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First date (technically, 1.5, I guess) recommendations please! Great food + beer options!

Almost all the first date posts that I read suggested that it should be simple and quick with an opportunity for exit. Technically, this isn't the first time that we're hanging out. We met with a group of friends a few days ago, hung out for a couple of hours and I guess were intrigued enough to set up a formal 1st date :) Since, these friends know that I like food and told that to the person that I'm going out with, she asked me to pick a place for dinner.

Since, it is the first time that we'll be by ourselves, I don't want something that is too dark and cozy and romantic. Purely, from a food perspective, I'd go for the The Modern - Bar Room but a) It is loud and b) I know that she likes beer so I wanted to at least have that as an option before/after dinner. All the places that I know of are pretty far from the Bar Room. Rabbit Club, Jimmy's 43, Burp Castle, d.b.a, Rattle N Hum, etc.

If not the Bar Room, I thought of Hearth and even though, it is pretty good, it's not in the same league as Modern. Any suggestions on some other places, esp. taking into consideration the beer thing? Some places that came to mind were Sakagura (not sure how date friendly is this place) and Degustation (too cramped for a first date).

Logistical information: Age - 30, $100 pp ( incl. tip and tax), open to eating anything. We'll meet near Madison Square Park and anything that is a 15 min cab ride away is fair game.

Thanks a lot everyone!!

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  1. My advice, for whatever it's worth: Since you don't habitually spend $100/person for dinner, for God's sake, don't do it on a 1st date! My first date with my current girlfriend - my longest relationship (we met in 2008) was over a couple of takeout banh mi from Banh Mi Saigon and some soy milk, consumed on a bench in Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, then a walk to Laboratorio di Gelato.

    And our second date was at Saint's Alp. And she offered to pay half! (I didn't accept, but did appreciate it, and continue to appreciate it, and I do accept sometimes, which I consider important in a relationship. I know that she appreciates the time I spend with her.)

    Definitely keep it simple! Take her to your favorite cheap Chinese place, for example, like Shanghai Cafe (maybe not Noodletown, with its uber-disgusting bathrooms). If you want something a bit less cheap and somewhat more formal, you can get an excellent, civilized dinner at Soba Koh for about $30/person and listen to sweet modern jazz on their sound system. I still think that's too expensive for a 1st date, but if you spend $100/person, what the heck are you going to do for an encore, and if you get into a relationship, where are you going to take her for her birthday? Per Se, maybe? Masa?

    Good luck on your date, but please curb your enthusiasm a little. It'll be better that way, in the long run.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pan

      + 1.

      Good quality pizza and beer, or a gastropub (maybe a place like The Breslin, but less hyped up and less busy- if a place like that exists), also might appeal to a girl who likes beer.

      1. re: Pan

        Where did he say he didn't habitually spend that much on meals? I missed that...

        $100/pp including tax/tip is a pretty solid starting point, you can do quite a bit for that.

        Vandaag has solid and slightly adventurous food, good for foodies and non-foodies alike, their beer list is spectacular (among the best curated in the city, interesting selection of Belgian and Scandinavian brews) and it's a short walk to d.b.a. or Burp Castle if you want to drink more after dinner.

        Also in the East Village, Momofuku Ssam Bar could work - you can spend a little time getting to know each other while waiting for seats (if there's a wait) and while the ambience isn't romantic, the food is certainly lusty and inspiring. The eats are top-notch and the setting is much hipper than their near-neighbor, Hearth.

        Marc Forgione also has food you could describe as "lusty" - and the ambience, while cozy, is more "neighborhood joint" than overtly romantic. I think the last time my GF and I went the bill came to $250 - but that was with a bottle of decent wine (you'll probably be drinking beer) and an extra app.

        Public - adventurous, fun, hip. There's really nothing not to like about Public. And really decently priced for what they serve - it amazes me that their entrees top out at $30 rather than start at $30, given the quality. (Note to Chef Farmerie and the Public team, if any of you read these forums: no, that's not a suggestion you raise prices...)

        Finally, since you'd be starting at MSP, maybe something in Eataly? The Birreria takes reservations, you can check availability here: http://eatalyny.com/eat/birreria - maybe start there with bar bites and brews, and move on to one of the restos downstairs if you want more chow?


        Side note to Pan: funny, first date for my GF & I (also my longest relationship) was pho and spring rolls at Pho Grand in '07 - and she paid! So maybe there's something to be said for cheap Vietnamese eats...

        (Of course, I think our second date was WD-50, and I wound up with the bill on that one...)

