Valentine’s day is largely about sex, and sex, in primates, is largely about competition. And right now, if you haven’t booked a table for Friday’s day dinner, you’ve been bested by super-organized, type-A New Yorkers and devoted hopeless romantics, who booked every good seat in town a month ago.
But while you may not be getting into Sushi Nakazawa, NoMad, or the River Cafe, this city still affords choices aplenty for sweet romance over dinner, and we’ve rounded up an array of options for every taste where, most importantly, reservations are still available.
Fung Tu, 22 Orchard Street, 212-219-8785
6:30, 6:45, 9:30, 9:45
The food at this new Chinese/American joint is unlike anything you’ll find coming from the kitchens of its Chinatown neighbors, but it’s a fun destination for eaters with a curious palate. Sidle into a booth with your lover and let the gracious, capable staff expand your idea of what Chinese food means.
The Bourgeois Pig, 111 East 7th Street, 212-475-2246
7:00, 9:30, Midnight
This East Village romantic is cleverly selling seats via Eventbrite, which makes dinner a ticket ($150 per couple plus tax, tip, and drinks), not a reservation. There are still tables available for those who may enjoy a five-course meal in one of the city’s coziest gilded rooms.
Dekalb, 564 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-857-7097
Last week, we had an early taste of newly-opened Dekalb restaurant in Bed-Stuy, and we really liked what we ate — dishes like salt-roasted beet salad and braised lamb neck will bring us back for more, and the glowy, soft-lit space and quaint vintage decor whispers “come hither.” The best part is that it’s still pretty under the radar, so it’s not all booked up just yet.
Zenkichi, 77 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718-388-8985
6:30, 6:45, 10:00
This Willyburg sushi den has curtained booths, affording privacy for whatever dubious flirtations your filthy mind can conjure. Take in an eight-course omakase tasting ($65 per person) or go a la carte from the grill, sushi bar, or noodles.
Costata, 206 Spring Street, 212-334-3320
6:00, 9:15, 9:30
Meat-lovers with money to spend could do worse than to tuck into Michael White’s Spring Street restaurant for a four-course feast in classic Italian format (antipasti, pasta, main and sides, dessert) for $125. Choices include black truffle tagliatelle and an assortment of steaks (NY strip, ribeye, costata, filet), brussels sprouts and hen of the woods mushrooms, and a mascarpone torte. If that’s not your thing, there are a la carte options available.
Feast, 102 Third Avenue, 212-529-8880
This food-forward East Village favorite has a just a few tables left. The atmosphere is quaint, all whitewashed brick with old-world charm, inviting you to hunker down for a long winter’s meal.
DeGrezia, 231 East 50th Street, 212-750-5353
6:30, 6:45, 8:45, 9:00
Cozy up in DeGrezia’s plush, old-school dining room in midtown. There’s nothing avant garde about this place, and that’s exactly why we love it. We also like the fine renditions of classic Italian fare.
Colonie, 127 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-855-7500
6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 7:45, 9:15
Settle in for a four-course meal (offerings include oysters, winter squash agnolotti, braised short rib, and chocolate mousse) with Champagne to start ($95) in this pretty Brooklyn Heights outpost.
Clement, 700 Fifth Avenue, 212-903-3918
6:00, 6:30, 8:30, 8:45
Opened this past fall, Clement is the Peninsula’s newest fine dining outpost; reserve a prime-time table for V-Day, and your date will never know you flaked on booking until the last minute.
And if a staid, sit-down dinner’s not what you’re after, check out the next page for a couple more suggestions.
Duane Park/The Tassel Room, 308 Bowery, 212-732-5555
Head to this lush, baroque dining room for a three-course meal ($75 for early seating, $100 for late) and titty-twirling burlesque variety show.
Babylon Hookah Lounge, 15 Watts Street, 212-390-8538
Open availability, but don’t go early or you’ll be eating alone
For sure-fire, shisha-filled adventure, saunter into Babylon Hookah lounge for a late date, no earlier than 9 p.m. — but make a reservation as it may fill up. Take in a Turkish feast, then relax into the night over a hookah and drinks and watch as the room transforms from a dinner lounge into a Middle Eastern nightclub, complete with thong-thumbing dancers on the bar and live music. At the very least, you’ll have a story to tell.
On the next page, best practices for scoring a table.
Don’t rely on online booking systems alone.
Many restaurants don’t book their prime-time online because they know they’ll book them regardless of online availability. So, pick up the phone and call; there may be more available than Opentable portends. Or, if you’re in the neighborhood, stop in and speak to the host — it’s impossible to ignore someone when they’re standing right in front of you, and that fact alone will sometimes a miracle make.
Call and ASK politely for a reservation. Treat the person on the line like they’re doing you a favor, and be as flexible as you can. Also, the person booking the reservation doesn’t care why you waited until the last minute to book, so skip the sob story. However, honestly acknowledging your situation (“I can’t believe I forgot to do this!”) can’t hurt and may even inspire a bit of empathy from the person holding the keys to your table.
Realize, first, that you’re probably not going to get exactly what you want. Then, resolve to get as close to what you want as possible. So, if the reservationist says 6:30 p.m. is all they’ve got, sweetly ask if they can squeeze you in at 6:45. If they have a fifteen minute hold-policy, you’ve just garnered yourself a 7:00. See?
Take the late reservation and go early.
So 10 p.m. is the earliest the restaurant can do. Luckily, it’s Valentine’s day and you’d probably enjoy cocktail or two before dinner anyway, so head over around 9 p.m. and have a drink at the bar to get the conversation going. Many times, you’ll find they can seat you earlier than they’d planned, especially if you make it worth their while (read: tip the host) to do so.