Date Night 101 | New Greatest Hits


Yep, we figured we’d share our latest date night obsessions because, well, it’s Friday and what could be better than a cozy corner, a cocktail and some good ol’ conversation? (OK, hopefully your S.O. or just-tonight-companion can pull through on that last little bit…) Feel like low-key good vibes and Lebanese small plates? You’ll want to head to NYC’s L.E.S. How about imbibing funky wine in a glowing pink bar in LA’s Chinatown? Might you be celebrating something special? There’s a former Alinea chef slinging excellent tasting menus in Santa Monica, plus a Noma vet cooking à la carte right now in Brooklyn. Check ’em all out below.

1. If you’ve always wanted to eat at Alinea | Dialogue

Surely, former Alinea and Next chef Dave Beran’s first solo project in Santa Monica, Dialogue, is no longer news to any of you, but we found it worth mentioning should a special occasion be on the horizon as the 21-course tasting menu does indeed rival the very best in the city. The two-month old, reservation-only restaurant draws its culinary inspiration from the seasons so a meal now won’t look at all like a meal enjoyed there next spring (lately, plates have included apples in miso caramel and squab topped with fall leaves). Plus, it boasts just eight counter seats and a handful of tables making it an ideal place for an intimate celebratory evening. (FIND IT)

2. If you like things to get “mezze” | Lil’ Gem

Likely, the most quintessential “hidden gem” of this list, L.E.S. newcomer aptly named Lil’ Gem feels like a Lebanese version of the nearby (and beloved) cool kid hang, Kiki’s– it’s relaxed, serves mostly shareable plates that are both delicious and affordable (a rare, but winning combo, are we right?), and it feels exotic in the way that wearing a beret to happy hour probably would. Lil’ Gem’s mezze is the way to begin (it just feels like a party), followed by its gluten-free falafel and whole rotisserie cardamom duck. Pair it with one of their funky Lebanese wines and you’re in for a low-key, all-around good time. (FIND IT)

3. If you can’t miss out on a pop-up | Knightshift

Taking up residency in fellow Nordic chef Claus Meyer’s Williamsburg bakery, Meyers Bageri, chef Mads Refslund (yes, the co-founder of Noma) is cooking three nights a week in a pop-up restaurant he’s dubbed, “Knightshift.” Though plates are a la carte, the market-driven, Nordic fare– divided into three sections: “on ice,” “baked” and “sweet”– is undeniably ambitious. Dishes rotate regularly, but so far  highlights have included shrimp with fennel fronds and squash, a buckwheat porridge with chestnut milk, and frozen pumpkin with yogurt and honey. Knightshift is open for dinner Wednesday through Friday through the end of the year with service beginning at 5:30 p.m. The pop-up does not take reservations. (FIND IT)

4. If you’re a fan of Helen’s Wines | Oriel

Designed by interior designer Sally Breer (of Los Feliz’s Hotel Covell), Oriel Wine Bar is a relaxed, off-the-beaten-path newcomer in LA’s Chinatown. The spot is filled with funky wine that is easy on the palate and on the wallet (not unlike Jon & Vinny’s beloved wine shop, Helen’s Wines). To eat, Oriel serves classic French bistro fare like tartare, charcuterie and cheese boards, and bavette steak– all of which is prepared by a former cook at NYC’s beloved Bouley (R.I.P.). (FIND IT)

5. If Estela, Buvette & L’Artusi had a baby | Don Angie

Imagine a neighborhood standby with L’Artusi’s pasta, Buvette’s bistro vibes and Estela’s magical way of making everyone who walks inside say, “yes-I-could-most-definitely-linger-here-all-night-long.” Well, that dreamy picture is now a West Village reality named Don Angie and PSA: she’s really, really good. From the husband-and-wife duo who first brought New Yorkers Quality Italian, Don Angie also identifies itself as a “red sauce joint;” however, we think it far surpasses its older sister in both food and atmosphere. Sit at the bar with a negroni, the stuffed garlic bread and the buffalo milk caramelle pasta– neither you or your honey will regret it. (FIND IT)

6. If you’ve only got eyes (err, stomach?) for Gjelina | Journeymen

A cozy corner with dim-lighting, small (albeit delicious) plates from former Gjelina guys and a menu that is inclusive of all taxes and tips– yeah, we dare you to come up with a better recipe for date night… Journeymen has been open on the east side for a while now, but we can’t help but keep coming back for any (OK, every) date. From seared king oyster mushrooms and pistou-topped fingerling potatoes to pork collar a la plancha with santa rosa plum jam, the seasonal plates are our idea of, “a good time.” ***PSA: don’t miss out on the basque cake with almond crust, passionfruit curd and whipped cream either. (FIND IT) CP


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