Whether you’re married with kids, or swiping left and right, looking for the one, there are few questions more enduring and important than: Where to go for date night?
Maybe the two of you want to keep it low-key, in which case, Golden Diner would be nice. Or you’re craving pasta and a bottle of something delicious? There’s always Popina. Whatever your preference, we’ve helpfully broken out our guide to the best date-night spots in New York by category, to help you fine-tune to suit your mood. Right this way to an evening out of the house — because goodness knows, we could all use one.
Lower East Side
If you’re looking for a killer spot for drinks and snacks, either of Bar Goto’s locations— the LES original or its equally worthy Prospect Heights sibling, Bar Goto Niban, will do beautifully. Hojicha old-fashioneds, yuzu-sansho sours, and other Japanese-inspired cocktails are the draw, but the miso wings are likely what you’ll remember, especially after a few (drinks or wings, that is).
Enjoy thoughtfully made cocktails or natural wines on the cobblestoned northern edge of Brooklyn, with the East River not far in the distance. Achilles Heel has been a go-to hideaway date spot for years, and that’s especially true now with the addition of a roomy patio set-up. The menu is designed in a way that makes it easy to graze — from stracciatella and squash on She Wolf bread to a cup of pozole rojo.
“I’d love a nice beer,” they said. And so, enter Tørst. At this Danish-style bar, 21 taps spew brews in all types of weights and flavors and a cast of harder-to-find cans are also available. Did we mention cheese plates and chicken katsu sandwiches?
A TOUCH OF SCENE
While we await the reopening of Public Records’ sound room, stop by this cool-kid Gowanus hub for vegan plates and playful cocktails. On the menu? Mezcal Negronis and pink peppercorn-grapefruit gin & tonics, barbecue heirloom carrots with gochujang, and housemade labneh with blistered sungolds. Plus your choice of atmosphere — the tree-lined garden or airy dining room.
SoHo scenesters and die-hard downtowners are a given at Fanelli’s, which makes it the perfect see-and-be-seen date-night spot. Tables are plentiful on both Mercer and Prince Streets, the soup kiosk is now an al fresco bar, and the time-honored tavern has morphed into a merch shop. Pro tips: The martinis are made especially well, and you can’t go wrong with fries, wings, or mozz sticks. More info here.
Babs feels more pan-European than New York, both in food and vibe. There are oysters and sardines on baguettes, a lovely hamachi crudo, bright salads, grilled fish, filet mignon, and always a touch of class. And perhaps a few cheeses for dessert?
Long Island City
The generous array of crunchy-tangy chaats, smokey stuff grilled on the tandoor, and silky-fragrant biryanis at this LIC cult hit make picking what to get part of the fun. Start by calling for an order dahi batata puri, then lock eyes as the one-biters explode in your mouth.
Maybe you’re a vegan, or your date is, or neither of you is. In all three cases, Xilonen wins. Justin Bazdarich’s follow-up to Oxomoco is a little less fancy, much more plant-based, and thoroughly creative. Guac gets laced with pistachio macha verde, sauces are striped on top of purple-potato tacos and green chorizo quesadillas like paintings, and cinnamon churros are best dipped in Oaxacan chocolate.
With its plentiful izakaya menu and gorgeous modern Japanese design, Rule of Thirds is a world unto itself. Skewers galore — including rice balls drizzled in chicken fat, and duck hearts with jalapeño and sesame — while inventive dishes range from a tofu “hot pocket” to the lamb katsu burger. Some sake would be smart; you’ll find one of the city’s savviest lists for both that and wine.
KEEP IT CASUAL
Here’s a good plan: Go halfsies on a vegan Caesar or Korean fried chicken wings, followed by a “Vegetalian” hero or the Golden cheeseburger — or whatever combination tickles you and yours’ fancy. Everyone loves a good diner and this one’s got the most extraordinary pan-Asian twists, thanks to chef Samuel Yoo and his team.
What we know to be true: Veselka is where you go to romanticize about East Villages past, and the late nights of yore, over pierogies and borscht. It may not be open the full 24 hours (for now), but the corner of 2nd Avenue and 9th Street remains a gold mine for people-watching — and the stuffed cabbage hits every time. More info here.
