NYC Dates: Guggenheim and Meatballs

Since I did my Guide to New York City, a few readers have asked for more New York recommendations, and I’d love to share some ideas. So! I’m thinking of starting a new series of NYC dates, featuring activities to do with friends or crushes around town. What do you think? Does that sound fun/interesting/relevant to you? I hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations, too. (We’re always looking for offbeat date nights.) First up…

Have you ever been to the Guggenheim? Alex and I went to the museum’s Maurizio Cattelan retrospective (which runs through January 22nd). I wore a new maxi dress from Brooklyn designer Ilana Kohn, which I was really excited about. (She makes really cool prints.)

The exhibit was by Maurizio Cattelan, a 51-year-old Italian artist, who was retiring from the job of making art. Instead of displaying his sculptures on the floors of the museum, he challenged the curators to hang all 128 works from the ceiling. So they did! What a feat of engineering. The end result was spectacular, and it was fascinating to walk around and see the intricate, wild pieces from all angles.

The black-and-white photo above shows Maurizio himself pretending to be a dog. “The image is comic perfection,” writes the New York Times, “a portrait of the artist as an obsequious canine, embarrassingly eager to please.” He’s a nutty artist, dubbed the “art scene’s joker”; for example, he has been known to hire people to pretend to be him during media interviews, and he instructs them to give evasive and nonsensical answers.

I got goosebumps looking at all the people standing underneath the gazillion tons of artwork.

In other news, the crowd was super cute. :)

Afterward, we went to the new Meatball Shop in the West Village, which serves delicious meatballs of all kinds–pork, beef, chicken or veggie–with delicious sauces. Rib-stickingly delicious.

What are your favorite places for dates in New York? And I’m excited to do some quirky/offbeat dates, coming up! xoxoxo

(Header graphic design by Em from HipHipGinGin for A Cup of Jo. Meatball shop photos courtesy of the Meatball Shop and NY Daily News)

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  2. went to meatball shop last night after seeing it here. was amazing and surprisingly inexpensive. thanks for the rec.

  3. My husband and I are moving from SF to NYC in March for my job – NYC Dates sounds perfect!! Help us explore our new home!

  4. Tori says...

    Please do this!! I always feel so guilty for being a New Yorker and being unable to think of fun, unique dates!

  5. oooh, shoegirl, i’ll think about it! thanks for your sweet comments, everyone!! xo

  6. This looks like such a fun, NYC night! Love the shots of the people standing down below as well as of the crowd. I’m a vegetarian, but those meatballs do look delicious! Can’t wait for more posts in this NYC dates series!

  7. My husband’s birthday is in January and I want to plan a “classic New York” date night…any suggestions?

  8. Just back from our first NYC visit! We did so much but some of my favorites were ice skating in central park and then drinks at the Food Hall in the basement of the Plaza Hotel! Fun place to go especially if you can’t afford a room there :)
    Also loved brunch at the Standard Grill (complete with pictures in the basement photo booth) and then walk to chelsea market to browse and pick up some treats!

  9. I think a date night guide would be a great idea! There are so many good finds that don’t get written about and mot people don’t get to experience, so I think it would be perfect and encourage people to go out and explore!

  10. This is a FANTASTIC idea! I’m an L.A. girl and my boyfriend loves New York. I would love to be able to offer him some suggestions and entice him to take me to his favorite city ;)

  11. LOVE this idea!! you must do it :) my hubs and i are moving right outside of NYC (in princeton) this summer and i can’t wait for weekends in the city! ;)

  12. i’d love date night posts! i would appreciate some budget friendly ideas too, like a cheap dinner and a free activity if that’s something you ever partake in; my man and i are frugal!

  13. I loved the Maurizio Cattelan exhibit at the Guggenheim! So glad to see that you guys enjoyed it as well on your date! The Meatball Shop looks delicious, too!

  14. Anonymous says...

    hi jo!i am a 22 years old girl from venice, italy, who is moving for her first time to NYC for an internship! i am thrilled:) thanks a lot for your guides, i have read all of them, they’re fundamental and precious for ppl like me, who want smthing off the beaten track.
    I love your blog, you have a wonderful family and you’r so stylish!
    cheers from venice

  15. I went to grad school in the city! My husband, fiance at the time, had to stay in the south for his job. We just recently moved back, and I can’t wait to make the city that has always been just mine, ours :) Some of our favorites dates have been at jazz clubs! Several glasses of wine, a long leisurely dinner, and then smalls in the west village or arthur’s tavern. both intimate with that warm lighting that makes anyone look dashing!

  16. Anonymous says...

    Meatballs are such a fun comfort food!

  17. Is that a dress? So perfect for the Guggenheim!

    I think meatballs are the new thing. They can be super cheap and easy, or really gourmet- very versatile! I recently had a vision for meatballs in broth and created a dish out of 3 different recipes that I found online- super fun!

  18. Amazing. We JUST got back home to Los Angeles from NYC – were there for a week – and we loved the Guggenheim exhibit. Missed the meatball place but hit Corner Bistro for burgers. Anyway, we used your city guide quite a bit – thank you for that!

  19. callie, i’d suggest the east village. a super fun, young neighborhood and housing is a big less expensive there if you go a bit farther east. good luck!!

  20. i’ve never heard of kuma inn!!! fun!!! thanks for the recommendation, looking it up now….

  21. Oh my goodness, Martha – my boyfriend and I have loved Kuma Inn for years, and now possibly love its sister restaurant in Brooklyn (Umi Nom) even more. The most delicious food, and both are like hidden romantic gems.

    I would also recommend for a winter date: hot chocolate at City Bakery, with one of their homemade marshmallows, of course, followed by some light window shopping/store browsing – ABC Carpet & Home and Fish’s Eddy are always fun – and then a classic cocktail at Flatiron Lounge before dinner.

    This past summer, we loved nothing more than visiting the Smorgasburg food market on the waterfront in Williamsburg, sampling some bites on the pier there, and then hopping on the East River Ferry to wherever we felt like that day. Sailing under all of the bridges is just lovely.

  22. What an incredible exhibit! Jealous! I haven’t been to NY since 2004!

  23. Id love it! I cant wait for the snow to fall here, but until then I need some places to try out :)

  24. yippee!!! fun! relevant! can’t wait!

  25. Kuma Inn is my favorite little restaurant in NYC. It has less than 10 tables and serves the best thai fusion tapas I’ve had anywhere. The atmosphere is really great because it’s so small, and it would be a great spot for a date and sharing food with friends.

  26. Please do this series I have all your NYC ideas bookmarked to do with my friends!

  27. So fun! My husband and I had our first date at the Portland Art Museum, and then three years later he proposed to me there. Thanks Jo!

  28. Anonymous says...

    even though I live on the other side of the world in London and have a non-existent personal life I would love to live to have my imaginary self live out your NY date ideas in my imagination ;)

    a loyal reader

  29. i love how ridiculously crowded all of the photos are. haha. oh, new york.

  30. I love this idea! My boyfriend and I actually went to see this exhibit 2 weeks ago. It was amazing! We had the absolute best time looking at all the hanging objects. My jaw just kept dropping!

  31. catbee, that sounds awesome! love all these tips!!

  32. seriously, emily, babysitting adds up! fun about ideas for little dudes — the natural history museum is AMAZING, have you been? we went last weekend, and the whale room is just jawdropping. i’m sure they would love it.

  33. A meatball shop? I have to try this out. Since moving to NY (and away from grandparents) I have realized how much babysitting adds to the date price! And, just to mix up the weekends, I would love to hear some ideas for taking the younger men (mine are 7 &9) out on a date. Something beyond hamburgers and ice cream.

  34. one of my favorite spots is milon, or panna II – have you been? they are next door to each toher, but the one on the left is my favorite. it is super yummy indian food but the best part is that it is the size of a train car with tons of lights hanging everywhere – so many that you can’t really stand up straight.

  35. Surprise industries ( is an excellent departure from standard dates in New York. You can’t go wrong because you have no idea what you’ll be doing!

    I love giving gift certificates for two as gifts. :D

  36. Please make this a regular series! I am planning a trip to the Guggenheim this weekend, post-brunch in the Village, but perhaps we could do the Meatball Shop afterwards? ;)

    I’ve had a really great time walking from Pier 6 in Brooklyn along the water all the way up to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. You can start with hot dogs at Bark, and by the time you get to the Bridge, you’re ready for ice cream from the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory–SO GOOD.

    Also, the Staten Island Ferry at sunset–free and gorgeous views!

  37. Oh this is such a fun feature! Can’t wait to see upcoming date nights. I’m always looking for new ideas of things to do with my significant other.

  38. my boyfriend and i frequently visit the city and always like to go on “special” dates when we’re in town, but it’s always such a production trying to find somewhere to go. It’d be great to have a guide for the city’s best date spots!

  39. great series! I can’t wait to see all the fun date nights you come up with! love it Joanna!


  40. Christina says...

    This is an excellent idea! I used your suggestion last time for a date: We went to Weathered Up and he was SO impressed by my choice that he took his brother and sister-in-law there the following weekend (they were visiting from Canada). THEN I told a friend about the whole thing, and she met a blind date there from, and he too was impressed!

  41. I LOVE THE MEATBALL SHOP!!!!! When I was there this past May they had a carmel ice cream that beyond delectable! I can’t wait to get back there next month.

