A solid first-date spot has to hit some stringent requirements: It must be laid-back, yet impressive; casual, yet cool; and full, yet not crowded. These are the places in Manhattan that will always come through for first-date needs — trust.Read More
19 Reliable First Date Spots in Manhattan
Places that come off as effortlessly cool for get-to-know-you conversation
Ruby's Vintage Harlem
This hot and happening Harlem cocktail and wine bar is an ideal place to meet a date in the neighborhood. The mid-century chic space has both bar and banquette space, and there is some food such as hummus or mac and cheese if things are going well.
The Dakota Bar
Lots of seating at both a large bar and high-tops surrounding, plus a full cocktail list make Dakota Bar a go-to first-date spot on the Upper West Side. On warm evenings, the wraparound windows are thrown open.
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). It can get pretty crowded, so have Bondurants a few blocks up as a backup.
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Lillie's Victorian Establishment
There are plenty of drink options in this classy yet fun, and very long, Victorian-style bar. Like the Union Square original, Lillie’s in Hell’s Kitchen is an easy meeting spot in an area where there aren’t many.
Empellon Al Pastor (Murray Hill)
Alex Stupak’s lively restaurant is a fun and casual pick for a first date bar, with margaritas and tacos to match. It’s ideal if both people work or live in Midtown and want something that isn’t an Irish bar.
The owners of Lillie’s use a similar formula at Oscar Wilde of over-the-top decor, tons of seating, and reliable cocktails to lure in everyone from birthday parties to dates. It’s a huge place, so it’s easy to find a spot and blend into the crowds while getting to know someone new.
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.
A casual bar near Union Square isn’t easy to find, but Pete’s Tavern is it. It’s been open since 1864, so there’s plenty of history to fall back on if conversation isn’t flowing. There’s also plenty of beer.
There are two disparate spaces to choose from at this Japanese-inflected West Village bar. Upstairs find a more refined cocktail lounge area, or head down for a more raucous, basement-style experience. Cocktail fiends will find plenty to love about this place, like a shiso gin and tonic.
Wilfie & Nell
Pub-like Wilfie and Nell will be full of other first dates to blend right into. It’s casual and comfortable, yet easy for observing other couples and their body language. If it happens to be too full, there are plenty of other options in the immediate vicinity: Bar Sardine, Fairfax, Due West, and While We Were Young.
Holiday Cocktail Lounge
This longtime East Village dive got a facelift back in 2015, but the laid-back spirit of the place remains. Drink options are plentiful, while the bartenders are friendly, but not too chatty. The buzzy bar offers a mixed bag of bar food — burger, disco fries, wings — if all goes well. Here’s a fun fact to get convo flowing: One of the bar’s owners created the Pirate’s Booty snack.
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Swift Hibernian Lounge
At its core, Swift Hibernian Lounge is an Irish pub, but everything at this Noho spot is just a little bit better than the average, with a solid beer selection, $13 cocktails, and warm, historic decor (seating is reclaimed church pews and a pulpit from a church in Ireland). The magic formula is that it’s casual, always bustling, and charming. This is the Eater go-to first date winner.
This ’70s-styled Alphabet City bar has plenty of intimate seating and conversational pieces — namely, the water bed, old pin-ups on the wall, and a jar with cocktail names on pieces of paper that one can pick at random. Bop across the street to Loverboy if a second venue is in the cards.
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.
On the quiet side of Orchard Street, this cantina provides a fun and vibrant setting for a first date with moody lighting and playful decor. There’s a big bar and high-top seating to choose from. Linger for hours over a flight of mezcal, if the attraction’s there.
A long and often very busy Tribeca bar with friendly and engaging bartenders, Weather Up has a cocktail list that is sure to get the evening going. Post-work, the place is likely to be filled with bankers, but it’s a solid choice for later evening meet-ups.
The unassuming digs at this Chinatown dive are an unpretentious setting for a first date, plus there are games and 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.
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. PBR is the beer of choice here, and pickleback the shot. Warning: It can get loud.
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The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog
It’s been called the world’s best bar, and it’s a memorable first-date spot. Whether in the casual taproom or the upstairs parlor, enjoy more than one of the Dead Rabbit’s always-stellar cocktails. Be prepared for crowds.
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