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An Eater’s Guide to Manhattan Date Spots

First date, ten-year anniversary, and everything in between

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Picking the perfect venue for a date is tricky. There are countless factors to consider, like neighborhood, price, and the ever-elusive vibe. Basically, the location should be an extension of the impression a person would like to convey — and that’s a tall order. Since Manhattan is filled with restaurants and bars that span these categories, Eater is here to offer a guide to the ultimate date spots in Manhattan.

This guide is a highly opinionated collection of places to wine and dine a Bumble match, girlfriend, or potential bae. It’s broken down by neighborhood, with picks for a first date bar, a second date spot, and a third category for a couple that’s exclusive-but-not-exclusive. The last section is for the committed. Good luck out there!


CHELSEA

First date: The Tippler — Arrive in the early evening at this bar underneath Chelsea Market to snag a pair of barstools. If the date is going well, head upstairs for tacos from Los Tacos No. 1. Note that the phone service here is spotty, in case there is a friend who is going to call for last-minute help feeding her dog. 425 W 15 St. Gallow Green — This penthouse stunner provides plenty of discussion points for any lags in first-date banter. If the date is going well and spontaneity strikes, buy last-minute tickets to the interactive show downstairs, Sleep No More. 542 W 27 Street

Second date: Motel Morris — This neighborhood newcomer is a fine place to get to know someone over drinks while deciding whether or not it’s too soon to split the steak tartare. The roomy bar has plenty of seats, but if none are available, head to slim wine bar Bar Veloce just two blocks away. 132 Seventh Ave., 176 Seventh Avenue

Cusp of exclusivity: El Quinto Pino — The La Vara team’s teensy Spanish tapas bar is quite charming. Make a reservation in the early evening and let the evening fly by with the help of bottles of wine from the approachable list. 401 W 24 Street

In it for the long haul: Del Posto — Celebrate personal and relationship milestones at “America’s high church of pasta.” $$$$, 85 Tenth Avenue

Bonus pro move: Pick up ice cream at Chelsea Market stands L' Arte del Gelato or Creamline before a stroll on the High Line. Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue

CHINATOWN

First date: Whiskey Tavern — The unassuming digs at this Baxter Street dive are actually a great setting for a first date, plus it closes at 4 a.m. so there’s no rush to part ways. If the date is going well, head to nearby Great NY Noodletown for classic late night eats. 79 Baxter St., 28 Bowery Bar Belly — Great cocktails in a cozy space are the perfect match for a first date bar. Bar Belly often hosts live music or a DJ, which will drown out any awkward silences. 14 Orchard Street

Second date: Fat Radish — Snag space at the bar at this Orchard Street restaurant, where the noise level allows for conversation. The dinner menu is filled with options that scream “for two.” 17 Orchard Street

Cusp of exclusivity: Lalito — Make a reservation for an evening of sharing dishes like pollo asado, vegan chicharrones, and baby steak. The staff and environment (and bathroom) here are so fun it will be easy to avoid talking about this budding relationship. 104 Bayard Street

In it for the long haul: Peking Duck House — Celebrate a milestone at this Chinatown staple with a special bottle of wine (bring one, since it’s BYO). The staff here is friendly and welcoming, making any evening feel memorable. $$, 28 Mott Street # A

Prune
Prune

EAST VILLAGE

First date: Holiday Cocktail Lounge — Drink options are plentiful, while the bartenders are friendly, but not too chatty. The buzzy bar offers a mixed bag of bar food if all goes well. 75 St. Marks Place

Second date: Sake Bar Decibel — This underground sake and shochu bar is zero frills, but still quiet and cozy. Bonus points for a very dark setting. 240 E. Ninth St. Huertas — Fight over who should take the last of the patatas bravas while simultaneously sharing a pitcher of Rebujito (dry sherry and ginger soda). 107 First Avenue

Cusp of exclusivity: Narcissa — Have a leisurely brunch of steak and eggs, crab scramble, and maple-drenched waffles. Spend the rest of the day talking about carrot fries over drinks at the nearby Bowery Hotel. 25 Cooper Square

In it for the long haul: Prune — Grab an early table for a lovely date night any day of the week. The vibe is nice enough to feel like a night out, but neighborhood-y enough to still be comfortable. $$$, 54 E. First Street

Bonus pro move: Bring a bottle(s) of wine or a few six packs to festive Indian restaurant Panna II. Tell the server there’s a birthday at the table, and just wait for what happens next. 93 First Avenue

FINANCIAL DISTRICT

First date: The Dead Rabbit — It’s been called the world’s best bar, and it’s a memorable first date bar. Whether in the casual taproom or the upstairs parlor, enjoy more than one of The Dead Rabbit’s always-stellar cocktails. 30 Water Street