  42. I was at the Guggenheim Dec. 7 and the Meatball Shop on Dec. 5, when we ate outside because it was so mild. We went to the LES one though. Cattelan is the same age as me, and his works date back to 1989, which is when I had my first baby. So going to that show was kind of like: this body of work took the same amount of time as bringing up my kid. Sobering. I loved it, and thought it was well hung (haha).

  43. Love the idea of your new post series!! I will definitely have to check out the Meatball shop soon!

  44. You’ve got seriously good choices for fun in NYC! We have no meatball shop in Columbus but I could make some at home:)

  45. Do! I’m going to be NEW in NYC starting the week after Christmas! Your blog makes me excited to move.

    Also, we’re going into temporary housing so I have some time to find a neighborhood and apartment and so I’d love to know some of your thoughts on cute neighborhoods/where-to-live and what a new new yorker should think about when trying to find their first NYC apartment.

  46. I am so excited for you to post date ideas! My girlfriends and I are always adventuring around the city and I’ll keep ideas in my pocket for “real” dates, too :)

  47. lovely idea!

    i’ve been reading you for quite a while but my husband and i are now new york transplants. so fun to be able to put your ideas into action :)

  48. Kate says...

    Yes! I’m on the hunt for not-so-touristy things to do in midtown tomorrow when we come up from Philly to do the tree thing. Just because I want to go to Rockefeller Center doesn’t mean I also want to eat at TGI Fridays with fifty screaming kids.

  49. LOVE THIS BLOG. I really do look forward to reading the posts each day. I live in London and wish you could do some date posts for my city. I like to try and find unique, non-touristy places or walk up high in Hampstead Heath or Primrose Hill to get a great view over London. Love New York so much though!

  50. I LOVE the Meatball Shop so much! They also have the best homemade ice cream sandwiches. This place is seriously one of the main things I miss most about NYC.

  51. Oh, you are just so wonderful. The happiest of blogs, right here.

  52. This is lovely! Both the fantastic date and incredible idea for a ‘new column’. :)

    Thanks, Joanna! I always, always look forward to reading your blog. :)

  53. stop it! we’ve been here for only a week and I’m not ready to miss new york…xx

  54. oooh, julie, i would loooove that. :)

  55. a series on NYC dates would be fantastic!

  56. Julie says...

    hey! Lovely idea!
    I’m keeping all your tips too as we are coming in April!

    I love also your motherhood posts as our babys are just few months apart!

    Keep posting your great ideas and if you want some tips on Paris for a second honeymoon, I’m sure plenty of us (you french fan base;) ) will answer!


  57. Maison Premiere in Williamsburg is an adorable Paris-inspired oyster and cocktail bar. And they have dollar oyster happy hour! My boyfriend and I spent an afternoon here and it was romantic and festive. You could even walk back to Manhattan across the bridge.

  58. I love love loooooved Meatball Shop’s LES location but now that there’s one walking distance from my apartment, I’m really over the moon. SUCH a great place to take out of towners and dates.

  59. I’d love more NYC date ideas. You always come up with fun, unique stuff – so I say, “Go for it!”

    Btw — the meatballs look amazing.

  60. Excellent idea, you should totally do this!

  61. Yes! love that this little meatball place is getting publicity! My brother actually took me a while back, and I totally fell in love! Then he took my husband, and same thing, he loves it! Now, if only we could be residents of NYC instead of frequenters…

  62. This is so strange, Joanna- I have a date coming up with a crush and we’re going to the New Museum and then having dinner @ the meatball shop, which I can’t wait to try… can I ask, what did you order?

  63. Anonymous says...

    I would love to get ideas for girls night out too!

  64. Nothing better than dates in NYC!

  65. A ha! I never know where to go after a trip to the Met (where I’m more likely to end up) and you answered it for me – head out of the UES altogether!!

  66. the tenement museum and the museum of sex are both awesome (and very different!) ideas!! i love museums for dates because they give you fun things to talk about, and you can kind of amble around in a easy, relaxed way. alex and i went to MoMA on our second date. i kept hoping i was saying smart enough things about art! :)

  67. What a great idea!! I’ll love this because one of my goals is to get up to NYC asap with my boyfriend! He’s never been, and I want to show him a new side of the city!

    Always with the great ideas, Joanna… Thanks for bringing happiness to my days!

  68. How fun! Even if I live in the Bay Area it’s always cool to read about quirky things to do in New York. I just save it for the files (and a future visit:) or use it as inspiration. Live vicariously…

  69. What a great idea! I definitely support this as a series. Although I don’t live in New York, I love hearing about fun things to do in the area for future visits. And I know I’ll be inspired to find similar activities in the Boston area.

