I get it. Selecting a restaurant for a first date is difficult. Because it’s true, by the time I’m fastening my seatbelt in your car, if you’re suggesting an eatery whose over-sauced pasta makes me cringe, I will silently be judging you. Don’t be mistaken, I don’t want to go somewhere with white tablecloths and a bill that costs half your paycheck. You shouldn’t spend that much money on someone you don’t even know. And besides, if at the end of the meal I feel like we’re not clicking, I’m going to feel really guilty about you dropping that coin. It also looks desperate.
Furthermore, I don’t want to go somewhere trendy. Trendy restaurants are L.A.’s demonstration of the Pavlovian effect. Oh how do I like my meal, you gorgeous waiter? Actually I think this crispy rice on spicy tuna is mediocre at best. And the grilled whitefish is overcooked and bland. Frankly, I’d be more satisfied with a $3.70 order of animal fries. But, um, thanks for asking. Trendy restaurants also draw celebrity couples. And there’s nothing that makes me more uncomfortable than sitting in a room with two actors pretending to be in love and a bevy of other patrons trying to get a glimpse at them while they poke at plates heaped with kale.
By all means, don’t take me to a chain restaurant. Unless a savage tornado rips through town and wipes out every single restaurant, food truck, and grocery store, then, and only then, will I go to P.F. Chang’s with you.
Lastly, if you take me to a restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol, I will positively know that we are not a good match, and our date will be over before a waiter can drop a basket of bread on the table. And while we’re being honest, please don’t order yourself a drink before you’ve asked me what I would like to imbibe that evening. At that point I will inevitably reply that I will be having a glass of red, which is when the next words out of your mouth should be, “Why don’t we get a bottle?”
The rest is fair game. You can take me to a hole-in-the-wall. If it’s great, I’ll think you’re brilliant. You can take me out for a cheap bowl of curry. If it’s great, I’ll think you’re brilliant. You can even take me to a sports bar. If they have shuffleboard, I will challenge you to a game.
So please don’t mess this up. You’ve got Yelp. You’ve got Zagat. For goodness sake, even Jonathan Gold has given you 99 suggestions. And if you’re really that stumped, want a good piece of advice? Just leave it up to me to decide.