7 Flexitarian Friendly Date Night Restaurants in NYC

It’s hard to be a flexitarian couple in New York City. But Clean Plates makes it easier.

Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Amanda Hirsch, and I’m a pescatarian (mostly a vegetarian, but I eat fish occasionally). My husband, Jordan, is passionate about being a conscientious carnivore. While he grooves on burgers, and I groove on greens, we have one thing in common: we both love to eat.

Our dietary profile can make date night a tricky proposition. It used to be, we’d scour Yelp and other restaurant listing sites for restaurant reviews, and then cross-reference them with the Eat Well Guide to find places that served hormone-free, ethically raised meat for Jordan. Then, if we thought we’d found a gem, I’d review the menu online to make sure there were ample vegetarian options—and, if there weren’t, I’d check to see if their fish was sustainably harvested. If not? Back to the drawing board (while our stomachs grumbled).

This is a lot of energy to put into picking a restaurant. It was worth it to us, because we both care enough about supporting ethical and sustainable food production, and because we care a lot about eating good food, period. But man, was it a pain.

Enter Clean Plates. When I discovered Clean Plates earlier this year, eating out got a whole lot easier.

Here are a few of Jordan’s and my favorite spots to eat as a flexitarian couple in NYC:

  • East Village Date Night: We used to live in the East Village, and Northern Spy Food Company and Back Forty were two of our standbys. Both offer options for pescetarians and meat-lovers alike, though I tend to find more veggie and fish entree options at Back Forty. At Northern Spy, my favorite dishes include their kale salad with cheddar and a wild rice pilaf with feta and mint—the mint really makes it pop. Jordan loves the burger at Back Forty, which he describes as “thick, juicy, and cooked to perfection on a delicious buttery bun,” and which he recommends topping with (sustainable) bacon. We both love Back Forty’s signature cocktail, a blend of George Dickel whiskey, lemon and maple syrup. Both restaurants offer great atmosphere, and in nice weather, Back Forty has a pretty patio out back.
  • Brooklyn Date Night: Now we live in Brooklyn, and my favorite spot so far is Rucola in Boerum Hill. This convivial neighborhood joint serves delicious Northern Italian food, with great options for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike. Last week, I had a delicious garlicky green lentil soup followed by a fusilli pasta tossed with a toasted walnut pesto, kale and pecorino cheese; Jordan started with an assortment of cheeses and cured meats, and his entree was Long Island Duck with figs, swiss chard and turnips, and a side of delicious roasted brussels sprouts. For dessert, we had an assortment of cookies from a local bakery. Yum.Rucola can be crowded – if you can’t get a table, or don’t feel like waiting, check out Lunetta over on Smith Street, where we’ve always been seated immediately. I love to make a simple meal of their spaghetti olio e aglio with a side of broccoli rabe, and Jordan has enjoyed a number of their pasta dishes, such as orecchiette, broccoli rabe and homemade fennel sausage; in warmer weather, enjoy their lovely patio out back.
  • Hot Soup for Cold Days: Jordan and I both work from home, and when we lived in the Village, our favorite indulgence on a cold day was to order noodle soups from Souen Organic Ramen for lunch. Their lunch special is great: $10 for a huge bowl of soup, plus a side dish of your choice. Hearty, healthy and deeply satisfying.

When I’m flying solo, nothing pleases me more than the smoothies at One Lucky Duck in Gramercy Park (Sarma’s Favorite Green Milkshake and the provocatively named “Spanking” are my faves) and left to his own devices, Jordan would probably choose a Bare Burger every time. But luckily, there are a growing number of restaurants that we can thoroughly enjoy together. For a longer list of flexitarian friendly spots, pick up the Clean Plates book (page 187).

Are you part of a flexitarian couple? Or do you follow a different way of eating than your friends? If so, what are your favorite spots that offer something for everyone?

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