Your dating guidebook

Too lazy to plan a date? Let us be your little black book of surefire romantic outings.

Free (or nearly)  |  Old standbys  |   Staff picks  |  Big splurge
Valentine’s Day alternatives

Free (or nearly)

Sketchy details

For those plagued by size issues, ensure that your laughs, at least, will be huge at this month’s final installment of comedy show Human Giant. Just make a reservation for the 11pm session on Monday Feb 11 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (307 W 26th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves, 212-366-9176) and funny men Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer’s mix of short films and sketches should provide both you and your shorty immense pleasure.
This date features: Theater  |  Comedy  |  Stage

Art beat

Skip the long lines and crowds that come with cramped First Fridays at popular museums such as the Whitney. Instead, bring your sweetie to gawk with plenty of elbow room at top-notch photography, paintings and mixed-media works along with the legendary Panorama—a miniature version of NYC—for mere pennies at the Queens Museum of Art (111th St at 49th St, Flushing, Queens; 718-592-9700). Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, the creative bastion suggests a donation of five bucks, but you can easily shirk the entry fee by coming up with some pocket change. And if you’re worried about appearing cheap to your newly sparked flame, charm your beloved by saying you’re a starving artist in need of a patron.
This date features: Art

Animal house

More exotic and entertaining than watching pigeons peck at discarded pretzels in Central Park are the sea lions gorging on fish at their twice-daily feedings at the Bronx Zoo’s pay-what-you-wish Wednesdays (Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Rd, Bronx; 718-367-1010). After watching the ocean mammals satiate themselves, get sweaty in the 75-degree rainforest-like environs of the under-an-acre JungleWorld exhibit before cozying up with your lover in the Himalayan Highlands, a one-acre haven for red pandas, snow leopards and other Nepalese creatures.
This date features: mixed bag

You might end up with more than seven minutes in heaven thanks to adult-plaything firm Jimmyjane’s version of Spin the Bottle. On Feb 14 from 6 to 8pm, four NYC W Hotel bars ( will host the sexy game and entice players with gratis goodies from Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Risqué challenges for couples include “Share your favorite fantasy and run an ice cube on your partner’s wrist or any other body parts that have a w in them.” Hmm…chilled wankers, anyone?
This date features: mixed bag

Beat it

The freewheeling characters in Kerouac’s mostly autobiographical tome might have been boozers, users and losers, but you’ll only come off like a literary nonpareil by proposing to check out the excellent exhibit “Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac On the Road” with your main squeeze. From now until Mar 16, the New York Public Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library’s first-floor gallery (Fifth Ave at 42nd St, 212-930-0830) is displaying the esteemed author’s diaries, paintings, harmonicas and his legendary 120-foot manuscript scroll.
This date features: mixed bag

Reader’s picks

“I would like to say, first of all, I’m a cornball deep down. My favorite NYC dates have been ice skating in Bryant Park after 8pm (Sixth Ave between 40th and 42nd Sts, 212-382-2953) and strolling through Washington Square Park, and then walking to the West Side Highway. —Maria, Bronx
This date features:

Free (or nearly)  |  Old standbys  |   Staff picks  |  Big splurge
Valentine’s Day alternatives

Old standbys

Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

Strut peddler

Show your lover that you’re adept at fingering sesame-topped fried chicken wings ($12 for 18 pieces) at Japanese takeout spot Tebaya (144 W 19th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, 212-924-3335). For $3 more, potemochi, potato circles topped with a dollop of butter and house-made miso sauce, should elicit creamy contentment.

Next, get footloose by ditching your shoes and even your socks at twice-monthly dance-off Barefoot Boogie. And just like the Kevin Bacon flick, this volunteer-run not-for-profit soiree is sans alcohol every second and fourth Saturday of the month from 8:30pm until 12:30am at the Insight Meditation Center (28 W 27th St between Broadway and Sixth Ave, tenth floor, buzzer 27; But thankfully bopping to rock & roll won’t land you in court—as long as you pay the sliding-scale cover of $10 to $15.
This date features: dining  |  mixed bag

Spice market

In lieu of opening up that delicious can of beans, add some flavor to your humdrum weekday night with wallet-friendly Indian fare from Kinara (473 Fifth Ave at 11th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-499-3777). For about the cost of 12 subway rides, you can score samosas, lamb vindaloo with basmati rice and nan with mango chutney ($24 for two).

