A good blind-date spot has a certain finesse. You need a place that’s quiet enough for an inevitably awkward conversation, but lively enough to keep the vibes upbeat and spontaneous. The ideal spot is somewhere you can stay all night, or leave after one drink.
In other words, this guide is for anyone who’s ever had to set up a potentially romantic meeting with someone who might be a federal fugitive or an amateur astrologist. These places are nice enough to make you feel like a decent person, but casual enough to cut and run if you find that the decent-person thing doesn’t suit you. They’re also a little bit under-the-radar, because you don’t want to run into your boss on your blind (Tinder) date.
This isn’t the sort of place where you hang with your friends all night, but it is a good spot to grab anywhere from one to ten cocktails with someone you don’t know. Sel Rrose is located right where the Lower East Side meets Chinatown, so it’s convenient enough to other late-night watering holes, but remote enough that you won’t run into your aunt or dentist or ex (or whatever). If the weather’s nice, you can sit outside, and they serve small plates if you need to pick at something while you try to look interesting.
Head deep into the West Village, and you’ll find The Otheroom. Why’s it called The Otheroom? Well, there used to be a sister bar on Sullivan called The Room that, sadly, closed. But you don’t need to worry about that, because The Otheroom is even better for dates. It’s a dark bar near the Hudson that seems to exist exclusively for early-in-the-game outings, and you’ll never be the only couple there that met on Tinder. They only serve wine and beer, but they have good selections of both, and this way you can take your time getting to know someone before getting embarrassingly drunk.
The Standard draws a crowd. That’s guaranteed. So if you’re looking for a spot that will convince your date that you’re culturally relevant, pick the cafe at The Standard East Village. They serve food and drinks all day, but you don’t necessarily have to eat. Expect young professionals, fashion types, and loud music. The bar itself seats a decent number, but there are also some tables and a banquette that always seems to be claimed. If it isn’t too cold, you can sit outside, and if you decide you’d like a nice dinner, Narcissa is right next door.
Don’t take your date to a dive bar. You’re better than that. And even if you aren’t, at least try to hide this fact until the third or fourth date. Maiden Lane is a small, welcoming bar on a corner in Alphabet City, and it has some good seafood-oriented small plates. This is the sort of place where you can hang out for five minutes or five hours. So if you’re already talking about the weather by minute number four, you know what to do.
The best places for blind dates are the places that are often overlooked - quieter places that still have a good vibe. Analogue is one of those places. This is a bar on the northern edge of Greenwich Village with serious cocktails, but less of the self-seriousness you’ll find at a place like Employees Only. In the early evening, there tends to be live music, so that’s a guaranteed source of conversation right there. The inside looks like the living room of a really nice apartment, and there are some couches and banquettes where you your a date can sit side-by-side (if your Seinfeld impression goes over well).
Play it safe at Allswell, and grab a seat at the bar. That way, you won’t necessarily have to eat a whole meal. Maybe you’ll want to, maybe you won’t. There’s always a chance that the person you’re going out with will only want to talk about the importance of recycling toenail clippings as fertilizer, so you don’t want to lock yourself into anything. If things go well, however, you can have a good burger and a few drinks in this dark little space in Williamsburg that’s suitably romantic.
Consider this Aria’s little sister. And that isn’t a Game of Thrones reference. Aria Wine Bar in the West Village is one of the city’s premiere first-date spots, and Cotenna (by the same owners) is pretty much a smaller replica. It’s also in the West Village, but it’s just a tad more under-the-radar. If you have to eat on a date, go here. The food is good, inexpensive Italian, and the space is dark enough that no one will see you if your date shows up in flip flops and a misguiding t-shirt that says something like, “Real Cool Person.” Also, service is quick - so you can get in and get out.
Eastwood is a well-lit, laid-back bar on the lower part of the Lower East Side (where the bars are usually rowdier). They only serve wine and beer, but we think you can work with that. And if you get hungry, try something from the kitchen. (They serve stuff like chicken schnitzel and falafel.) This is a good place to go for a date that could easily lead to two separate taxis or a night out at 169 Bar and Mr. Fong’s. To some extent, the choice is yours.
You could walk by this bar every day and still not know it’s there. It’s on a very busy block of the East Village that has at least three other bars, but Kingston Hall is the only one where you’d want to bring a date. The entrance is up a row of steps, and the bar itself feels like an exclusive Jamaican-themed clubhouse for recent graduates (take that as you will). This is the East Village, so avoid on weekends, but if you need somewhere to temporarily hide from the world with someone you might or might not get along with, Kingston Hall is a solid choice for a weeknight.
If you have zero gut feelings about whether this date is going to be surprisingly great or predictably horrible, take them to The Mayflower in Clinton Hill. It’s hidden behind some thick vines with almost no signage, and the dim vibe inside helps maintain the feeling that no one you know will ever find you here. The cocktails also happen to be excellent, and if the date is going well and you think you have enough conversation topics to sustain you through dinner, you’re steps away from Aita, the charming neighborhood Italian spot next door.