Looking for romance and flattering lighting (and clam dip)?
Go west, young lovers. There's a cluster of restaurants and bars on Hudson Street in the West Village that gets our vote for a most walkable and delicious date night.
Break the ice over cocktails at hush-hush Hudson Clearwater (the entrance is actually on Morton Street): Snag a table in the hidden brick-walled, vine-covered back patio or squeeze in at the cozy corner marble bar. Order a Duchess ($13), a gin drink laced with Earl Grey tea. If the conversation drags, the caffeine will help.
Dinner's across the way at The Clam. The restaurant's soft lighting, reflected off a gorgeous arched tiled ceiling, makes you look better than any profile pic ever could. Twirl strands of linguine studded with tomato sauce and clams ($21) Lady and the Tramp-style, if you must, or keep it casual by dunking house-made potato chips into creamy clam dip ($9).
After-dinner drinks at Piora a few doors down should seal the deal. Barman Shinya Yamao is a genius; try his infused digestifs, like Calvados laced with Honey Crisp apples ($12). Want to sound like a connoisseur/regular? Order the off-the-menu cognac infused with raisins ($18).
In case the liquid courage still hasn't kicked in, stumble a few blocks up the street to the no-frills White Horse Tavern. A beer and a shot in this classic dive should do the trick.
Depending on how the date went, you'll either want to hop in a taxi together to the West Side Highway or jump in the Hudson and swim toward Jersey--but either way at least the food and drinks will have been a success.