Best (mostly) free dates

Shell out for the food and drink, and everything else on these recessionproof dates is gratis!

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  • DuMont

  • Cupcakes at Kyotofu

  • Kyotofu

DuMont

Samurai sword class and venison-chili nachos
Sword virgins get in free to the weekly samurai sword class at the Workmen's Circle (NYR Studios, 45 E 33rd St at Park Ave, sixth floor; 201-317-9517; Thu 6--7pm). Equipped with a wooden sword, you'll learn basic etiquette, like "how to respect each other," according to instructor Raab Rashi. Postbattle, bury the hatchet over venison-chili nachos ($12.95) and a refreshing Doc's Hard Apple Cider ($7) at Waterfront Ale House (540 Second Ave at 30th St; 212-696-4104, waterfrontalehouse.com). Just watch out for a final lunge if you try to snag the last chip.

Mood music and daring drinks
Recession-friendly dating doesn't have to mean eating Gray's Papaya and catching a set by the Naked Cowboy. On Friday and Saturday nights, the sexy BAMcaf (30 Lafayette Ave at Ashland Pl, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; 718-636-4139, bam.org) hosts free jazz, R&B and world music in its sumptuous space. (Arrive early to snag a seat—you're not the only romantic who likes the word free.) After the show, find a barroom banquette at No. 7 (7 Greene Ave between Cumberland and Fulton Sts, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; 718-522-6370, no7restaurant.com) and see where the night goes over adventurous cocktails (like the No. 82, made with cardamom, pepper-infused vodka and lemon bitters; $12) and goat cheese whipped cream-topped buttermilk doughnuts with a pumpkin shake ($8).

Juicy burgers and experimental music
A good Sunday night date can show your beau that you're so much more than a weekend fling. Sink into a brown leather booth at DuMont (432 Union Ave between Devoe St and Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-486-7717, dumontrestaurant.com) and dissect the latest Gossip Girl over a juicy DuMont Burger ($12.50) and everyone's fave aphrodisiac, pork-fat-infused mac and cheese ($14). At 9pm, move on to Rose Live Music (345 Grand St between Havemeyer and Marcy Sts; 718-599-0069, roselivemusic.com) for the bar's no cover Brooklyn Experiments music series, which combines unlikely pairs of performers to jam on one stage.

Japanese dessert and open mike night
Midtown dates need not be exorbitant or tacky—you just have to know where to go. Start in the sleek Kyotofu (705 Ninth Ave between 48th and 49th Sts; 212-974-6012, kyotofu-nyc.com), where you can flirt over the chef's food-as-art desserts and sake pairings. After 10:30pm, descend to the basement of the Laurie Beechman Theater for The After Party (407 W 42nd St between Ninth and Tenth Aves, downstairs; 212-695-6909), a Broadway-inspired open mike night hosted by the cheeky Brandon Cutrell. Watch a mix of theater pros and wanna-bes grace the stage, or, if you're feeling saucy, serenade your honey with a number from Shrek the Musical.

Botanical garden and a tantalizing spread
December bloomers like holly and dogwood may not inspire lust the way daffodils and roses do, but with more than 39 acres to explore, the Queens Botanical Garden (43-50 Main St between Dahlia and Elder Aves, Flushing, Queens; 718-886-3800, queensbotanical.org) offers plenty of semiprivate spots in which to steal a kiss. Once you've worked up an appetite, QBG staffer Shari Romar recommends a lovers' feast at East Buffet Restaurant (42-07 Main St at Maple Ave, Flushing, Queens; 718-353-6333): "My husband and I have had several date nights there and the food has always been incredibly fresh." As we all know, nothing sets the mood quite like eating as much as you possibly can.

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