          1. re: kathryn

            Bummer. They really had something going in the early days, but after the break-up with Chef Kirschen-Clark, they had some rocky times. It's tough to win customers back once they've moved on, without bringing in a "name" chef to garner some interest. All hindsight now. Too bad, as they seemed to be getting their groove back.

            Well, the "New Nordic" trend has it's first casualty...

      2. How about DBGB? It's a pretty meat-centric meal, which could potentially be a deal breaker depending on your preferences, but the beer list is substantial, and the location serves as a good launching pad for after-dinner drinks.

          1. Haha.. Maybe the coffee dates are for the lucky souls who do this 5 times a week :) Just kidding, you're trying to figure each other out, can be done over a cup of coffee (though I agree with Prima, please let it be a Stumptown and not Star"f*&king"bucks") or if you're lucky, at a Per Se!

            As I had mentioned, one of the reasons that I was thinking about The Modern was because when we met for the first time, we ended up talking about food and foodies and foodgasms which is why she asked me to pick a place that I like. I understand that if you start out with something like this and end up going out again, eventually, you'll downgrade but really, if you find each other remotely interesting, that shouldn't be a problem.

            Having said that, I'm still open to recommendations for better options. I did think of DGBG but I've read too many mixed reviews about this place. Breslin is also something that came to mind but that place is crazy and does not accept reservations so that's not an option.

            Thanks for your help!

            15 Replies
            1. re: rahulsingh

              I'm glad she asked you to choose the place, and you're putting this much thought into the choice. ;-)

              How about a place like Recette?

              1. re: prima

                Recette looks interesting, though a few reviews seem to suggest that the place is very cramped. Also, purely from a price perspective, it doesn't seem to be cheaper than The Bar room. Any particular reason you feel that this is a better option?

                1. re: rahulsingh

                  I would also vote for Recette. The food (IMO) is better than at any of the other places named; the venue, while small, is not cramped for 2 people, and the location in the west village is quite charming. Also, a good neighborhood for a post-dinner romantic walk if things go well.

                  1. re: strangemd

                    I don't find it cramped. It honestly is cozy. Food is excellent as are the cocktails.

                    1. re: Peter Cuce

                      Third Recette. It is lovely—very cozy for two, excellent food without being over the top, and there's nothing more charming than the West Village on a late spring night.

                      1. re: loratliff

                        Wow! I can't believe I hadn't heard of Recette until today! There sure seem to be a lot of fans here :) So, let's say a glass of wine each and dinner. How much am I looking at?

                        1. re: rahulsingh


                          PS I had a first date there about 2 months ago. We snagged the two top way in the corner and it was awesome.

                          1. re: thegforceny

                            Please pardon my ignorance but what is a "two top way"?

                            1. re: thegforceny

                              Two-top is a table for two people
                              4-top = table for 4 people

                              "way' can be seen as a modifier roughly akin to 'very'

                              Thus, a table for two people located in the far corner of the restaurant

                              1. re: thegforceny

                                Ah! Thank you. This is probably going to be hard and I've never actually done this but do restaurants ever entertain requests for a particular table (if it's available that is)? I can request them for a table in the 'far corner' if it makes any sense.

                                1. re: rahulsingh


                                  If you want to sound cool, ask for "the deuce way over in the corner!"

                                  1. re: rahulsingh

                                    Yep, certainly. Not a strange request at all.

                                    Last time at Recette, we each did the $100 tasting and a few cocktails, and I think it was a little over $300 after tax and tip. Very reasonable for what all we got and even moreso if you just order a la carte.

                      2. re: rahulsingh

                        I found Recette to be incredibly cramped because of the table they gave us. They had to pull the table out all the way for both of us to get in. Once we were seated, and the table was pushed back in, my husband could not move his chair a single inch in either direction. We were then forced to eavesdrop on the couple next to us.

                        It's the 2 top in the center of this photo, backed against the wall, in that awkward corner:

                        This photo is actually old -- the tables against the window are now banquette seating, as are the three tables against the wall on the left.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Ha! strangely, every time we've been to Recette as a deuce, we've had that exact table. We started jokingly calling it "our table" - but yeah, it is a little cramped, and the other deuces are right on top of each other, so that's the only one that's good for a date, really. I'm 6'3", though, so other's mileage at the corner table may vary...

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Wow, that does look like an awkwardly placed table! Let's just hope that if I end up at Recette, I don't get that!

                    2. How about Resto if she likes Belgian beers. It is not dark and romantic and is within walking distance of Madison Sq Park. You can walk to Rattle N Hum or Cask afterwards.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: MVNYC

                        +1 for Resto - great beer and fun vibe.

