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1st Date (Casual) - help me impress a foodie

OK so here's the deal, kind of a last minute thing for Tuesday night. Casual first date, she used to be a cook in an upscale bistro, knows good food and promises that the only thing she won't eat is chitlins, which I cant really blame her for.

Give me somewhere in Manhattan, fairly priced (I'd like to stay under $75) that would impress a foodie. As far as location, I basically just want to steer clear of midtown and UES, and preferably somewhere in a decent area to walk around afterwards. Thinking maybe a place with great tapas, something unique. Help!

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  1. Try Degustation. It has intimate settings and the food's sublime from what I've read. I honestly haven't been there myself (I'm going there for my birthday in a couple of weeks.) But reading a lot of reviews from the NY Times as well as searching the board here, many loves this place.

    Good luck on your date!

    3 Replies
    1. re: chocokitty

      Degustation is great, and would certainly impress a foodie with the preparation and plating happening right in front of you, but I'm not sure you could manage to stay within that budget (with a couple glasses of wine). Also, while not fancy, it is quite an intimate atmosphere and might be a little intimidating for a first date.
      I'd suggest something along the lines of Casa Mono or Tia Pol, leaning toward Casa Mono because you can avoid the high chairs, and the area is decent to walk around (can stop by Bar Carrera or Bar Veloce after for a nightcap)

      1. re: jsgjewels

        i agree that Degustation is too fancy/pricey for this date, and she'll think you are trying a little too hard to impress (as are the owners of the restaurant, imho)

        Casa Mono might work, though it can be a very loud in there and service can be hit-or-miss (i've had ok service there and i've had rushed rude service there)...but there are definitely fun tasty small plates on the menu so it could be a good call (though depending how much you eat and drink it'd be easy enough to crest over 100 bucks there)

        My suggestion is Cacio e Vino, on 2nd Ave, near 4th St...lots Sicilian specialities and yummy crudo (raw tuna w/ fennel and blood orange)...tons of small plates/antipasti...reasonably priced interesting Sicilian wine...charming/intimate and *slightly* romantic w/o being overly so...always had super-friendly service there...and the neighborhood is full of nearby bars, walking fun, etc...

        1. re: jsgjewels

          Been to Degustation a few times. Agree with other posters that it might not be appropriate for a first date. Disagree with bully girl below re: Adrienne's. Food is okay, it gets noisy, service is inconsistent. You can do better. LeahBaila mentioned Pylos. We're going to Pylos again on Friday - good Greek food, it can get noisy. Depending where you sit at Pylos might be good for a first date if noise level cooperates.

          LaVagna is good, has a prix fixe and amazing wine list, but too dark and intimate for a first date.

      2. Kuma inn in the LES for interesting SE Asian influenced tapas (hidden location gives you street cred and BYOB policy increases your food budget without having to save on drinks)
        In midtown, but very unique is Sakagura for a wide variety of interesting japanese bites and great desserts in a subterrenean room.


        1 Reply
        1. re: xigua

          Good call. Cendrillon in SoHo is also a thought. The chefs are pretty much the premiere Filipino chefs in the country and showcase their skill with updates of Filipino classics like black rice paella, purple yam crepe spring rolls, pancit with smoked trout etc. Great room with an undiscovered cuisine sounds like something that would impress a foodie.

          I also love Alta in the West Village, but I have to admit that the flavor combinations might not be exactly cutting edge for a chef.

        2. Check out Jadis on Rivington - great Itallian wine bar with an interesting tapas type menu - will be able to stay under $75 easily.

          1. this is kind of out of the way, but if it's nice out, you should think about hitting Stone Street downtown near Wall Street. You can hit one of the many bars for drinks first and then head to Adrienne's which is the perfect, casual spot for yummy italian food and pizza.

            10 Replies
            1. re: bullygirl

              Right now Kuma Inn and Jadis sound about right.

              Cendrillon's menu looks to be a bit out of my budget for tonight, and possibly too nice for a first date.

              Alta looks like it has my kind of menu, but I've read about noise issues?

              1. re: fishermb

                Alta is definitely very good food, but yes, it is pretty noisy. If you can specifically request the table upstairs towards the front, you might avoid that issue, but then you also miss out on the room.

                1. re: JungMann

                  Can anyone comment on noise level/atmosphere at Kuma Inn and Jadis?

                  1. re: fishermb

                    Kuma Inn was fairly quiet the two times i went and suitable for mellow first date convo...the food was pretty good on my first visit and mediocre on the second, but it's a cozy little place...though on a Tuesday night it's possible that it might be almost too quiet, but i haven't been there in a long time...

