First dates can change your life, but most of them will just teach you how to flirt with a kind stranger you met online. To give yourself the best chance of hitting it off with someone, it’s important to pick the right place.
That’s why we’re sharing 22 of the best first date bars and restaurants in the city. All of them are relatively casual places (so it won’t look like you’re trying too hard), but they’re also impressive enough to make you seem like an adult person who’s capable of making good choices. A lot of these places serve food, but you don’t necessarily have to eat a full meal at any of them, and they’re all perfect for either a 20-minute meet-and-greet or a three-hour date that could be optioned by the Hallmark Channel.
You could skinny dip in Central Park Lake the next time you want to have a fun first date on the UWS, or you could just order a bunch of small plates at this neighborhood Japanese spot. Between the sake, skillet of hot cheesy corn, delicately fried karaage, and the welcoming environment that’s lively (but not too loud), Moonrise Izakaya is perfect for a memorable first date near West 96th Street.
Bringing a first date to a speakeasy could go terribly wrong. You could be waiting in line for a while, which would force you to make uncomfortable small talk or ramble endlessly about your favorite cat toys. But the cocktails and atmosphere inside Attaboy are actually worth the risk. Come to this very dark cocktail spot for the best penicillin you’ll probably ever have, but know there are only a few tables available.
If you’re coming to Bar Goto on a first date, do it with someone you at least think you’ll have a good time with. We like to describe this LES spot as mature. It’s got a huge sake selection, Japanese whisky, cocktails made with rice vodka, and snacks like miso chicken wings and okonomiyaki, so you’re probably not going to want to make this a quick one.
Looking for a casual bar in Queens that has a backyard garden with picnic tables and umbrellas? Take someone to The Bonnie in Astoria. Start the night off with one of their dirty pickle martinis or another excellent cocktail made with thyme-infused tequila. And if things go well after drinks, you can order everything from burrata and steak to tacos and cheese fries from their huge dinner menu.
At Guevara’s, it’s hard to feel disappointed. The Clinton Hill cafe from the team behind Mekelburg’s has a sidewalk patio with pastel pink arches and checkered flooring, a plant shop stocked with cacti, and a plant-based Cuban menu involving things like tortas and conchas. So even if your date shows up and doesn’t compliment the outfit you spent the previous four hours coordinating, you’ll still find something to smile about.
If you’re meeting someone who gets excited about wine (or someone you want to impress with your excitement about wine), head to Ruffian. This bar in the East Village has over 250 wines - most of which are natural options from small producers in southern and eastern Europe - and a very knowledgeable staff that’s happy to discuss fermentation methods. This place has a comfortable outdoor setup built in front of their spot on East 7th Street with plenty of room for you and a date.
A covered patio, a strong cocktail, oysters, and a burger. That’s all you need for a good time at Walter’s, a Fort Greene standby that’s been serving solid American food for years. It’s the kind of all-day spot that works for pretty much any kind of date - from coffee meetups to sunset dining. And since it’s right across the street from Fort Greene Park, the two of you could go for a walk after your meal for the full romcom effect.
No matter how many times you bring a first date to this Bed-Stuy bar with a taco truck in the back, you’ll never get tired of their tacos. Chilo’s serves options like fish, carnitas, and smoked beef tacos, which you can eat inside the dive bar or outside at one of their picnic tables. But if you’re not in the mood to eat in front of someone you’ve never met, you can stick to cocktails and beer. Just keep in mind that you may be asked to give up your spot after 90 minutes.
We can’t really think of a more natural ice breaker than flaming beverages. Find them at Sugar Monk in Harlem. It’s a tiny cocktail lounge with green velvet chairs, tropical wallpaper, and heavy curtains on the windows. Sugar Monk makes tasty and complicated drinks - containing things like Arabian jasmine, absinthe foam, and bergamot bitters. Most of these cocktails are in the $15-$18 range, and if you’re looking for an impressive spot where you can have a conversation, this place is worth it.
Lalou suits a range of first-date needs. The Prospect Heights natural wine bar has a casual patio where you can try a fizzy pet-nat, something orange, or something spirit-forward in a martini glass, plus a more formal dining room where you can have a full-on dinner. And while nothing says “let’s take this slow” like a tiny plate of olives from their snack menu, you could also go for something more substantial like a piece of fish or a burger. Another huge plus? They take reservations.