  70. LOVE THIS IDEA!!! PLEASE KEEP IT COMING! Just getting back into dating after a long term relationship… I usually make the guy plan the date because it’s so much pressure! But I’d love to impress a date with a super fun and unique idea :)

  71. olivia says...

    Dear Joanna,
    I think it’s a fantastic idea.
    please Go on sharing your NY interests.
    My husband and I are planning to come to new York in march., I keep all your tips, we are even going to stay in the guest House you reccomended.
    It’s a big deal for me to go back to NYC because I lived there for a year , a decade ago.
    Thanx again
    Your #1 french fan

  72. I love this idea! I’ll definitely be looking forward to getting some new date night ideas. The first one is already a home run, in my book. I’ve never had a Guggenheim date, but years ago went to the MoMA followed by dinner at a little place near St. Mark’s that I can’t remember the name of, and then jazz at club in west village. It was a fabulous night, but would have been much better had it been with my husband. ;)

  73. I thought the Museum of Sex on 5th Avenue was a great date. Might as well get all the uncomfortableness out there up front. PLUS – they have a Picasso, so it’s a legit museum.

  74. I would love this! I love going into the city, but sometimes when I go, I have no new ideas of where to go!

    Please do it! I thank you in advance!

  75. Anonymous says...

    So fun to read! I love vicariously through your life at times, but someday when I go to New York, I am going to all the places you recommend!!! Love the dress!

  76. For a day time date, one of our favorites is the Tenement Museum. Always educational and really makes you appreciate the history of the city. There are so many different tours, it’s easy to good back several times. We follow that with food from any of the great Lower East Side establishments. And top it off wih a cupcake from SugarSweetSunshine (the best in the city in my opinion).

  77. Love the Guggenheim!! Can’t wait for the fabulous dates. :) Happy holidays!!

  78. Loveee the meatball shop! And have been wanting to finally get to the Guggenheim! :) Great date.

  79. barchbo, that sounds like so much fun! “Food from Chelsea Market & picnic at the High Line. If the weather is nice, we stay and play dominoes.”

  80. Yes! Definitely do this. :) I actually just started traveling to New York more for work and I definitely re-read all of your Guide posts. I would love to know more about how you first started learning your way around the city and what resources, tips, or tricks you have for navigating. Figuring our cross streets seems to be half the battle. Thank you so much for doing this and helping those of us that are dropping in on the city periodically feel right at home!

  81. I feel like art museums are always fun locations for dates. My favorite is the MoMA and – hurray! – just got a membership from my sister-in-law.

    Also, next week there’s an event called “The Gaits: A High Line Soundwalk” on Wednesday that would be amazing for a date night and the best part is – it’s free! You can either participate with your iPhone as everyone walks down the High Line or you can just listen and observe. Either way it should be fun! Details are here:

  82. ooh, i love this! i just moved to new york to live with my boyfriend after dating him long distance for 3 years. he’s always planned our dates because he knows the city so well. now i can surprise him from time to time!

  83. Hello:

    Iam form Spain, i had benn 5 times in NYC I think is The best city in the world.

  84. I’m meeting my bf in NYC in January, so this series is perfect!

  85. love this idea! i’m always searching for new spots to spice up a weeknight. looking forward to more dates!

  86. Megan says...

    I went to the openings of that exhibiting also, and really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to check out the new location of the Meatball Shop!

  87. So fun and genuine! I love these kinds of dates.
    Shawn and I like to go hiking in the woods tracking deer, and then go get hot cocoa and warm food. Not totally doable in NYC but the cocoa part is! You could always use imagination+central park. LOL

  88. Cafe Sabarsky at the Neue Galelerie is one of my favorite stops to lunch before a trip to the Guggenheim. Matjes Herring on Egg Spread and Apple with a Stiegl or Apfel gespritzt, followed by any of their amazing desserts! Getting hungry just thinking about it.

  89. Barchbo says...

    We don’t live in NYC, but we visit enough that we have our favorite “dates”.

    -The rooftop bar at the Met for drinks. Or if the weather is poor, the Balcony Bar overlooking the Great Hall.

    -Gallery hopping to check out art we would never see at home.

    -Food from Chelsea Market & picnic at the High Line. If the weather is nice, we stay and play dominoes.

    -Walking tours we download from the internet. We always discover a new part of the city!

    PS: That meatball shop is our next destination. YUM!

  90. This is great! Makes me want to go to NYC right now!

  91. Those pictures of the Meatball shop are great!

  92. That sounds like so much fun! Thank you for your NY Guide – we went this past weekend and used several of your suggestions (I came off super cool with my family)!

  93. And, veggie meatballs? Yum.

  94. That’s a lovely idea. Do it.