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First date advice; need help

For a few weeks, I've been communicating via email/cell phone with a woman and am planning on taking her out to dinner in Seattle when I get back from California. This will be our first date and I would like to make it memorable. Any romantic suggestions?

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  1. Well, this depends on how adventurous you (and she) are. If you do not have many dietary limitations, then I would recommend Pasta Freska (www.pastafreska.com). They have no menus for dinner.

    The owner comes around to your table and asks you if there's anything you don't like or are allergic to. Then he brings you food. It's a decent amount of food but not overwhelming, they serve wine and beer but not hard alcohol yet (but are applying for a license).

    It's anywhere from 4-6 courses depending on the evening and it is quite good. It's relatively inexpensive for what you get ($50 for dinner and a good amount of wine per person) and it is a good 2+ hour experience. The chef is always engaging and you can tell he really loves his job, so that adds to the fun of the evening. Plus... no stress and no decisions.

    Everyone I've ever brought there has absolutely loved it and we're probably talking a good 25 people over the past couple of years.

    1 Reply
    1. re: patriciajane

      I love the Pasta Freska idea! My sister and bro-in-law took us there a few years ago and it was wonderful. If my sister likes it, it is a good restaurant - she is the pickiest eater I have ever met...

    2. Shiggy, Chez Shea would be a good choice as would the upstairs bar at Maximillien's at the Market.

      1. Thank you for your suggestions. After performing a search, I found this rather large list of "romantic" restaurants: http://www.nwsource.com/restaurants/g...

        Also, what are your opinions of Canlis and Matt's in the Market?

        4 Replies
        1. re: Shiggy

          I loved Canlis, but it is quite formal and not at all appropriate for a first date. I think you'd be far better off with a more casual restaurant. No matter how much you've talked on the phone and emailed, the first "face to face" is fraught with peril (or at least nerves)...best to keep it low key and comfortable. Believe me, if things work out, it will be "memorable", where ever you go. My first meeting with my now husband was for coffee at Il Fornaio...brightly lit, exits in all directions! Why not take her to one of your favorite spots? As long as it is quiet enough for easy conversation, that should be fine.

          1. re: Jeri L

            im with Jeri! I would recommend HH somewhere where you know its good, has a laid back atmosphere and isnt break the bank spendy. last thing you want to do is waste a bunch of dough on a wet blanket. plus, alcohol makes everyone more charming!!!

          2. re: Shiggy

            I agree, Canlis is much more of a 25th anniversary kind of place. Matt's is fantastic and I think would be great for a first date--very good food and nice ambiance, but not fancy, quiet or stuffy. See if they'll let you reserve a table with a view, or maybe one at least against the windows (there are some two tops right in the middle of the restaurant, which are less cozy/romantic).

            1. re: christy319

              And Canlis is a real hit for the 50th. The grandkids enjoy the view, the service is stellar for everybody and there are no surprises.

          3. I love Chez Shea but it can be very quiet when you may need a little more action around you with a new date. That's my take! Also, I concur that Matt's is a much better choice than Canlis.

            1. I would be very impressed if a guy suggested Matt's in the Market for a first date. However, if you've never been there, a day or two before the date go to the market and scope it out. Some people have a hard time locating it (which is part of its charm).

              1. Hello, all, thank you for your advice. Just an update. I managed to make contact with Nancy Leson, food critic for the Times; what a wonderful person to take time out of her day to respond to my email(s).

                Nancy suggested four restaurants:

                1. Place Pigalle (www.placepigalle-seattle.com
                )2. Cafe Campagne (www.campagnerestaurant.com
                )3. Boat Street Cafe (www.boatstreetcafe.com
                )4. Madoka (www.madokaonbainbridge.com


                This actually only complicates things, but I suppose I should be thankful that I live in an area that has so many great places to choose from.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Gordon Kushnick

                  I definitely wouldn't go all the way out to Bainbrige on a 1st date.

                  1. re: Shiggy

                    You can't go wrong with any of these. I would go for Place Pigalle.

                  2. The beauty of first dates, it that you can prolong them if they are going well.
                    I'd do this:

                    Drinks at Sambar - Jay is a master mixologist and you can share a small plate or two.

