First date planning is an under-appreciated form of art. (So is other date planning, but we’ve already got you covered there.) Whether you met on Tinder, at a bar or through friends, the spot you select leaves an indelible impression—either positive or negative. Noise level, volume, weekly events and even cash-only policies are important considerations when it comes to picking a location. Here are a few tried-and-true places to earmark.
Lively: Zombie Hut or The Commodore If you don’t mind shouting over your fellow patrons, or getting close to your date at the bar, The Commodore is a solid choice. The spot—which is considerably divey—specializes in the kind of cocktails your grandparents drank. Think sloe gin fizzes, coolers and a festively garnished Planter’s Punch.
Zombie Hut is as appealing for its strong punches as it is for its backyard. The Zombie Bowl, which features a flaming center and straws loaded with Bacardi 151, is perfect for sharing (and lowering your inhibitions). Classic tiki cocktails are incredibly affordable for the quality, but if rum drinks aren’t exactly your vice, there’s sangria and a decent beer selection. The bar itself is pretty tame during the week—but that also depends on how many punch bowls you imbibe.
The Commodore: 366 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg Zombie Hut: 273 Smith Street, Cobble Hill
Quiet: Quarter Bar or Mission Dolores Quarter Bar in South Slope is a reliable spot year-round. Intimate and cozy, there’s ample bar and banquet seating. Come warmer months, the backyard is one of the most picturesque in Brooklyn, replete with wooden tables, creeping vines and a claw foot tub that functions as a planter. Wines are decent and affordable, as are the cocktails. Plus, you rarely have to raise your voice above speaking decibel.
Completely unassuming, Mission Dolores feels like a makeshift bar inside a garage—albeit one with an open-air courtyard. The impressive beer selection is offered without an ounce of pretension, and wines are poured generously into tumblers. Come for some casual drinks and board games, or make it a doggie play date: the bar is ultra pet-friendly.
Quarter Bar: 676 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, Park Slope Mission Dolores: 249 Fourth Avenue, Park Slope
Games: South or Dram Shop If you love a little competition, park yourself in South’s backyard for a few rounds of cornhole. There’s also Buck Hunter, if weather forbids you from playing al fresco. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, grab some popcorn and order up a grilled cheese sandwich—selections include the Ryan (with strawberry jam and Nutella) and the South Style (stuffed with kielbasa and jalapeños).
At first glance, Dram Shop appears to be a typical sports bar. But the selection of whiskeys and the eclectic menu quickly convinces you otherwise. The burger is a local favorite, as is the deep-fried mac and cheese. Fill up, then play a few rounds of pool. There’s also shuffleboard and a number of classic board games—perfect for sparking conversations of childhood nostalgia.
South: 629 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope Dram Shop: 339 Ninth Street, Park Slope
Last-Minute Dinner: Hunter’s or Piccoli Trattoria If a date seems promising enough to warrant dinner, Hunter’s in Cobble Hill is a reliable choice. The New American menu offers something for nearly every palate or dietary need, and the cocktails are always delightful. Plus, the hip yet relaxed spot strikes a balance between bustling and crowded. If you do encounter a wait, it’s the perfect excuse to start exploring the menu. The Katniss Everdeen (Apple Jack, St. Germain, White Lillet and Peychaud’s Bitters) is a popular choice, as is the Boba Fett (Brooklyn Republic vodka, pear nectar, Grand Marnier, lemon and lime).
Nestled on a quiet section of Sixth Avenue in Park Slope, Piccoli Trattoria is a little-known neighborhood gem. Cozy and intimate, the warm atmosphere makes it easy to while away over a bottle (or two) of wine. Fresh pastas like pappardelle with honey-braised short rib ragu and classic spaghetti with clams taste like Nonna used to make. Risottos are equally as decadent, and will certainly warrant a return trip, if not a second date.
Hunter’s: 213 Smith Street, Cobble Hill Piccoli Trattoria: 522 Sixth Avenue, Park Slope
Romantic: Black Mountain Wine House or Weather Up From the outside, Black Mountain Wine House looks like a quaint upstate cabin. Inside, the vibe is warm and homey, with a brick fireplace and dim lighting. Let the knowledgeable staff recommend a bottle of wine, then share a few small plates. Between the cozy mood and the pours, setting the scene for romance will be effortless.
If your date is a cocktail fiend, Weather Up in Prospect Heights is sure to impress. Libations are expertly crafted and served amid subway tiles and low lighting. Tuck away into a corner, or take your drinks to the backyard. Bonus: The enticing and frequently-changing cocktail menu is the perfect prompt for a second date.
Black Mountain Wine House: 415 Union Street, Park Slope Weather Up: 589 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights