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Best Not-Cheap-Feeling All-Day-Long Cheap Date

It takes a bit more effort to plan a cheap date that’s enlightened, filled with culture and creativity, and peppered with elegant locales. Of course, do it right and it pays for itself.

  • Noon: Culture At The Cloisters

    Meet your date at the Cloisters, the upper-Manhattan branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Be sure to take a stroll through the romantic gardens. Before your date, read up on one of the Cloisters’ main attractions: the mysterious and intricate Unicorn Tapestries. The Website has a detailed history of them ( explore/Unicorn/unicorn_inside.htm).
    Cost: The Met’s recommendation is $20 per person, but you can throw much less into the pot. Even a quarter.
    Details: The Cloisters, Ft. Tryon Park; 212-923-3700; take the A train to 190th Street and follow signs to the Cloisters.

  • 2:30 p.m.: Soul Food in Harlem

    Amy Ruth’s sits right by the 2 train stop at 116th and Lenox. It’s down-home and comfortable, with a friendly staff and unhurried service that make it ideal for a date. The soul food is among the best in the city. Try ordering the Reverend Al Sharpton meal (waffles with smothered or fried chicken, $9.50 and incredible).
    Cost: About $35 for two.
    Details: 113 W. 116th St.; 212-280-8779;

  • 4:30 p.m.: Take In a Movie

    Ride the 2 train down to 96th, to Symphony Space. Often on Sunday afternoons (and other times), this multimedia venue hosts some movies you may not see elsewhere. Latest example, running through early March, is a new 35-mm. restoration of Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game. Avoid concession-stand extortion by sneaking in organic popcorn from Gourmet Garage (2567 Broadway), near the subway exit.
    Cost: $20 for two tickets, plus munchies.
    Details: Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway; 212-864-5400.

  • 6:45 p.m.: Picnic Dinner (weather permitting)

    Visit the Hummus Place (305 Amsterdam Ave.; 212-799-3335) for some impromptu provisions like the warm fava-bean hummus ($5.95), served with pita bread and pickles—it’s smooth, creamy perfection. Get into Levain Bakery (167 W. 74th St.; 212-874-6080) before 7 p.m. for its sublime chocolate-chip cookies, which promise pure carnal pleasure. Mosey west on 70th Street and zag south at Freedom Place, taking stairs to reach the river. Sit on one of the benches on the pier, watching the boats go by as you dine.
    Cost: $20.
    Details: W. 70th St. nr. Riverside Blvd.

  • 8 p.m.: Wine Time

    O’Neal’s, Lincoln Center’s renovated historic hangout, isn’t known for being particularly cheap for dinner, but if you park at the bar and order a bottle of wine, you may spend less than you would buying pints at a dive. The value leader is a Castell dei Remei Spanish red ($29).
    Cost: $29 plus tip.
    Details: O’Neal’s, 49 W. 64th St.; 212-787-4663.

From the 2007 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine