Dining

Date Night: Chelsea

Dining and drinks advice for every date

Love is hard enough—so no matter how noncommittal or committed you are, you should have a game plan for your next big date.

Look no further than ever-evolving Chelsea, which is packed with places for every stage of courtship, whether you've just swiped right and have a drinks date lined up or you're ready to meet the 'rents.

First Date

"Never. Do. Dinner. On. The. First. Date." Such is the emphatic advice delivered by a wise older divorced man we know—and we tend to agree. Long dinners can feel like endless job interviews. But keeping it loose doesn't mean you have to be cheap: Get to know each other over fancy cocktails at speakeasy-esque Bathtub Gin. Enter through a door marked with a red light at the back of the Stone Street Coffee Company shop, slip into a tufted leather booth and order a classic Vesper or Negroni Bianco ($15). First impressions count, so don't have so many you pass out in the copper bathtub.

Day Date

So the thought of spending a few hours with this person—in broad daylight, no less—doesn't freak you out. Congratulations! Swing by the new Manhattan location of fancy food and cheese shop, Stinky Bklyn, and pack a picnic for the Highline: a few nubs of runny Tome d'Aquitaine washed-rind goat cheese ($7.50 per quarter pound) or a block of Plymouth aged cheddar ($11); a package of La Quercia's speck Americano ($11); a baguette from Sullivan Street Bakery ($3.75); some fresh raspberries ($6 per pint). Grab a bottle next door at Back Label Wine Merchants (also owned by Stinky Bklyn) or keep things casual with a few cans of Stillwater Brewery's Classique farmhouse ale ($2.50 each). Cheers, eat cheese, repeat.

DTR Dinner

You want to take things to the next level. Or you don't. Either way, you're eventually going to have the inevitable semi-awkward, sorta sweet "Define the Relationship" (DTR) convo. You may as well do it in the grownup-but-fun and always solid French bistro Montmartre: oysters on the half shell ($16 for a half dozen), chicken liver mousse ($6), a killer burger topped with dreamy house-made béarnaise cheese on toasted pain au levain ($19). Request a table in the back garden where, after you've declared your love, you can get handsy over pommes frites with aioli and brown butter sabayon ($9).

Meet the Parents

Is this a date? Well, whatever it is, it's a stressful situation calling for just the right reservation and gin cocktails. Play it smart with a Sunday night at Barchetta. Parents will approve of the reasonable sound-level and comfortable leather banquettes. Break the ice over strong drinks, like the Whisperer ($15): gin, cocchi and averna. And nothing soothes family drama like distracting everyone with lots of good pasta: buttery, breadcrumb-topped bavette noodles with crab and onion flowers ($23) or fettuccine studded with chunks of lobster meat, English peas and sorrel ($28).

The Post-It's-Not-You-It's-Me Meal

Hey, things don't always work out. Date night for one! Eat your feelings—and tons of carne asada tacos on handmade corn tortillas ($3.50)—at Los Tacos No. 1 in Chelsea Market. There are no tables so you avoid the one-top guac of shame. Order extra chopped onions—because who cares? And you can always blame the tears on the chile de arbol you just bit into.

Bathtub Gin 132 9th Ave. New York NY 10011 646-559-1671 Stinky Bkyln 107 W. 20th St. New York NY 10011 212-243-2873 Back Label Wine Merchants 111 W. 20th St. New York NY 10011 212-229-9463 Montmarte 158 8th Ave. New York NY 10011 646-596-8838 Barchetta 461 w 23rd street New York NY 10011 212-255-7400 Los Tacos No. 1 75 9th Ave New York NY 10011 212-256-0343

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