Table for Two: A Food-Lover’s Guide to First Dates

In the circles I run in, I’m known as “that girl who really likes food.”

There could be worse things.

This title, though, comes with responsibilities: restaurant recommendations, menu ideas, party planning. I can handle these. Best dumplings in Chinatown? I’ve got you. What to bake for your best friend’s birthday? Easy.

But dating?

As a food-lover, dating can be complicated. First dates? Downright terrifying. When food is such an important part of the equation, choosing a restaurant, navigating a menu, and sidestepping food-related issues can be daunting tasks.

Here, then, is a cast of characters that you may encounter along your dating adventures, and the best way to handle them. When you’re “the girl that really likes food,” you’ve got to bring your A-Game to the table.

**The Characters**

The character: The Hey-Baby
Profile: This guy takes your love of food as a challenge. He wants to (pause for hair flip, eyebrow-raise, and/or sideways grin) take you out.
Choosing a place: He, most likely, will want to choose the place (he, most likely, will be calling most of the shots this night). Let him. But do try to avoid the tapas joint (this may be harder than it sounds: The Hey-Baby loves small plates.).
Navigating the menu: If you are at a tapas place, rest assured: he will want to take care of the ordering (“You’re just going to love these prosciutto-wrapped figs.”). Personally, I avoid these situations at all costs; as a first date, I think it paints a guy in the wrong light (and I like a say in what I order). If you’re a fan of the shared plate, though, then embrace it. At a different type of restaurant, suggest splitting an appetizer, or trying a few different things to start. You can then enjoy your main course in peace — without his ladling and spooning items onto your plate, and without the inevitable “Isn’t this fantastic?”-types of inquiries.

The character: The Demure Dude
Profile: “You’re the ‘foodie.’ You choose the place. You order.”
Choosing a place: Since the decision is your hands, choose a restaurant you know, a restaurant you’re comfortable with. One with a reservations policy is key; you don’t want to be stuck waiting by a crowded bar for hours with a guy you barely know. If you’re in a city, choose a restaurant in a location with post-dinner options: a great dessert place, perhaps, or a nearby park.
Navigating the menu: If he tries to leave the ordering up to you, suggest dishes for him to try (hopefully, you choose a place where you know the menu well). If he is really into the whole sharing business, have a discussion about his preferences; don’t forge ahead with the ordering on your own. Ask him what he likes, what appeals to him — and then marry that with your own personal taste. There’s nothing worse than a bossy, know-it-all date (see above).

The character: The Penny Pincher
Profile: This guy wants to take you out but is obviously watching his wallet.
Choosing a place: First, look into options where you don’t have to order a full-on dinner. Do you know of a fun happy hour, with great bar snacks? Is there a park nearby where you can picnic? As for restaurants, ethnic places can be cheap and delicious. Dim sum is always a great option; you can have a bunch of tastes without racking up a huge bill. If either of you has a surplus of game, you may be up for the challenge of a dining hall date.
Navigating the menu: While I’m evidently not a fan of the whole sharing-tons-of-dishes-on-a-first-date thing, it can be key in keeping the bill low. Alternatively, you can eat lightly at dinner and go to a great ice cream place or bakery for dessert. Penny pinching can lead to some great adventures – adventures your date will appreciate.

The character: The Picky Eater
Profile: We all know the type.
Choosing a place: Decide on a food that both of you love: maybe burgers. Or pizza. Or dumplings. Then, make it your goal to find your city/town’s best. The adventure will give you something to talk about, and both of you will be guaranteed to like the food.
Navigating the menu: No navigation necessary. See, wasn’t that easy?

Originally posted on Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

3 Responses to “Table for Two: A Food-Lover’s Guide to First Dates”

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