75 great cheap dates
Dinner/activity combos, all less than $50.
Wed Feb 3 2010
Burgers and arcade games
Split mac and cheese ($14) and a burger ($12.50) at DuMont (432 Union Ave between Devoe St and Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-486-7717, dumontrestaurant.com), while you share stories from your geeky childhoods. At Barcade (388 Union Ave between Ainslie and Powers Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-302-6464, barcadebrooklyn.com), show off your skills with old-school video games like Tapper (heh) and Moon Patrol (heh heh). Then go home and make better sexual innuendos than those. Games 25; beers $5--$6.
Hockey and roast beef
Like your dates cheap and rough? Minor-league hockey team Brooklyn Aces battles the Jersey Rockhoppers ($16 each) at Aviator Sports and Recreation ice rink (Hangar 5 at Floyd Bennett Field, 3159 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn; 718-758-7500, aviatorsports.com) on February 7. Get a hot (roast) beef injection at classic local fast-foodery Roll-n-Roaster (2901 Emmons Ave at 29th St, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; 718-769-6000, rollnroaster.com). Try two tender Roll-n-Roaster Beefs ($4.45 each) with a side of cheese-topped fries ($2.65).
Vegan food and board games
Vegans and nonvegans alike should grab a light dinner at Atlas (73 Second Ave between 4th and 5th Sts, 212-539-0966), a restaurant and bakery where no menu item costs more than $10. Try the penne alla vodka ($6.95), a Moroccan chicken crpe with tomatoes and peppers ($5.95), or the vegan BBQ chicken panino ($6.25). Then channel your inner child at Common Ground (206 Ave A between 12th and 13th Sts; 212-228-6231, commongroundnyc.com), where you can indulge with Blueberry Pie—not the flaky pastry but a specialty cocktail with Stoli Blueberi, Baileys and butterscotch schnapps ($10)—while battling it out over Jenga, Connect Four, Scattergories, Scrabble and more. This is one time it's okay to play mind games with your date.
Bowling and an Irish pub
The last thing you want on a date is to look like you're trying too hard. Bowling is the great equalizer: It proves you're no snob, and no one expects you to be very good. Sure, a single game is $14.50 per person (with shoe rental) at Port Authority's Leisure Time Bowl (625 Eighth Ave at 40th St; 212-268-6909, leisuretimebowl.com), but you can't put a price on having carte blanche to quote the Dude for an entire evening. Postbowl, roll yourself to nearby Lansdowne Road (599 Tenth Ave between 43rd and 44th Sts; 212-239-8020, lansdowneroadnyc.com). This Irish sports pub has all the fixins, from rugby jerseys on the wall to $7.50-per-dozen "Scruffy Duffy" wings—holdovers from the owner's last bar of the same name. Rest your $4 draft special on the ice rail that runs the length of the bar and changes colors depending on what team's playing on the TVs above. Resist the urge to lick that giant chunk of ice; you've seen A Christmas Story, right?
Flatbush Farm and Diorama Lodge
The way to your date's heart is through their stomach and love of dioramas. Donny and Marie Osmond were right: Being a little bit country has its merits, especially when your better half is into rock & roll. Expound on opposites-attracting at Flatbush Farm (76--78 St. Marks Ave between Flatbush and Sixth Aves, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-622-3276, flatbushfarms.com), where you can devour hearty French-dip sandwiches ($28 for two) and Doc's pear cider ($12 for two) in a quaint wainscoted room. Two blocks away, pay tribute to the singing duo at free DIY contest Diorama Lodge, starting at 8pm the first Tuesday of every month at Freddy's Bar & Backroom(485 Dean St at Sixth Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; 718-622-7035, freddysbackroom.com). Schlep your own shoeboxes to construct an Osmond mini exhibit that could snag you a light-up disco ball.
