 is owned by the same people behind the Sant Ambroeus mini-chain, so expect consistency and good vibes. There are a few other Felice locations in the city (including a wine bar next door), and they have all the design stuff down. This place is cozy, with leather seats, a few chandeliers, and some outdoor seating when it’s warm. The food isn’t going to blow your mind, but that’ll help you focus on the task at hand: convincing this person sitting across from you that you floss daily and can do your own taxes.
Unless you’re in a serious relationship with someone, don’t take them somewhere super fancy. They’ll think you’re going to propose or ask them for a kidney or something. If it’s still early-in-the-game, try The Milton. It’s a pub, but a nice one. You can get a little table in back and eat some seared salmon or a kale salad that’s better than it needs to be. Or just have drinks and share some fries. There won’t be much pressure here.
Up Thai is romantic in its own way. With all the plants and hanging lanterns, it feels sort of like an indoor garden. But you don’t come here for the plants and lanterns - you come for the the best Thai food in the area. So bring a date, grab a table in the back, and share some noodles and crispy duck. And if you hit it off over dinner, you can forever relive your special night by ordering Up Thai when you’re home watching Netflix (after you put your seven children to sleep).
During the day, this place is a cafe. But at night it turns into a little restaurant/bar that’s perfect for an early-in-the-game date. They have a good beer and wine selection, they make some serious cocktails, and they serve stuff like fish tacos and sliders. The only catch is, this place is is pretty small - there’s a bar, a few communal tables, and some stools at the window. If they’re empty, grab two of those and see if your date’s pupils dilate when they look at the menu and read “pigs in a blanket.” That’s a good sign.
This is a small South African wine bar in Yorkville that attracts a crowd that’s just a little cooler than the one you find at the average UES spot. Maybe because the food is surprisingly good. They do things like chicken curry in a bread bowl and a lamb burger, and everything is generally delicious. The whole bar is only one smallish room, but if you grab one of the ten-or-so tables, you’re all set for date night.