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 having a good time, it’s important to pick the right place. That’s why we’re sharing some of our favorite first date bars and restaurants in the city. The majority of these places are relatively casual (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. Some 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.
photo credit: Accidental Bar
Most people who come to Accidental Bar leave knowing more about sake than when they walked in. So as long as your date has at least a marginal interest in fermented rice wine, you'll have a great time at this East Village spot. Handwritten, fun phrases like “Vesper martini vibes! Decadent” and “For my geeks! Smoky + salty” are used to describe each sake, and all of the food is meant to bring out different tastes in your beverage—especially the otsumami platter for two with market pears and honey, turmeric pickled cauliflower, and more.
At this Spanish seafood bar in Greenpoint, you’ll see plenty of things to discuss with someone you just met, like the transistor radio playing indie music in the bathroom, the cartoon poster of a wine-drunk penguin, and all the neighborhood people wearing glasses and baseball caps seated in tiny wooden booths. In addition to a curated list of wine, sherry, and amari, El Pingüino also serves an impressive raw bar selection and small plates, but you never get the feeling that you're required to have a full meal.
photo credit: Sek'end Sun
Sek’end Sun is a casual neighborhood bar right by the Broadway subway station in Astoria. They have special deals most nights of the week as well as trivia on Mondays. (You can quickly learn how much useless information your date knows and be reminded of how little you know.) If it's warm out, sit in the big backyard and try to refrain from bringing up how nice the weather is. There’s also a big neon sign here that says “Queens” just in case you forget where you are.
Temple Bar is, quite possibly, the darkest bar in all of Manhattan. Consequently, this Nolita spot feels reasonably romantic, especially if you sit at a table in the small back room. Order something from their long martini list, snack on some shrimp cocktail, and most importantly, book a table in advance. You won't be the only one planning a night out at Temple Bar, and, when you stop by, you might just see someone you recognize from Law & Order: SVU (or TikTok).
A "queer space for all," Oddly Enough is a good time all around. The space has plenty of seating and it never feels too crowded, and you'll probably hear some loud funk or disco when you stop by. This Bed-Stuy bar is a great place to share a few small plates and a bottle of wine with someone who might be willing to hold your hand one day. Try the whipped ricotta with a side of a focaccia, and grab a seat on the sidewalk patio if you want to feel a breeze.
The Highwater is a very casual, tropical-themed bar in Astoria where the cocktails have names like “Totally a Samantha” and “Chica Chica Boom.” And they’re all pretty solid. The space is just one room with high ceilings and potted plants, and there are a bunch of tables where you can hang out with your date, eat some snacks like guacamole and fried chicken, and drink something pink.
photo credit: Eric Medsker
Dear Irving on Hudson
Dear Irving on Hudson is a perfect place to get to know someone who might become more than a friend one day. The views are great, the cocktails are well-made, and there are little "seating stations" (made for two) that will make you feel like you're in your own little bubble as you try to figure out what the day's colors on the Empire State Building mean. Snack on some lobster rolls and macarons, and request a bartender's choice if none of the house cocktails sound appealing. If the person you're with requests "something chocolatey and milky," then you'll know this is probably your first and last date together.
If you'd rather be in Mexico City right now, Aldama in Williamsburg should be at the top of your personal drinking Hit List. In addition to a bar stocked with craft tequila and mezcal (with daily Happy Hour specials from 5-7pm), they serve dishes like tostadas and yellowtail ceviche. Plus, their basement-level room has chic bar stools woven like wicker baskets. If you hang out long enough, you and your date might even be able to enjoy a late-night DJ set.
This Upper West Side bar serves $5 fried chicken sandwiches and $14 rum cocktails that come with gummy candy in a ceramic shark’s head. Regardless of its TikTok fame, Tiki Chick’s prices are lower than most fun spots uptown, and that makes this place worth seeking out. They commit hard to their tropical theme here, but not so much that it takes away from the quality of the food and drinks. By all means, bring that person you can finally ask out because you don't work together anymore, and eat a crispy hot honey fried chicken sandwich or the Stiki Tiki with upside-down pineapple chicken and shaved Spam.
Ramona is a huge, two-story cocktail bar in Greenpoint where you go when you don't want to risk being constantly squeezed between humans and you're actually interested in hearing what your date is talking about. This place has a big cocktail menu, and you can even make a reservation. Get a seat on the upstairs balcony, and convince whoever it is you’re out with that you’re more grown-up than you appear to be. There's no food here, but if your date's going well, head to Paulie Gee's or Nura nearby.
photo credit: Moonrise Izakaya
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.
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 a cocktail made with thyme-infused tequila. If you make it through the first round of drinks and things are going well (enough), you can order anything from burrata to cheese fries.
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 shop stocked with cacti, and a plant-based Cuban menu with things like tortas and donuts. 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.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
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—as well as a very knowledgeable staff that’s happy to discuss fermentation methods. This place has a small indoor area with bar seating in addition to a comfortable outdoor setup on East 7th Street with plenty of room for you and a date.
photo credit: David Lee
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 great food for years. This is 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 can 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 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.
We can’t really think of a more natural ice breaker than flaming beverages. Find them at Sugar Monk, a tiny cocktail lounge in Harlem 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 the 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. Stop by for live jazz on Mondays.
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 the tiny plate of olives from their snack menu, you could also go for something more substantial like roast chicken. 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. Grab a table outside, order a few drinks, and get some french fries to pick at while you try to stay present and engaged. This place is at the bottom of a hotel, so you can meet up with someone here as early as 7am—and the little indoor area is just as charming as the patio.
photo credit: David Lee
Leyenda makes some of the best cocktails in Brooklyn, so their 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 al pastor tacos 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 all about your date's Netflix watch history.
Amelie is a French wine bar just north of Washington Square Park that’s perfect for a fun and relatively 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 $13. Whether you get seats at a high-top table inside the narrow bar or outside on the covered patio, a server will likely bring you tastes of various wines to help you decide what you want to drink. If you get hungry, you can always snack on mussels or a crab tartine.
Bar Goto Niban
Park Slope might be dominated by strollers and toy stores, but thanks to spots like Bar Goto Niban, you can still feel like you're having a night out 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 sidewalk patio.
If you’re open to the possibility of staying out until 12am while you drink and share stories about the first time you watched Sister Act, go to Mister Paradise. On the earlier side, this East Village bar is a casual place to get some great cocktails—like one with Campari and fermented habanero—but later in the night, it becomes a crowded place for people who get their morning coffee from Aimé Leon Dore. At some point, you’ll probably want to order a cheeseburger or some crab toast to snack on as you sit in your big plush booth.
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 who took a mixology class once and now only drinks the finest of cocktails? Just go to The Narrows in Bushwick. 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 you can have a more filling meal involving pasta, steak, or burrata. Grab a little table outside and split a bottle of wine, or stop by for Happy Hour when it feels like everyone in the neighborhood who works at a company that's "disrupting" an industry is here.
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. Despite the somewhat remote location (on 11th Avenue), it gets pretty busy here, so the awkward silences that you inevitably experience during your date won't be that silent.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
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 30 minutes or linger for a casual dinner. Winona’s has a big plant-filled indoor space as well as an 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 Wednesday through Saturday.