Dirty bingo and a late-night bistro
Erect penises and the big O aren't fodder for winning patterns at most church-basement gambling parlors. Too bad for them: At Provenal restaurant Paradou's Dirty Bingo soire (8 Little W 12th St between Ninth and Tenth Aves; 212-463-8345; Tue 23 8pm, $4 per game), these racy variations—along with saucy prizes from high-end erotica boutique Kiki de Montparnasse—spice up the lucky-balls pastime. Pairs of cards run $4 per game, while $5 champagne-cocktail specials ensure that you won't blow your wad too early. A late-night supper awaits at Gansevoort 69 (69 Gansevoort St between Greenwich and Washington Sts; 212-989-5779), a street away. Chow down on the bistro-comfort food like mac & cheese ($9) or the seared Tuna LT sandwich ($13).
Drinks, doodling and dinner
Though always a means for capturing digits, the cocktail napkin makes a convenient canvas for showing off Marcel Dzama--like artistic prowess, particularly at low-key bar Dusk Lounge's weekly "Napkin Idol" drawing contest (147 W 24th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves; 212-924-4490, dusklounge.com; Tuesdays, 6--11:30pm). Gaze on your muse while sipping happy-hour cocktails (5:30--9pm) such as $6 Cosmos and $5 well drinks. Winners—announced at 9 and 11:30pm—receive a free drink and an hour-long happy-hour extension. Being an artist doesn't mean you have to starve: Head three blocks south to Bar Veloce (176 Seventh Ave between 20th and 21st Sts; 212-629-5300), where you can order dinner until 3am. Share chickpea ($3) or fig-and-prosciutto bruschetta ($5), a meat-and-cheese platter ($16) and Nutella panino ($6) before offering to sketch your companion in the buff.
Pool, ping-pong and pies
Screw solitaire: Games are better when they require two players. At posh Forest Hills pool hall The Billiard Company (70-49 Austin St between 70th Rd and 71st Ave, Forest Hills, Queens; 718-520-7665), face off against your companion with a round of ping-pong or show off your stick skills at eight ball or snooker ($12--$14 per hour). If you want to cut your losses early, a dimly lit lounge with plush sofas and four pool tables converted into pillow-covered couches provides a reprieve before travelling four blocks for the best slice in the nabe at the cash-only Nick's Pizza (108-26 Ascan Ave between Austin and Burns Sts, Forest Hills, Queens; 718-263-1126). Order a large, pristine mozzarella-topped pie ($14), Brooklyn Lager ($14 for four) and tiramisu ($6) to maintain your winning streak.
Bowling and pizza
Early (love) birds have a better chance of scoring thanks to the retro rates at Williamsburg's first bowling alley in nearly half a century, The Gutter (200 North 14th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-387-3585, thegutterbrooklyn.com). Before 8pm, don rented lace-ups ($4 for two pairs) and hone your stance at one of eight '70s-style lanes ($6 per game)—snapped up from a Midwestern factory—all while swigging $5 Genesee Cream Ales. Treat the night's winner to a pizza party at Fornino (187 Bedford Ave between North 6th and 7th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-384-6004), seven streets away. Nosh on a large bianca pie ($19), draped in ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and chug Peroni beers ($10 for two) before gamely asking for a rematch.
Fill up and batter up
Debate your favorite red-sauce-laden movie scene (Cher and Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck, or Al Pacino in The Godfather?) over heaping plates of penne vodka ($18 for two) at Pepe Giallo to Go (253 Tenth Ave at 25th St; 212-242-6055, pepegiallo.com). The lush, flower-filled garden provides a tranquil setting for carb-induced bliss, and even if there's no romantic spark, you'll find the perfect mate in a half carafe of house vino ($12). Amble two avenues over and try to score a homer at the quartet of batting cages in the Field House at Chelsea Piers (22nd St at West Side Hwy; 212-336-6500). Hone your stance—and ask for hands-on tips from your sweetie—using the spanking-new ProBatter pitching simulator, which offers 32 virtual tosses ($10). Then rip the skin off either 40 soft or hard balls ($10) to demonstrate that you're not a minor-league player in the arena of sports or love.