READERS' PICK: If you're going the bar route for that first date, your best bet is a cocktail lounge with plenty of eye candy and comfort features -- e.g., The Shelter. The avocado greens and burnt oranges, groovy lights and JFK wall hangings make you feel at ease with your Pink Squirrel in hand, and the glittery booths (come early to snag one) are dangerously cozy. Throw into the mix the added distractions of a pool table, DJs or live music, well-mixed drinks, great people watching and fabu bartenders, and you'll have a great time even if that first date yawns his or her way into a last.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: The Shanty, 401 E. Ninth St. (See Best Bar Patio, page 123.)
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