                    1. re: Simon

                      Thanks Simon, a friend recommended Bondi Road, any comments on food/atmosphere there? If not I'll probably go with Alta or Kuma.

                      1. re: fishermb

                        i don't know Bondi...hope the eve goes well...

                        1. re: fishermb

                          Bondi is more of an Australian pub than a date-type restaurant. Unless your date likes Aussies and fish-and-chips. My friend was a server there, and judging from her commentary, it sounded more like a place to have a beer and burgers.

                          1. re: JungMann

                            Agreed, i wouldn't want to be taken to Bondi on a first date. I liked it with friends, but the noise and uncomfortable stools would be a downer on a date. If you're choosing between Kuma and Alta, I'd go with Alta. I love Kuma but do you really want to drag a bottle of wine or sake with you, and what if your date would like a cocktail instead.

                      2. re: fishermb

                        Don't go to Bondi Rd on a first date - the place is awesome and the food is fantastic but not a first date place; more like a cool place for a fourth or fifth date - very relaxed.

                        Kuma Inn also is BYOB something to keep in mind.

                        Il Posto may be another great option in the east village - good wine bar and somewhat foodie.

                    2. re: fishermb

                      If you are deciding between Kuma and Alta, I would stick with Alta since my experience there with a date was quite intimate yet casual. Yes, as the others have said, it will get noisy around 8, but sitting upstairs has avoided that issue mostly.

                      The food itself is very good and I truly recommend the brussels sprouts!

                  2. Take her to Pylos for some killer Greek food in a fantastic environment...

                    1. Maybe try In Vino? It's small, rustic and cute with small italian plates and a nice wine list.

                      1. Boqueria on W 19 is fantastic. Kind of loud and crowded but they have great tapas and sangria.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: clembeauchamp

                          Thank you to all for the suggestions, decided on Alta, we'll be getting there around 7 so hopefully not too loud/crazy yet and I'll try to request a table upstairs. Will report back tomorrow

                          1. re: fishermb

                            Actually 1 more question. Should we decide to go for a drink first, can anyone recommend a place near Alta (W 10th between 5th/6th ave). I've got web on my phone so please any suggestions up through 7pm! Thanks

                            1. re: fishermb

                              village on w9th off 6th ave or french roast on 6th ave and either 11th or 12th st.

                              1. re: abenjamin

                                Well we didn't go for a pre-dinner drink, but we did go to Alta, and were both quite happy with our dinner. Arrived around 7:15pm, unfortunately all of the balcony tables had already been reserved for the evening despite the place being mostly empty when we arrived. By the time we were halfway through our meal, the place was packed. Seated promptly, very friendly service, great atmosphere - perhaps a bit too romantic for a first date - but overall great experience. Not rushed at all, even when the place was packed, we were probably there for close to 2 hours.

                                We each had a glass of white sangria which was very good, but not amazing. Started out with 3 dishes - brussel sprouts (amazing), Mussels (very tasty, though could've used some bread as the broth was great), and the crabmeat montadito (which were also great, reminded me of the lobster croutons from Lure).

                                We then went with 2 more dishes, the sardines which sounded amazing, but we both found them surprisingly lacking flavor. Last was the squid ink paella (if there is a dish with squid ink on the menu, I will order it). Nice mix of shrimp, clams, mussels, but the rice wasn't the most flavorful.

                                For desert we did the cornbread with blueberries and some sort of topping (I forget it was, something honey-flavor with a consistency somewhere between whipped cream and Greek yogurt). It was ok, but really nothing special.

                                With tax and tip, bill came out to $100, certainly more than I had planned on spending, but we had a great time and it was worth it.

                        2. After reading this post I was inspired to take my husband to Kuma Inn last night. This was our first time there and it definitely won't be the last.
                          We shared a total of 6 tapas and 2 desserts = $73
                          Standouts: chinese sausage, also the heftiest portion; spare rib special and grilled sardine special. Panna cotta and fried plantains with caramel sauce were both delicious, although the panna cotta was more like pudding.

                          Nothing Special: Fried pork tonktsu, basically just fried breaded cutlet, pretty dry. Drunken spicy shrimp, not alot of flavor other than the chilis; my husband really liked it though.

                          After dinner we went to Spitzer's Corner across the street for some drinks. Great draft beer selection, about 40 different beers. Big, open space but somehow cozy.