Continue your nonvanilla adventure by escorting your mate to boho joint Barbès(376 9th St at Sixth Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-965-9177) movie night. Grab some brews ($10 for two) and kick back for indie flicks from such far-flung countries as Japan, France and Italy, screened in the back room every first and third Monday at 7pm.
This date features: dining  |  film

Heavenly bodies

You might not be quite ready to strip to your skivvies in front of your sidekick, but the ladies at at Rififi Cinema Classics(332 E 11th St between First and Second Aves, 212-677-1027) twice-weekly burlesque shows ($15 for two) will always undress to impress. On Thursdays and Sundays at 10pm, imbibe $3 PBRs as Veronika Sweet, Nasty Canasta and other vixens instruct you in the art of dropping trou.

Though rarely naked, the wieners at Crif Dogs (113 St Marks Pl between Ave A and First Ave, 212-614-2728) are certainly still tasty. Deep-fried bacon-wrapped and lettuce-topped tube steaks ($10 for two) should provide you both with much oral pleasure.
This date features: film  |  dining

Parker roll

Science is wrong: You can turn back time, especially at retro, Christmas ornament–bedecked club Arthur’s Tavern (57 Grove St between Bleecker St and Seventh Ave, 212-675-6879). Catch Dixieland, jazz and blues musicians like the Grove Street Stompers every evening with a one-drink minimum (from $5) in a former haunt of legendary sax fiend Charlie Parker.

Then mosey on over to Southeast Asian nook Wild Ginger (51 Grove St at Bleecker St, 212-367-7200) where you can play chopsticks while nibbling on basil chicken ($18 for two). Chug Thai beer before requesting that your companion wear the Bob Mackie thong-and-leather-jacket ensemble from the former partner of Sonny Bono’s music video.
This date features: drinks  |  music  |  dining

Employees only

If you’re uncomfortable about revealing your current occupation as an anthrax tester, let the experts, including burlesque performer Johnny Porkpie and magician Albert Cadabra, do the dirty work at conjecture fest What’s My Line? ($10 for two), which takes place every second Wednesday of the month at 8pm. Even if you end up losing your honey, you’ll win cash if you stump the panel at Parkside Lounge (317 E Houston St between Aves B and C).

Spend your prize money at comfort-food spot Clinton Street Baking Company & Restaurant (4 Clinton St between E Houston and Stanton Sts, 646-602-6263). Opt for blueberry pancakes ($20 for two) and beer ($12 for two) to get sharing a morning-after meal out of the way.
This date features: mixed bagx  |  dining

Reader’s picks

Comedy Cellar (117 MacDougal St between Bleecker and W 3rd Sts, 212-254-3480) is a lot of fun. The space is pretty open and lively. The drinks on the menu were also unique like an alcoholic peach iced tea and White Russian milkshakes.” —Kate, Tribeca

“Well, I’ve only been on one official date there, but Louis 649 (649 E 9th St between Aves B and C, 212-673-1190). has a great laid-back, ‘let’s get a table, listen to live jazz and drink some cool drinks’ thing going on. There’s a big, cute dog that is always hanging out, and lots of people sitting at candlelit tables for two. It’s a perfect place for conversation.” —Joe, East Village

“I would just head over to Austin Street in Forest Hills. It’s Queens’ trendiest spot: You can shop, eat, drink, catch a movie or just stroll through the nearby Forest Hills Gardens (Continental Ave and Dartmouth St) and pretend you have a million handy to call the affluent enclave home. Standouts in the area include the Midway Theater (10822 Queens Blvd between 71st Ave and 71st Rd, 718-544-5545), the Santa Fe Steakhouse (107-18 70th Rd between Austin St and Queens Blvd, 718-459-4040) for a nice meal, and Piu Bello (7009 Austin St between 70th Ave and 70th Rd, 718-268-4400) for ice cream. If you can’t find something to do there, you’re not trying hard enough.” —Frank, Middle Village, Queens