Ethereal flour tortillas and Texas tunes make a winning combination. Here’s what else you need to know: All Yellow Rose tacos are great, but the bean & cheese should not be missed, and it’s worth saving room for sheet cake. Crack open a couple of Lone Stars (or tamarind Jarritos) and you’re golden. More info here.
‘LADY AND THE TRAMP’-STYLE
Let thee charming Brooklyn backyard here serve as a perfect backdrop for your pasta-focused date. Bigoli with anchovy salsa and grana padano is one swank option, rigatoni with pork-belly ragu is another. Throw in an appetizer and a main for a full-fledged, Southern-flecked Italian meal to remember. To say nothing of James O’Brien’s wine selections, which have made Popina a must-visit for the city’s grape-minded.
Formerly with Perla and now at his namesake Da Toscano, Michael Toscano remains one of the city’s most skilled pasta practitioners. So if you’re looking to woo with orecchiette or garganelli, you’d be wise to come here. Seal the deal with two forks and a towering slice of carrot cake for dessert.
A prosperity of primi awaits, best preluded with antipasti and a cocktail, then paired with wine from Joe Campanale’s list, and followed by one of the menu’s many amari. Here, gemelli comes with prosciutto cotto and English peas, lumache gets veal Bolognese, whole-wheat chitarra is mixed with mushrooms and egg — and that’s just the beginning.
The height of trés romantique, particularly if you can secure a table in Le Croc’s stunning courtyard. Because it’s a brasserie, there are several ways to play your hand: shared appetizers followed by individual mains, split everything, or go your own way. Whatever you choose, know that there’s always an option for a side of frites.
Mouthwatering moles and mesmerizing mezcals. That’s Claro for you (and yours). Here, a four-course format makes decisions easier: scallop aguachile or goat cheese tostada? Tongue tacos or mushroom memela? Ask for two flights of mezcal to have your drinks beautifully curated, too.
Lower East Side
Now’s the right time to bring a date to Flynn Mcgarry’s Gem, while the ambitious young chef is serving his seasonal plates à la carte. Think lamb-and-oyster tartare with spring greens and fried capers, king crab with green asparagus and pickled ramps, and grilled duck with XO sauce and broth — all served in a living room so sleek you wish it were yours.
SHARED PLATES ARE FOREVER
Lower East Side
Gutsy tapas on crisp white plates set the scene at chef Ryan Bartlow’s Basque taverna in Chinatown. Come hungry and order a procession of pintxos, entradas, and main plates: eggy tortilla so soft it almost melts, sliced Iberico ham draped over freshly fried chips, San Sebastian-style Dungeness crab and grilled bread, Galician octopus with potatoes and pimentón. You see how this is food made for sharing.
An aura of sophistication with a splash of edge, and consistently phenomenal fare, is how Estela keeps the magic. Classics are classics for good reason, like the sunchoke-flecked beef tartare and fried arroz negro with squid. But you really can’t lose, so long as you’re here.
The prix-fixe menu is as it has always been — asking diners to make selections for each course. Which means, if you come on a date, you can try nine dishes instead of just five (you both get the same amuse-bouche). Even better, make it 10, and spring for the fried chicken add-on. Served with spicy peanut butter and gochujang, it completes the full Atoboy effect.
WHEN WINE IS IN THE PLAN
In a commendable effort to bring the inside out, Kindred’s al fresco set-up is as vibey as they come, complete with star-printed blue wood floors. Both the bottle list and the food are inspired by the Adriatic Sea, with orange wines featuring prominently, and dishes like stuffed zucchini paprikash and lobster triangoli prime for pairing.
At June, the atmosphere is choice if you want to linger over a mezze platter and perhaps some chicken liver pâté, while you savor a glass of this, then a glass of that. If you’re into adventure when it comes to wine, and your date is, too, a table here is a pro move.
We know what you’re thinking: pizza is better in groups. But hear us out. Agreeing on a single pie will be a testament to your compatibility (psst: the marinara is a sleeper hit). And you may as well go in on a bottle while you’re at it. Leo’s natural-minded selections are all displayed on the back wall, and there’s no bonding like browsing together for just the right one.