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East Village: idk tonight’s Top 10 Date Night Picks

By: Rachel Clayton

The East Village is an ultra-hip neighborhood known for its nightlife—from the dive bars that cater to NYU students to the more elite spots with celebrity sightings. This area is also known for a plethora of shops, cafes, and more laidback dining options. This guide will let you in on all the best spots to take your date for gettin’ down while you’re downtown.

idk tonight's Top Ten Date Night Picks—East Village

11th Street Bar
510 East 11th Street, Manhattan

This neighborhood favorite provides a respite from the sometimes overly crowded, overly loud bars that populate the East Village. This Irish pub feels right out of the nineties with dark wood paneling and a long bar that stretches out under dim twinkle lights. They have a long list of drafts and a non-discriminatory happy hour special ($2 off anything!) so if you’re above their picklebacks, you’ll still have plenty of options. During soccer games, the bar is filled with Liverpool fans, but they also host jazz, traditional Irish music, and poetry readings in the back room.


11th st bar nyc
Credit: 11th St Bar
Drop Off Service
211 Avenue A, Manhattan

If the thought of doing laundry makes you want a drink, then Drop Off Service is the perfect bar. Set in a converted laundromat, this brick-lined bar is now all dim lighting and neon signs. You can wash away the memory of mistaking bleach for detergent with their impressive array of draft beers, with a heavy emphasis on stouts and darker beers. Their happy hour is clutch so expect a bit of a crowd especially on Friday nights, but the seasoned bartenders are more than equipped to handle it.

drop off service nyc
Credit: Drop Off Service, Facebook
144 2nd Avenue, Manhattan

No list of places in the East Village is complete without Veselka, an iconic outpost for Ukrainian eats 24/7.  If you haven’t been to Veselka, correct this grievous crime but stopping by for a plate of their famous pierogies, which come with both sweet and savory fillings that change with the season. This place is rightfully popular, so be prepared to wait for one of the many tables that sit under the view of a charming wall painting. Though most use it as a go-to spot for carbs after closing down nearby bars, they also have a great brunch with latkes, blintzes, mimosas, and yes, more pierogis.

veselka nyc
Credit: Veselka
The HorseBox
218 Avenue A, Manhattan

Don’t be put off by the name—there’s nothing equestrian about The Horsebox, an old school dive bar that represents the East Village of old. The bar does live up to its boxy name, as the small space frames a corner bar and not much else. This is a great place to hang out and enjoy some beer at the cheapest prices in the area. They have darts and other bar games for the low-key moments but have been known to draw a crowd when there’s a game on. If you’re looking for a spot to hide out, day drink, and (most importantly) escape the East Village foot traffic, this is the place.

the horsebox nyc
Credit: Drink NYC
The Bao
13 Saint Marks Place, Manhattan

If the Oscar-winning short film “Bao” warmed your heart but also made you hungry, then The Bao is where you’ll want to be. This restaurant serves up Shanghai cuisine among chic decor—including a “live edge” wood table that curves to mimic a tree’s natural growth, light bulbs encased in funky glass shapes, and brightly colored pop art. They’re known for their soup dumplings, which come with more filling options and in higher quality than other places in the area. They have other classics like dan dan noodles, peppers and eggplant, and wontons to fill your plate.

the bao nyc
Credit: The Infatuation

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545 East 5th Street, Manhattan

Lavagna is the spot for a romantic dinner and still runs in a pretty decent price range. This cozy spot draws you in with mellow lighting and red walls that exude warmth. The servers double down on the warmth, providing stellar attention to compliment your hearty Tuscan dishes. The aromas from the pizzas in their wood-burning oven may be tempting, but it’s worth considering their freshly made pasta as well, especially the pappardelle with braised rabbit. There’s a lengthy wine list to help you and your date find the perfect bottle, and a peach crostata waiting for you to share for dessert.

lavagna nyc
Credit: Lavagna
242 East 10th Street, Manhattan

PINKS goes straight from the dive bar model to deliver a hip East Village bar swathed in neon lights. They have plenty of wood tables by a scuffed brick wall with little couches by velvet curtained window booths, illuminated tom drums as tables, and drippy chandeliers to master an industrial-chic vibe. PINKS has upscale takes on typical pub food, serving up truffle popcorn and shrimp ceviche as bar snacks, in addition to a full menu of Cali-Mex entrees. Their biggest draws, however, are the expertly made craft cocktails. So if you’re bored of beer you can sip on Old Fashioneds made with walnut bitters, Mezcal Mules, and their signature Pink Lemonade.

pinks nyc
Credit: PINKS
406 East 9th Street, Manhattan

Whitman’s is far beyond your average burger joint. They make the most of a small space with funky wallpaper, wine bottle-lined shelves, and cow tchotchkes mounted on the wall. They do even more with their burgers, which are made with local ingredients and a creative twist. There’s a burger stuffed with a cheesy-jalapeno mixture that spills out with every juicy bite and an adventurous PB&B burger with short rib and peanut butter. Split some of their Blue Ribbon ice cream and you’ll be happily moaning in overstuffed pleasure together.

whitman's nyc
Credit: Whitman's
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
236 East 3rd Street, Manhattan

Poetry is said to be the food of love, which makes The Nuyorican Poets Cafe a perfect date spot. Instead of romantic sonnets, however, you’ll get invigorating slam poetry at this cultural institution. Open since 1978, the tiny brick-lined stage has held some big names but also provides a space for emerging poets, comics, musicians, and artists to do their thing. They have a small bar with coffee, beer, and wine, so you can grab a libation—just make sure you have one hand free for emphatic snapping.

nuyorican poets cafe nyc
Credit: Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street, Manhattan

When skyscraper after skyscraper has you dreaming of a tropical paradise, Otto’s Shrunken Head should be your next date night spot. This tiki bar fully embraces the theme with a bamboo bar, colorful fish lights, and zebra-print stools for even more whimsy. The drinks are pricey but worth it, as they come jam-packed with alcohol and plenty of fruity flavor to cover it up, in fun souvenir-style glasses you can purchase. If you’re brave enough to split the flaming Volcano Blast with your lover, you can brave the back room for rock bands and comedy shows.

otto's shrunken head nyc
Credit: Otto's Shrunken Head

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