He wants to meet for coffee or tea...
a first get-together...but I don't drink either.
Am very happy with a Diet Coke (no alcohol for this diabetic).
ISO a very casual (jeans), quiet place to sit and talk and maybe have a quick nosh.
I love ethnic cuisines.
Location = has to be in NYC, no outer boros, please.
Convenient to public transportation is a big plus.
Yep. That was my first thought -- 71 Irving seems to be a popular date spot. (For me it's a frequent reading spot, and the inadvertant eavesdropping is an added bonus).
Mud, on 9th just east of 2nd ave would work as well. There are a bunch of nice tables in the back. They also serve food.
That would probably be my suggestion too. The only downside is it gets pretty crowded in there when you least expect it, so you're not assured to get a table, and if you do, there's not a lot of privacy.
'Whichcraft on 20th has an upstairs seating area that's pretty mellow after the lunch rush and they even have a coffee happy hour 1/2 off in the later hours of the day.
Hummus Place or Sympathy for the Kettle on St Marks could be nice.
Mud, Teany, or Cake Shop can feel more date like, but the snacks depend on your tastes.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine for cupcakes.
Sympathy for the Kettle is great although hard to get a seat at peak times. I didn't see anyone mention Cha an Tea House on E 9th St between 2nd & 3rd, great Japanese interior, with very good service, lots of food options, from full meals to snacks, and some pretty great desserts. I think it's a great date place.
Pangea (2nd Ave btwn 11 and 12 st) is like a big living room. The food is nothing spectacular but it's comfy and pleasant and you won't feel rushed. You can just go for a coffee or drink if you don't want to eat.
You might like St. Alp Teahouse in the E. Village. It's a wonderfully low-key place to linger (very sweet staff, never mean glares for camping out and studying or chatting for hours). The tea selection is far better than average and there's a good selection of small, dim sum-ish plates. It's very inexpensive. Not overtly romantic.
In the W. Village, you might like the charming and romantic La Lanterna. They have all the standard coffees and teas, wine if your date wants a glass, decent brick oven baked pizzas, cheese and salumi plates, and other Italian offerings. There's a fireplace.
Saint's Alp Teahouse
39 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003
129 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012