Looking for love in all the right places: eight great first date bars

Celebrate love, at Pearl's. via Cafe Ghia
Celebrate love, at Pearl’s. via Cafe Ghia

First dates are filled with all sorts of fears and anxieties – especially when you’re meeting that person for the first time (ah, online dating). Those dates aren’t so much dates as they are interviews, so you want to keep it low pressure and comfortable. A low-key bar – a dive especially – makes a great first date: casual, no pressure to be super romantic, but dark and homey. Also, there’s booze.

When it comes to these first dates, there are two extremes: you can discover a major deal breaker and need to make a quick exit, or you can get so wasted that you ignore that deal breaker and you go home together. Most dates fall somewhere in between. Here are some potential places for that first meet up.

Photo by Deena Atkinson
Photo by Deena Atkinson

629 5th Avenue (between 17th and 18th Streets), South Slope

A casual neighborhood dive with an epic selection of bottled beers (and PBR on tap for $3). Free popcorn (impress your date by picking up the tab) and an outdoor patio if you need a change of scenery. Board games and a juke box can make for good conversation, too, if you don’t’ feel like talking about your childhood and where you went to college and blah blah blah.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? If you decide to make it a night of trying the entire list of beers, then you’ll get drunk and probably make out in the back. There are worse ways to end a date.

Photo by Deena Atkinson
Photo by Deena Atkinson

457 5th Avenue (corner of 12th Street), Park Slope

Did your date like South so much they became a regular? Lucky for you, Commonwealth is just five blocks north. Easily walkable distance from the F, G, and the R, so it won’t be that hard to persuade someone to meet you there. They too have free popcorn and draft beers for under $6, so picking up the tab should be a breeze. This is also a bar with a sense of humor (an outside sign boasts “decent bartenders”), so if  your date loves dry self-deprecation, this could very well be your place.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? You could write you and your date’s initials on the bathroom wall with chalk. Or you could keep a tally of all the people you’ve brought here.

via Facebook
via Facebook

618 St. John’s Pl, Crown Heights

Easily accessible from the Franklin Ave and Eastern Parkway stations, this bar offers a variety of options, so no matter what sort of personality your date ends up possessing, you’ll look super cool because you picked a place that’s just so “them.” When it’s not nasty outside, sit in the garden out front (which also makes a great place to wait instead of having the Awkward Wait In Front Of The Bar Moment), and a great place for that beginning “conversation” part of your date. There’s also a dancing area in the back, decently priced beers (around $5-$8, $4 cans of Brooklyn lager), pinball machines, and a bathroom big enough for an outfit change. No matter how it’s going, somebody is winning (even if that “winning” is only at pinball. Also, they have pinball!). Having a drink in the garden and then going crazy dancing after makes a pretty good date. If you actually want to talk to your potential significant other, go on the early side and not on a Friday or Saturday night. It can get crazy. The bar is CASH ONLY, so be prepared and avoid any awkward billing problems!

WHAT WILL HAPPEN? Depends. How much cash are you packing? Did you end up dancing? Did you just sit outside and then leave? How much do you feel like drinking? I went on a date here and drank one beer outside and had a normal conversation. What could be better?

Like the TARDIS, the Way Station is bigger on the inside than the outside. via Flickr user Ozzdo
Like the TARDIS, the Way Station is bigger on the inside than the outside. via Flickr user Ozzdo

683 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights

Read someone’s profile and saw a joke about a sonic screwdriver? Want to win their heart and geek out together over a Police Box? Then head to Prospect Heights’ only steam-punk bar, where the bathroom is a TARDIS. Excellent conversation starter if they’re the kind of person who obsesses over Time Lords. You two can totally nerd out together while taking advantage of the $5 PBR and shot deal (the real way to my heart). There’s live music every night, too, which is a good distraction for any lapse in conversation.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN? Your nerd hearts coalesce to get more drinks elsewhere, or maybe skip it and go straight home. It’s walking distance from the B, Q, 2, 3, 4 and 5 – someone lives somewhere, right?

via Facebook
via Facebook

353 Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Heights

Affordable drinks ($3 beers til 7 PM – happy hours make for great early dates) and board games. Board games. If that isn’t a good conversation starter, what is? They have a ten dollar card minimum, so you don’t have to feel bogged down if you open up a tab; it doesn’t have to go too high to call it a night.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN? Depends – how early did you get there, and how intense is your board game?

You'll see beards. Promise.
You’ll see beards. Promise.

769 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg

I went here the first time I ever went into Williamsburg, and it was the beginning of my trajectory of falling for Williamsburg and its men and its beards. Regardless, it was comfortable and casual, and it’s right off the Graham L stop. It doesn’t have a divey feel, so I guess you could say this is one of the more “upscale” picks, though I use the term loosely. This is a cozy pub, so there’s no pressure to look swanky. But most importantly: despite the classy feel, they still have some $5 beers.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN? You might have a nice conversation. You might get comfortable. You’ll drink a bit, maybe go elsewhere, or just call it a night. You know, no pressure.

You never know who you'll sit next to at Lucky Dog
You never know who you’ll sit next to at Lucky Dog

303 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg

This one’s a pick for when it’s nicer out (and you can get there before midnight when the back closes). So bear with me while it’s cold and put it in your pocket for later. It’s a neighborhood spot with a really nice outside area, but here’s the real kicker: DOGS can freely roam around without leashes. Why is that great for a first date? Animals are great distractions, and even greater small-talk conversational common ground. Also, if your date is cute, enjoy watching them look cuter while they hug a puppy. Yes, it’s a typical “Williamsburg bar,” whatever that means to you, but seriously – walk through the narrow area by the bar, get your drinks, go outside and sit with a $4 or $5 draft and pet dogs.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN? I’ve witnessed some heavy PDA at this bar in the backyard. Maybe it’s the cheap drinks, maybe it’s the fact that dogs are already being pet.

via Facebook
via Facebook

40 St. Nicholas Avenue, Bushwick

A divey bar out in in Bushwick , near the DeKalb and Jefferson L stops. It’s cute and cozy, and doesn’t come with crazy prices. It does get crowded during “peak” hours, but that’s because it’s a good bar. And who goes out on a first date at 11 PM on a Saturday anyway? This place has a homey, comfortable feel – wood and candles with nostalgic paraphernalia and memorabilia on the walls – and the cocktail menu is always changing. They range in price from $8 to $12, but you can also drink beer for $6 out of a mason jar. If you’re having a good enough time, go to the photo booth ($5) in the back and be cliché, adorable, and nauseating together. Maybe you’ll even go on a second date! If not, you’ll have the $5 photos to remember the great drinks.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN? Do you live off the L? If you don’t, you have two options: you’ll go home with your Bushwick person, or you spend the rest of your night in transit or attempting to hail a cab. That said, the environment here encourages a classy vibe, so all joking aside, enjoy a drink and talk to your date, and then go from there.

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