12 romantic restaurants in New York City for every kind of date

At Gaonnuri, a Korean barbecue feast awaits on the 39th-floor of a Midtown West skyscraper. | Credit: Gaonnuri

New York City is the place to fall—and stay—in love. But deciding on a restaurant to celebrate your romance can be as dizzying as one of the city’s signature skyline views. The silver lining: so many choices mean that there’s a restaurant for you, no matter where you are on the relationship timeline.

In the Bronx, an award-winning red-sauce joint is for established couples who adore throwback touches, such as ornate columns and glass block details. Too woo a potential life partner with a barbecue feast amidst the skyscrapers, head to a Korean spot in Midtown West. If sitting still isn’t your love language, opt for mini golf and gourmet street food in NoMad, great for an early-in-the-game date.

Here are a dozen date night-worthy restaurants in NYC to book right now.

For a first date

Wildair (Lower East Side)

Cannoli mille feuille at Wildair in the Lower East Side. | Credit: Wildair

A dessert date at Wildair is ideal for a low-pressure hangout. | Credit: Wildair

This drinks-forward, New American spot on the Lower East Side is for impressing a first date with cocktails, rare natural wines, and excellent snacky plates. If you’re not at full meal-status yet, go for bubbly and dessert. Or show up on the earlier side to test out the sparks with uni-topped pommes dauphine, best paired with spritzes. If the vibe is right, splurge for the shareable American wagyu striploin, arguably one of the city’s best under-the-radar steaks.

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For a second date

Aurora – Williamsburg (Williamsburg)

Tuscan kale salad with Brussels sprouts, pistachio, lemon oil, and pecorino oro at Aurora - Williamsburg

Everything on the Italian menu at Aurora – Williamsburg, including the Tuscan kale salad, is shareable. | Credit: Rima Brindamour / Brindamour Studios

Dim the lights and turn up the romance for a second meeting at homey but chic Aurora. The rustic dining room exudes a unique charm thanks to exposed brick walls, high ceilings, and an enclosed garden. Everything on the Italian menu is shareable, so get better acquainted over whipped ricotta, grilled octopus, and luscious housemade pastas such as spinach pappardelle with veal. The wine list is extensive, so you can work through a bottle or try a few glasses, sourced from all over the globe.

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Bistro Eloise (Jackson Heights)

This Jackson Heights bistro oozes romance but still feels inviting, achieving a rare balance. The varied French menu is well-suited for a leisurely second date and goes beyond familiar bistro fare, including recipes from Brittany, Toulouse, and Burgundy. Don’t miss Eloise’s version of French onion soup, properly crowned in a thick cheese crust, or the boeuf bourguignon, with slowly braised Angus grass-fed beef in a stew of carrots, pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon. Stretch your evening a little longer with dessert: the luscious crème brûlée, creamy inside beneath a crunchy layer of burnished, caramelized sugar, is a crowd pleaser. Bistro Eloise’s comfortable banquette seats and small, dark wood tables line the sweet and simple space.

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For a cozy and intimate evening

Moko (East Village)

A selection of sushi at Moko in the East Village

Fish for the sushi at Moko, a subterranean spot in the East Village, is flown in fresh from Japan. | Credit: Moko

Establishing a regular romantic ritual—aka a recurring date night—is easy at this subterranean sushi shrine. The 15-course omakase experience at Moko is fueled with fresh seafood flown in from Japan. Your nigiri and miso soup feast ends with a scoop of housemade strawberry ice cream, leaving you pleasantly full (but not stuffed), and ready to come back.

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Semma (West Village)

A spread of South Indian dishes at Semma in the West Village

Semma’s prolific South Indian menu is reason enough to keep returning. | Credit: Paul McDonough

MICHELIN-starred Semma, one of NYC’s hottest openings of 2022, has a menu so prolific that it’s worth returning to just to make your way through all the fiery South Indian dishes. For an extra-special night, pre-order the Kanyakumari Nandu Masala for two, an indulgent feast of Dungeness crab, parotta (layered flatbread), and coconut rice. Cocktails infuse the cuisine’s flavors into each sip, such as in the Aiyo!, mixed with mezcal, red chile, tamarind, and lemon.

For an adventurous and transportive date

Amor Cubano (Harlem)

This East Harlem favorite shuttles couples to 1950s Havana, thanks to projections of colorful classic cars and vibrant streetscapes; exposed brick walls and a big bar make for a laid-back and unpretentious experience. Amor Cubano is a go-to for generous portions of the namesake cuisine’s hearty staples, including croquetas filled with ham, cheese, or chicken; a top-notch Cuban sandwich; and braised classics such as ropa vieja, or shredded skirt steak with tomatoes, onions, and peppers. To take your restaurant getaway to new heights, partake in some after-dinner dancing—there’s often live music here.

