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Teddy Wolff

Six great NYC date spots to mix things up

You know these classic romantic NYC destinations, now switch up your routine with these brand-new picks.

By Alyson Penn

Sure, the most romantic NYC spots will still probably make for excellent date nights. But if you’re looking to mix things up, try one of these lesser-known, up-and-coming destinations instead.

You know: Rainbow Room
Try:  Manhatta
You want to impress your date with those breathtaking skyline views, but the Rainbow Room is too expensive (and now tends to host only private events). Instead, take a smooth elevator ride to the 60th floor. Danny Meyer’s Manhatta has received rave reviews for its expansive city vistas and relatively affordable (at $78) three-course prix-fixe menu, which manages to be refined but not stuffy.
Financial District (

You know: Gramercy Tavern
The Grill
Ding ding! Two behemoths go head to head: Danny Meyer vs. Major Food. While we adore Meyer, his Gramercy Tavern has been around for 25 years and it’s always nice to try something new. If you want another fine-dining experience that’s grand but not froufrou, head a little farther uptown to the Grill, where you can dig into unparalleled food (we like the signature slab of prime rib) and still be swept up in an atmosphere of sleek sophistication.
Midtown East (

You know: One if by Land, Two if by Sea
The Waverly Inn
If you’ve called on this candlelit 18th-century hideaway before, you probably associate date night with ghost sightings. So, why not return to the same nabe for a similarly unearthly encounter at the 1844-built Waverly Inn? Grab a drink and commune with spirits beside the crackling fireplace or sit in the skylight-covered backyard garden, one of the loveliest haunts in the city.
West Village (

You know: The Polo Bar
Try: Frenchette
Hip, monied uptowners, meet your downtown match. Both restaurants envelop you in a world of swank elegance but offer crowd-pleasing plates. If you’ve trotted to the equestrian wonderland of the Polo Bar, you and your amour will feel equally at home at the Gallic brasserie Frenchette, which is outfitted in handsome wood paneling, plush booths and warm lighting. Pro tip: Order the chicken dish for two, ideal for a date night.
Tribeca (

You know: Il Buco 
Try: Don Angie
Italian restaurants conjure up images of Lady and the Tramp spaghetti bowls and bottles of vino that lead to tipsy sweet nothings. The vintage-rustic charm of Il Buco, a Noho standby, can be swapped with the trendy, midcentury allure of this West Village corner spot. The dishes are hearty yet inventive (order Our Lasagna for Two), and the scene hews closer to 2019 than 1920.
West Village (

You know: La Grenouille
Try: RH Rooftop Restaurant
If your vibe is OTT, your first instinct may be to book a table at La Grenouille, the dolled-up French institution that practically invented the wine-and-dine. Instead, go for an updated flair: RH Rooftop boasts slate-gray banquettes instead of red velvet ones, potted trees in place of bridal flower arrangements and, rather than wall-to-wall mirrors, twinkling crystal chandeliers to lend some sparkle to your evening.
Meatpacking District (

Looking for a cheap date idea?

Desert Island
Photograph: Courtesy Desert Island

Graphic Love Stories

Nerd is the new cool and nothing says nerdtastic like a good comic book. Geeky sweethearts, make your way to Williamsburg's quaint comic book store, Desert IslandDiscover each other's favorites or grab a copy of Smoke Signal, the shop's free weekly anthology.

Sets you back: FREE

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Laughs and views

Start out an evening in LIC by sauntering through Gantry Plaza State Park, a waterfront respite that boasts a beautiful midtown-Manhattan backdrop. Next, head to double-tiered comedy venue The Creek and the Cave, which welcomes stand-ups (including occasional surprise bigwigs like Jerry Seinfeld), improv troupes and variety shows every night of the week, often for nada. Prove that you’re not that much of a Costanza by springing for some fish and pork tacos ($4–$6). 

