Cheap dates

New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden

New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden

Jollyship the Whiz-Bang

Photograph: Carol Rosegg


You say freegan, some say freeloader; whatever you want to call yourself, we’re probably all in agreement that a prix fixe of zero is pretty nice. Start off with a visit to Red Hook’s Fairway Market (480–500 Van Brunt St at Reed St, 718-694-6868,, located in a pre–Civil War coffee warehouse, where cheese samples, nut offerings and bakery tastings are all gratis. When sated from nibbles, wander a few blocks to the Red Hook Waterfront Arts Festival (Sat 7 11am–7pm, Louis J Valentino Jr Park and Pier between Coffey and Ferris Sts; 718-643-6790,, celebrating socially conscious music and art. Groove to spoken-word artist Akil Dasan and the sounds of DJ Oja, or take in a puppet/music performance by Jollyship the Whiz-Bang. “Our show is exclusively for adults, despite evidence to the contrary,” says cast member Nick Jones. “We are, however, aware of the presence of young’uns at the festival, and will be focusing less on rape and murder.” And that spells romance.—Allison Williams

The Lafayette Bar


Believe it or not, you can spend a night out, come home with your hands full and not have to spend an entire yuppie food stamp (that’s a $20 bill). First, peruse the nearly 5,000 items on offer at A Dollar Store (88 Mulberry St between Bayard and Canal Sts, 212-227-4727), but snap up no more than two trinkets each. Wander north to The Lafayette Bar (161 Lafayette St between Grand and Howard Sts, 212-334-7114,, change in hand, where a whole passel of drinks—beers, cocktails, shots—are $3 each all day, every day. “We’re small, but it’s a place for good conversations,” says the bartender. “Some nights people are dancing on the tables to Latin music—you know how it gets after a few drinks!” Especially ones this cheap.—Allison Williams

La Bonne Soupe


Crafty gal seeks naïve outsider. Or, if you’ve already found your match, head over to the American Folk Art Museum (45 West 53rd St between 5th and 6th Aves, 212-265-1040) for Free Music Fridays from 5:30-7:30pm. While the music is a little country—you’ll hear strains of banjos, fiddles and a variety of folk balladry—the atmosphere is homespun without being hokey, and the galleries are open free of charge. Keep the homey vibe burning and head to romantic French-American bistro La Bonne Soupe (48 West 55th St between 5th and 6th Aves, 212-586-7650). The name means “the good life,” and indeed it is. Request a seat on the outdoor balcony upstairs, or settle in at any of the gingham-covered tables and dig into authentic comfort food. Try the savory or sweet crepes served with salad ($12.95) or cross skewers mid-dip while sharing a fondue built for two ($21.95). Bon!—Maria Longo


No matter what you think about Staten Island, boat rides are rife with romantic possibility, so hop on the free ferry to the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden ($5 admission; 1000 Richmond Terr at Independence Ave, Staten Island, 718-273-8200; S40 bus to Snug Harbor Rd). At the garden, balance yin with yang while taking in the meditative views. “There is no time that the Chinese Garden is not beautiful,” says executive director Rona Cusick. “But it’s especially romantic in the evening.” Linger a little longer to explore the contemporary art galleries and maritime history at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center (1000 Richmond Terr at Independence Ave, 718-448-2500). Before heading back home to play teacher’s pet, swing by R.H. Tugs (1115 Richmond Terr at Snug Harbor Rd, 718-447-6369), just steps from the garden’s grounds with harbor views and a hearty menu of continental, regional surf-and-turf favorites. Steak ($24.95), crab cakes ($18), and an extensive buffet and happy-hour bar menu will surely fuel your after-hours extracurricular activities.—Maria Longo