So much yum, so little time… Luckily, we believe in indulging appetites to the fullest. Are you up to the challenge?
First Date: Bar Pitti
Tables are jammed unnervingly close together, the boisterous wait staff are known for occasional bad manners, and your AMEX Platinum is no good here, but this West Village trattoria is perennially popular just the same. It draws a crowd of in-the-know locals, their modelly looking dates, the occasional celeb, and (holla!) visiting Italians, all lusting after simple, inexpensive, well-executed Tuscan cuisine -- tagliattelle with pancetta in cream sauce, rigatoni with veal meatballs, grilled bread and so forth.
Meet your date out front and see how they compare with the rest of the hotsy-totsy crowd, then put your name down for a table and peruse the mainly Italian, slightly-pricey but-not-scandalously-so wine list. Always busy, comfortably crowded and colorful, this is as cool as you can play it on a first date without going over the top. Just remember to stop by the ATM first: payment is cash only.
Meet the Parents: Bluewater Grill
For that all-important occasion when you must impress Mom and Dad with your city savvy, understanding of their sophisticated tastes and ability to pick up a substantial check (though God knows, we hope they insist on taking care of it), we'd recommend any of the restaurants in the B.R. Guest family, but this one above all the rest. Elegant and spacious, with an open main room overlooked by a mezzanine, this seafood standby in a former bank building is a marble-surfaced, colonnaded, white-tablecloth vision. Confident, on-the-ball wait staff are well-informed about the extensive raw bar selections, eclectic seafood offerings and top-shelf cocktails. For extra atmosphere (and to cut down on getting-to-know-you chit-chat), request a table in the jazz room.
Naughty Sexual Escapade: Duvet
True, the whole recline-while-you-dine thing has been done before, but nevertheless, something about it is just so Roman and decadent and over the top. While Duvet's icy-chic décor and frosty appointments aren't exactly guaranteed to set your blood boiling, the plushy pillows and satin sheets definitely encourage you to relax and slip your shoes off. Plus, the place turns nightclubby after hours. Presumably your date will be three cocktails to the wind at this point and more than happy to indulge in some hanky-panky under the strobe lights. Remember the magic words…nobody's watching anyway, but doesn't the thrill of being caught make you hot?
Awkward Situation: The Odeon
Maybe you're 'fessing up to a night of bachelor party madness. Maybe you're in that awkward patch between break-up and make-up. Or maybe you're meeting a long-lost crush with a 20 per cent percent hookup potential. Whatever the awkward situation, if you need somewhere quasi-anonymous yet still legit, we'd recommend Odeon. With its deliberately seedy coffee shop style, dim lighting, mixed crowd and landmark status, this TriBeCa old-timer has seen it all. So what difference will a few more tears or arguments (or clandestine smooches or drunken fumblings) make? None at all.
First Date or Random Hookup: FIX
Right off the main casino floor in the Bellagio, this bar/lounge/restaurant/meeting spot is perfect for any occasion, from a potentially awkward first meeting to a casual night out to a group date. Managed by the LIGHT Group, it's swanky and always bustling, with low-slung loveseats facing outward and a dining room that's perfect for table-hopping. The menu offers up sushi and small plates, 'spoons' of indulgent nibbles, flash-fried seafood, kobe sliders and steaks. The cocktails are as delicious as the cocktail waitresses and walk-in guests can usually snag a table in the bar without too much drama.
We also love FIX because it's the kind of place where, if a first date goes badly, you can always say sayonara, hang out solo for a bit, and bump into some random hotties in the bar. Who knows where the night could take you after that? Anything's possible in Las Vegas.