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For a group date

AlBadawi (Brooklyn Heights)

Large portions of traditional Palestinian dishes at AlBadawi in Brooklyn Heights

AlBadawi is known for family-style Palestinian dishes, ideal for group dates. | Credit: AlBadawi

Known for family-style Palestinian plates, AlBadawi makes for a memorable group outing. The Brooklyn Heights restaurant opened in 2021 as a collaboration between the teams at Yemen Cafe, a beloved Brooklyn institution, and Ayat, an acclaimed fast-casual spot in Bay Ridge. Must-orders include maklouba, a chicken dish filled with eggplant, cauliflower, and potatoes, and mansaf, a tender, tangy lamb stew in fermented yogurt sauce served over buttery rice and topped with slivered almonds. The portions are designed for sharing and so generous that you’ll probably have some leftovers to take home. There’s a bustling feel to this bright space, kitted out in lush greenery and bursts of faux flowers.

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For an evening of eatertainment

Swingers – NYC (NoMad)

A mini-golf course decked with faux flowers at Swingers - NYC in NoMad

Swingers offers mini-golf for adults plus gourmet street food and cocktails. | Credit: Paul Winch

If you’re not one for sitting still, take your date to this action-packed activities venue. The buzzy NoMad spot offers mini-golf for adults (three nine-hole courses) alongside gourmet street food and cocktails. Embark on a whirlwind food tour with your SO, featuring slices of pizza from Sauce and pastries from Mah Ze Dahr bakery, then aim for a hole in one.

For an anniversary or romantic milestone

Gaonnuri (Midtown West)

A special occasion calls for a splashy meal with stunning city views. You’ll find both at this 39th-floor penthouse-level Korean barbecue spot. Request a seat by the window to enjoy a five-course tasting menu amid the skyscrapers. You’ll both cook your entrees directly on the table; take things up a notch by adding on an order of decadent lobster-and-kimchi fried rice to your A5 wagyu ribeye. Cocktails, fine wines, and soju provide the fuel for celebratory toasts.

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Mario’s Restaurant – Arthur Avenue (Bronx)

If an Italian feast in a throwback setting is your idea of romance, this James Beard Award-winning joint is for you. The fifth-generation, family-run restaurant dates back to 1919 and continues to rely on its winning formula of timeless appetizers, such as crispy fried calamari and antipasto platters and mains including veal saltimbocca. More-is-more is undoubtedly the M.O. when it comes to design here, adorned with throwback accents (ornate glass columns, glass block detailing) galore. Mario’s is filled with cozy banquette seats, so get comfortable and tuck into some red-sauce classics as you mark a special night together.

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For a proposal-worthy place

One if by Land, Two if by Sea (Greenwich Village)

With a charming name plucked from a historical poem about Paul Revere, One if by Land, Two if by Sea is for extremely romantic milestones; it’s no surprise that wedding proposals unfold frequently here. Housed in a historic carriage house on a picturesque West Village street, it’s tough to top the all-out amorous vibes at this special occasion star. Fittingly, the three- and seven-course tasting menus are reminiscent of a swanky wedding menu, with choices such as tuna tartare, beef Wellington, grilled octopus, and pan-seared halibut.

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The River Cafe (DUMBO / Vinegar Hill)

Manhattan skyline views at The River Cafe in Brooklyn. | Credit: The River Cafe

Dinner and the ultimate view await at The River Cafe, a proposal-worthy spot in Brooklyn. | Credit: The River Cafe

There may be no better place to pop the question than at MICHELIN-starred River Cafe, home to magical vistas of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. The romantic feels begin at its garden entrance, illuminated with twinkling lights. Once inside, the formal dress code (requiring jackets for men and proper footwear for all), plus fresh flowers and live piano music, scream special occasion. As does River Cafe’s ultra-fancy menu, a mix of seasonal New American dishes such as sauteed duck foie gras, porcini-stuffed roasted rabbit, and venison with chestnut spaetzle and roasted root vegetables, alongside an extensive wine list. To celebrate, you can even add caviar service to the mix.

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Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner is a writer based in Brooklyn, where she lives with her wife and rescue dog. You can follow her on Instagram @melissabethk and Twitter @melissabethk

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