Finding a date in NYC is challenging, but finding an ideal dinner spot to take said date to? Waaay easier: this city is packed with romantic restaurants, from bookshelf-lined Italian joints to oyster-slinging outdoor gardens. Here are the 12 you should be familiar with if you want to impress your date -- y’know, assuming you ever find one.
A townhouse in the West Village is pretty much every New Yorker’s fairytale fantasy, so it only makes sense for there to be a romantic restaurant inside of one. The ground-floor dining room is intimate with 32 seats and great cocktails, and overlooks a beautiful private garden. You’re gonna want to get the signature bucatini with black garlic, Dungeness crab, maitake mushrooms, and chilies.
While libraries might not necessarily get you in the mood, this bookshelf-lined restaurant has three different kinds of oysters on the menu, and the candles and dim lighting only sweeten the deal. If neither of you is into oysters, you’ll definitely be into the long list of pastas and even longer list of wines -- nothing says romance like tortellini and a Tuscan red, after all.
A cozy and modern Israeli restaurant in the East Village, Timna boasts a smooth atmosphere with its exposed wood and brick, henna patterns, and glowing wall lamps. The food is unique, adventurous, and meant to be shared (which might set the tone for later in the evening?). Chef Nir Mesika (formerly of Zizi Limona) pulls influences from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa, and there’s also a lengthy menu of Mediterranean wine cocktails made with amari, vermouths, and house-made syrups.
It’s less about seeing and being seen at this intimate Japanese brasserie than it is about privacy -- which we hear is pretty great for romance. Snuggle up in a private booth with a bottle of sake and peruse the menu of shareable plates. Sharing’s ALSO great for romance, by the way.
If you can’t actually take your date to Spain, you can at least take them to this romantic tavern decked out with Spanish tiles and bold red walls. Eat your fill of paella, but be sure to save room for some sexy and shareable dessert, like the basket of churros served with a side of fondue. Churros are sexy, right?
It’s all about fancy cocktails, seafood, and bartenders with neat mustaches at this dark-and-cozy Astoria restaurant. Snuggle into one of the corner tables, order a signature cocktail (like the Mar’s Manhattan) and a dozen oysters, and we’re definitely kinda certain that magic will follow. Definitely. Kinda.
If you want to treat your date (and yourself), visit Clement in The Peninsula: this recently renovated restaurant has great views of the city from its sexy bar area. After a few cocktails, make your way to the fancy dining room for tasty dishes like lobster risotto and tuna crudo. The restaurant IS in one of the best hotels in New York, though, so if budget’s a concern, maybe file this place under “Special Occasions.” It’ll be worth it, though.
St. Mazie has all the ingredients for a truly great date: live music, cocktails, an outdoor garden, AND a romantic cellar (which is where you’re gonna want to start things off). The downstairs supper club serves upscale comfort food as well as late-night drinks, and the restaurant decor has all the romantic hipster highlights: reclaimed wood, distressed mirrors, a marble bar, and tea-light candles.
Upper East Side
Pillow-lined leather benches and tons of candles make The Penrose an intimate spot for date night on the UES -- plus, a few of the signature cocktails are served in flasks, which is fun for sharing because it’s kind of like you’re kissing... sort of. Menu highlights include beer-battered McClure’s pickles, a Murray’s cheese board, and a mac & cheese with Gouda, fontina, and toasted breadcrumbs, which are basically the mac & cheese equivalent of lingerie.
The dim lighting at Peasant is guaranteed to set the mood, but the menu takes things to a whole other level with homemade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and lots of wine. Heat things up downstairs in the wine room, which was specifically created for wooing purposes (probably): you can order the full menu down there, or go subtle with a meat and cheese plate.
Pier A Harbor House has three floors, each with its own ambience -- fortunately for you and your main squeeze, one of those floors is designed for romance. Head up to the second-floor restaurant of this historic NYC building for waterfront and sunset views from its massive bay windows. The menu is made up of Hudson Valley favorites like Blue Island oysters, foie gras with smoked fig, and house-made fettuccine with poached asparagus.
Lower East Side
It’s more about sex appeal than romance at Stanton Social: the three levels of dining space include a 30ft glowing wine wall with more than 2,000 bottles, fringe-covered walls, lizard-skin banquets, and belt-strapped pillows, all of which pay homage to the garment industry past of the Lower East Side. The French onion soup dumplings are a must, as are the red snapper tacos and the potato & goat cheese pierogies. Nothing’s sexier than pierogies.
1. Piora430 Hudson St, New York
2. Milk & Roses1110 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn
3. Timna109 Saint Marks Pl, New York
4. Zenkichi77 N 6th St, Brooklyn
5. Tasca Chino245 Park Ave S, New York
6. Mar's34-21 34th Ave, Astoria
7. Clement700 5th Ave, New York
8. St. Mazie345 Grand St, Brooklyn
9. The Penrose1590 2nd Ave, New York
10. Peasant194 Elizabeth St, New York
11. Pier A Harbor House22 Battery Pl, New York
12. Cherry355 W 16th St, New York
13. The Stanton Social99 Stanton St, New York
Taking its name from the word "to blossom" in Korean, Piora's menu is a lively mash-up of Italian and Korean cuisines and fittingly features plenty of veggie-centric, farm-fresh fare. Housed in a West Village townhouse, the ground-floor dining room is intimate with 32 seats and great cocktails, and overlooks a beautiful private garden. You’re gonna want to get the signature bucatini with black garlic, Dungeness crab, maitake mushrooms, and chilies.
A romantic date spot with a stress-free vibe, eating and Milk & Roses feels like being inside a beautiful garden, and the seasonal menu mimics that -- focusing on super-fresh ingredients that pair nicely with an impressive wine list and unique cocktails.
Former Zizi Limona head chef Nir Mesika has branched out on his own with Timna, an upscale Mediterranean resto in the East Village. The rustic chic cuisine highlights colorful fresh veggies (think zucchini, beets and parsnips with fig and tahini), seared seafood dishes, and delectable sides and spreads. The house cocktail list is equally impressive.
This intimate Japanese brasserie in Williamsburg is perfect for dates with its romantic, private booths, dim lighting, and impressive menu of sharable items. Zenkichi's lack of sushi rolls allows it to focus on a range of less popular -- but arguably more delicious -- Japanese fare, including takenoko (marinated bamboo shoots), roast Washugyu beef, and the chef's eight-course omakase tasting menu for two.
Created by a team from Barbounia and Rayuela, this Chinese/Spanish mashup is pushing out dishes like duck & curry dumplings, lava salt-cured tuna, ginger-glazed lobster, and teriyaki-marinated octopus.
The cozy digs at this Astoria oyster bar present the perfect location to catch up with friends over artisanal cocktails and classic New England-style seafood dishes. With ambient jazz music and nautical decor setting the scene, it's no wonder Mar's offers one of the area's most popular hip yet homey happy hours.
Located inside the Peninsula Hotel, Clement mimics its host venue's level of sophistication both in decor and culinary offerings. One enclave of the restaurant -- the "Mirror Room" -- is decked out with mirrored artwork, while another -- the "Book Room" -- is defined by its custom paper-stuffed corner walls. This minimalist approach is similarly reflected in Clement's menu, which serves up extra-thoughtful takes on classic dishes, like the caramelized diver scallops, tuna crudo, or lobster bisque with caviar.
Equal parts restaurant and bar, St. Mazie brings a New Orleans vibe to Brooklyn with oysters, bourbon cocktails, and live jazz. The downstairs supper club serves upscale comfort food among reclaimed wood accents and tea lights, and the overgrown garden out back is perfect for enjoying drinks and music -- particularly on Flamenco Fridays.
The sister spot to The Wren, this Upper East Side gastropub brings a touch of cool hipness to the mid-eighties. Upscale but laid-back, The Penrose is the perfect place to let a drinks date slide into dinner. The sit-down dining room-slash-bar serves up comfort food small plates, burgers, and sandwiches. As for drinks, the bar's got a wide range of old-fashioned cocktails, and an impressive beer and whiskey selection. Oh, and the boozy brunch is a must -- there are four kinds of Bloody Marys.
In the heart of Nolita, Peasant mixes the upscale hipness of downtown with the romantic tradition of Little Italy. The menu features everything that makes Italian food so darn good, like pizza with hot chiles and soppressata, gnocchi, and lamb with polenta. The main dining room, accented with painted brick walls, hanging indoor plants, and candle-lit tables, will woo you before you have a chance to see the subterranean wine room, which looks straight out of a rustic Italian barn.
From the team behind nearby Dead Rabbit cocktail bar, this megaplex in a historic Battery Park building houses separate bars and restaurants on each of its three floors, all of which offer breathtaking views of the New York Harbor. The first floor is home to a casual beer hall and oyster bar that's for group outings, while the more intimate second level includes a clubby cocktail bar and a steakhouse-like restaurant that pays homage to the Hudson Valley. The third floor, reserved for private events, is the most exclusive of the three.
Cherry's a sexed-up sushi spot done up like a red velveted bordello and serving French/Japanese-fusion eats like foie gras short rib gyoza and ramen soup dumplings, while pouring some of the rarest and hardest-to-find sakes in the entire US.
The Stanton Social is less of a restaurant and more of a culinary experience. The self-proclaimed sexiest restaurant in the Lower East Side boasts a multi-ethnic menu designed to help diners experience different cultures and flavors throughout their meal. There can be up to at least 40 different entrees on the menu at a time, so deciding which food journey to explore will be tough, but ultimately rewarding.