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What not to order on a date

So, I always get nervous when I'm on a dinner date. I love good food, I love eating with my hands and I love having a bit too much wine. I always feel a bit self conscious unless I am eating with an equally passionate foodie (not always easy to find these days). So, I try and stay away from salads (hard and messy to eat), soups (slurping sounds anyone? but gooddd I love French onion soup) and often spaghetti pasta (red sauce on a white shirt too many times).

Anyone else have any ideas of what NOT to order when on a date?

What about what NOT to drink? I often go straight for a strong cocktail at the beginning before ordering wine, which some people might find aggressive...

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  1. I'm with you on french onion soup and spaghetti. Red wine is another one. It can stain your teeth and tongue as well as give you a mustache if you sip to big!
    Lobster or anything where you're given a bib.
    But you know, I think cuisnes such as Morrocan or Ethiopian etc.. where you eat with your hands would be terrific fun and an ice breaker.


    1 Reply
    1. re: monavano

      I agree that you have to be careful with the red wine. It can lead to very unappetizing stained mouth, lips and teeth. I also think that one should be prudent on how much to drink. A girlfriend of mine never has a problem getting first dates but has issues getting second ones because of the booze factor.

    2. If my date objects to my eating habits, it's our last date.
      Eat whatever you like - if the date does the same you may find you've both been acting all polite and genteel needlessly.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Peg

        ... except raw onions of course. Don't eat raw onions unless the date does, in which case you MUST eat raw onions.

        1. re: Peg

          And garlic, raw or otherwise.

          Durian too, unless you are dating someone from Southeast Asia.

        2. re: Peg

          "If my date objects to my eating habits, it's our last date."

          That doesn't sound like a harbinger of lots of second dates.

          If one is always polite and genteel, one is never polite and genteel needlessly.

          1. re: FrankJBN

            Table manners are a good indicator of manners of another type. As far as what to eat with a date, I would go for a gratin. I would be careful to avoid smelly spices, escargots (too much garlic) and raw oysters (splurping). Frog legs might also put off a date.

          2. re: Peg

            Amen. I firmly believe in being myself on a date. I mean, if you eat like a total animal, maybe you need to check yourself. But any guy or girl worth keeping isn't going to be put off by a healthy appetite, or a bit of messiness.

            The question reminds me so much of my college roommate. When going on a date, she'd eat only salad, wear only her best clothes, do perfect hair and makeup, never smoke (she was a smoker), etc. And this would continue through numerous dates with the same guy. And she'd always come home ravenous and eat a pint of ice cream and/or a cheeseburger. I'd always ask how she could stand not being herself with these guys--I mean, they'd have to find out eventually who she was! I realized that it must be women like her that men complain about after years of marriage: "she was so thin/pretty/...when we got married!"

            And just re the OP's alcohol question: as others have said, go with the flow. But common sense should apply. It may not only be unattractive to get blotto on a first date, it can actually be dangerous. Better to keep your senses about you with someone you don't know well.

          3. I agree on eat what you like - be yourself!!!!! While I will avoid bbq or red sauce stuff if I'm wearing a white shirt that I treasure it has to do with the shirt, not the company. As far as cocktail then wine - I usually go with the flow so if he wants one, I'll have one, if not, I'm just as happy to move right into wine but thats out of being sociable, not a desire to do as he does.

            1. Spinach. You never find out until you get home that there's a big hunk of it stuck to your teeth.

              1 Reply
              1. re: alanbarnes

                you run the same risk with pesto. steer clear!

                garlic and/or onions, however, can be absolutely fine...as long as your date is eating it/them as well.

              2. First and foremost, you ought to get past getting a buzz before dinner and then drinking too much wine. You may be trying to settle your nerves, but you are only enabling foolish or embarassing behavior which is apparently your concern.

                Learn to eat soup without slurping. It is not hard. If you slurp when eating clams or oysters half-shell, don't worry about it.

                Again, if you have to, cut back on your drinking. I mean, you post about how difficult it is to eat salads, soups and spaghetti. It really is not that difficult to eat these things with a measure of style and decorum.

                I try to avoid food with a lot of garlic or a lot of hot pepper - any foods which might ... intrude on later intimacy, shall we say? For me that also precludes raw broccoli, anything that may play hell with my guts later in the evening. In fact, I avoid eating such foods during the day if I am going on a dinner date later.

                1. No spinach salad, as I've found that raw/fresh spinach leaves cling like no other veggie to one's front teeth. In the same vein, no corn-on-the-cob or ribs, unless you carry floss and aren't shy about using it (assuming kissing will be introduced into the evening at some point). And if you're a naturally hearty eater, go ahead and order pounds of foodstuffs throughout the meal if you so choose - BUT - try not to order *any one item* larger than your head. I've found its best not to imagine large-scale internal food processing/digesting going on, if romance is in the cards. I just don't wanna contemplate where that full rack of beef ribs is headed!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: silence9

                    Haha Silence9 and Alan - you are so right, but it is funny because I thought that spinach salad is always one of the easier salads to eat. Its neat and not too messy - but I am totally that girl with the chunk of spinach in my teeth..haha.

                    As for the drinks, yes I like to calm the nerves with an initial cocktail, but I actually judge the date if it goes well on whether or not we order a bottle of wine or just order a glass each. I think that finishing a bottle on a date means good conversation, not just a way to calm the nerves (although they are probably both related, haha).

                  2. I used to have a friend who said he'd learned (the hard way) that a blind guy should NEVER go for spaghetti until many dates down the line.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: revsharkie

                      Depending on the context and comfort level, working one's way through a crawfish boil could either be very disturbing, or possibly intriguing....

                      (for those who have not had the delight of a crawfish boil, you pinch the heads off, peel the bodies much like shrimp, then suck all the tasty juices out of the head. it tends to freak out the squeamish).

                      1. re: jettababs

                        One of the best weddings I've been to included the bride making her way through a huge crawfish boil. Luckily, someone wrapped an apron around her dress.

                    2. The only item I avoided when I was single and on a date was raw onions.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: swsidejim

                        Beans. Definitely, no beans.
                        (I love a date with music, but not THAT kind!!!!!)

                        1. re: aurora50

                          By this standard, no cauliflower either!

                      2. You have to be kidding, right? I must have had over 200 dates with different women, and I never once thought about what I ordered to eat or drink, other than what sounded good on the menu. You can't eat spaghetti without getting stains on your shirt? You can't eat soup without slurping? Where was your mother when you were growing up? She made certain my table manners were impeccable. As she put it, the essence of good table manners was to be certain you were not offending your guests.

                        And for the record, most of those 200 women were happy to have a second (or third, or fourth) date with me. I have often been appalled by the table manners of those who dine with me (people who plunge their fork vertically into their meat and then saw against that with their knife are particularly offensive) but I never judge the person solely on that aspect of their character.

                        And while I have nothing against drinking.. geez, do you feel it necessary? I would often order a scotch while looking at the menu, and then wine with dinner, but I never did it out of feeling nervous, and I certainly never spent a moment thinking about what my date would think of me.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: KevinB

                          Agreed 100x, from the female perspective - same experiences. Order what you want or feel like eating and drinking, and eat it politely, engaging in appropriate conversation when your mouth ISN'T full!
                          Turn of your cellphone and/or anything else distracting.

                        2. Soup. Don't ever do soup on a first date. I had a first date in a Chinese restaurant. As I lifted the too big piece of wonton to my mouth, it slipped off the spoon, and fell back into the bowl. The broth went everywhere....the tablecloth, my blouse, my chin, and his glasses. I was mortified. That was until the waiter came and removed my date's plate, and I saw all the rice the fell off the edge of his plate. Man, what a slob that guy was. LOL

                          1. Anything where you're too involved with the food could be a problem, unless your date is eating it too, in which case it might be fun. Trying to deal with mussels, prying them out of the shells, putting the shells in another bowl, sopping up the broth with bread, all while making conversation was pretty hard. Especially since he was eating a chicken breast. No, that didn't go too well.

