Bob Law has always been a romantic kind of guy.
A legendary broadcaster on New York’s black radio scene in the ’70s and ’80s, Law, now 79 and a resident of Westbury, says he decided early on that he and his wife, Muntu, would schedule a date night, dress up and go out for dinner regularly.
And so it has been for 32 years.
“That’s the magic ingredient that continues to revitalize your relationship,” Law says. His wife, 80, adds: “It’s so we don’t get complacent — especially after all these years."
The couple was having a date night recently at one of their favorite soul food restaurants, LL Dent in Carle Place, where the many dishes they love include the salmon, smothered chicken, sweet potatoes, cornbread and peach cobbler.
The Laws are just one of many couples — from those just getting to know each other to longtime marrieds getting to know each other again — who like to fit in a weekly date night dinner.
“I think it’s really vital,” for couples to get out and have a date night, says psychotherapist Kathleen Dwyer-Blair, the director and owner of Nassau Guidance & Counseling in North Bellmore. Staying home and trying to nurture a romantic relationship is filled with pitfalls, she says. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of what needs to be done around the house, dealing with the children . . . it’s so easy to focus on other things.”
Cookie and Tom Kershaw have been married for 30 years and recently renewed their vows. The Wantagh couple has three adult children who are all out of the house. “You can lose yourself when the priority becomes the kids — you’re not just the mom — so on date nights we used to stay away from talking about the kids when they were still at home,” says Cookie Kershaw, a retired teacher. Tom Kershaw is a retired engineer.
Date nights allow the pair to reconnect, but that doesn’t have to mean getting dressed up or having a fancy meal, Cookie Kershaw says. A favorite spot for them is the very casual Snaps American Bistro in Wantagh, about three miles from their house, where at happy hour her favorite appletinis are $5 and a glass of red wine for John is $3.
Among the restaurant’s other selections are a $10 lobster “bit” slider with potato chips, a $19 pumpkin seed-crusted tilapia and a $4.95 campfire-style s’mores served on a giant graham cracker.
Jackie Langella, 24, of West Babylon, and Dimitrios Vartholomeos, 25, of Deer Park, chose The Brixton in Babylon for their second date. The soft lighting, brick walls, furnishings in lush green velvet and loft-high ceilings provide a vibe for talking intimately and sharing food. On a recent evening, they laughed and chatted by candlelight on one of the restaurant’s “to share” meals — duck lettuce wraps and steamed shrimp buns — while she sipped on gunpowder green tea smoked whiskey and he drank a Moscow mule.
“There’s a very intimate and cozy atmosphere here so you can have a good time,” Vartholomeos says.
Another new relationship was launching on a date night at the upscale Bella Vie restaurant in Bay Shore, where Riba Hossain, 21, of upstate Newburg and Michael Khodabash, also 21, of Queens, had a corner table overlooking Lawrence Lake. The two met through friends about five months ago, and Khodabash says he chose the restaurant because he loves its ambience. “We like to go out and put on a nice outfit instead of baggy sweats,” Khodabash says. He ordered grilled salmon and roasted cauliflower soup, while Riba went for the ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, topped with a creamy mushroom sauce.
At a table across the room at Bella Vie, another Queens resident, Linda Post, 48, was having her regular Friday date night with her boyfriend of five years, Ed Kaleck, 62, of Islip. Kaleck’s choice for dinner was a double pork so large he had to take the rest home, and Post ate branzino with escarole and tomato. “This is totally romantic,” Kaleck says. “It’s much better than being at home — there I’d be watching TV and she’s not a TV watcher.”
There are thousands of restaurants for date night across Long Island, for different wallets and palates. But where to go? Here’s some suggestions.
Spice up your relationship
Spicy Home Tasty (1087 Jericho Tpke., Commack): Urban lore about spicy food serving as an aphrodisiac aside, any couple looking to get some sweat on their brows while chowing down will find such an experience at this authentic Sichuan Chinese restaurant. Most items on the menu have the chili-pepper renderings that tell you the dish is a hot one — you can order dishes served hot-sauce style, dry pepper or dry pot — all of which will put a tingle in your mouth, a perfect sensation for a night that will (hopefully) keep getting hotter for both of you. More info: 631-543-8880, spicyhometastyny.com
Tea smoked duck served at Spicy Home Tasty in Commack.
