Alternative Valentine's Day Guide: 8 Quirky NYC Dates

Think outside the box this February 14 by exploring these alternative date destinations
February 3, 2014
by Kelly Dobkin

The stress and chaos that often accompany dining out on Valentine's Day is enough to take the romance out of the holiday altogether. So instead of pointing you toward the usual V-Day prix fixe nightmares, check out our picks for unconventional yet totally awesome date spots, if you plan to dine out on February 14. 

For the "Crazy in Love": Brucie

The V-Day menu at this Carroll Gardens favorite is Beyoncé-themed. Yes, you heard that correctly. Read: items like Breastany's Child (veal breast braciola); I Am Pasta Fierce (jalapeño pappardelle, puttanesca, gold leaf); and Buga-Boullabaisse (housemade blood sausage, lobster, clams, squid ink aïoli). Assuming your date has a sense of humor, it's a hilarious and delicious choice this February 14. E-mail for reservations.

What to order: Oysters Rocafella; Drunk in Love. Any and all of the hilariously named items (see above).  
Cost: Around $100 a pop if you get all three courses plus drinks.
Date points scored: 4 in most cases, but 5 if you "put a ring on it."

234 Court St., Brooklyn; 347-987-4961

For the hipster-inclined who want to "grow old" with their date: Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club

Polish up those white shoes. This newish shuffleboard palace in Gowanus (opening any day now) is an ode to all things Florida kitsch with its 10 real-deal shuffleboard lanes and selection of "retirement-home" games, in case you want to take a break from the main event. A rotating selection of food trucks inside the space makes it a budget-friendly option, and frozen drinks served in mason jars will charm any Brooklyn-dwelling date you can rustle up.

What to order: Vendors change constantly, but they're all affordable and tasty.
Cost: A court will run $40 an hour (a typical game is played by four people, so 10 clams a person). Food runs from $3 tacos to $16 lobster rolls. Expect about $40 a person.
Date points scored: 5 - let's be honest, this place has it all.

514 Union St., Brooklyn; 347-223-4410

If you want to pretend like it's summer in Thailand: Whiskey Soda Lounge

A heated indoor patio in the middle of February? We're there. This Andy Ricker-owned spot located down the street from Pok Pok serves up aahaan kap klaem, the "drinking food of Thailand" (think: all kinds of fried pork). Wash down the swine-y snacks with a drink from their large cocktail or mocktail lists (if you're on the wagon), including Ricker's famous drinking vinegars. 

What to order: Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings; Jin Tup Roht Dii (thinly grilled flank steak); Mango Alexander to drink.
Cost: Roughly $40 per person for a few snacks and a couple of beers.
Date points scored: 4. Minus one point for the presence of fish sauce on a date. 

115 Columbia St., Brooklyn; 718-797-4120

For the "craft beer geek" couple: Dirck the Norseman

This newly opened Greenpoint beer garden/brewpub, located inside the former Polycraft plastic bag factory, is perfect for a not-too-intimate V-day experience. Dishes like pulled turkey confit and pork chop schnitzel pair nicely with the mostly on-site-brewed beers. 

What to order: Pork chop schnitzel; pulled turkey confit; beer (ask for recommendations based on your taste).
Cost: Between $30-$50 per person depending how much your date can drink.
Date points scored: 3 - This is either a casual early date or for the totally V-Day agnostic.

7 N. 15th St., Brooklyn; 718-389-2940

Relive your favorite "New York" movie at: Empire Diner

The newly revamped Empire Diner, located inside that iconic Airstream-trailer-esque space, has been brought back to life again by celebrity chef Amanda Freitag (Chopped)Her gussied-up takes on diner classics include matzo ball marrow soup, lox and burrata, "P.L.T" (pork belly sandwich) and the charred octopus "Greek salad." Bonus for cinema buffs: the landmark space has been the site of films such as Manhattan, Igby Goes Down, Home Alone 2 and City Island.

What to order: Happy Waitress (riff on eggs Benedict); Matzo Ball Marrow Soup; the pickled martini.
Cost: $50-$60 per person depending on how much you order. 
Date points scored: 4, minus one point for the fact that it's still "a diner." 

210 10th Ave.; 212-596-7523

For displaced Chicago-pizza lovers: Emmett's

Looking to get a little saucy this February 14? Come early for a table at NYC's first nonchain eatery offering up authentic Chicago-style pies (deep-dish pizza with the sauce on top). Despite Jon Stewart's recent anti-deep-dish rant, if you've never tried this Windy City specialty, the pie at Emmett's may make a convert out of you. Word to the wise: a small pie is more than enough for two, and the pizza takes 35 minutes to bake, so get your order in early. Check out some more tips here

What to order: Small deep-dish pie with your desired toppings; Greek salad or wedge salad; wine.
Cost: Between $40-$50 if you get salad, pizza, and one or two drinks.
Date points scored: 3 - minus two points for the unsexy food coma you'll be in afterwards.

50 Macdougal St., 917-639-3571

For antisocial sake lovers: Zenkichi

This classic Williamsburg izakaya has been around for years but is still one of the most unique romantic destinations in town. Why? Well, you eat your entire meal in train-car-esque curtained private booths and summon your server by button. Pretty cool, huh? This year, they are serving a 10-course Valentine’s special omakase ($105 per guest) from Thursday, February 13, through Sunday, February 16. And heads up: V-day rezzies are being taken only via phone. 

What to order: It's omakase so you don't have a choice! It's all part of the fun and mystery...
Cost: $105 per person (not including drinks).
Date points scored: 5 - This place is unique and impressive, and it ain't cheap.

77 N. Sixth St., Brooklyn; 718-388-8985

For urban couch potatoes: Nighthawk Cinema

While dinner and a movie is a fairly conventional Valentine's Day date, the experience is anything but "the usj" at Williamsburg's Nighthawk Cinemas, where you can indulge in ratcheted-up bar food while you watch your favorite films. Enjoy a barrel-aged Manhattan, a kale salad and Korean fried chicken while you and your date catch a midnight showing of The Ring this February 14.

What to order: Korean fried chicken; fish tacos; Frito pie; The Girl Is On Fire to drink.
Cost: Tickets are $11 plus an entree and a drink = around $50 total per person.
Date points scored: 5 - This is the only place in town where you can eat dinner in a movie theater. Any first-time date surely will be impressed.

136 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn; 718-384-3980

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