                            1. Ribs- I do not want to see chunks of meat stuck in between your teeth. Bad pre kiss visual.

                              OR you can eat what you want but excuse your self after the meal to go to the restroom to check your teeth and clean them if needed.

                              Also no cruciferous vegetables in large quantities. Not for your date but for yourself. Being bloated and witty is hard to do...you don't want to laugh and gas.

                              1. On a wonderful date, whatever she spilled, dripped, splattered, sprayed, tripped over, or had captured between her teeth, didn't matter at all.
                                I recall a few dates who possessed such surprising strength of personal carriage that they turned the event into a positivley memorable experience.
                                There's almost nothing incorrect to order on a date, after you turn your cellphone off.

                                1. On first dates or even business meals, i used to order foods that were easy to eat: shrimp, crabcakes, boneless salmon. No smellly onions or garlic. I'd always stay away from whole fish because once a bone got caught in my throat that was supposedly deboned at the table by the waiter. I don't order big fat steaks where I'm so busily cutting away at the meat and look like Henry the 8th. I also don't order messy ribs. I will order pasta but the easy-to-eat kind like ziti. I don't want to be swirling spaghetti around my fork with sauce flying at my shirt.

                                  Also ordering appetizers to share is usually easy to eat and breaks bread with your dining companion. Try to relax a bit because dining and dating can be a very enjoyable experience.

                                  I would stay away from hard liquor before the meal.as It kiils the tastebuds. Wine or an apertifif is more chowhoundy Don't guzzle if you order a bottle - pace yourself.

                                  Order sexy desserts and savor them. Anything with melted chocolate is good to share and take small bites so you don't splash it on your shirt.

                                  Bon appetiti!

                                  1. If you want good conversation on a date or out with friends, avoid a buffet.

                                    1. In my dating days, I tried not to worry too much about what I ate. I imagine I might have avoided the messiest foods (whole lobster, for instance, or ribs), but it's possible to eat soup and pasta without embarrassing yourself, and it's a good life skill to learn. Ditto, chopsticks.

                                      I think good manners are far more important, like the first-date don'ts offered by that Bud Dry TV ad of a few years back: stay off the damned cellphone, don't go on and on about your mom's brisket, don't reach across the table with your fork while saying, "You gonna finish that?", and don't talk endlessly about yourself ("There I was, there I was, there I was, in... the Congo!").

                                      1. With two dating daughters jfood has this discussion real time many times.

                                        The answer is it depends. The first question you need to ask is prioritization. Are you there to eat knowing this guy/gal is not the one or is there a possibility that this may be the right SO. If it's the former, try to order something that will not embarass you or your date. Remember you are still in a public place and as many of us have told our younger children, you still need to have resataurant manners. If this may be mr(s) right, then downshift and try to keep the focus away from the food and onto the conversation. Rememeber the server is going to take the empty plates away in an hour or two but the date will be there longer.

                                        As to the liquor, jfood would say lighten as much as possible. A strong cocktail and then wine is a recipe for the "what did i do's?" Have you ever heard anyone say, "man, i was really sober last night, can't believe i did that?" Jfood hasn;t, but substitute "drunk" for "sober" and everyone has heard that. So jfood suggestion is downshift on the cocktail and nurse the wine. The last thing you want with a date that you like is a case of the "Oh No's."

                                        Enjoy yourself, your date and the food, in that order.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: jfood

                                          I think I would avoid Hot Wings on a first date, although I think it is sexy to watch someone pick up their food and lick their fingers others may not think so. There is also the whole spicy factor...bad breath, runny nose, sweating. As for the cocktails I am a bit of a party girl so I would say drink up but do be mindful of your safety when dealing with a new person. Anyone that is overly watching my alcohol intake might not make it to date #2

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            You're right, it tends to be "what didn't I do" when it was sober. A little bit of alcohol can definetly push the envelope a little and maybe send the messages you are too shy and or reserved to send. I'm not saying it is a method of dating, I'm just saying things get a little less awkward when there is a bottle of wine involved.

