The Bowery, especially the angled run between Houston and Cooper Square, has undergone some aggressive rebranding in the last few years. No more flophouses or grungy dives here. They've been replaced by a cluster of stylish little bars and bistros.
In other words: a great destination for a wandering-and-drinking date. Remember to eat a little along the way, but keep moving: Changing locales encourages conversation flow.
Saxon + Parole's classy, bustling bar has surprisingly good bites, like the signature silky truffled mushroom pot de crème with whiskey jelly ($12), as well as surprisingly good drinks, like the house version of a Pimm's Cup ($14) with Zubrowka, limoncello, Pimm's No. 1, strawberry, celery bitters and house-made ginger beer. The '80s-esque black, white and red décor at Wise Men feels a touch racy. Order a few cheesy mushroom croquettes ($8) to absorb some (but not all) of the alcohol in your Bees Kiss ($13) with gin, honey and lemon. Duck down Great Jones Street for generous mound of house-made ricotta with fava beans ($16) and crisp fried artichokes ($14) with preserved lemon at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. With its brick walls and unadorned wood tables, it's already casual, but a spot at the upstairs marble bar feels even cozier.
Everyone looks fresh-faced and glowing in the flattering yellowish light of Cherche Midi, Keith McNally's latest bistro in the made-over Pulino's space. Arrive early to get a seat at the gorgeous curved copper bar, then order sexy cocktails like the cachaça-based Green and Gold ($15) and classic Frenchy snacks like a mustardy steak tartare ($19). Head to Narcissa in the newish Standard East Village and ask for a table under the hanging lanterns in the garden. Share elegant rotisserie-roasted vegetables and desserts with surprising twists: Apricot tart tatin ($9) comes with goat's-milk ice cream and a drizzle of pepper caramel. Bar Primi, Andrew Carmellini's cheery pasta-centric new spot, has a liveliness and sound level that's very date-friendly. And if your partner doesn't like the bucatini with lamb amatriciana ($18), run away.
The brick-enclosed nooks at dark, cozy Madam Geneva beg for late-night canoodling. Cap off your evening with a drink from the new summer swizzle menu, such as a peach gin swizzle ($12) with Diep9 Belgian Genever, crème de peche, oatmeal orgeat and lemon. Still hungry? Share a sundae at DBGB: Ask for two spoons with a Cherry Beer sundae ($9) with Kirsch marshmallows and bing cherry syrup while you sip Sauternes ($14) at the bar. When things start to get sloppy, Swift Hibernian Lounge's 20-plus beers on tap are the way to go—because no matter what bad decisions you make later, beer is always a good one.
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