Library Cafe (274 Main St., Farmingdale): Whether you met in person or online, that first date is always tricky. You don’t really know each other at all, so picking a place for a meal can be a deal breaker should you mess it up; going too fancy or not classy enough could make that first date your last. That is what makes this former library (thus the name) such a great choice. It has a smart taproom that shelves bottles of drink like books, and a dining section with cozy booths. Friendly pub food makes up the menu, and if you need a clever way to “accidentally” touch fingers, consider sharing a big Bavarian pretzel. (For drinking purposes, you can easily consider their cocktails smart, as many are named after classic books.) More info: 516-752-7678, thelibrarycafe.com
A warm Bavarian pretzel served with kielbasa, cornichons and cheese dipping sauce at Library Cafe in Farmingdale.
Turn up the romance
The LakeHouse (135 Maple Ave., Bay Shore): Down past the docks for the Fire Island ferries is this restaurant, which has become synonymous with romantic meals due to its harbor views and elegant rooms. which are bathed in soft lighting and equipped with a pair of fireplaces. Its American menu leans toward seafood, but plates such as the crisp Long Island duck breast and pepper-crusted New Zealand venison make for meals that feel a bit regal. Eat dishes like these by the fire — tables near fireplaces can be requested and reserved — to help stoke the flames that may come later; or maybe try sipping on a chai hot toddy to warm the cockles of your heart. More info: 631-666-0995, thelakehouserest.com
Caramelized local sea scallops with favas, ramps, fingerling potatoes, spring pea-mint sauce, prosciutto, pea shoots at The LakeHouse in Bay Shore.
South Shore Dive (65 Main St., West Sayville): Perhaps you and your sweetie were planning on riding your bike out for date night? Here’s a place to feel right at home for that, as classic cycles are often parked in front. Inside, you’ll see plenty of people with indie attitude at the bar, perhaps there for trivia or bingo night. Casual, artsy and dog-friendly, it’s free of the overdressed. . True, you’ll likely be dining while the bar is busy, but its energy is part of the charm. Go for buttermilk fried chicken, tacos or the toasted almond salad. This is where couples looking for a night out on Long Island, but want a taste of Brooklyn swizzled in, should head. More info: 631-218-6500, southshoredive.com
The butcher's steak, served with potatoes, white beans, sauteed baby spinach, garlic toast and a house salad at South Shore Dive in West Sayville.
Public House 49 (49 E. Main St., Patchogue): Not all date “nights” need to be at night, especially when you have the fun brunch tweak available at this restaurant. Every Sunday you can come here with your sweetheart and take part in the “bubbly bar”: For $25, you get two hours (between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) of unlimited champagne, plus access to a row of ingredients to embellish your drink — candy, fruits and juices are among the fun and yummy items you can add. More info: 631-569-2767, publichouse49.com
Stephanie Patti of Patchouge creates a custom mimosa at the Bubbly Bar while celebrating her birthday, during a brunch at Public House 49 in Patchogue.
Far from the madding crowd
The Preston House (428 E. Main St., Riverhead): You have jobs, maybe you have kids . . . you’ve gone on date night to be alone together, right? Not every spot on Long Island affords two people the ability to speak quietly and be heard, but this elegant hotel-restaurant offers some peace along with its New American comfort-food menu. Then again, you can fill breaks in the conversation by slurping down some East Coast oysters or fork-feeding your dinner date some veal and pork Bolognese. Don’t be surprised if you hear every word your date has to say — and if you fear such calm might inspire you to melt into your partner, you can always have a room booked so the night remains uninterrupted. More info: 631-775-1550, theprestonhouseandhotel.com
Crescent Farm duck confit sits on top of seasonal chutney, farrotto and herbed artichokes at The Preston House in Riverhead.
Blackbird Kitchen & Cocktails (3026 Merrick Rd., Wantagh): Craft beer may be all the rage, but for an added dash of passion, bump up that drink order to include a well-crafted cocktail — and these days, devotees of daring drinks are flocking to Blackbird. Just requesting a beverage here feels like an upscale experience, as choices include the “failed to reply, London” (raspberry, prosecco, vodka, sparkling water), “we are the night” (gin, pressed lemon, blackberry, herbs) and the “north garden” (bourbon, scotch, apple brandy, bitters). Drinks such as these, with unique and full flavors, are good options when looking to make for a date night with fresh energy, even if you and your lover are tried and true. More info: 516-654-9200, blackbirdli.com
A brisket and short rib blended burger with Gruyere cheese and fries at Blackbird Kitchen & Cocktails in Wantagh.
Dine and dance, Saturday night
Honu Kitchen + Cocktails (363 New York Ave., Huntington): DJs Keith, Dennis and Ness spin pop, dance and other electronic beats. More info: 631-421-6900, honukitchen.com. Also try: The Cuban (987 Stewart Ave., Garden City) and Dunns River Lounge (93 N. Park Ave., Rockville Centre).
Alecia Bailey and her husband, Mark Mangaya, of Huntington at Honu Kitchen & Cocktails in Huntington.