The dating game: Finding the perfect spot to impress your crush

Cask has a quiet charm that belies its Murray Hill location.

Ah, dating in New York City. It’s romantic, it’s exhilarating, it’s exciting … and it’s exhausting. Being an active dater in this city, I can name a few elements that will eliminate your chances at a second shot of love.

1)   Using your cell phone. It’s just rude, unless you are a doctor on-call or have a family emergency.
2)   Bad breath/overpowering cologne. Tone down the aromas.
3)   Selecting a shoddy venue for your date.

Say a venue variety, and I’ve probably been there on a date. The Turtle Bay area sports bar: Check. Overly sappy Village wine bar: Check. The “great on the weekends but totally empty and weird during the week” lounge: Check.  Needless to say, none were ideal.

One of the first impressions you can impart to your potential date is by selecting an interesting and unique location for your rendezvous.  Come on, everyone has the ability to Google a place before the big meet and greet.

Over the past years I’ve morphed into a walking Yelp/Zagat for my friends when it comes to selecting first-date spots. It certainly helps that I work in the bar industry and know about a plethora of settings that match the type of dates my friends are trying to achieve. However, it’s time for you to retire some of your “classic” (aka, usual) choices and consider a few new contenders for that night on the town. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, any of these spots are sure to set the mood just right.

The First Date: A date set up by friends, born out of OKCupid awkwardness, or the result of five minutes’ flirting at a party. Try one of these bars where the vibe is more low-key and the tab won’t damage your wallet.

•   Cleopatra’s Needle (2485 Broadway  New York, NY 10025-7427212.769.6969) Upper West Siders will agree that this live jazz locale is a classic for dates, but it’s time that the rest of NYC learn this little secret. With no cover charge and just $10 drink minimum per person, your bank account will thank you. Plus, if your conversation goes awry, you can fill the remaining silence with soothing sounds of jazz. Drink to not miss: any of their spiked coffee concoctions.

•   Cask (167 East 33rd St New York, NY 10016 212.300.4924) I get it – you don’t associate Murray Hill as an ideal neighborhood to impress a first date. But over the past four years, numerous venues have been popping up and dispelling that stereotype. Cask has that perfect charm from the dark wood table and chairs, perfect mood lighting, and friendly service to entice even the non-believer. And if the night goes well, order up a few bites because the food is quite delightful. Drink to not miss: their house made red or white sangria.

•   Anfora (34 8th Avenue New York, NY 212.518.2722) When in doubt, go to a wine bar. Yet, the last situation you want is to walk into a swanky wine bar filled with duos also on first dates.  Anfora possesses the perfect recipe of being a smaller space, boasting a fantastic drink list, and clientele ranging from locals to post work imbibers. Drink to not miss: The Fury or any glass of wine.

Romantic Dates: You’re really hoping to amp up the “wow” factor, set the mood, and potentially snag a kiss (or make-out session) by the end of the night. You can’t go wrong with these places.

•   Lantern’s Keep (49 West 44th St, New York, NY 10036  212.453-4233) One of Midtown’s best kept secrets is this intimate 30 seat cocktail lounge tucked away inside the Iroquois Hotel. Head Bartender Theo Lieberman has created a well balanced list of unique cocktails that is sure to charm your lucky date. Big perk: you can call to make a reservation. Drink to not miss: Wildest Redhead

•   JBird (339 E 75th St, New York, NY 10021 212.288.8033) Upper East Siders rejoice, for there is a new cocktail lounge that will finally get you to drop those ping-pong balls at the beer pong tables and have you rushing to snag a cozy booth for two and get tipsy on an array of delicious and innovative drinks. Drink to not miss: Brush of the Bush

•   Vintry Wine and Whiskey (57 Stone St New York, NY 10004 212.480.9800) You may associate Stone Street as the go-to spot for post work shenanigans with colleagues. However, Vintry has popped up on New York’s classic downtown lane to offer sanctuary to those searching for a more intimate after 9-5 date. With over 80 wine varieties, 230 whiskies and bartenders who can whip up a mean classic cocktail, a few rounds at this spot will certainly get you to loosen your tie. Drink to not miss: Bartender’s choice wine or whiskey.

•   Clover Club (210 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 718.855.7939) Brick walls, high ceiling, tableside candlelight, sounds of shaking and boozy drinks all set the mood at Clover Club. This Brooklyn bar is the perfect venue with ample bar seats, inviting leather booths, and a back room where sparks can fly more privately. Drink not to miss: The Clover Club, Port of Call

Fun Dates: Your date is slightly unconventional and you’re looking to go somewhere that adds a fun factor into the night. Get interactive at one of these locations.

•   Full Circle Bar (318 Grand St Brooklyn, NY 11211 347.725.4588) Ski ball and canned beer? It’s too good to be true (someone pinch me because I think I may be dreaming). With four ski ball machines, a large assortment of craft canned beers and hot dogs and jumbo pretzels, this bar is sure to get the “ball rolling” for a fun night. Drink to not miss: Pork Slap Beer.

•   Rusty Knot (425 West St New York, NY 10014  212.645.5668) The hybrid of tiki and dive bars results in this place along the Westside Highway. Choose a few tunes on their jukebox, play a round of pool, and watch the sun set over the Hudson River while sipping potent rum cocktails complete with mini plastic mermaids on the rims of the glassware. And if all goes well, end the night with a pickle back shot. Drink to not miss: The Rusty Knot.

•   Floyd (131 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, NY 11201 718.858.5810) Any Brooklyn Heights native could tell you about a fun night they’ve had at this bar.  Boasting one of the few bars with an indoor bocce ball court, this unpretentious spot is always a buzz with people and a perfect place to cut loose and have some fun. Drink to not miss: Anything you can hold in one hand while playing bocce with the other.

View Best NYC Date Bars in a larger map



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