Second date: Blacktail — The Dead Rabbit team also has the formula for a solid second date bar that’s intimate and relaxed with a lot going on. Spend an evening in Prohibition-era Cuba while getting very drunk. Note: If someone is traveling to Pier A for a date, hold onto them. Bonus points for dark corners. 22 Battery Place

Cusp of exclusivity: Racines — Nod to the city of romance with a stop at this Parisian restaurant/wine bar (there’s actually a Racines in Paris, too). The food can be a pricey, so if money is a factor stick to drinking. And if the relationship becomes exclusive by the end of the meal, order a bottle of bubbles. 94 Chambers Street

In it for the long haul: Augustine — A special occasion restaurant like most of the ones in the Keith McNally family (Balthazar, The Odeon). Who knows, maybe get a room upstairs at the renovated Beekman Hotel. Hard to beat that romantic lighting. $$$, 5 Beekman Street

Bonus pro move: Spend the afternoon strolling the aisles of Eataly Downtown shopping for ingredients to make dinner with each other. 101 Liberty St. Or head to the ever-pleasing Shake Shack, followed by a movie at Regal Battery Park. 215 Murray Street

FLATIRON/GRAMERCY/NOMAD

First date: Flatiron Lounge — This Jazz Age-themed bar is a pick for a weekday date, when the ambiance is bustling yet not cramped and the music just-right. Like the space, the bar’s cocktail list doesn’t take itself too seriously. 37 W. 19 Street. The Nomad Bar — For a first date with a lot of anticipation, The Nomad’s bar is the spot. It has all the makings of a first date bar (lively, well-lit, and food as an option), but it’s definitely more upscale. Cozy up to the counter or choose a table as the place for sipping some very excellent cocktails. 10 W. 28 Street

Second date: Dear Irving — The space here is broken into four rooms, each with a different theme (Marie Antoinette, Abraham Lincoln, and other historical figures), and entirely different date potential. The pace here is slow, so expect to linger until the wee hours. 55 Irving Pl.

Cusp of exclusivity: Maialino — Now that eating long pasta in front of a suitor is an option, share plates of Maialino’s tonnarelli cacio e pepe and spaghetti alla carbonara while enjoying a bottle of wine from the restaurant’s mighty, Italian-leaning wine list. It’s a wonderful spot to show someone they are special, without it feeling too over the top. 2 Lexington Avenue

In it for the long haul: Cosme — The Flatiron restaurant turns out dishes like cobia served al pastor style and a skillet loaded with duck carnitas that are made for sharing Of course, do get the corn mousse dessert. $$$, 35 E 21 Street

Bonus activity date: Spend the evening listening to live music at Jazz Standard, and order bites from Danny Meyer’s upstairs barbecue spot Blue Smoke. 116 E. 27 Street

Maialino
Maialino

GREENWICH VILLAGE

First date: Wilfie and Nell — Wilfie and Nell is a nice starting point if the date is going well and all parties want to continue drinking (and eating) in the Village. It’s casual and comfortable, yet easy for observing other couples and their body language. 228 W. 4 St. The Happiest Hour — The vibe at this cocktail lounge on West 10th is lively, casual, and fun, where getting to know a person over a tiki-themed cocktail is the move. Ordering food is an option, if that’s where the night is headed. 121 W. 10 Street

Second date: Dante — Romantic yet casual, Dante is an A+ date bar any night of the week. Slow-sip negronis at the bar. 79-81 Macdougal St. The Up & Up — This underground cocktail bar is an upgrade from a louder place like Wilfie and Nell. The lighting is dim, plus the cocktails are strong and definitely the kind for nursing. If the date is going well, cross MacDougal for falafel sandwiches at Mamoun’s or turn the corner for burgers at JG Melon. 116 Macdougal Street

Cusp of exclusivity: Via Carota — Arrive early at this cozy Italian trattoria (no reservations), which is particularly lovely in the early evening when the lights have dimmed. 51 Grove Street

In it for the long haul: Buvette — Escape to Paris with a lobster at a tiny table for two at this romantic restaurant. $-$$, 42 Grove Street

Bonus activity dates: Catch a late-night show at Comedy Cellar, or watch an indie or foreign film at IFC Center. 117 Macdougal St., 323 Sixth Avenue

LITTLE ITALY/NOLITA

First date: Sweet & Vicious and Mother’s Ruin are two Spring Street bars that pack them in during weekends, but are found to be much quieter for a weekday first date. At the latter, a food menu is on hand if the date goes so well that it’s now 1 a.m. and hunger strikes. 5 Spring St., 18 Spring Street