                                            1. re: dagoose

                                              Yes, so long as I can convince everyone else to have as much wine as I do. I will then be thought to be as witty and charming, by them, as I feel that I am...

                                              Actually, a few of my worst dating memories revolve around too much alcohol, for either me, or my date. Somehow I survived, but, if I was to find myself as a teenager, or twenty-something, I'd definitely do things differently. OTOH, I've been happily married for over 35 years, so maybe if I was able to change something, I'd have married an earlier "date," and never have been as happy as I am now. Who knows?


                                          2. For me all food is an obstacle to dating because I have an unfortunate tendency to spill/dribble even the most innocuous of foods. I can even manage to get soda that I'm drinking through a straw on me. My table manners are really quite good, I'm just a klutz. So I carry a Tide pen in my purse and when I inevitably have to fish it out to deal with some stain on my front -- salads are particularly dangerous with inevitable oil and vinegar drops on my bosom -- I try to make a joke of it. After all, this is something I'm most likely to repeat and if my date doesn't have a sense of humor -- a real dealbreaker -- then it's best we part ways early on. I've also learned to make at least one trip to the bathroom to check for foreign particles in my teeth -- that rapt attention to my latest amusing anecdote could in reality be someone tracking the unfortunate piece of green's progress. I also steer clear of hard liquor because I'm loquacious by nature and tend to get even more chatty when nervous. Drinking can turn me into a babbling idiot.
                                            My mother and grandmother always taught me to take the lead of your date. If he/she orders a cocktail then feel free to do the same. If they order big, sloppy food, feel free to do so too. Likewise for onions and garlic. It makes thing easier during those awkward beginnings to follow the other's lead. But I've also found that when I'm with someone with whom I "click," I can abandon all the "rules" and dribble and chatter without fear. A high comfort level is a better portent than about anything for a continued relationship IMO.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Fuser

                                              Fuser -- that's hilarious! You must be my doppleganger ;) It's awful that though our manners are impeccable, we still end up in such slapstick-like situations. I keep telling myself to get a Tide pen.

                                              In addition to spilling things on myself, I tend to trip on everything, including my own two feet, and drop things easily, so it's best for me to stay with either a fork or chopsticks and not have to add in the danger of an extra utensil.

                                              I don't like ordering dessert on a date because 1) don't particularly care for sweets, and 2) if the date goes well, you can walk around and find a cute ice cream shop instead!

                                            2. I avoid foods that are super heavy (it'll make me sleepy) or super spicy (runny nose). Other than that, I watch out for sneaky garnishes (like seeds or herbs that get stuck in your teeth), messy sauces and onions/garlic.

                                              Drinks have never been an issue since I almost never order any.

                                              1. I agree about the onion soup. I love it, but the cheese on the FR variety creates problems. Fortunately, I've been happily married for 38 years, so my wife expects me to twirl the strands of cheese and comment that "one day, I'll invent a utensile that is a spoon with sissors, just for the cheese... "

                                                Since I've had a moustache (and full beard) for the last 44 years, I kinda' steer clear of chicken stew. The father of a girlfriend delighted in serving this, to see how I'd handle it.

                                                Other than the FR onion, other soups do not present a problem, as I always move the spoon away from me, then drink in the soup, with few, if any slurping noises.

                                                Salads are a real problem, as too many in the US are not cut finely enough. I hate to cut my food, prior to eating it, but there are few choices at too many restaurants. Who wants a 1/4 head of lettuce on their fork?

                                                In my case, regarding the drinks, I always order wines and try to pair each course with them. I cannot think of any recommendations, or caveats, along those lines. If I were "dating," I would definitely be considered a "wine snob," but that is me.

