11 Great NYC Restaurants and Bars for a First Date
First dates are nerve-racking enough already—the last thing you want to worry about is the venue. You need a precise mix of ambience, fun drinks, delicious food and good vibes—and few places tick all the boxes. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick glass of wine, a daytime coffee or an intimate dinner, these places are sure to put you both at ease. (Bonus: You won’t have to shout to hear each other or squint to read a menu in the dark.)
Vini e Fritti
This sleek Roman-style aperitivi bar has everything you need to take the first-date edge off. The warm service helps shake off any nerves; the affordable beverage menu of Italian wines, beers, spritzes and cocktails won’t make you bankrupt; and the food is casual and unfussy, with small plates like fritto misto, homemade stracciatella and marinated vegetables. It’s versatile enough to grab a quick drink and shared bite before heading home—or to extend the evening with a spread that turns into dinner or a sweet treat to cap the night. (You’ll find pizza and full dinner service at Marta, just across the hall.)
30 E. 30th St.; vinifritti.com
Head to the lush backyard garden at Prospect Park’s award-winning neighborhood gem for the coziest first date ever. Order cocktails (or mocktails), snacks and s’mores year-round. When it gets cooler out, Olmsted offers Sunglo heaters and a selection of soft, colorful Pendleton blankets to keep guests warm outside—a great excuse to get closer to your date (if you’re feeling it, that is).
659 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn; olmstednyc.com
Impress that foodie you met on Bumble by snagging seats at ultra-hip Decoy, the semi-hidden “shrine to Peking duck” in the West Village. After successfully discovering the entrance (spoiler alert: It’s located down a flight of stairs in an English-style basement of an 1828 row house), feast on a cooked-to-order, uber-crispy duck served with homemade pancakes. There are also fun and inventive dishes like foie gras and strawberry tarts, cheeseburger spring rolls andRedFarm pastrami triangles, as well as cocktails like the milk punch and the Mallard that are sure to get the conversation flowing.
529½ Hudson St.; decoynyc.com
There may be no better shortcut to intimacy than sharing food, so bond over Israeli cuisine at Nur, the sister restaurant to babka superstar Breads Bakery. The ambience is softly lit and seductive, with a menu of shareable plates like kubaneh (a fluffy, herbed brioche-like bread), smoked eggplant carpaccio, and Jaffa souvlaki (seared sea bass, calamari, chickpea cream, spinach). You can go light and order a Jerusalem bagel to share over cocktails at the bar or spice things up with the eyebrow-raising panipuri, an Israeli nod to Indian cuisine (yuzu buttermilk foam–filled dough topped with tuna ceviche, dried apricots, almonds and habanero).
34 E. 20th St.; nurnyc.com
Italian food is a first-date staple, but at Antica Pesa, it’s far from boring. The Williamsburg restaurant (which also boasts a location in Rome) is somehow calm, cozy and quaint without being cheesy. Start the date off with some prosecco or an aperitivo from the negroni, spritz and cocktail menu, followed by tried-and-true classic pastas (all house-made) like spaghetti cacio e pepe or orecchiette with sautéed broccoli rabe and anchovy sauce topped with creamy burrata. Finish on a sweet note with the tiramisu (of course). And if there’s any lull in the conversation, fourth-generation owner Lorenzo Panella will swoop in and save you.
115 Berry St., Brooklyn; anticapesa.com
This Japanese cocktail bar celebrates the spirit of the “moga,” a 1920s term for an independent, modern woman (feel free to drop this fact into your conversation). Even if it turns out to be the first and last date, you’ll at least have the chance to try the delicious omurice. The popular egg dish comes with a dramatic tableside presentation: The chef makes one deft slice to reveal the omelette’s soft insides, which unfurl slowly over a mound of rice, then tops the dish with a decadent demiglace. The signature cocktails highlight Japanese ingredients—and go down dangerously easy—in drinks like the Silk Merchant (gin, lemon, shiso, Calpico, cardamom, rose).
128 W. Houston St.; barmoga.com
Ample seating and a vibe that’s cool but not contrived is key when it comes to a first date. Bar Beau has figured out both. Stroll past the snug front space (which serves coffee and pastries by day) to the not-really-a-secret cocktail den in the back room. Start off with a creative cocktail like the Tonka Truck (gin, aquavit, lemon, turmeric, rhubarb), then, if you’re feeling it, graduate to food. The entire menu is designed to be shared and layered, so you can start with the deviled eggs and burrata to share, and then move on to something a little more indulgent, like udon with shiso pesto, lemon and Grana Padano.
61 Withers St., Brooklyn; beaubrooklyn.com
A breathtaking view is a surefire way to set the mood, and this waterfront spot has plenty of them. Depending on the vibes (and the weather), you can snag a seat at the large wraparound bar, settle down in the main dining room or post up on the outdoor patio, which boasts views of the Brooklyn Bridge, East River and downtown Manhattan. We suggest grabbing a negroni and pizzetta at the main bar, where you and your date can also watch the chefs cook at the wood-burning oven.
55 Water St., Brooklyn; cecconisdumbo.com
This West Village neighborhood bistro is a great place to get to know someone without yelling over music or bumping into people constantly. Sit at the bar or a cozy two-top for cocktails and upscale French bar food at prices that won’t break the bank. That’s particularly true if you stop by during Green Hour (4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday), when you can get cocktails alongside snacks like pâté de campagne, escargots and gougères (cheese puffs) for $11 each. (And when it ends, you have a good excuse to call it quits if the date is fizzling out).
14 Christopher St.; boucherie.nyc
Sushi by Bou
Sushi can be an impressive—if pricey—first date option, but at this popular spot (with locations in Flatiron, Nomad and Times Square), it’s fancy and affordable. Plus, it features a reservation option that’s ideally timed if you need an out: For $50 each, you and your date can sit down to a 30-minute omakase that’s as tasty as it is efficient. There’s also an hour-long version inside an unmarked room at Hotel 32 32, complete with a sake vending machine—though at $125, it’s probably more like fifth-date territory.
Multiple locations; sushibybou.com
Felix Roasting Co.
We didn’t forget about that daytime or booze-free date—and do we ever have a spot for you. The gorgeous, architecture-forward Felix Roasting Co. is a step above your average coffee shop (so it’s clear you put in more effort than just locating the nearest Starbucks). The copper-topped bar serves classic and unique espresso drinks (think a hickory smoked s’mores latte and adeconstructed espresso tonic), inventive coffee cocktails (if you do decide to imbibe) and beautiful pastries courtesy of Supermoon Bakehouse. The place evokes a Venetian café, from the teal-splashed walls and colorful printed wallpapers to the chevron tiled floors and plush banquettes. Despite all its grandeur, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the design will certainly get you and your date talking if the buzz from the caffeine doesn’t.
450 Park Ave. S.; felixroastingco.com