Second date: La Compagnie de Vins Surnaturels — The dark and cozy digs here are supremely date-y. It’s a wine bar that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is just the right vibe to give a date. 249 Centre St. Little Rascal — What this wood-paneled Nolita hideaway fails at as a first date bar (no liquor, small and quiet), it crushes as a second-date bar. The average price for a bottle of wine is $50, and there’s a selection of meze that are fine for sharing. 163 Elizabeth Street

Cusp of exclusivity: Estela — Show someone they are special at one of the world’s best restaurants. Make the short reach across the table for their hand and just lock it down already. 47 E. Houston Street

In it for the long haul: Uncle Boons and Rubirosa — The always-stellar restaurants — Thai and pizza, respectively — have strong repeat potential. Both require a little planning ahead for a reservation. $$, 7 Spring St., $$, 235 Mulberry Street

At the bar at Estela
Daniel Krieger

LOWER EAST SIDE

First date: Casa Mezcal — On the quiet side of Orchard Street, this cantina provides a fun and vibrant setting for a first date. Linger for hours over a flight of mezcal, if the attraction’s there. 86 Orchard St. 169 Bar — There are no dull moments at this divey bar that has chosen palm trees and leopard prints as its decor. No matter the day, the vibe at 169 is laid-back yet bustling. Plus, ordering a bag of popcorn to the table is an option. 69 E. Broadway

Second date: Nitecap — Fun and inventive cocktails inside a cozy speakeasy-style bar. During the week the noise level is perfect for conversation, and there are plenty of seating options that involve plushy and cozy booths. The lighting is always just right, too. 151 Rivington St. Fig 19 — A hidden door at the end of a LES art gallery reveals this very cozy cocktail bar. Unlike the weekends when there can be a line to get in, Fig 19 is a perfect setting for getting to know someone. Bonus points, again, for spot-on lighting. 131 Chrystie Street

Cusp of exclusivity: Attaboy — This hidden bar could arguably fit into any date category. But since getting in isn’t guaranteed, it’s best to go with someone that’s comfortable to be with. Stay for a pre-dinner cocktail, or spend the night nursing a couple of drinks. 134 Eldridge St. Contra + Wildair — Enjoy an ambitious tasting menu for two without the intense price tag at Contra, or share a bevy of small plates and a bottle of wine at the neo-bistro next door. 138 Orchard St., 142 Orchard Street

In it for the long haul: The Ten Bells — Share a bottle (or two) of natural wine and some delicious tapas for a quiet date night with a very significant other. The room is wonderfully romantic and cozy, and super dark. Note: This also makes Ten Bells a solid second date bar. $$, 247 Broome Street

Metrograph
Nick Solares

Bonus activity date: Go for dinner and a movie at Metrograph or explore every nook and cranny of legendary candy store Economy Candy. 7 Ludlow St., 108 Rivington

Bonus pro move: Late-night breakfast-for-dinner at Clinton Street Baking Company. 4 Clinton Street

HELL’S KITCHEN

First date: Lillie’s Victorian — Plenty of drink options in this classy yet fun, and very long, Victorian-style bar. 249 W. 49 Street

Second date: Casellula — A wide variety of wines and cheese are available at this intimate hideaway. Indulge while engaging in second-date chatter. 401 W. 52 Street

Cusp of exclusivity: Danji — Like this relationship, dinner here is intimate yet a little casual. Share endless plates of modern Korean food like crispy chicken wings, kimchi poutine, and pork belly sliders. 346 W. 52nd Street

In it for the long haul: Gotham West Market — No need to compromise on what to have for lunch or dinner at this food hall. One person can get ramen and the other tacos; meet at a communal table and end with ice cream from Ample Hills. $-$$, 600 11th Avenue

MIDTOWN

First date: Salvation Taco — April Bloomfield’s lively Mexican restaurant is a fun and casual pick for a first date bar. It’s ideal if both people work or live in Midtown and want something that isn’t an Irish bar. 145 E. 39 Street

Second date: Lantern’s Keep — Dim lighting and prohibition-era cocktails make this bar just north of Bryant Park really the only option in Midtown. 49 W .44 Street

Cusp of exclusivity: The Campbell — From afar it could appear that The Campbell would be a nice second or even first date bar, but it’s utter grandeur can seem a bit aggressive for earlier dates. Bring someone here to lock it down. 15 Vanderbilt Avenue

In it for the long haul: Keens — It’s one of Manhattan’s oldest and greatest steakhouse institutions, and a fine place to celebrate with an SO. This dining experience that can easily become a yearly tradition. 72 W. 36 Street