                    If things are going well, go to Monsoon or Lark for dinner - again, small plates that you can share make for a very romantic setting.

                    If they are still going well, take her to Canlis for desserts - Neil Robertson is the best pastry chef working in Seattle. While the Canlis dining room may seem a bit much for a first date, desserts in the bar are just the right way to end a first date that is going well enough for a part 3.

                    If she's up for a part 4, take her to Zig Zag and have Murray create a cocktail especially for her.

                    That's what I would do.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: hhlodesign

                      Matt's or Boat Street. If you go to Matt's, take her to the bar at Campagne for dessert and drinks if things are going well. Swank bar makes us all feel groovy and grown up.

                      Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

                        1. re: mrnelso

                          Thanks E.
                          I did a variation of this first date with my current wife (as of 3 weeks ago). I'll tell you about it at Salumi some time.

                          1. re: hhlodesign

                            Congratulations and yes, please do

                        2. re: hhlodesign

                          I'm with hh on dessert at Canlis. Went last weekend and had the full dessert menu. Everything was to die for. Still dreaming of olive oil ice cream. Totally worth dressing up for. And the view was beautiful.

                        3. I vote go to Matt's- it has an excellent vibe for a first date! Also- do a location change like the others are suggesting- dessert somewhere else*

                          1. Well, crap. I wasn't too excited about Matt's after looking at the menu - I'm sort of a picky eater - but I'm sure my date will have no problem with it.

                            I concur with the dessert ideas. Canlis or Cafe Campagne sound like excellent ideas. Thanks!

                            I have scheduled the date for September 20th and will most likely be making the reservations in a few days.

                            Thanks, again.

                            1. Well, I have a problem. I was in Seattle today and decided to visit Matt's to get a better idea of where we'd be dining. I hate to admit it, but I was not impressed. The main dining area is relatively small and the tables look, well, cramped. From what I could tell, I'd be eating elbow to elbow with other diners.

                              I simply wanted a small table of my own with a nice view. Matt's, unfortunately, does not look like the restaurant that can provide this.

                              Does anyone know of a restaurant in the same vicinity that may have single tables with the opportunity of a nice view?

                              I appreciate the help. Thanks.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Shiggy

                                Have you looked at the upstairs in Maximilien? Also Chez Shea.

                                1. re: Shiggy

                                  I've always had a small table with a view at Matt's.

                                  1. re: allisonw

                                    Strange. Maybe they had the long tables out for a party? Go figure.

                                    1. re: Shiggy

                                      Chez Shea is a classic - similar view as Matt's, consistent food, good service. matt's is better with the seasonal, local menu, but chez shea will be more romantic. It used to be our go-to date spot.

                                      1. re: Shiggy

                                        They definitely have small tables at Matt's. It must have been set up for a function or something.

                                        If you are set on going someplace else that is similar - I would choose Place Pigalle over Maximilien's.

                                  2. Being a girl, I think La Rustica in West Seattle is very romantic.


                                    1. Le Gourmand in Ballard - in my opinion one of the top 3 resturants in Seattle. Romantic, but not overly so. Excellent food. If things go well (wink, wink) you can also have a cocktail in the ajoining Sambar lounge.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: lemiller610

                                        I agree - you will absolutely look like you know what you are doing if you take her to Le Gourmand - a drink at Sambar before or after: done deal!

                                        1. re: jamesbra

                                          I like the Stumbling Goat for a romantic restaurant. Its off the beaten path, but the food is delicious, its small and cozy inside and the service is great. I think its a more unique romantic date spot.

                                          1. re: burritobelle

                                            Though I love the Gourmand and Sambar idea, Stumbling Goat is all Burritobelle says (with a good bar - I enjoyed the Italian stallion, except for the name) and a bit easier on the wallet.

                                      2. Conceptually, on a first date, it seems best to avoid such things as (a) places you have never been, (b) places among the very fanciest in town and (c) plans that involve driving from drinks in Ballard to dinner on Capitol Hill. I think it's nice to make the date a little bit about showing who you are and showing your date something new and wonderful, and you may project a more relaxed and confident air if you feel comfortable and at home Those considerations suggest going somewhere you know. I think Matt's is a great choice and I recently had a very nice first date there. I'm a big fan of Union, so that would be on my short list; some others I've sent there have been unimpressed. A brilliantly chosen ethnic restaurant can be a winning choice.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: donttrustsnakes

                                          Sambar and Le Gourmand are next door to each other - no driving required between drinks and dinner.

