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First Date near St. Mark's Place?

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I'm looking for a little help choosing a restaurant for a first date that will impress without breaking the bank. I'm willing to spend about $100 for the two of us, but not too much more than that unless it's really stellar. My guidelines are these:

- She's lactose intolerant and doesn't eat red meat. I don't have any dietary restrictions.
- She loves Cafe Mogador on St. Mark's, but I don't know anything about Moroccan food, and want to seem a little intelligent about things.
- Ambiance is very important to me. Somewhere that feels cozy and neighborhood-y where I can wear nice jeans and a button down. Stark and minimalist and words that I'm looking to avoid.
- She lives just east of Union Square near St. Mark's and I'm an Upper West Sider. Looking to find somewhere not too far for her.
- We decided Japanese is a safe possibility, someplace with both great sushi as well as cooked options from the kitchen. We're not limited to Japanese, though.

With all of this in mind, I've done a lot of research, and Le Miu seems like a good options, although the reviews on this and other boards are very mixed. I'm also considering Jane in the West Village. Seems like a good vibe with good food.

Opinions on these options would be helpful, but I'm also really looking for new suggestions. It's for Friday night, so somewhere that it's possible to get a reservation for is good too...

My infinite thanks.

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  1. It's not Japanese, but Paprika on St. Marks is Northern Italian so your date should be able to find something. www.paprikanyc.com It's a cozy, neighborhood type place. And St. Dymphna's a few doors down is a great low key bar to get a drink at after.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MegRhi

      I would call Paprika ahead of time and ask about the lactose intolerance, IIRC their menu is pretty small. It is very cozy and well under your budget (in fact it's practically cheap eats in comparison if you are willing to spend $50pp).

    2. I haven't been to Jules in a while, but it is worth considering. Very neighbood-y.
      http://www.julesbistro.com/index.html

      I'm a big fan of Le Miu, and it's a friendly place, but I wouldn't describe it as cozy. It's kind of sleek. And you might have a tough time staying under $100 there, tough but not impossible.

      I also like La Palapa, which isn't as cheese-centric as many NY Mexican restaurants.
      http://lapalapa.com/eastvillage.html

      3 Replies
      1. re: small h

        The food at Jules is not that great. They also have live jazz a lot, so if you are wanting to talk to your date, that might pose a problem.

        I like Le Miu a lot but it's definitely more modern, sleek, and hip.

        1. re: kathryn

          Jules is expensive for a first date, too.

          Charlie, for a first date, I'd start at a place like a teahouse, such as Saint's Alp on 3rd Av. between 9th and 10th, and see whether there's attraction between the two of you. You can always decide to take her to dinner afterwards if there's major attraction - or save that for the second or another later date.

          That said, if you have made it clear you're taking her to dinner, keep it fairly inexpensive and take her to a place that's quiet enough to make conversation easy. I would have recommended Mogador, in fact, but since you know Japanese food better, one option for you would be Soba Koh. It's a quiet, civilized place, a small, intimate restaurant but not dark, and they play beautiful modern jazz on their sound system. The food is very good there. Look at their menu and see what you think:

          http://menupages.com/restaurantdetail...

          Don't misunderstand me, though: I'm not dissing Le Miu, haven't been there, and haven't really cultivated a taste for sushi and sashimi that much. But I do like Soba Koh.

          1. re: kathryn

            i agree with small_h's suggestion for La Palapa - it was the first place that came to mind when i saw the title of the thread.

        2. for japanese - if sushi - kanoyama. if not sushi- soba-ya on 9th str, very close to st marks.

          4 Replies
          1. re: thew

            Kanoyama is super-crowded and cramped, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. They don't take reservations on those nights, either, so you'd be waiting for a table 1-1,5 hours with your date. For something more romantic and spacious, I would go elsewhere.

            Have you looked into Kyo Ya, Hearth, Lan (on 3rd Avenue) or maybe Prune or Belcourt (dependent on current menu). Other CH posters have recommended places like Supper, Perbacco, Lavagna, Lucien in the past, I haven't been.

