Spring is a time for new beginnings. And dates have been known to spark new flames. So it’s likely that you’ve been planning more dates recently. But like a retired sailor docking a boat in reverse on a windy day, you might have some trouble getting back into your groove after spending most of the last year inside. Whether you’re dating yourself, testing the waters with your dog walker, or looking for a place to spend quality time with the person who hoards the whole comforter at night, use this guide to find the perfect date spot to suit your needs right now.
Hunky Dory’s corner lot on Franklin Avenue is the prime location for a range of different first-date scenarios. A morning coffee date where you nibble on kolaches and discuss pop culture. Happy hour drinks on a Thursday evening where you end up overshare details about your personal life. Or even boozy brunch on a Sunday afternoon where you carefully consider your astrological compatibility. Whatever you prefer, remember the patio tables at this Crown Heights the next time you’re not quite feeling a full sit-down dinner.
Epistrophy is a casual neighborhood Italian spot in Nolita where you can eat zucchini fritters on a Monday morning, but it’s also a great first date spot. You can go the drinks and appetizers route, or easily have a more filling meal involving several kinds of pasta. Grab a little table outside and split a bottle of wine, or stop by for Happy Hour when you don’t want to pay full-price for drinks with a relative stranger.
Think of Ernesto’s as the perfect neighborhood spot to drink some interesting wine and make small talk with a date. Although (unlike other neighborhood wine spots), they serve a mountain of potato chips and ham. This Basque spot on East Broadway is open for outdoor dining every day, and we especially like pairing a glass of syrah with the gilda skewer with tuna and the delicate potato croqueta, which has a bechamel center that tastes like the lovechild of chicken noodle soup and macaroni and cheese.
One of the most charming restaurant patios in the city is officially back open for outdoor dining on their garden patio. While we do like the borderline-palatial dining room, the stringlit and brick-surrounded yard will be a nice place to deconstruct and consume a small mountain consisting of roasted chicken and fries followed by some profiteroles. If you’re planning a first date here, keep commitments low with a few oysters and a bellini.
Sally’s is the second Caribbean place from the people behind Sally Roots and it’s also where you should have your next early-in-the-game date in Bed-Stuy. The combination of curry crab rangoons, pork buns, and creative cocktails, make this neighborhood spot feel more like one a tiki-themed rooftop lounge - just without much of a view. None of the food costs more than $20, and you can almost always walk right up and find a table on their patio without much of a wait.
If you’re simply looking to drink something that tastes good on our next date in Queens, head to Dutch Kills. This excellent cocktail spot is one of the best bars in the borough, and while most of their high-quality drinks cost around $15, they also offer Happy Hour from 4-7pm Sunday through Thursday.
From butter chicken with too many flavors to count, to everything coming off the tandoor grill, this Indian spot is one of your best dining options in LIC. And for the first time, they’re serving their fantastic food outdoors, with eight tables available by reservation from 5-9pm any day except Monday. So instead of trying to impress your date with fancy clothes or a new haircut, just go to Adda and ask them to breathe in the saffron-scented steam from the dum biryani.
Aita’s root vegetable soup and oxtail ravioli with bone marrow and brown butter are both great reasons to have dinner here. But the outdoor set-up at this Clinton Hill spot is the real reason it’s our go-to date spot. Their heated outdoor gazebo sits on a charming corner alongside a bunch of brownstones, filled with individual booths that are surrounded by string lights. And since Aita is open for dinner every night and brunch all weekend, any day can feel like a special occasion here.
If you’ve been talking to someone who might get excited about fizzy pét-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 spot whether you want to dip after thirty minutes, or linger for a casual dinner that might last a lifetime. Winona’s has a heated 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 Thursday through Saturday. On Sunday and Monday nights, expect a rotating menu of seasonal Mexican and Cuban dishes from a weekly pop-up dinner series run by Ediciones, as well as wine pairings from Amigxs - a collective of hospitality professionals working to fund emerging chefs.
Uva is the ultimate Upper East Side date spot. It has the whole brick wall and chandeliers thing going on inside. But if you want to eat outdoors, you can either sit on the sidewalk out front, or at a table in the greenhouse-like space in back. Unless you like to keep track of how congested our New York City streets are, you’ll probably prefer the latter. Book a table underneath the vine-covered gazebo in their backyard and go heavy on the pasta.