                                                Interesting topic. Sorry that I cannot add more to it.


                                                1. Eat what you like -- if your date is offended, you're with the wrong person.

                                                  1. There was lots of good advice above
                                                    My advice is:
                                                    1. Don't eat anything you have to eat with your hands, or prefer to eat with your hands. As this is rather carnal looking for a first date.
                                                    2. Agree cut back on the booze I think waiting to order wine then perhaps a cocktail for dessert or afterwards at a bar is most suitable. Unless you have had to wait meeting someone then a glass of wine, or if they offer a half pour would be suitable.
                                                    3. If you would like to order pasta why not learn to twirl it on a spoon? I find I never have a problem staining my shirts when I eat this way. Of course I can eat a 12" meatball sub without a napkin I was raised to eat neatly. It really is about practicing eating neatly in a social way.
                                                    4. I often order easy to eat things like steak, avoid onions and garlic, and I avoid salads because even if I want a salad and normally don't eat a salad guys really are judgmental about this.
                                                    5. Even now that I have been with the SO forever and he has seen me eat hot wings and etc I still eat neatly and politely when out in public. I really think it was how you have been taught to eat... perhaps you could get an etiquette book on it? They can be very helpful for tips, but try to get one that doesn't sound too over the top some just are so snobby sounding I find them almost offensive to read.

                                                    I agree you should eat what you like, but I think on a first date there are limits if you can't eat it neatly. And I do think some people can get the wrong idea about you and are not neccessarily the wrong person, nerves and expectations of behavior on a first date can be tricky.

                                                    1. The only things I would not order on a date would be drinks with a sexual name, and very awkward to eat foods like ribs and shellfish that must be removed from said shell. However, that would only be during the first dates. You do not want to become too standoffish of your favorite foods though. Be yourself, enjoy your meal, and if your date is so judgmental as to be put off by a single thing such as a stain on the shirt from pasta, or a slurp of a soup spoon I would not want to date that person. My first date with my husband, he spilled an entire sauce bowl of soy sauce on the table trying to make me a dipping solution of soy/wasabi. I just giggled and said "I take it you are not that into sushi" He replied "ahh... how did you guess?" :) It was the thought that counted to me, he really tried hard to please me, even though he did not know what he was doing at all.

                                                      1. haha.. honestly, everyone is going to spill something sometimes. especially when nervous. just have a sense of humor, and hope that your date does as well. could you imagine going through life with someone trying to be perfect all the time? cant we just embrace our imperfections?

                                                        if i had to avoid anything, id avoid super messy, spicy, and foods heavy on onions and garlic. however, if the dish looked good, id probably try it anyways... and do a quick brush/mouth spray in the bathroom after dinner. yes, i am that person.

                                                        1. my sweet hubby has been spilling on his shirt since the beginning of our romance and he still does it on a regular basis, gotta love him for it!

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: mariekeac

                                                            Though I tend to think of myself as a refined diner, I seem to have a habit of getting my tie into my coffee. I've even thought about tucking it into my shirt, but that would just not be proper! Still, my dry cleaner knows what I need and works wonders with my ties. They also have saved my behind, with the removal of red wine stains on my white suits - none due to MY problems, but those of others, serves, fellow guests, folk walking through the dining room with a glass of Cab, etc.


                                                            1. re: mariekeac

                                                              Spilling things - yes, I know. On an early date, with my now wife of many years, we were at a local yacht club having drinks before dinner. She happened to spill her drink. Things like this happen. I went to the bar to get her a replacement, and when I returned, she poured MY drink on the floor. Her explanation was that she thought that I might be mad and throw MY drink on her. I overlooked that one faux-pas, and decided to marry her, anyway. Stuff happens.


                                                            2. Chew with your mouth shut, be careful with your utensils, and don't get drunk.

                                                              anything beyond basic rules of decorum seems a bit forced to me.