I’d like to preface this entire post by saying that I kind of hate dating. But I’ve done it. A lot, unfortunately.
So…maybe this post should be titled “Best First Date Bars in NYC for People Who Hate Dating”.
…I’ll consider it.
Anyway. I have been to all of the places below or have enlisted the help of some trusty resources for their input. Please note: just because I’m recommending them doesn’t mean it will be a magical dating success story. I don’t promise miracles.
You’ll notice some of them have an * next to them which means they also have decent food. Sometimes that’s all you need to make a date better.
Comment below if you have any additional recs!
Best First Date Bars in NYC
- Oscar Wilde – Great location in Nomad/Flatiron, with a strong whiskey selection and cocktails. Never a bad time here. Try The Seville’s Crime with Four Roses Bourbon, blackberry, lemon juice, and agave.
- The Wren – It can get crowded during the Thursday/Friday happy hour rush, but it’s a favorite of mine for a while. Big fan of their tequila cocktails like the “Wren-quila”.
- BlackTail – I love this spot – it’s speakeasy-like, but bigger – and that’s all the difference in the world. That said, this is for when you want to impress someone/have a feeling you might actually like them. It’s a bit pricey and you need to make a reservation. #effort
- Mother’s Ruin – I’ll be honest in that one of my main reasons for selecting Mother’s Ruin is it’s proximity to Prince Street Pizza. It’s also a fun bar with a chill crowd, but I’m strategic about my dates. Which leads me to…
- The Happiest Hour* – Big fan of this bar – not only for the vibes and decor, but also for the burger. Easily one of my faves. Double stacked, cheesy, meaty goodness. And hey, if you hit it off, you can go to Slowly Shirley next door and downstairs, which is a really cool speakeasy.
- Ainslie – This brand new wine and beer garden in Williamsburg makes me want to move BACK to Williamsburg. Seriously. The space is a little bit rustic and a lot GORGEOUS, with an ivy-lined outdoor area as well as a rooftop. The kitchen is pumping out amazing pizzas, pastas, and other Italian fare from chef John DeLucie. Try the Chicken Parm for 2 and the fried artichokes. This will be your go-to soon, I promise.
- The Summit Bar – For you Alphabet City folks! This is a bit far on Avenue C, but it’s got great drinks and a cozy vibe. They also have fun names for their cocktails – try the “Breaking The Law” with mezcal, chili agave, cucumber, lime, and club soda.
- Empellon Al Pastor* – This is another fave of mine. It’s casual but cool at the same time, not to mention they have some of the best damn tacos this side of the Hudson. Get the cheeseburger taco. TRUST ME. And wash it down with a classic margarita, which is $8 on the Happy Hour menu from 4 – 8 pm.
- Linen Hall – The location may suggest “frat party” (and its sister bar is The Penny Farthing), but it’s actually more low key than you think. Not to mention it’s an easy commuting location for Manhattan and BK-ers, being close to Union Square.
- Terroir Tribeca* – a brick-walled spot with an extensive wines-by-the-glass selection. Another reason it’s a fave? Nearly everything on the menu is discounted during Happy Hour. Oh and the food is awesome too – try the Meatball sando or the bone marrow and garlic bruschetta.
- The Immigrant – A cozy little spot in the East Village known for it’s wines and beer. Do yourself a favor and plan on some nibbles after if you’re coming hungry. They have snacks but it’s small stuff – cheese, olives, nuts. You get it.
- The Lovelace – This is advertised as a gin bar, so if you’re into that, it’s perfect. I don’t love gin, but I really like the space here and I don’t know too many places in FiDi that are good for a date. It’s attached to Porter House, which is also good if you’re more of a beer person. Be prepared for a lot of Patagonia vests.
- Maison Premiere* – I’m first to admit that this is not usually my speed, as it is primarily an oyster bar, but it is SO nice inside and they have Absinthe cocktails. Need I say more? Sometimes there can be a significant wait so if I were you I’d go early.
- Donna – this is what I like to call a “trendy” bar without the douchey pretense. It has creative cocktails, tacos, and on some nights, a DJ set. Happy Hour M-F until 8 pm, with $2 off all draft beers, draft and frozen cocktails, and tacos. All around a fun time for everyone.
- Rag Trader* – it’s not ideal to have a date in Midtown, but if you’re going to, you might want to try this one. It’s actually a really nice space with a great selection of drinks and food. They must have a thing for MILF’s because two of the drink names are “Stifler’s Mom” and literally “Milf”. The latter is essentially a martini with blue cheese olives – YUM. Bonus: it’s a good location for those pesky LIRR and NJ Transit commuters.
- Lillie’s Victorian* – there are two locations, but I am referring to the one in Union Square, because the one in Times Square is well, in Times Square. I like the decor (Victorian, you guessed it), and thankfully it’s not tacky. Good bar bites too – try the Curry Fries and the Firecracker Shrimp.
- The Penrose – another area I don’t frequent too often is the Upper East Side, but when and if I do, I find myself here. It’s one of the nicer bars in the area (brought to you by the same family as The Wren and The Spaniard), with a good vibe, music, and drinks. Happy Hour is M-F, 3-7 PM.
- The Dead Rabbit – I’m putting this on here because it’s a thing – everyone loves it, it’s a great spot, and it’s supposedly the World’s Best Bar. THE WORLD. Idk, feels extreme. I find it to be a little crowded for my taste. If you’re a low key type, you probably won’t have the patience for it. But I’d stick it out for the whiskey selection.