Known for its artsy vibe, diverse population and unique music scene, the East Village is filled with history — and some ideal date spots. From speakeasies to seafood, check out our five favorite spaces for romance. By Sarah Shaker.
Chef Sara Jenkins makes magic with pork at her standing-room-only shop Porchetta on E. 7th. Just a few avenues away, foodie fans have fallen in love with her homemade pastas at Porsena, a date friendly trattoria. A lunch counter by day and dimly lit wine bar by night, Porsena Extra Bar, opened this fall next door. With a wide selection of Mediterranean wines and specials rotating daily, you can share delicious small plates, while you leisurely sip at this perfect East Village date spot. If you’re hungry for a full dinner, Porsena’s main menu is also available at the bar, including their sinful Cannelloni Al Forno, individually baked in terra cotta, stuffed with short ribs covered in a luscious bechamel.
Kick the romance up a notch with oysters, a natural aphrodisiac. Desnuda offers complimentary truffle popcorn to share with your date, while enjoying wine by the glass or bottle and heavenly bites of fresh seafood on the menu. For a date on a budget, this cozy East Village wine bar and cevicheria offers $1 oysters on Sunday, 2 p.m. to close and Monday, 6 p.m. to close. Desnuda is under the same management as Bourgeois Pig across the street, Death + Co, Cienfuegos and Mayahuel – all East Village date night destinations to add to your romantic to-do list.
Impress your date at this not-so-secret speakeasy. Tucked inside a Japanese restaurant, Angel’s Share has become a popular sought after date spot in the East Village. There’s no standing room allowed at this mixology haven and large groups aren’t allowed. Only parties of four or fewer will be seated — and that’s after you find your way in. Once you’re there, you — and your date — will appreciate the exclusive attitude and never-crowded booths, where you can bond over seriously strong and well-crafted cocktails.
Date nights don’t have to be expensive to be impressive. Enjoy an affordable – and delicious – homemade Italian meal at Bianca. This dimly lit cash-only restaurant off Bowery is perfect for those who want romance on a budget. Start with their popular Gnocco Fritto (fried puffy dough with imported cold cuts or Stracchino cheese) then indulge in hearty pastas, fresh seafood and desserts with all plates priced at $15 or less. Imbibe in wines by the glass or bottle, also inexpensively priced. Reservations are not available, so arrive early to put your name in and enjoy a cocktail next door at Von while you wait.
Get close to your date by candlelight with wines by the glass or bottle chosen from Grape and Grain owner Mark McNulty’s rotating list. This neighborhood gem is not only a favorite for their wine selection, but for their delicious appetizer offerings like Braised Short Ribs with polenta and shiitake mushrooms and Tuna Carpaccio with a jalapeño-infused citrus vinaigrette. And don’t miss their gourmet pizza, such as Proscuitto, Salami, and Sopressatta. If your date’s a beer fan, pop in next door to Against the Grain, McNulty’s smaller tavern stocked with about 50 craft beers.
Sarah Shaker is the founder of the blog Bright Lights, My City.