                        1. re: MVNYC

                          I think the food at Resto isn't special enough for a person who's expecting a great food experience. It's pretty inconsistent.

                        2. If you're meeting at Madison Square Park and will go as far as a 15 min taxi ride, then why have you nixed Jimmy's No.43? It's at worst an 8 min drive. Or take the N/R.

                          For your purposes, I think that Jimmy's No.43 is perfect, and as you're aware, Burp Castle is next to it if you want to change scenery after dinner. And you could even take her to Big Gay Ice Cream after.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: von_levi

                            Jimmy's is another place that I had in mind. It obviously has stellar beers but I wasn't too sure of the food there. I've only tried the oysters there which were good but the menu in general looks very....safe. With the expectation that I'll find something interesting (not necessarily expensive), I thought this might be a tad too boring.

                            1. re: rahulsingh

                              The food isn't anything special, but I can't think of many other places that have as good of a beer menu with any food beyond bar food. If you're looking to impress a serious beer drinker, you will.

                              Someone else mentioned DBGB -- they have a pretty good beer menu and obviously more robust dinner menu.

                          2. Thanks everyone. So, the location of Recette definitely seems better than Bar Room and the food seems nice too so it moves to the top of my list :)
                            @sgordon: Thanks for your tips. Recently, i read some negative reviews of Vandaag (though I agree that the beer looks good). You still think it's good? Public is a good suggestion. I've been there once for a private event and Farmerie's blood popsicles were awesome although that probably would be the end of the date ;) Ssam for some reason doesn't feel like a date place to me and Forgione - could you please let me know why would this be a better choice than Bar Room or Recette (if you're familiar with those)? Thanks!

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: rahulsingh

                              Recette is actually a great suggestion. Surprised it slipped my mind. As to them vs. MF - depends what you want your meal to be like. Recette will be small plates, MF more a regular three-course. Both would add up about the same.

                              I wouldn't do The Modern - or anything in Midtown - for a first date. Nothing to do after dinner. Go anywhere you can wander, barhop, get to know each other, the streets are lively. Midtown's a snooze.

                              1. re: sgordon

                                That's another good point. At least if you go to Recette, Public, Jimmy's, you're in a fun neighborhood afterward, whether it be for drinking or strolling. If you're walking around near the Modern after dinner, you'll just get stuck in the line of tourists waiting at the halal cart.

                                1. re: loratliff

                                  Haha, don't insult the halal cart! It's amazing drunk food at 4:00 AM :)
                                  Any beer places that are recommended in the neighborhood? I could just go to Rabbit Club which is less than a mile away but just wanted to check if there was something closer to Recette?

                                  1. re: rahulsingh

                                    You're only a couple of blocks away from Blind Tiger Ale House (281 Bleecker St), a fantastic beer pub with over 40 microbrews on draft.

                                    1. re: strangemd

                                      Blind Tiger is awesome but I'm just a little wary about the crowd there. The few times that I've been there, it's been crazy crowded.

                                      1. re: rahulsingh

                                        The Otheroom is not too far away. It's not necessarily a beer nerd destination, but it has a decent selection and is a great place to seal the deal if the date is going well.

                                        1. re: rahulsingh

                                          the standard biergarten is right there...not so date-y but you can definitely get a beer there

                                          1. re: ashea9167

                                            Standard Biergarden is definitely the opposite of date-y. I would describe it as more "bro"-y if you will. However, I find you need to shout to hear the person you're sitting next to.

                                            Maybe Landbrot might work.

                                      2. re: rahulsingh

                                        The East Village is better for beer, absolutely - probably the best neighborhood in the city, what with Jimmy's, d.b.a, Burp Castle... I'm not a fan of DBGB, I find them seriously overpriced, even if the selection is excellent. I did a little study when they first opened, using beermenus.com - every single beer on their list that was also available elsewhere, they had the highest price in the city. I don't know if that's changed.

                                        I've also been underwhelmed by DBGB's bar eats - the burgers, sausages, etc - and found them very expensive for what they were. I did like the restaurant proper in back, though. Good hearty French country fare, and oddly - given that everything in the front room was overpriced - very reasonable on the wallet for what they were serving.

                                        Near Recette is 675 Bar, which has a few decent selections in the suds, and has a fun ambience. Neat room, too, in a basement with lots of little nooks and crannies. Mostly they're good for cocktails, though.


