Everyday, New Yorkers struggle through the hustle of work, deal with absurd finances, and navigate the undulating mess of cars, people and sewer rats—all while trying to find love. Even when a potential match does come along, there’s the challenge of finding the perfect first date spot. It’s no easy task.
Deciding on the perfect first date bar depends upon how the date came about. Did you meet on an online dating site? Did you randomly take someone home at 3 a.m.? Have you been friends for years, and only now decided to take it to the next level? Whatever the circumstances, here are our favorite first date bars.
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You impressed them with your hot pics and witty banter, but now you have to impress your date with the meeting place. A dive-bar would be perfect—straddling the line of casual and cool—but it can’t be a “real” dive bar with creepy, lecherous old men and unknown substances coating the floor. Enter Pearl’s Social & Billy Club. The Brooklyn bar is loud and grungy with stern but attentive bartenders—if you tip well, that is (it’s always good to tip well on a first date anyway). Plus there are plenty of options for cheap beer and shot combos to loosen your lips.
For the Jewish set trying to find love online, Sammy’s Romanian Steakhouse is a classic institution and perfect for testing the waters. Start with food: Order the tableside chopped liver and onions, with schmaltz (of course), the house pickles and rye bread. If the initial conversation goes well, kick it up a notch with a bottle of vodka frozen in ice. Before you know it, you’ll be crushing a wine glass and dancing the hora.
If You Met on a One Night Stand: Reynard
Sometimes you meet someone by sleeping with them. It happens. And if he or she happens to still be in your bed the next morning—and neither of you is looking for a quick escape—then the polite thing to do is to take them out to a proper brunch. Skip your regular noontime haunts; this is an instance in which you want to go some place nobody knows your name. A classy hotel bar like Reynard in Williamsburg's Wythe Hotel is the perfect pick. With its big airy dining room and soothing natural light, the restaurant will ease you into the getting-to-know-you-with-words portion of the date—as will its excellent cocktails.
If You Have Been Friends for Years: Bar Goto
So, you’ve decided to take things to the next level with someone that you’ve known for years. Don’t just fall back on the bar where you and your mutual friends always hang out. Instead, treat your date to a bar that’s adventurous and new—just like your potential relationship. Bar Goto on the Lower East Side is the ideal spot to push your drinking boundaries with cocktails like the Sakura Martini, complete with cherry blossom, and the Matcha-Sesame Punch. The atmosphere is minimal, the mood is calm and the cocktails are bold, elegant, modern and very Japanese. If things go well, share one of the decadently dressed okonomiyaki pancakes or the celery (trust us, it’s amazing).
If It’s a Blind-Date: Dante
Blind dates are the worst. You’ve never met this person before and you’re nervous. You don’t know what to expect, what to wear or how the night is going to pan out. Your pushy, happily married friend insisted you meet this special person and now here you are, about to engage in an evening of potentially disastrous conversation with a complete stranger. It is important that the bar is comfortable, loud enough that there aren’t any awkward silences, and dark enough to be flattering. Try Dante in the West Village: It’s loud, hip and crowded—with great Martinis. Take a seat at the bar, order a round and see how it goes. If you like one another and want to learn more, get a table and have dinner. If you would rather not continue the evening, walk them to the train then run back to the bar and order another round. After all, the night’s still young and your next potential first date could be sitting just a few stools down.
If You Met at a Family Reunion: Attaboy
You met your fourth cousin for the first time at your first cousin’s wedding and sparks flew. You haven’t had a connection like this for years. You keep reassuring yourself that they are distant family; your feelings are valid—and definitely legal. Attaboy, the acclaimed but unmarked, you-kinda-have-to-know-about-it-speakeasy is the perfect location for your first semi-familial date. Blend in with the regulars and adventurers alike in the dark, narrow space. No one there will remember you or ask any questions—except if you order the bartender’s choice. Then you might be asked about your feelings towards tequila. Just try not to blurt out, “We’re related!” or compare physical traits and everything is going to be just fine.