13 quintessential date-night restaurants in New York City

A cocktail with an orange peel in it placed on a bar counter at NYC restaurant Holiday Cocktail Lounge
This historic East Village icon has hosted celebs like Frank Sinatra and Madonna, just to name a few. | Credit: Gabi Porter for Holiday Cocktail Lounge

New York City is the place to fall—and stay—in love. And its most romantic restaurants play a major role in that process. A natural wine and pizza bar is perfect for early-in-the-game dates. For cozy evenings, check out an acclaimed Sichuan spot with booths galore. And few places are as proposal-worthy as the elegant townhouse interiors of an upscale Greenwich Village landmark. 

This guide pairs NYC restaurants with romantic occasions from first dates all the way to milestone anniversaries. These are NYC’s 13 best date-night restaurants. 

For a first date

Wildair (Lower East Side)

A pastry dish at NYC restaurant Wildair featuring layers of puff pastry and piped cream sandwiched in between
Wildair’s playful dishes and solid drinks make it peak first-date material. | 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 drive the sparks with crispy, uni-topped pommes darphin, best paired with Wildair’s spritz. If the vibe is right, splurge on the shareable American wagyu, arguably one of the city’s best under-the-radar steaks.

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Holiday Cocktail Lounge (East Village)

What’s a better conversation starter than an 1835 speakeasy that’s hosted Madonna, Al Capone, and Frank Sinatra, to name just a few? Not to mention liquid courage in the form of Singapore slings, mai tais, negronis, and other classic cocktails all made at a charming, circular bar in the center. Keep the night going by pairing your drinks with inventive snacks like kielbasa and kimchi tacos or the meaty and cheesy Cubano doughnut.

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Bar Birba (Bed-Stuy)

Mini rectangular pizzas in trays and a few colorful cocktails placed on a circular marble table at NYC restaurant Bar Birba
Small pizzas paired with a large selection of natural Italian wines make Bar Birba a classy first-date destination. | Credit: Bar Birba

Bar Birba is where you go for a date night that shuttles you to a charming Italian seaside cafe with marble-topped tables and menus on mirrors. The Bed-Stuy bar is the newest spot from the natural wine experts at For All Good Things, so you can expect a strong vino game. Choose from a generous selection that spotlights Italian producers and make it a full-on aperitivo date by getting fluffy mini pizzas and snacks like mushroom and pecorino-cheese arancinis.

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For a second date

Modern Love Brooklyn (Williamsburg)

Exposed lights, bistro-style tables, and minimalist wall murals—Modern Love is an industrial-chic spot that was made for a budding romance. That’s because the vegan comfort food, like creamy acorn squash curry and cacio e pepe with fried mozzarella, is even better when shared. Pick from a strong wine and beer selection, and strongly consider splitting one of the milkshakes made with cashew olive oil ice cream to cap off a special second date. 

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For a cozy and intimate evening

Moko (East Village)

Establishing a regular romantic ritual—aka a recurring date night—is easy at this sushi hotspot. The 15-course omakase at Moko is fueled with fresh-from-Japan seafood. 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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HUPO (Long Island City)

Don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you; just past Hupo’s door is a stylish, cozy restaurant full of Chinese lantern-style lights and the irresistible scent of spicy Sichuan food. You and your date can easily be satisfied with staples like Chungking chicken, mapo tofu, and double-cooked pork, but for a more intimate experience, go all out with the choose-your-own-adventure-style mala dry hot pot.

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For an adventurous and transportive date

Amor Cubano (Harlem)

This East Harlem favorite shuttles couples to 1950s Havana with an extra-large bar and wall projections of classic cars and vibrant streetscapes, which all add up to a laid-back and unpretentious date. Plus, Amor Cubano is a go-to for generous portions of hearty Cuban food. Think croquetas filled with ham, cheese, or chicken, a knockout Cuban sandwich, and braised classics like ropa vieja. Take your restaurant getaway to new heights by joining in on some after-dinner dancing—there’s often live music here.

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For a group date

Mesiba (Williamsburg)

The interior of NYC restaurant Mesiba showing dappled sunlight reflected on the semi-circular, purple couch seating
Levantine restaurant Mesiba’s spacious interiors make it ideal for group dates. | Credit: Liz Clayman/Mesiba

Mesiba means “party” in Hebrew, which explains why you want to bring a crew here. The plant-filled ceiling and undulating purple banquettes are mesmerizing, and so is the massive Levantine menu. Rip and dip Moroccan bread in creamy hot sauce, break off bites of tender lamb with Yemeni pancakes, and wash it all down with a Turkish coffee-infused old fashioned. Keep the party going with arak service—Mesiba pours out six kinds of the popular anise liqueur. 

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For an evening of eatertainment

Journey (NoMad)

The mood lighting, comfy leather couches, and globally influenced food are almost secondary at Journey—the star attractions are the four different immersive dining experiences, making for an unforgettable date night. Whether it’s augmented reality on tables, projections of far-off cities on the walls, or 3-D models of famous buildings from around the world, a meal at Journey will keep you guessing, giving you a romantic evening that’s one for the books. 

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For an anniversary or romantic milestone

Gaonnuri (Midtown West)

An array of Korean barbecue dishes and accompaniments at Gaonnuri in New York City
At Gaonnuri, you’ll get a Korean barbecue feast in a Midtown skyscraper. | Credit: Gaonnuri

You’ll find both a special-occasion meal and stunning NYC views at this 39th-floor Korean barbecue spot. Request a seat by the window to make Gaonnuri’s five-course tasting menu even more fun. Servers prepare prime and wagyu ribeye on the tabletop grills; level things up by adding an order of decadent lobster-and-kimchi fried rice to your meal. Cocktails, fine wines, and soju provide plenty of fuel for celebratory toasts.

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Enzo’s of Williamsbridge (Morris Park)

White tablecloths, framed photos of Italian movie stars, and top-notch service all promise an elegant date night at this Bronx legend. The fall-off-the-bone tender chicken scarpariello is a must-order, as are the more than dozen housemade pastas like cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sausage. They’re best when devoured with Enzo’s extensive lineup of Italian wines for a next-level night out worthy of a big anniversary.

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For a proposal-worthy place

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

With a charming name from a historical poem, One if by Land, Two if by Sea is for milestone moments—so it’s no surprise that wedding proposals happen here all the time. The restaurant takes up a historic carriage house on a pretty West Village street, and it’s tough to top the all-out romantic vibes at this special-occasion star. Fittingly, the three- and seven-course tasting menus channel a swanky wedding menu with choices like beef Wellington, seared foie gras, and chocolate soufflé.

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The River Cafe (DUMBO) 

The exterior of The River Cafe with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline
Dinner and the ultimate view await at The River Cafe, a proposal-worthy spot in Brooklyn. | Credit: The River Cafe

Few places can top the proposal-ready views that DUMBO’s River Cafe boasts—after all, it overlooks the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. The romantic feels start at the garden entrance, illuminated by twinkling lights. Once inside, fresh flowers and live piano music scream “special occasion.” It’s all amplified by an ultra-fancy menu of ricotta-stuffed rabbit loin or duck breast with roasted pearl onions. Take your date up a notch by adding caviar service to the mix.

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Tried them all? Check out other options here.

Tanay Warerkar is a content marketing manager at OpenTable, where he oversees features content and stays on top of the hottest trends and developments in the restaurant industry. He brings years of experience as a food editor and reporter having worked at the San Francisco Chronicle, Eater, and the New York Daily News, to name a few.

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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