'Williamsburg, Brooklyn' by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash
Feb 9, 2023
Date night in Brooklyn: How to Valentine’s Day in the borough
Perfect local dates for any day of the year — not just this Hallmark holiday — that won’t break the bank
Although some Brooklynites have made their Valentine’s Day dinner reservations months in advance, planned spa treatments, booked helicopter rides and taken out second mortgages to pay for it all, we are not those Brooklynites. And, we’re guessing, neither are you. Which is why we’re providing you with a list of bangin’ Brooklyn dates that can be enjoyed year round — not just on February 14.
There’s a little something for everyone in this roundup: active dates, boozy dates, delicious dates, affordable dates, competitive and artsy dates. Although we can’t find you a person to lavish your affections upon, we can recommend some excellent activities once you lock down a companion. If you need a last-minute gift, we’ve got you covered there, too.
A caveat before we begin: You will not find any overpriced Valentine’s Day menu “specials” here with limited options, no modifications and red desserts. With that in mind, it’s date night in Brooklyn! Now go get lucky.
Nothing says “I think I love you” like a screaming match over a random multiple choice question about state capitals. If you’re into frontal lobe foreplay, take advantage of some of the borough’s many trivia nights. Check out Uncle Barry’s in Park Slope. Its 100 percent original, pen and paper (no smartphone apps here) Wednesday night trivia is somewhat difficult and very competitive. Less grueling is Putnam Pub’s Tuesday night trivia in Clinton Hill. It’s structured with music to encourage chatting and Putnam’s has an excellent menu boasting cheeseburger spring rolls and bechamel topped nachos.
Perhaps boasting about your bowling prowess is more in your lane. In that case, take your date to Sunset Park to roll some games at Melody Lanes. This borough stalwart will transport you right back to middle school with neon lighting, toy vending machines, and the smell of onion rings wafting through the air. Enjoy those fried delights with a cold beer poured at their onsite tavern.
Also vintage-y, with more of a 70s rec-room feel, is The Gutter in Williamsburg. They’ve got eight vintage (read: kind of crooked) lanes, a full bar, pool table and “The Spare Room” for events like live music, comedy and Simpsons trivia just in case you have to wait for a lane (bowling is first come first served).
Perhaps you’re dating a lumberjack? Or someone who likes to throw sharp things at targets? Kick Axe Throwing is a scrappy and stress relieving option with 10 supervised lanes, a bar (however, drunk throwing is forbidden) and an instagrammable lounge area where plaid and cozy blankets abound. They’re axually big on wordplay here, if punnilingus is your thing.
Dates in motion
Spend the day in Brooklyn’s backyard with your beloved. Hike the many trails and discover the hidden nooks of Prospect Park. There are miles of gorgeous paths to discover, especially around the ravine, and the soon-to-be-renovated Vale of Cashmere is especially beautiful in the spring when the cherry blossom trees sprinkle petals on the pond’s surface. Pack a picnic lunch and pick a quiet spot to watch the wildlife or people. Prospect Park’s website has a map of trails and points of interest.
For the adventurous type, a waterfront bike ride up into North Brooklyn offers amazing views and countless opportunities for pit stops where you can enjoy food, libations and shopping. A great place to start is Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park and, using the designated bike path, wind along the waterfront past the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Vinegar Hill. Then cut over to Flushing Ave and ride through the Navy Yard until Kent Street where you’ll once again coast alongside the East River into Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Citi Bike offers state-of-the-art new electric bikes (No. 18 on New York Magazine’s list of Reasons to Love New York) if you’re worried that analog pedaling might kill the mood.
Green-Wood Cemetery is an excellent spot for long, peaceful walks on a getting-to-know-you afternoon. Spanning 478 acres, the cemetery provides bird-watchers, history buffs and nature lovers a respite from the bustle of the borough. Artist and musician Gelsy Bell created an excellent self-guided audio tour of some of Green-Wood’s lesser known and unique permanent residents, which we can strongly recommend, and Green-Wood offers a plethora of programming like trolly rides and candle-lit concerts by Death of Classical. You can check out a full calendar of events on their website.
For a day of shvitzing, detoxing, scrubbing and soaking, Midwood’s new World Spa has all of it and then some. There you’ll enjoy banyas, Moroccan hammams, Japanese onsens, and infrared therapy in gorgeous environs, plus lounges and bars serving small plates, salads and sushi. Day passes get you access to all of the above, and spa treatments like couples massages can be added on to your relaxing rendezvous.
Tucked away in the back garden of a Gowanus townhouse, cityWell is an oasis for those exhausted by the headaches of city life. Enjoy a relaxing session of hydrotherapy (steam/soak/sauna) luxurious rain showers, seasonal outdoor showers, or optional add-ons like massage or acupuncture. For those on a budget, cityWell offers “community hours” at reduced rates, but they must be booked online in advance.
