There are many people who read the phrase “not eating out in New York” as synonymous with “not dating in New York.” And those male species of the lot, I have no use for.
Not to be “difficult” or “stubborn,” two things I have been called, oh, a few times in my romantic repertoire, but there is nothing more pathetic than a person who has forgotten that a date isn’t simply about impressing someone with their Zagat-like city restaurant knowledge.
I’m not going to assert that by not going to restaurants I have had a richer, fuller dating life, because I haven’t. I’m sure my friends would agree that it has been interesting, though, to say the least. And for now, I’m going to stick with saying the least and saving the details for a later time and purpose.
But just because I’ve had a strange run of this course doesn’t mean that creative dating (defined here as anything but going out for dinner) isn’t a great, and potentially fruitful, experience. Here are some of my suggestions for things I would like to do instead of going to a restaurant. I’ve left out the obvious answers, like seeing a movie, checking out a museum or just going out for drinks. It’s a little New York-specific, but for everyone out there, I hope reading about these ideas might help to get the creative dating juices flowing (yikes, no innuendo intended!):
Bike to Red Hook or DUMBO, sit by the waterfront, throw pebbles into the water or pet dogs running around. This is kind of similar to an ancient article I wrote about the most romantic waterfront spots in Brooklyn, the earnest conclusion of it being that there’s really nothing more beautiful than watching murky water wash up used condoms along a broken glass-strewn pebbly shore. If Red Hook’s your destination, there’s a great current list of neighborhood hot spots in Brooklyn Based today.
The biking bit is imperative here. Subways are the death of dating. What’s romantic about trying to stand still in a packed car with a changemonger to your right, loud pack of teenagers to your left and sleeping hobo stench all around?
Pick a park, any park. It’s more rustic than urban, but nature reputedly cleanses the Metropolitan angst from your system for a short period of time. Which is a good state to be in on a date, if you ask me.
If it’s colder out:
Go see some music. This is definitely one of the obvious answers, but since there’s such variety of live music in the city you can really cater your evening to a range of tastes -– so snap your fingers in an intimate jazz club, crowdsurf at a raucous loft party, splurge on classical music tickets for the sake of random refinement, or why not get up on the stage at Hank’s Saloon and croon some country lyrics with a live band on stage backing you up?
Some no-fail places with free live music every night: Barbès (with its cool, Bohemian, instrumental-themed selection of music), Pete’s Candy Store (fun because you will have to squash close together), Freddy’s Bar and Backroom (it’s not always music, but the backroom always has something goofy going on like trivia, or a diorama-rama).
Take a cooking or wine-tasting class together. It’s amazingly fun! You’ll still get to eat or drink ‘till you’re smashed, plus, you’ll get to make wink-winks at one another if the teacher is acting freakish or fuddy-duddy, à la classroom crush of seventh grade! (Unfortunately, no one but girl pals have ever taken me up on this type of “dating” request, which some might not have even realized was such…)
I don’t know if I even need to get into all the different places that offer wine-tasting/pairing, or food tasting/cooking classes and demos, but if you’ve been reading the “Today’s Specials” box on this blog I like posting my favorites there, like free ones, and those held at The Brooklyn Kitchen. The 92nd Street Y is another place for some frequent food class culture, though I myself haven’t attended any there yet. For wine and spirits, Bottlerocket is a perfect place for a relaxed, yet informative, class session.
Then we have the really, really, I mean, really, you-have-to-do-this obvious answer that should be considered above all else:
Cook at home. Even if it’s just dessert and coffee or tea. Invite him or her over. Put on your choice of music, not the café’s. Take a little pride in what you did with your pad (or what you didn’t – hey, yourself is yourself). Don’t be guarded and sit up straight and act all proper like you would in a restaurant. Or do — anything goes.
As I got into a bit more here, cooking for someone can lead to wildly intimate stuff. But if you’re still in that first-date phase, it doesn’t have to. It might sound like a lot of work, but consider the fact that next time (if you want there to be a next date, that is), you’ll probably get the royal treatment at his or her place. And that’s also way better than going to another restaurant.