Dating in New York City is boring. Guys these days always make the girl choose the first date spot, and we always end up at our local bar—which means, for me at least, that the bartenders at Marshall Stack know a whole lot more about my love life than I’d care to admit.

For a while now, I’ve had this theory that if a prospect took me to Red Lobster Times Square unprompted, we’d end up getting married. The closest I’ve come to this miracle date was when an unknown number texted me under the guise of being “Drake’s lighting guy” and asked to take me to Junior’s Cheesecake across from Barclay’s after Would You Like a Tour. In classic fuccboi fashion, I chickened out and went to the concert without ever meeting my cheesecake suitor.

Since then, I’ve been keeping a list of spots guaranteed to make any first date epic. So FOH with cocktails at Bua or dinner at Lil Frankie’s—if two strangers can make it through drinks in Port Authority unscathed, they’re destined for one another.

1. Chick Fil-A


Address and phone: 5 University Pl. #11, Manhattan (212-998-4931)
How you met: Onstage at Pianos

This one gets extra points for the sense of adventure that accompanies it: the only Chick-fil-A in Manhattan is located inside the New York University cafeteria. But in spite of being hidden inside a student dining hall, Yelp tells us that non-students can get right through as long as they “walk with purpose” through the freshman dorm entrance. This outpost serves as an express version of the chain’s menu, so expect a limited menu of chicken sandwiches, nuggets, and waffle fries—which are, after all, perfect for sharing with bae. (Photo: Facebook/Chick-fil-A)

2. Air Bar (i.e., that bar right off the AirTrain to JFK)


Address and phone: 93-40 Sutphin Blvd, Jamaica (718-725-0002)
Website: N/A
How you met: Craigslist missed connections

My mom once told me that, back in the day, she and her friends would go to the local airport bar to scope out hot guys. Aside from being wildly depressing, that’s also no longer legal. But there’s still one place fit to take mile-high prospects that doesn’t require a plane ticket—cue Air Bar, the joint right off of the LIRR and MTA subway stations before the entrance to the JFK AirTrain. If the date’s going well, feel free to throw in a $5 round trip AirTrain ride and take your bb for a sightseeing trip around scenic Jamaica, Queens. (Photo: Yelp/AirTrain JFK)

3. Chuck E. Cheese


Address and phone: 700 Exterior St, Bronx (718-292-7812)
How you met: It’s your hot coworker

Although there is another Chuck E. Cheese location in Harlem, the Bronx outpost is the newer of the two, and apparently doesn’t have a jungle gym—making it better suited for adults. It’s open until 11pm on weekends, meaning a dinner date is not at all out of the question. Pizzabois will love the standard Italian-style menu, which recently expanded to include gluten-free ‘za and a foodie-friendly pretzel dog served with mandarin oranges (?!). (Photo: Yelp/Roderick A.)

4. Continental Bar


Address and phone: 25 3rd Ave, Manhattan (212-529-6924)
How you met: Hinge

This East Village watering hole prides itself on its “throwback drink prices”—and we’re not just referring to their $2 drafts. We’re talking about the cheap AF “$10 for five shots” deal plastered on the front marquee. If you’ve been before, it was probably when you were a minor visiting your buddies at NYU, but trust me, this place gets better with age—especially when you price compare what this many drinks at Death & Co. would have cost you. (Photo: Yelp/Ryan F.)

5. Hard Rock Café Times Square


Address and phone: 1501 Broadway, Manhattan (212-343-3355)
How you met: OkCupid

This 708-seat restaurant feels like one gargantuan airport bar. You’ll walk in and immediately lose sight of what time of day it is, where you are, and, after some of their cocktails, who you’re even with (i.e., the perfect setting for an OKCupid fling). We’re big fans of their series of fruity (and very boozy) cocktails served in full-fledged French presses. The menu doesn’t have the prices listed, but it sure does have the calorie count. Bad boys and gyals will also love the danger element: last time I was there, my wallet got stolen. Keep your belongings close if you’re planning on paying. (Photo: Yelp/Marcus W.)

6. Color Me Mine


Address and phone: 92 Reade St, Manhattan (212-374-1710)
How you met: Happn

Someone actually asked me on a date to this TriBeCa outpost of my favorite childhood ceramics studio, but then never followed through. (Dear “Justin Tinder,” if you’re out there, I’m still down.) It’s the only location in Manhattan and—wait for it—it’s BYOB. It’s now clear what all the moms were doing during their children’s pottery painting birthday parties. Do yourself a favor and bring a high-ABV, large-format IPA to share and let the creative juices flow. (Photo: Yelp/Shellie O.)

7. Play Bar & Den (i.e., the bar at the Museum of Sex)


Address and phone: 1 E 27th St (212-689-6337)
How you met: Craigslist casual encounters

Going to the Museum of Sex on the first date is certainly aggressive, but it’s also hilarious, so I propose you meet in the middle and go to their onsite bar instead. Aside from apparently having a weirdly killer beer list, they also feature a wide selection of thirst-trapping libations, including an aphrodisiac shot special where you can get three of the house-infused (and “mood-setting”) vodka shots for $15. (Photo: Yelp/Sasha G.)

8. Mc Anns Pub (Port Authority Bus Terminal)


Address and phone: 860 8th Ave (212-594-1374)
Website: N/A
How you met: Tinder

If you can find true love within the depths of Port Authority bus terminal, then this one is a certified G.O.A.T keeper. Mc Anns has got all of the standard American drafts plus the v rare bottled PBR. Paired with karaoke and darts, this place is an ideal spot to bring your potential S.O.—and if it’s going well, the Greyhound to Atlantic City (or bus to Medieval Times in Jersey) is just a stumble beyond the pub’s doorstep. (Photo: Wikicommons)

9. Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar

Address and phone: 220 W44th St (646-532-4897)
How you met: At a frat party

It’s very rare that you find someone worthy of being taken to Flavortown—but when you do, nothing shows compatibility quite like a shared love for Donkey Sauce. Nearly everything on the Guy Fieri-designed menu is fried (even the ice cream), and cocktails take on Manhattan-inspired monikers like “Lady Liberty’s Cosmo” and the “Crazy Cab Driver.” Pump up the intellectual ambiance with a dramatic reading of the iconic Pete Wells review while you eat.

10. Amtrak


Address and phone: Penn Station, 393 7th Ave (212-630-6401)
How you met: Match

If you’re in it for the long haul, start the date in Penn Station, where Penn Sushi is a place that exists and liquor kiosks will happily provide you with a brown bag for getting lit while you wait. But the actual train is where the magic happens. Grab a table in the café car and order two Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPAs—they’ll set you back only $8 each. If you’re looking to get wild, it’s also totally PC to BYOB. A friend of mine brings a cooler of michelada ingredients each time she takes Amtrak. The hot dogs are also surprisingly on point, as are the microwaveable DiGiorno pizzas. (Photo: Wikicommons)

Charlotte Steinway (@CharLOLtte) is an editor and writer living in New York City.