                                          1. re: bluedog67

                                            Yes, I was commenting on the suggestion to which my comment was applicable. (I'm funny that way.) A poster suggested drinks at Sambar followed by dinner at Monsoon or Lark.

                                        2. Hi Shiggy .. have you been on your date yet? If not, I'll give you my two cents as a woman and a foodie .... DON'T go someplace fancy or coursed ..I love Le Gourmand BUT it's not a first date place. DO go someplace that has great food but is laid back & above all BUSY .. sounds like you've not actually met, so a busy place will make up for any uncomfortable lags in the conversation. .. In this vein I'll recommend Monsoon, Le Pichet, Cafe Presse, Quinn's ..I'm sure there are others probably near your home or hers... and then should you get to date 5 or 6 well, you have a ton of options.

                                          1. Our date is scheduled for Saturday, September 20th. I canceled my reservation with Matt's and, unfortunately, will soon be canceling my reservation with Chez Shea. The reason being: money. I have very little of it at the moment and am not very excited with the notion of spending $100 for dinner.

                                            We have met...once. In fact, we went to college together. This will be the first time we have seen each other in over five years. I wanted this to be special and I wanted to spend a lot of money. Oh, well.

                                            She lives in the Edmonds area and I live in the Olympia area, but I thought dinner in Seattle would be fun for the both of us. Unfortunately, the only restaurant I am familiar with is the Pink Door, which is where my ex-fiance and I had dinner once.

                                            So, it appears as though my priorities have changed yet again. Simple, good food, romantic....cheap. *sigh* I never thought finding the perfect restaurant would be this difficult.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: Shiggy

                                              Just spent the last hour researching restaurants. What do you guys think of Volterra? I like Italian and the prices looked affordable.

                                              1. re: Shiggy

                                                Shiggy --

                                                My husband and I chose Volterra for our anniversary dinner last year. All and all, I would rate our meal as a 6 out of 10. The best dish was his, the wild boar with gorgonzola. I had the steak fiorentina and it was very fatty. We split a ravioli dish which was good, but not outstanding. He ordered a bottle of barolo, which was fabulous, but it didn't feel as special as it should have given that our meal and service were just ok. All and all, I wish we had chosen to sit at the bar and eat from the appetizer menu.

                                                Our favorites in this price range are Crow (5th and Aloha, just NE of the Seattle Center) and Palace Kitchen (on 5th & Lenora). Last week we had another great meal at Crow, sitting at the kitchen bar. It's a great space for parties of two if you are foodies and like to watch the chefs in action. The warm nectarine tart with house made cardamom ice cream was fantastic. Our dinners, plus one cocktail, two glasses of wine, and one dessert, came to about $75 before the tip.

                                                Good luck with your decision!

                                                1. re: Shiggy

                                                  If Matt's is out of your price range then Volterra absolutely will be. What about Place Pigalle? It's a lovely spot.

                                                  1. re: Shiggy

                                                    If you want value for your money, go to Salvatore's on Roosevelt. You can easily stay under $75 and the food is terrific. Order anything on the specials list, a glass of wine each, and split desert (try the spumoni or profiterole). One note: you might want to call first and make sure Salvatore himself is in the kitchen tomorrow night. He usually is these days but that is the key to a superb meal there.

                                                  2. re: Shiggy

                                                    Hi Shiggy .. maybe try caffe presse on 12th Avenue ... the prices are super reasonable ( i think the steak frites it $16!) and the neighborhood is lively enough that if you still want to chat there are places to wander to ...+ it's open late ...and the desserts are lovely to share... the money you spend is not important for a good time.

                                                    1. re: oliveoyl

                                                      The Poulet Roti (roast chicken for 2, to order) is outstanding at Cafe Presse. Perfect, pastry-like crispy skin when I had it last week, really terrific. "Allow 1 hour" says the menu, so start with something else. We started with a cheese plate. With a glass of rose for me, the total came to ~$50.

                                                      Only potential issues are that they don't take reservations and it can get a bit noisy in the front room at the busiest times.