SOHO/NOHO

First date: Swift Hibernian Lounge — This is the Eater go-to first date winner. The magic formula is that it’s casual, always bustling, and charming. 34 E. Fourth St. Ghost Donkey — This newly-opened tequila and mezcal den provides plenty of distractions often needed for a first date bar (and always-crushable cocktails). If nerves kick in, remember that all eyes are on the giant ceramic donkey on the bar’s back wall. 4 Bleecker Street

Second date: Pegu Club — Nurse top-notch cocktails on a cozy couch for two at this Soho bar. On a weeknight, the setting is a lovely mix of intimate and casual. 77 W. Houston Street

Cusp of exclusivity: Cafe Altro Paradiso — Sit ever-so-close to one another at Cafe Altro’s stunning marble bar. The space lends well to an evening of wine and share plates like carpaccio, fish crudo, and stracciatella with peppers. 234 Spring Street

In it for the long haul: Il Buco — The charming Italian/Mediterranean restaurant oozes romance, with a vibe that is quiet and lighting that is warm. Make a reservation for a secluded table for two, as some of the seating is communal. $$, 31 Great Jones Street

TRIBECA

First date: Weather Up — A long and often very busy bar with friendly and engaging bartenders, plus a cocktail list that is sure to get the evening going. 159 Duane St.

Second date: Terroir — The casual digs at this wine bar are fitting for a date that will last for hours. Cooly start with a glass of wine each before agreeing to split a bottle of wine from the list, that’s if the date is going well. 24 Harrison St. Brandy Library — If everyone likes dark spirits, this space is cozy but not too serious. 25 N. Moore Street

Cusp of exclusivity: Little Park — American restaurant Little Park sets the scene for an evening of showing someone they are special. Request a corner table or booth. 85 W. Broadway

In it for the long haul: Atera — Go all out with that special someone at this two Michelin-star restaurant that boasts an immersive experience. Bookend dinner with drinks at the downstairs cocktail bar. $$$$, 77 Worth Street

Bonus pro move: Drinks at converted carriage house Smith & Mills before dinner at Tribeca classic Locanda Verde. 71 N. Moore St., 377 Greenwich Street

The bar at Flora
Nick Solares

UPPER EAST SIDE

First date: The Penrose — One of the better bars on the Upper East Side, The Penrose is sure to be bumping on weeknights. Plus, there are plenty of small food options for sharing (or not sharing). 1590 Second Ave. The Daisy — Casual and fun, loud but not too loud, it’s a go-to first date bar for the Upper East Side. 1641 Second Avenue

Second date: Seamstress — This 75th Street cocktail bar provides a cool respite on this sleepy patch of the Upper East Side. The space is warm and cozy, and the cocktails fun and exciting. There’s a food menu and a fireplace if the date is going very well. 339 E. 75 St. Flora Bar — Rendezvous at Flora’s stunning bar. Talk for hours over a bottle of wine or a few cocktails. If the date goes well, celebrate many future rendezvous with dinner at a table for two. 945 Madison Avenue

Cusp of exclusivity: Bemelmans Bar — This sophisticated icon inside The Carlyle Hotel can easily be the stage for telling someone they are fancied. Spend the rest of the night listening to the piano player. 35 E. 76 Street

In it for the long haul: Daniel — Celebrate a big anniversary with this special-occasion restaurant. Dinner at restaurants like Daniel can be lengthy, so bringing a committed SO is key. $$$$, 60 E. 65 Street

Marlow Bistro
Yelp

UPPER WEST SIDE

First date: The Dakota Bar — Lots of seating at both a large bar and high-tops surrounding, plus a full cocktail list make Dakota Bar an ideal first date spot. On warm evenings, the wraparound windows are thrown open. 53 W. 72 St. Vanguard Wine Bar — A classic wine bar, with plenty of corner seating and some wine and cheese for fortification, is always a good first date idea. 189 Amsterdam Avenue

Second date: Manhattan Cricket Club — For a step up from casual drinks, there’s a bar above Aussie restaurant, Burke & Wills that’s perfect. The cocktails here are fun and inventive and the space is cozy. 226 W 79 Street, Level 2

Cusp of exclusivity: Marlow Bistro — Marlow’s warm interior and picturesque patio are both lovely options for enjoying Italian dishes like cavatelli with asparagus and ramp pesto or chicken stuffed with mushrooms. The cozy bistro isn’t quite like anything in the neighborhood. 1018 Amsterdam Avenue

In it for the long haul: Dovetail — John Fraser’s sleek Michelin-star restaurant makes for a lovely special occasion dinner any night of the week. $$$$, 103 W 77 Street

Special thanks to all at Vox Media who shared their dating stories.

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