The patio situation at Café Standard is one of the best in the East Village, and it’s where you should go to drink rosé with a stranger you’d like to impress. Just get a table outside, pretend to care about their journey to discovering themselves, and order some drinks (and French fries). And seeing as how this place is at the bottom of a hotel, you can plan to meet up with someone here as early as 8am.
Leyenda makes some of the best cocktails in Brooklyn, and the mezcal, tequila, and cachaça-based drinks are reason enough to come to this Cobble Hill bar. But this place also serves some very good Latin food, like pork tacos with pineapple and enchiladas topped with thick mole. All of the above is best enjoyed on the small patio out back that’s quiet enough for you to hear your date recall their Netflix watch history.
Amelie is a French wine bar just north of Washington Square Park that’s perfect for a fun and affordable first date. They have a great Happy Hour that runs Monday-Thursday when you can try half glasses of any three wines on the menu for $12. Whether you get seats at a high-top table inside the narrow bar or outside on the covered patio, a French server will likely bring you tastes of various wines to help you decide. Plus, you can always snack on mussels or crab tartine if you get hungry.
Bar Goto Niban
Park Slope might be dominated by strollers and toy stores, but thanks to spots like Bar Goto Niban, a date night out in the neighborhood can feel like getting drinks with someone in Lower Manhattan. This Brooklyn bar is from the people behind Bar Goto on the LES and shares the same selection of Japanese cocktails and bar snacks. You can nibble on miso wings and sip Japanese whiskey inside the dark and narrow space on Bergen Street, or you can talk about what your favorite reality show says about your personality on their heated sidewalk patio.
If you’re open to the possibility of staying out until 12am, ordering drinks, and sharing stories about the first time you watched Sister Act, go to Mister Paradise. This East Village bar starts as a casual place to get some great cocktails, like one with Campari and fermented habanero, and then becomes a crowded place for people who get their morning coffee from Aimé Leon Dore. At some point, you’ll probably want to order their cheeseburger or some crab toast to snack on while seated on a leather stool on their sidewalk patio.
Oso is the kind of place where you could bring a date you’re trying to impress for several rounds of margaritas, a few empanadas, and a whole fried fish. It’s a casual spot, and you could probably eat here in your pajamas, although your date might not be as impressed by that. If you live near Hamilton Heights or go to City College, this should be one of your go-to places in the neighborhood.
Are you meeting up with someone in Bushwick who would be happiest if they could only drink fancy cocktails for the rest of their life? Just go to The Narrows. It’s one of our all-around favorite spots in the neighborhood, thanks to the excellent cocktails, great back patio, and low-key-but-not-boring atmosphere. If your first date goes well here, consider stopping by Bunna Cafe for an Ethiopian dinner.
Epistrophy is a Nolita neighborhood hang above all, but it’s also a great first date spot. You can go the drinks and appetizers route, or easily have a more filling Italian meal, and there’s outdoor seating for people-watching if you get bored. Grab a little table outside and split a bottle of wine, or stop by for Happy Hour when you don’t want to pay full price for drinks with a relative stranger.
King Tai advertises “perpetual to-go cocktail service,” which is something we’d like to carve into a tree with a heart around it. This Crown Heights bar serves to-go cocktails every day between 4pm and 11pm from a little window, and there are a few tables where you can hang out with a date who likes rum. And if you like the sound of jerk pork bánh mì or jerk chicken nachos, stop by Wednesday through Friday when the bar hosts a restaurant pop-up with a Jamaican spot called C Marty’s Jerk.
Porchlight, a Chelsea bar from the team behind Daily Provisions and Union Square Cafe, unsurprisingly serves great food like chicken po’boys, fried oysters, and other fancy bar snacks. But it’s also a very large space with various seating areas and excellent cocktails located one block away from the Hudson River.
If you’ve been talking to someone who might get excited about fizzy pet-nats, meet up at Winona’s. This laid-back natural wine bar on the border of Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy is perfect for a first date whether you want to dip after thirty minutes or linger for a casual dinner that might last a lifetime. Winona’s has a heated outdoor patio where you can stop by for a glass of natural wine or coffee any day of the week, but dinner is only served Thursday through Saturday. On Sunday and Monday nights, expect a rotating menu of seasonal Mexican and Cuban dishes from a weekly pop-up dinner series run by Ediciones, as well as wine pairings from Amigxs - a collective of hospitality professionals working to fund emerging chefs.