You might think, given the name of this guide, that I'm thinking of the usual avenues for seduction: dim bars, romantic bistros, etc. etc. But no. These are places where you can meet a woman for the first or second time, places not overtly romantic but quiet and atmospheric enough to start things rolling.
There may be better seafood restaurants in New York (though not many, surely) but it's for sure that none have a better view, especially in winter, when you can look out and see people skating on the famous ice rink in Rockefeller Center. Newly-installed chef Yuhi Fujinaga has a deft hand with seafood, and brings some much-needed creativity to what had become somewhat staid.
Situated in one of the best corners of downtown, right off historic Stuyvessant Street, this Japanese cocktail bar is low-key, cool, and vaguely exotic. The drinks aren't necessarily better than nearby craft cocktail standbys like PDT or The Beagle, but there's a certain elan here, and a view, that its rivals can't boast of.
Bemelmans Bar rightly has a reputation as being hoity-toity, a meeting place for Manhattan grandees and society matrons. And while that may be true to some extent, it's also a matchless example of New York at its most sophisticated and timeless. If you want to not look like a rube or a trendster, this is the move.
I can't speak to the quality of the rooms, having never had the deep pockets needed to stay here, but this is without question one of the nicest hotel lobbies in the city, a perfect place to meet up and talk to an old friend. The lobby is as high as most rooftop bars, but totally enclosed, and can be something of a magical experience. And it's free.
The room is tiny and quiet and cool, the tapas concentrated bursts of balanced flavor and texture. It's basically the perfect small plates restaurant, which is one reason why so many people flock there. Go on an off house and no matter what else you do, have the minute but unforgettable uni sandwich.
When asked, as I often am, for my opinion on the best steakhouse in New York, I often hem and haw. The meat may be better at Minetta Tavern, the sides at BLT Prime, the atmosphere (and nothing else) at Peter Luger. But for the overall package of flawless service, great meat, and by far the loveliest and most relaxing room of any steakhouse I know, the answer is surely Porterhouse New York. Here's a tip: go have a steak sandwich and an Old Fashioned at the bar, during the day. It's a great NYC experience.
The Central Park Boathouse has pretty good food, but let's face it: the food here is pretty much beside the point. This is arguably the best location in New York, particularly during the awe-inspiring fall months. If you can't feel peaceful, or fall in love, or let go at this restaurant, you might as well have done with it and just take all your meals over the sink.
The lobby at the Ace Hotel is more than a lobby; it's a meeting place for the young and beautiful, spacious and busy, with deep couches, free wireless, and its own, very good bar. Some of the country's best coffee is available at Stumptown, a few feet away, and of course The Breslin itself is a meatery of the very highest order.
Anyone with a deep love of fairy tales is bound to be smitten with the Burger Joint. Like a magic portal or hidden passage, it's unlikely to be found without looking for it. You go into the plush lobby of a midtown hotel, head down a passage where only a single image of a burger and an arrow are mounted, and you find yourself in a classic roadside-style burger joint, where quarter-pound patties are cooked on hot iron and served up on white squishy buns. These burgers are not exactly great, but they taste that way thanks to the mysterious, inexplicable location.