            See also:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/486754
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/486754

            1. re: kathryn

              Agree with kathryn's suggestions. Kyo Ya is great and cozy and romantic and will be my first choice. Kanoyama has fantastic food (but sushi or cooked) but is really crowded so if you are looking for initimate setting then it's probably not your best choice. If you are willing to go early (like 6pm) then it will actually work fine as it is usually not crowded at all at that time.
              Otherwise, LAN and Le Miu are good options. The former has better food but again, can be crowded and noisy at peak time. Try to ask for table inside and avoid any tables close to the bar. Le Miu is less crowded and the food is decent.

              For non-Japanese food, I am surprised Degustation wasn't mentioned. I love it for two-people dining and the atmosphere is perfect for a date. The food is inventive and delicious, and they have 5-course tasting for $50. Wine is cheap and with tax and tip it will only be a little over your budget. Of course you can also choose a la carte to keep within your budget.

              Just a note that you can go over budget at all these places without carefully selecting the food items.

              1. re: kobetobiko

                Would jeans and a buttondown or sweater be appropriate at Kyo Ya?

                1. re: charlieb123

                  Yes, people are definitely dressed casually. Not sloppily, but casually.

          2. Virage on E. 7th is supposed to be good. It's French/Middle Eastern. My friend loves it and I'm going there tonight for NYE so I can let you know how the food is if you are interested. It's supposed to be a cute place. Also The Smith on 3rd might be a good place to try.

            3 Replies
            1. re: eameyer

              Virage on 7th and 2nd is mediocre. Cute atmosphere but there are better French bistros in the city.

              The Smith is also good but I think it better during the day than at night. It's a bit loud/crowded at night, probably due to all the tile.

              1. re: kathryn

                "Virage on 7th and 2nd is mediocre."

                Concur. The taste to me was really nothing. Granted, it's been a while, but I did give the place a few chances.

              2. re: eameyer

                After checking out this place online, it seems sort of ideal. I'd love it if you'd let me know how you find it tonight. Thanks!

              3. Pylos on E. 7th. Food and ambiance are both excellent.

                2 Replies
                1. re: boccalupo

                  I love Pylos but last minute reservations for two are pretty much impossible. I've tried several times to no luck.

                  1. re: boccalupo

                    With the caveat that Kefi is better and that Pylos, I agree. But as kathryn said below, weekend dinner is a zoo there. I'd recommend avoiding Pylos on weekends.

                  2. -- Cacio e Vino, a Sicilian place on 2nd Ave near 4th St, might work...if she likes Mogador, she might enjoy Sicilian food as well...

                    -- i wouldn't rec Soba-ya unless you want something very casual -- it could be fun, but definitely not an impressive nor cozy place as it's bright and cheap...and when i had lunch there recently, i thought the soba had gone downhill...

                    1. By the way, do not consider Jane for dinner. I had an excellent brunch their, but their dinner was anonymous, generic French-influenced cuisine that just had a lot of butter, not much taste, and was fine but boring yet overpriced.

                      1. Jane is unremarkable - don't bother.

                        A favorite of mine is Cafe Asean in the West Village. Cozy and romantic but not excessively so. Great southeast Asian food. Another good option near there is Alta. Creative tapas in a beautiful former meeting house. I like sitting at the bar for dates.

                        1. I love going to St marks place to eat! If you're looking for a good sushi place, i like going to May's Place (formerly known as Sushi Park) on 7th and 2nd. They have great sushi for half price (its some kind of special deal they have), lots of hot food options, and its a nice, friendly atmosphere. Another place i frequent is Oh Taisho! (the name includes the exclamation) on 8th and 3rd. Though its not a sushi place (they specialize in yakitori which is japanese skewers), its GREAT for a first date. The only problems: it is quite literally a hole in the wall, and seating can get cramped and a little loud even on quiet days.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: itsbeckyyxp

                            Oh! Taisho is loud, crowded, warm, and occasionally smoky. Not exactly a romantic place, I'd say. And the yakitori is better (better ingredients, more careful cooking, more attention to detail) at the Totto/Torys/etc. mini-chain.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              Not to be critical but Taisho is the last place I will consider for a first date. It is much better for groups or people looking for cheap food and drinks and not to mindful about the food. The only way to talk to each other is to really be louder than your next table, and that's not really how I will like my first date to go.