Choosing the wrong bar for a first date could be the difference between finding your soulmate and being alone forever, obvi. Filmmaker and general man about town, Alan Del Rio Ortiz, gives a rundown of the best restaurants, bars and cafes to take your Tinder date in NYC.
Navigating Tinder is incredibly stupid and dangerous. Public humiliation, horrible conversations, and PTSD spirals are basically guaranteed. There are, however, a few things you can do to soften the blows (and maaaybe, possibly even enjoy yourself in the process).
One key rule for Tinder dates—or really any date with someone who you don’t know very well—is to take them somewhere that’s easy to escape. If the date isn’t going well, you don’t want to be stuck at an expensive, multiple-course dinner theatre, or some other idiotic idea you had. A drink in a bar is a better option—if you’re getting along you can spend a few hours in an intimate environment getting to know each other, but if you’re not feeling it you can bounce (politely) after one drink and still enjoy the rest of your night.
You also need to make sure the place has a good vibe, and that you won’t be running into your wasted, embarrassing friends playing buck hunter. And you shouldn’t go too pricey on a first date. You don’t want to spend half your paycheck on someone you vaguely remember swiping right on while bored on another date. In short, choosing the ideal location requires a bit of thought. Luckily I’ve done all of this for you. Below are six NYC spots that will hopefully help you come out on top (pause…).
Oh wait, one more thing: Men, pick up the fucking check. Even if the date didn’t go super well, just grow up and do the right thing. Yeah, I know, 2015, Lena Dunham, Jezebel, and whatever, but be real: you’re a desperate loser who’s trying to get laid though an app. Picking up the check is literally the least you can do.
1) Hotel Delmano, Williamsburg – when you want a great cocktail
Hotel Delmano can get busy, so go on the earlier side. You don’t want to be awkwardly making small talk while you wait 20 minutes for a seat. It’s a nice, beautiful place, and they’ve clearly thought about every detail of the design, but it’s not obnoxious. The staff is also used to seeing a million awkward dates there, so they’re super professional and kind. They serve small bites, so if things are going well you can get a snack, and the drinks are perfect.
2) The Smile, Noho – for lunch or coffee
I normally don’t recommend doing a day date. There’s just something about evenings that allow people to relax, and trying to work out a goodnight kiss at 3pm is just desperate. However, if you must do a lunch date, find a way to do it during the week to avoid brunch crowds. Yes, The Smile is a hipster cliche. Yes, it’s full of celebrities embarrassing themselves pretending to read. But during the day it’s very charming and surprisingly intimate. The food is simple and affordable, and it’s an excellent place to go if you just want to have a coffee. Plus, if your date embarrasses you by trying to take a selfie with someone who isn’t even that famous, you at least know they aren’t street legal just yet.
3) Spain, West Village – for down and dirty cheap drinks
The staff at Spain are all over 100 years old and completely insane. They barely speak English and can often be incredibly rude. In short, it’s the most New York place on Earth and can be super endearing. It’s the kind of place you go when you want a cheap drink, but you don’t want to go to some scummy dive bar. While you’re drinking the waiters come by and give you free things to snack on—”tapas”—and depending on how much they like you, some of it will be pretty good. It’s a fun place that has a lot of character. They also serve proper dinner here, but honestly I have never even considered it. Let me know how that goes.
4) Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Prospect Park – for people who like walking/being outside/”nature”
I am not basing this one any actual evidence, but I feel like this place doesn’t get enough credit among daters in our age group (#millennials). Even if you don’t know anything or care about plants, it’s a great place to walk around when the weather is nice. Also, it feels like you’re being adventurous because you are avoiding the dinner and a movie cliche (also: never go to a movie on a first date. You don’t know enough about each other to know what kind of movie is going to start a horrible fight.) It’s a good place to talk and get to know someone, and it elevates the daytime date. If things go well there are plenty of spots where you can sneak a kiss.
5) Supper, East Village – for a romantic dinner
If you’ve gotten to know each through text and have a good feeling about the date, then dinner is a logical option. Like everything in New York, Supper gets busy, but it’s been around long enough that is has transcended ‘trendy’ and is now simply a welcome staple. It’s great Italian good, there are always fresh specials on the menu, and there’s usually some charming weirdos hanging around. It’s a place that feels exciting without being distracting. You’ll spend a little money, but it’s the perfect balance of casual ambience and amazing, elegant food. Split a bottle of wine, split everything you order, and take your time.
6) Ear Inn, Soho – cozy, old New York
Save Ear Inn for someone who you know is going to be special. It’s one of the oldest bars in New York, and it feels so great simply because it isn’t trying too hard. Everything about it is unassuming and comfortable. I went there one night when they were playing live jazz. I still remember it as one of my favorite nights in New York and I HATE live jazz.
There’s nothing particularly inventive about their food or their drinks, but it’s such a breath of fresh air. It has a lot of history and a speakeasy feel to it. Everyone is friendly, and you will see people from every demographic you can imagine. Sit down and enjoy drawing on the tablecloth with crayons, and earn points with your date for knowing about a place that’s off the beaten path but still feels familiar and fun. Plus, it’s totally out of the way so it’s a great excuse to ‘split a cab home’ and then make out all the way to whoever’s place is closest. And then fuck. You’re welcome.