Free (or nearly)  |  Old standbys  |   Staff picks  |  Big splurge
Valentine’s Day alternatives

Staff picks

For first dates

“I’ve had many first dates at ’sNice (45 Eighth Ave between Horatio and W 4th Sts, 212-645-0310). It’s got a funky vibe and good music: If you happen to overhear a snippet of someone else’s conversation, you can tell that a lot of couples there—gay and straight—are just meeting for the first time, which relieves some of the pressure. Sure, it’s a vegetarian cafe, but as a meat eater, I never feel unsatisfied or that I ate some nondescript brown lump. The vegan panini ($7.50)—made with smoked tofu and sun-dried tomatoes—is a slice of heaven. And, a rarity in the coffeehouse scene, the staff is always smiling and friendly. There is usually a lot of sweet-faced eye candy plugging away on laptops or reading the Sunday Times. Maybe too much—you don’t want to get caught with a wandering eye!”—Dan Avery, Around Town editor
This date features: dining

Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

Game theory

Fat Cat (75 Christopher St between Bleecker St and Seventh Ave South, 212-675-7369; $3 cover after 7pm) is a sprawling basement that sort of looks like a taxi garage—if you’re drunk enough, you’ll see acres of pool tables. But the staff is friendly and the drinks are cheap, which makes it a perfectly comfortable place for the surprisingly very comfortable activity of playing Scrabble or shuffleboard on a date. A board game also takes some of the edge off of finding new things to say without feeling like you’re ignoring each other. It can get crowded, but you shouldn’t have a problem if you get there earlyish, like around 8pm. If you get tired of games, you can retire to the dark, couch-filled corner and listen to live jazz, talk, make out, etc.”—Noah Tarnow, copy chief
This date features: mixed bag  |  music

Staten Island hopping

“My boyfriend and I did this last year and we’re still talking about it. We took the ferry and then navigated Staten Island by bus. Neither one of us had ever done that before, so it felt like a vacation. Start off the afternoon at the Staten Island Zoo (614 Broadway between Colonial Ct and Harvest Ave, Staten Island; 718-442-3100). It’s not as flashy as the other city zoos, but it has lots of character and an aquarium. Then stop by Snug Harbor to see the Chinese Scholar’s Garden (Staten Island Botanical Gardens, 1000 Richmond Terrace at Delafield Pl, Staten Island; 718-273-8200). Meandering paths and delicate footbridges create an atmosphere of romantic discovery, and while we would’ve preferred it if the overzealous guide allowed us to appreciate the architecture on our own, she did provide interesting tidbits we still reference today. We topped off the excursion with dinner at Adobe Blues, a Tex-Mex spot with a roaring fire (65 Lafayette Ave, Staten Island; 718-720-2583). It’s a pleasant mix of culture, kitsch and city exploration.” —Dan Lopez, finance clerk
This date features: mixed bag  |  dining

Melting point

“There’s half-priced wine from 5pm to closing and all night on Mondays and Tuesdays at Bourgeois Pig (111 E 7th St between First Ave and Ave A, 212-475-2246). They also have massive fondue plates with large bowls of melted dark chocolate surrounded by pineapple, strawberries and apple. For the savory, try dipping chunks of bread and veggies into a bowl of melted cheese. And if hovering near the table to keep the drippy stuff off of your lap isn’t reason enough to bring you within puckering distance of your date, the place is also intimate, dark and filled with plush sofas and chairs that seem to be stacked on top of one another—all the more reason for you to squeeze in close.”—Katherine Rust, assistant editor, Time Out Kids
This date features: drinks

Haute cocoa

When I lived in Park Slope, my boyfriend and I would always go to The Chocolate Room (86 Fifth Ave between St. Marks Pl and Warren St, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-783-2900). It’s cozy, cheap and it’s the perfect place for a date or just a chocolate craving—their brownie sundae ($8) is heaven on earth! —Shannon Effinger, receptionist
This date features: dining