Bernie’s feels like a neighborhood tavern from the 1970s. And while its dark dining room with stained-glass light fixtures and red-and-white checked tablecloths is closed right now, you can still grab one of their patio tables on a first come, first served basis. Like most great taverns, Bernie’s serves a great burger, mozzarella sticks, and shrimp cocktail. In other words, this is exactly the type of place to find out if someone cares more about personality or appearances.
Ras Plant Based
Ras Plant Based is the vegan Ethiopian restaurant love child of a couple that met while working at Awash’s Cobble Hill location together. The Crown Heights spot opened back in March 2020 and managed to shift its menu of tender mushroom tibs, spongy injera, and creamy shiro to a takeout and delivery-only model soon after. Now, Ras Plant Based has opened its mural-covered dining room, plus its string-lit covered sidewalk patio for dine-in service. From the flaky sambusas and crispy cauliflower wings to huge platters of Ethiopian classics like kitfo made with pea protein, all of the plant-based dishes should give you and your date more to talk about than the change in weather.
Claro’s big backyard full of trees, string lights, and aqua-colored patio furniture is one of our favorite places in the city to eat outside. They don’t crowd the space with too many tables, so you won’t have to listen to a bunch of other people on dates having conversations that are worse than yours. And there’s a big outdoor oven where they make their own tortillas. Whenever it’s nice out, you should bring a date here, and, when you do, try as many of their Oaxacan-inspired dishes as possible. Especially the molé.
Do you think Rihanna’s new album will finally drop this summer? That’s an ice breaker, and one you could use on a date at Public Records. Sit in the big, covered outdoor garden, and discuss which pop princess you’d like to see perform at this Gowanus music venue while snacking on kimchi fried rice and other share plates from the vegan food menu.
The original Jing Fong is a classic dim sum destination up a flight of escalators in Chinatown. And while that lower Manhattan dining room has unfortunately closed, Jing Fong does have a second location on the UWS at 78th and Amsterdam. Stop by and get some siu mai, beef ribs, and sticky rice for dinner. This place is significantly smaller than the huge downtown location - but it still has plenty of patio tables where you can reenact the Lady and Tramp pasta scene with pan-fried noodles.
If you’re looking for a special occasion date night spot in downtown Manhattan, you probably want a venue that’s equal parts exciting, new, and a little fancy. If Nolita works as a meeting place, Kimika is exactly what you’re looking for. The menu combines Italian and Japanese cooking techniques and ingredients, like gooey rice cake lasagna with sweet Italian sausage and light and crispy fried pizzettes with stracciatella from Di Palos, thinly sliced mortadella, miso, and pistachios. Get a sake martini or a chamomile negroni, sit outside on Kimika’s spacious corner sidewalk patio, and remember to blink often but not too often.
For an impressive dinner or brunch date in the West Village that you’ll think about for several weeks after, Llama San is your best bet. This Japanese-influenced Peruvian restaurant (from the people behind Llama Inn) serves dishes like duck nigiri, lobster with beef heart, and hamachi tiradito with uni and matcha foam that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. The food is equal parts inventive and delicious, meaning your date will likely be too busy gasping in between every bite to ask about your dating history.
Unless you’ve been seeing someone for several months, a date at a pub generally isn’t the best idea. But when the pub has a backyard garden with picnic tables and umbrellas, it just might work. That’s what The Bonnie in Astoria is like, and they’ve also set up a new sidewalk patio in front of the restaurant. And if things go well after drinks, you can order everything from burrata and steak to tacos and cheese fries from their huge dinner menu.
The city has a lot of spots to drink by the water and even more places to drink good wine, but if you want to do them both at the same time, you should go to City Vineyard. They serve good, affordable house wines (made nearby at City Winery) on tap, and the roof deck next to the Hudson River in Tribeca has lots of tables, bar seats, and couches overlooking the water and FiDi. It’s an ideal spot for day drinking with someone you’d like to impress, and even though the views are some of the best in Manhattan, the huge outdoor space means you’ll rarely have to wait for a table.
If eating copious amounts of phenomenal seafood is a top priority for your next big night out, we’ve got good news for you. The Fulton offers dishes like tender octopus with creamy mozzarella, and buttery scallops right on the water in the South Street Seaport. And considering that its candlelit patio tables offer some of the best views of the East River anywhere in the city, it’s also approximately 12x more romantic than other seafood joints in town. Sure this Jean-Georges restaurant is a bit stuffy, but the food and the view are both worth a trip here for an upscale dinner date.