The first natural wine bar in Brooklyn, Cobble Hill’s June not only offers unique, “low-intervention” or natural wines from around the globe, their dinner menu is an array of innovative, seasonal fresh plates that pair well with their vino. The atmosphere at June is pretty romantic as well, with rich jewel toned walls and low, golden lighting.
Is there anything more romantic than…gardening? Some would say that meandering through a well stocked garden center is the ultimate aphrodisiac and a plant as a gift is nothing short of erotic. They last longer than flowers (commitment) and they brighten up your home (thoughtful). The folks at Natty Garden have been serving Brooklyn with gorgeous greenery and impeccable vibes since 2008. Pay them a visit and get your boo a gift they’ll cherish for years. Pop by Ode to Babel for a cocktail around the corner to celebrate your new green companion.
Travel sans passport
Whether you get there by train, bus, foot or ferry, Red Hook is still slightly sleepy thanks to its remote-ish location. Once there, grab a lobster roll at the Red Hook Lobster Pound, partake in a whiskey tasting at Van Brunt Stillhouse, then get some sweet treats at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies. Stroll over to Valentino Pier to wave at Lady Liberty across the waves, then head to Sunny’s Bar for cold drinks, hot music and dockworker atmosphere.
The only place in Brooklyn to experience both a Russian nightclub and Vegas-style floorshow while savoring dinner and drinks, Tatiana is a one-of-a-kind date located on the glamorous Brighton Beach boardwalk. Expect glitzy entertainment, colorful lighting and vodka.
For an unforgettable and intimate dinner, Department of Culture wows guests with an informative night centered around a tasting menu from North-Central Nigeria. Chef Ayo Balogun (a 2023 James Beard semifinalist as of this writing) regails his guests with stories about his life in Nigeria and the special recipes he lovingly prepares. The music is fantastic as well. Bring your own booze to Department of Culture, though, and note that reservations must be made in advance.
Woo with music
A trip to Williamsburg’s St. Mazie is like a trip back in time. Dripping in 1920s era ambience and live hot jazz, St. Mazie is the perfect locale to imbibe craft cocktails and slurp oysters all while enjoying the company of your sidekick and the swinging tunes of their nightly performers.
If honky tonk is more your speed, drop in at Skinny Dennis for a hootin’, hollerin’, boot scootin’ time. You will dance, you will drink, you might even sing along. Don’t skip the house specialty: a boozy frozen coffee served in an old-school paper coffee cup.
For an eclectic or global sound enjoyed in a cozy, dark bar, plan a date at Barbès. This Park Slope haunt has hosted a plethora of musicians from every genre, with a focus on the rare, curious and international. Don’t be surprised if on a particularly energetic night, you and your guest kick end up sweating it out on a packed and tiny dancefloor, feet from the band.
Kids at heart
Want to impress with your Q*Bert skills? Barcade is the perfect location for video game and pinball lovers. The original Union Avenue location offers over 50 machines sure to get your fingers twitching and hearts racing. They also have several craft beers on tap including 10 Barcade exclusive brews, a full bar and packaged snacks. If you’ve worked up an appetite that won’t be satisfied with pretzels, amble over to H&H Reserve for Chicago-style hot dogs and pizza puffs (fancy Hot Pockets) made by the Cassanovas at Dog Day Afternoon who know that the way to someone’s heart is through their tummy.
If your inner child enjoys playing with fire and scream-singing Madonna, Insa is the perfect date spot for you. Start the evening with a seemingly endless parade of Korean banchan plus meat and veggies to cook on the in-table grill, then head into a karaoke room in the back, order some cocktails, and croon your hearts out to each other.
High brow/low brow
Okay hear us out: Bubbles and beef in a dining room that looks like it hasn’t been redone since the Carter Administration (because it hasn’t). Roll N Roaster might be one of the most romantically silly dates in Brooklyn. Whether you like your roast beef sammy with cheese or jus or both, one thing is essential: champagne. Yes, there is a $60 bottle of Moet on the menu and yes, it is 100 percent worth it.
Feel like a bang-bang? Head over to similarly old-school Randazzo’s up the block for some fried clams if you want seafood to get you in the mood.
Did you know there’s still an affordable place to see a movie these days? And who doesn’t love a good old movie date? Alpine Cinema in Bay Ridge offers $7 tickets before 4pm, and $10 tickets after 4. If you go on a Wednesday you can snag $6 tickets all day.
Curious and cultured
If you don’t have a membership to the Brooklyn Museum, you need to remedy that. Worth the annual fee and then some, the museum is an ideal place to bring a date year-round. If you can’t get into a particularly popular exhibit, ramble around the vast permanent collection. And when you leave, inevitably hungry after all of that walking, head to Cheryl’s Global Soul for comforting, mouth-watering soul food in a lively atmosphere.
Always a fun place to poke around, the City Reliquary is an ever growing collection of New York City artifacts and collectables. They also host a variety of excellent special events which can be found on their website. After engaging in some historical discourse, walk to M. Shanghai for our favorite soup dumplings (they call them “Juicy Pork Buns”) and several other Chinese delights.
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