Tea for two

I was enjoying afternon high tea at Tea & Sympathy (108–110 Greenwich Ave between 12th and 13th Sts, 212-989-9735) recently, and there were quite a few couples. For $50 you and your date can get finger sandwiches, scones, desserts and two huge pots of tea. Or try Circle Line Cruise ( You can BYO food and drink, which offsets the ticket price.” —Maureen Shelly, editor-in-chief, Time Out Kids
This date features: mixed bag  |  dining

Williamsburg is for lovers

“I’m not into super-romantic shit; I like drinking and doing, meaning a place I go should have more of a purpose to it than just getting drunk. I’m no longer vegetarian, but Kate’s Brooklyn Joint (295 Berry St between South 2nd and 3rd Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-218-7167) makes me wish I still was. The Southern Fried Unchicken Cutlets ($12) served with vegan gravy are heavenly, and the faux hot dogs, particularly the Dawgo Ranchero ($8), make me want to roll around in barbecue sauce with my significant other. Best of all, the place is always dead—unlike its Manhattan brethren—and there are more than two inches separating tables. Barcade (388 Union Ave between Ainslie and Powers Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-302-6464) is loaded with arcade games and also has a pool table in back. In my mind, nothing is sexier than beating the pants off your date at a game of pool.” —Ashlea Halpern, associate features editor
This date features: drinks

Reader’s picks

“Take Metro-North to Dia:Beacon (3 Beekman St between Bayview and Wolcott Aves, Beacon, NY; 845-440-0100), check it out, have a picnic lunch by the water or explore a café there.” —Stacy, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Free (or nearly)  |  Old standbys  |   Staff picks  |  Big splurge
Valentine’s Day alternatives

Big splurge

Under the bridge

Feeling a bit landlocked by the city? Whisk that comely urbanite to waterfront joint Five Front (5 Front St between Dock and Old Fulton Sts, Dumbo, Brooklyn; 718-625-5559), tucked below the Brooklyn Bridge. Delve into curry mussels ($10) and salmon with lemon confit ($34 for two).

To get a proper pair of sea legs, engage in a postprandial jaunt two blocks toward the East River and board aquatic concert hall Bargemusic (Fulton Ferry Landing, Dumbo, Brooklyn; Bliss out to gorgeous views of the downtown Manhattan skyline with a live soundtrack of jazz or classical music (tickets start at $70 for two) on Wednesdays through Sundays.
This date features: dining  |  music

French connection

Though we don’t understand why the French are so damn good at amour, we won’t question the passion-inducing setting of a quaint bistro, especially the spanking-new Bar Boulud (1900 Broadway between 63rd and 64th Sts, 212-595-0303). Share a charcuterie tasting of terrines, headcheese and pâté ($46 for a large platter), pair it with a bottle of wine ($24–$270), and let those Gauls work their magic.
This date features: dining

Opposing counsel

Always at odds when trying to make plans with your sweetie? Neither party will feel like they’re compromising at loungey spot Tailor (525 Broome St between Sixth Ave and Thompson St, 212-334-5182). Sip inventive cocktails including the Mi Amor ($26 for two), made with a passion-inducing blend of mescal, Lillet and lime. Then mix and match from the menu’s avant sweet-and-salty small plates like grilled octopus with coffee, marjoram and pomelo ($16) and rum-braised bananas with brown butter cake and mustard ice cream ($12). Still can’t agree on what to order? Leave it up to the chef via the seven-course meal with wine pairing ($250 for two).
This date features: drinks

Good impressionism

Quell your dearest’s requests to see The Little Mermaid on Broadway with more adult fare: The Roundabout Theater Company’s production of Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George (254 W 54th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave, 212-719-1300; $36–$121) is inspired by a Georges Seurat painting and includes such titillating themes as mistresses and pale bathers.
This date features:

Switch from painter’s palettes to gourmet palates at Japanese sushi den Omido (1695 Broadway between 53rd and 54th Sts, 212-247-8110), where you can nibble on elegant dishes like seared tuna with baby frisée ($15), lobster and scallops with sea-urchin-roe–laced lemon butter ($34) and yellowtail with shishito peppers ($16). Wash it all down with sake sangria ($28 for two) and strawberry-and-shiso martinis ($28 for two).
This date features: theater  |  stage  |  dining

Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

Feast master

Don’t think you have enough conversation topics to last you through a nine-course dinner? Per Se’s (10 Columbus Circle at 60th St, fourth floor; 212-823-9335) freshly minted weekend lunch option dishes up a speedier alternative: a five-course tasting menu, which includes cheese and dessert ($350 for two). Spare yourselves from being the awkward silent couple over glasses of rosé champagne ($68 for two) while taking in the treetop views of Central Park.
This date features: dining

Ice capade

Bundle up, swap Eskimo kisses and clasp mittens while gliding on the ice at Skating Under the Stars ($150 for two) in Prospect Park’s Kate Wollman Rink (enter at Lincoln Rd and Ocean Ave, Flatbush, Brooklyn; Hone your Olympic medal–worthy moves to tunes spun by DJ Kool Kear and the folks behind Park Slope rock club Southpaw on Fri 8 from 9:30pm until midnight while sipping spiked no-charge hot chocolate to benefit the historic Brooklyn green space.

Grab a cab to spirit the two of you to cozy bar Black Mountain Wine House (415 Union St at Hoyt St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; 718-395-2614), where you can defrost over a bottle of red vino by the fireplace.
This date features: mixed bag  |  drinks

Modern lovers

Play hooky from work and spend the afternoon wandering the six extensive floors of MoMA (11 W 53rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, 212-708-9400; $40 for two). If passing by Wayne Thiebaud’s painting of meringues works up an appetite, you won’t have to go far to snag a table, thanks to the Modern, chef Gabriel Kreuther’s street-level restaurant (9 W 53rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, 212-333-1220), whose formal dining room overlooks the museum’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. Opt for the three-course prix-fixe dinner ($170 for two) and discuss how the roasted Black Angus beef tenderloin bears no relation to the animal carcasses from Francis Bacon’s canvases.
This date features: art  |  dining

Reader’s picks

“Downstairs at Peasant (194 Elizabeth St between Prince and Spring Sts; 212-965-9511) is a foolproof and fantastic spot to take any girl who is chill enough to wait for a table over a good glass of red.” —Peter, Chelsea

“One place: The Cloisters (99 Margaret Corbin Dr, Fort Tryon Park; 212-923-3700)! Any nice day, lunch, picnic, art, concert—all amazing. It’s medieval romance without leaving the city. A great date.” —Jason, Jersey City

“I like the Red Hook pier at sunset, overlooking Lady Liberty, followed by drinks at Last Exit (136 Atlantic Ave between Clinton and Henry Sts, Brooklyn Heights; 718-222-9198). Works every time.” —Greg, Park Slope, Brooklyn

Free (or nearly)  |  Old standbys  |   Staff picks  |  Big splurge
Valentine’s Day alternatives

Valentine’s Day alternatives

Dances with curry

Instead of Netflixing Dances with Wolves, squire your beloved to the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers’ 33rd Annual Dance Concert and Powwow ($20 for two). Iroquois and other tribes from around the country will be gathering at the Theater for the New City (155 First Ave at 10th St, 212-254-1109) to chant, stomp, boogie and share traditional stories from now until Feb 17. What’s more, all proceeds will benefit the Native American Scholarship Fund, so you’ll come off as a sensitive supporter of the arts and disenfranchised youth.

After the show, demonstrate to your mate that you can be as macho as John Wayne by plowing through the excruciatingly spicy phaal curry with tofu ($30 for two) at Brick Lane Curry House (306–308 E 6th St between First and Second Aves, 212-979-2900) four streets away. Touted by the menu as “more pain and sweat than flavor,” the fiery concoction will snag you bragging rights as well as a free beer from the owners when you manage to chow down on an entire serving.
This date features: mixed bag  |  dining

Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

Cartoon network

More highbrow than a night of Futurama, Brooklyn artist Tommy Hartung’s animated short should motivate you to find a companion other than your TV set. Check out Hartung’s opening on Feb 14 from 6 to 8pm at Moti Hasson Gallery (535 W 25th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves), where you can sip $3 drinks while watching on-screen creation Edward Holmes tackle ethnic stereotypes in a dreamscape setting.

An equally thought-provoking masterpiece is the fried octopus balls appetizer ($7) at nearby Japanese spot Izakaya Ten (207 Tenth Ave between 22nd and 23rd Sts, 212-627-7777). Follow up the seafood nuggets with sashimi salad ($13), diced filet mignon ($10) and fluke carpaccio ($11). Cap it off with sake’s more powerful cousin shochu ($14 for two), which should inspire you to find a spanking-new muse in your dining companion.
This date features: art  |  dining

Love-hate relationship

You don’t have to don all black and hang decapitated cupids outside your window to protest this Hallmark holiday: Just join other Feb 14 haters at 6pm at the Anti-Valentine’s Day Party ($40 for two), hosted by Meet Market Adventures at the newly renovated club Columbus 72 (246A Columbus Ave between 71st and 72nd Sts, 212-769-1492). Nibble on no-charge hors d’oeuvres while chugging $5 beers as you discuss how heart-shaped candies make you queasy.
This date features: drinks

Queen of hearts

Not into overpriced dinners and holding hands by candlelight? Grab some beer-marinated wurst ($8 for two) and share a fountain soda ($2) at low-key joint The New York City Hot Dog Company (105 Chambers St at Church St, 212-240-9550). If you’re not already suffering from heartburn, Diamanda’s Valentine’s Day Massacre ($40 for two) at the Knitting Factory (74 Leonard St between Broadway and Church St, 212-219-3132) should give you a case of gut-wrenching indigestion. At 6:30pm, prepare yourself for an avant-garde performance by goth chanteuse Diamanda Galás focusing on such uplifting topics as rape and genocide. Red attire is optional.
This date features:dining  |  music

Brief encounters

Your ADD is so strong that you can’t sit still through a two-hour film, let alone a Fellini marathon with that film buff you’ve been crushing on. Fortunately, the quickie flicks at Love Actually: Short Films about Love, Sex & Romance ($16 for two in advance at, $20 at the door) should bring the two of you together in a dimly lit room. From 7 to 9pm, the Millennium Theatre (66 E 4th St between Bowery and Second Ave) is screening works by up-and-coming NYC filmmakers followed by a Q&A with the directors.

Then amble four blocks to the film fest’s after-party from 9 to 11pm at slick Asian-inflected bar White Rabbit (145 E Houston between Eldridge and Forsyth Sts, 212-477-5005) where you won’t need an arsenal of magic tricks. Simply conjure up some Sweetie’s Kiss champagne cocktails ($10 for two) to have your lover hop into your bed.
This date features: film  |  drinks

Players’ ball

In the tradition of TV shows like Blind Date, The Fifth Wheel and The Bachelor, the hilarious PIT Dating Game ($20 for two) hooks up a trio of attractive NYC singles with potential suitors at 9:30pm at the People’s Improv Theater (154 W 29th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, second floor; Watch the contestants squirm while answering ridiculous personal questions from the safe anonymity of the audience while toasting your significant other over glasses of wine ($10 for two) for sparing you from this public humiliation.

As delicious as a generous helping of schadenfreude, the thin-crust pizzas (from $5 for one) at industrial-chic pie haven Waldy’s Wood Fired Pizza & Penne (800 Sixth Ave between 27th and 28th Sts, 212-213-5042) will help fill the gnawing void in your bellies. Sidle up to the long wood counter or entice your companion with a couch date and get it to go.
This date features:mixed bag  |  dining

Reader’s picks

“I’m sitting in one of my favorite date spots right now—a lounge near Gramercy called Choice Kitchen & Cocktails (380 Third Ave between 27th and 28th Sts, 212-779-1380). There’s a fondue place nearby, Dip (416 Third Ave between 29th and 30th Sts, 212-481-1712), that makes a great dessert. I usually end the evening with my sometimes-unfortunate habit of sneaking into Bryant Park in the middle of the night with a date, but the weather makes that improbable in the winter. But not impossible.” —Andrew, East Harlem