                                                      1. re: terrier

                                                        I'm pretty sure they take reservations for the backroom only at Presse ...

                                                  3. MaximilIan is my vote. I also like Purple Cafe, but they don't have a view, just a stellar looking restaurant and great food. I also love Pink Door. It's not the restaurant that's going to make it a special evening, it's the chemistry. Have a good time!

                                                    1. How about Txori? It's casual, fun, tasty, has small tables (get a deck table for a little more privacy) and it's definitely possible to stay under $100 for two if you don't gorge yourselves.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: grambo

                                                        I like Txori but it is expensive if you actually get full there -- it is totally happy hour as far as I am concerned.

                                                      2. Haha.

                                                        Leave it to women to screw everything up. All of my plans have been thrown out the window. Instead we are now focusing on "casual" dining and will most likely choose something convenient, like, Ivars or Anthony's down by the water in Seattle.

                                                        I think the importance is now being placed on actually getting to know one another. We're going to wear comfortable clothing, walk around a bit, until we finally get hungry enough and settle on the nearest, most convenient restaurant in our immediate proximity.

                                                        So, does anybody know of a decent restaurant that's located on the waterfront? I'm accustomed to dining at Ivars and Anthony's, but sadly, that's the limit of my knowledge.


                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Shiggy

                                                          Shiggy -- Is that the only water possibility? I think you'd find better places to eat if you strolled the ship canal in Fremont, the waterfront in Kirkland, or South Lake Union, imho ... or even strolling through Pike Street Market.

                                                          1. re: zoogrrrl

                                                            We'll stroll through Pike Place, as well, but Kirkland doesn't offer a lot of protection if the weather suddenly becomes unfavorable. The food probably won't be as good, but at least the conversation will be plentiful.

                                                        2. It sounds like food is not the main concern here, and the Seattle waterfront is taking the atmosphere in its own hands. I suggest just enjoying yourselves and let the evening take you where it may. Hopefully you can use everyone's generous advice on your second date (you'll definitely want to save some pennies for all these suggestions - I think you are looking at more like $200 for the evening in most of these places if you are having drinks and dessert. BTW, Via Tribunali has really good pizza on Capitol Hill and you could spend a lot less money, plus, it's fun!

                                                          1. I apologize for my delay in updating you all on the date.

                                                            First off, I was early and had to wait for about 30min until she arrived, but I'm not complaining. ;)
                                                            After she arrived (we both parked underneath the Viaduct) we headed up to the Market, walked around, talked, and visited a few shops. I bought a GIANT cookie, too, which totally ruined my appetite. Lesson learned. Eat cookie AFTER dinner. Actually, it would have been fine if she hadn't refused to eat any of it. As it was, I forced myself to eat the entire thing...well, it was GOOD. You would have done the same thing.

                                                            So, then we walked back down to the waterfront, looked inside the Ye Olde-whatchamacallit, a few other places, and then strolled over to Anthony's on pier-whatever. By the way, there are absolutely no restrooms available to the general public down there. I found out the hard way that my usual pissing place is now locked. Anyway...

                                                            Anthony's was fine. The food was a little on the expensive side, though. I ordered the chicken, which garnered a little verbal abuse. Personally, I don't eat seafood unless it's first deep-fried in a large vat of grease. Apparently, this was too much for my date to handle and she continued to insist that I try her disgusting Ahi Tuna nastiness. So, despite almost vomiting from trying the Tuna, everything else was fine and, get this, SHE PAID FOR EVERYTHING! Haha.

                                                            I figured that I would pay for it, or that we would at least split the bill, but she paid with her card and wouldn't take any of my money. It was a very frustrating experience and something that I would not like to repeat. Well, at least we're still talking, right?

                                                            Our next date is roughly scheduled for Oct. 12th. She'll be coming down here to Olympia and I plan on taking her to the Lemon Grass restaurant. They just finished remodeling and the place looks great.

                                                            Well, I hope that clears things up a little.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Shiggy

                                                              Just went to to Lemon Grass last weekend and, have to say, I like the older, un-remodeled side better. The old Fuji space is done up all modern and pretty but more appropriate for a bar or night club, not very cozy :(

                                                              The honey-walnut prawns are still amazing though!