                                        Regarding Vandaag: they've had some hiccups for sure, They were fantastic under the original chef, took a bit of a dip under his replacement, and then a new guy took over who - after taking a bit of time to find his groove - has been doing pretty well. It's not quite as exciting as their early days, when the food rivalled (and was often better than) Aquavit at practically half the price. No one expected the new guy to be particularly interesting, given his resume - touristy crap like Sweetiepie - and the rumors that the owners wanted to "dumb down" the menu, but he's been delivering, and solidly for their price point. He's more creative than I'd expected, and shows an affinity for Scandinavian flavors.

                                        But bringing up Vandaag makes me think of - and how could I have overlooked it? - Acme. Spectacular food, decent price point, and easy walk to all the great East Village beer bars. Probably didn't think of it initially because it's so hard to get a rezzie, just puts it out of mind - but depending which night you're going, say if it's a weeknight, you might get lucky. And you'll look oh so cool and cosmopolitan for getting a rez at the current "it" resto. At least until the next "it" resto comes along (which, oddly, is probably going to be Demi-Monde, the new place from Phillip Kirschen Clark... the original chef at Vandaag. Already booked solid for the next two months...)

                                2. When I read about Acme a few months ago, one of the things that people complained about was the disorganization and confusion. Maybe they've sorted all that out by now....
                                  Does the food at Acme trump Recette? It probably does I would guess.....

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: rahulsingh

                                    They're of similar quality, I'd say - just different. There are standout dishes at both - the uni with sea beans and harissa foam I could eat a bucket of at Recette, as I could the "Barley & Clams" at Acme. Acme is heartier, more seasonally focused, a bit more rustic (but no less refined) - Recette a little more playful. They're both great restaurants. I'd say - for your needs - Acme, if only because of the location. But Recette as second choice, as there's a good chance Acme will be booked, anyway.

                                    There were service hiccups at Acme at first, but they were very conscious of them and very nice about them. They've gotten better. The only thing I'd say is, if you're to go to Acme, they have have one "odd" table kind of like Recette's corner one. In Acme's case, it's a two-top that overlaps the dining room and bar area. Kind of weird placement - you wind up with a lot of foot traffic constantly on either side of you, and behind you for whichever one of you has their back to the bar area. Ask if you can have any table BUT that one. They might have gotten rid of it, though - I'm not the only person who's complained about it, I know. I think they just rushed to put as many tables as they could in the space at first...

                                    What night is your date? Weeknight vs. weekend could make a big difference... On a weeknight, you could -probably- do a walk-in at Acme if you're cool with dining at the bar (I'm a big fan of bar dining, personally...)

                                      1. re: rahulsingh

                                        Rezzies shouldn't be too hard then. But as with anything, book sooner rather than later - you can always cancel if you change your mind. Is it soon? This week / next? Acme might only have reserved seats for early / late - like, 6:30 or 10:00. Hard to say.

                                        1. re: sgordon

                                          Yup, seating at Acme is available for 10:00. Too late for me.

                                  2. How about birreria, the beer restaurant on the roof of Eataly? First of all, Eataly is a foodie paradise, second of all I've been to Birreria and it has awesome views and delicious food. It's a great date spot and especially so for a girl who likes beer!


                                    2 Replies
                                    1. I almost feel "invested" in the date since I've been reading this thread with interest the last week... how did it go???

                                      2 Replies
                                        1. re: rahulsingh

                                          Maybe you can post a review of the restaurant, and your date can post a review of the date.

                                      1. Thanks guys! Ended up getting a beer at Rabbit Club, followed by dinner at Recette. Rabbit's probably my favorite beer bar in Manhattan (when it's not crazy crowded) and I think my date enjoyed the speak-easiness of the place so it went well. Recette was very good, mind blowing, maybe not but definitely a place that I'd go back to. They did not have the Foie on the menu so I just asked our server as to why did they do away with the dish. Her response, "I'm so sorry, it completely slipped my mind, we do have the Foie, it's just not on the menu" :) So, we got that, the hamachi, the fritters, duck, scallops and smores. As I said, everything was very good. The check was around $200 (with tax, without tip) which is very reasonable IMO considering we had about 5 glasses of wine between us. Thank you once again!
                                        Oh! and, I ended up on the same weirdly placed table in the corner, as a few other people who commented on this post did. Seems like it's reserved for Chowhound fans!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: rahulsingh

                                          I only lurked on this thread - was very pleased with the suggestions - but I probably speak for everyone when I say I'm glad to hear it went well. Hopefully you'll be soliciting us for third date suggestions very soon. :)

                                          1. re: EBT

                                            I still want to hear what SHE thought of all this.

                                            1. re: Sneakeater

                                              And, will there be a 2.5 date to plan?