Sets you back: $12–$15

Pete's Candy Store, live music venue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Free gigs and high-end cocktails

Wait until you’ve been out a few times and you’re ready to squeeze in nice and close before hitting the teeny back room of Pete’s Candy Store, which hosts no-cover shows by indie artists and acoustic troubadours every night of the week. Afterward, head around the corner to The Shanty, a naked brick-and-concrete bar attached to the New York Distilling Company that offers some pretty sweet happy hour specials.

Sets you back: $16–$24

Syndicated, dine-in movie theater
Photograph: Courtesy Michael Tulipan

Dinner and a movie

Movie theaters Independent East Williamsburg

This overrated date night comes in handy, especially when the cost is dirt cheap. Unlike other movie theaters, Syndicated let’s you wine and dine while you watch a classic flick. Get this: movie tickets are $7 apiece. And since the movie is so affordable, you can schmooze your date by splurging on some gourmet popcorn from the concession stand.

Sets you back: $7-$25


Hot-and-heavy at Alameda’s happy hour

Restaurants American Greenpoint

This Greenpoint bar knows how to set the mood with rustic wooden tables and romantic lighting without making you go, y’know, broke. Hell, you and your date can get a buzz and some grub for 11 or 12 bucks! You can’t go wrong with a classic beer and burger deal or something a little fancier like boquerones and Prosecco.

Sets you back: $11–$12

Photograph: Courtesy Caroline Voagen Nels

Get your groove on at midnight

Bars Pubs Park Slope

No matter how tight your budget, you can still get loose on the dance floor at Park Slope's Union Hall. Free dance parties go down most Saturday nights, featuring DJs spinning old-school hip-hop crowd pleasers and heavy-hitters at midnight. Check out the drink specials and definitely split a basket of fries ($6) or an order of deviled eggs ($5)—served until midnight —before you hit the dance floor.

Sets you back: $18

Four & Twenty Blackbirds
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

Dessert and mind-blowing nerdery

It’s been scientifically proven that nothing in the known universe is more romantic than pie. At Gowanus go-to Four & Twenty Blackbirds, two slices of shop faves like salted apple caramel or grapefruit custard will run you $11.50. (Arrive early in the evening, as they tend to sell out.) Then, fill your head with, you know, actual scientifically proven knowledge at the Bell House’s monthly Secret Science Club event, where experts lecture on crazy-cool theories for free. Tip: Bring someone geeky to this, lest you seem…like a total geek.

Sets you back: $11.50

Van Cortlandt House Museum
Photograph: Francis Smith

Nature and history in the Bronx

Seeing an outdoorsy guy or gal but don’t have the gas money to drive upstate? Fortunately, there’s ample natural beauty to explore in Van Cortlandt Park. The secluded banks of Van Cortlandt Lake (in the southwest region) are begging for a quiet but passionate make-out session. Post-smooching, stop by the Van Cortlandt House Museum ($5), just west of the lake. Its 1740s stone edifice hosted George Washington twice in the midst of the Revolutionary War, and the current interior features re-creations of furnishings favored by the abode’s namesake, the rich merchant and mayor Jacobus Van Cortlandt.

Sets you back: $10


A cinematic shrine and plenty of Guinness

Secure film-buff status by bringing your date to the Museum of the Moving Image on a Friday evening (4–8pm), when the admission fee is waived. Make sure to fool around at the permanent collection’s sound-editing, dubbing and stop-motion-animation stations before leaving. Afterward, drink your fill at the charming Irish joint Quays Pub (45-02 30th Ave at 45th St, Astoria, Queens; 718-204-8435) with rounds of Guinness ($5 to $6), poured just as they should be: in two steps, so that a perfect head peeks over the rim.

Sets you back: $22

Experimental theater and suds

Take that cute starving artist to The Chocolate Factory, which hosts cheap ($15 to $20) and free avant-garde theater, dance and performance art. If you opt for a gratis show, treat yourself to libations at the roomy craft-brew haven Alewife Queens and have a deep conversation about the meaning of the work you witnessed. Get more bang for your buck by splitting a growler of the 7.2 percent ABV Beerly Legal Saison, brewed specially for the owners by Captain Lawrence.

Sets you back: $30–$50


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