First dates are awkward enough without having romance foisted upon you by a venue lit only with candles or having to shout your life histories because you’re at a pub filled with frat boys. Here are some ideal places for meeting up with all kinds of perfect strangers—near public transportation, not uncomfortably romantic, and with plenty of food options in case you don’t want the date to end. First kisses are optional.
HIS PROFILE SAYS HE LIKES … YOGA
145 Houston St., nr. Eldridge St. 212-477-5005
This all-white space with fresh flowers feels more like a spa than a den of sin. Cocktails like the ginger-spice martini and the raspberry gimlet are aggressively flirtatious, a screen loops old movies, and the energy amps up as the D.J. begins spinning. Want to continue the date? Check out a movie at Landmark Sunshine next door and let it end as it will.
HER PROFILE SAYS SHE LIKES … INDIE EVERYTHING
248 McKibbin St., nr. White St., Williamsburg; 718-628-5470
The ambience in this mini neighborhood coffee shop/wine bar is very much student-run coffee shop, with inviting couches, local fliers, and homey snacks, like hummus sandwiches, as well as an extensive wine/beer selection. It’s perfect for an afternoon date, and even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll leave feeling a warm and fuzzy haze of acceptance.
HIS PROFILE SAYS HE LIKES … LOCAVORES
76 St. Marks Ave., nr. Flatbush Ave., Park Slope; 718-622-3276
Try to get a spot on the patio, where the light isn’t so dim at this nouveau-rustic spot, especially if you want to fully size up your date. If you like what you see, settle in for a slow-cooked specialty like lamb stew or farm ravioli. And if you don’t, worry not—after a few specialty drinks (like the Mo’ Stormy, made from freshly ground ginger) he’ll look a lot more attractive.
HER PROFILE SAYS SHE LIKES … SPAIN
64 W. 10th St. nr. Sixth Ave. 212-505-7777
This multileveled West Village tapas spot exudes romance—but commitment-phobes can begin at the bar, for some can’t-miss sangria in large glasses. As the date heats up, head to a table on the upper level, where you can trade stories as you share bites from the more than 50 small plates on the menu and spy on other dates below you.
HIS PROFILE SAYS HE LIKES … MYSTERY
17 W. 32nd St., nr. Fifth Ave., fourteenth fl. of La Quinta; 212-290-2460
Your date will feel like he’s on a treasure hunt when he steps into the La Quinta Inn, goes up to fourteenth floor, and discovers you, sitting at a table on the beautiful, underutilized patio at this hidden treasure of a bar. The view of the Empire State Building is the ideal backdrop for the start of an affair. Continue the evening at a nearby karaoke bar.
HER PROFILE SAYS SHE LIKES … LIVE MUSIC
23-14 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria 718-956-8742
The great thing about suggesting a performance for a first date is that it gives you something to talk about, sparing you from having to dredge for topics such as childhood pets. During the day, this venue is a haven for writers, but transforms into a music club (downstairs) with up-and-coming artists at night. Stay upstairs for wine and carrot cake.
HIS PROFILE SAYS HE LIKES … FINE WINE
1626 Second Ave., nr. 84th St. 212-288-5203
If he likes his dates paired with Pinot, but you prefer coffee, compromise at this charming new wine and coffee bar. The chandeliers and brick wall make the spot much more sensual than Starbucks, so get the timing right: As the evening wears on, laptops are turned off, the music turns up, and, if you like your date, you two can linger over a cheese plate.
HER PROFILE SAYS SHE LIKES … TRAVELING
233-235 Front St., nr. Peck Slip 212-346-9090
This unassuming place is all about New Zealand, complete with a Maori war canoe and curried lamb pie and green-lipped mussels on the menu, not to mention a super-friendly Kiwi bartender who’s more than willing to chime in if he sees your conversation is floundering. In the summer, all doors open onto cobblestone streets.
HIS PROFILE SAYS HE LIKES … HIS OLD FRAT
The Dead Poet
450 Amsterdam Ave, nr. 81st St. 212-595-5670
This Irish pub tends to keep undergrads out. But if your date wishes he were still in college, challenge him to order the Dead Poet—featuring seven different alcohols—but you may want to run if he actually finishes it. Keep it sophisticated on your end by ordering from the extensive whiskey and beer menu.