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Restaurants for first dates, second dates, third dates?

  • c

I see people ask for restaurants for date number X on the Manhattan board pretty frequently. Please forgive my ignorance -- but what does this mean? What characteristics do you look for in a first date restaurant? Second date restaurant? Third?

Personally, I just want somewhere dark where I can hold hands with my SO and maybe a tablecloth so we can play footsie. =)

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  1. Well, for a first date place, as romantic as the couple can afford, quiet enough to have a pleasant get to know you conversation. Get a table in a corner. Also don't order anything with heavy garlic, little green parsley that can get stuck on your teeth and most important, no beans!

    8 Replies
    1. re: cstr

      yes, everything you say makes great sense to me, but some of these posts come with additional commentary about how they don't want the place to be too romantic or glitzy because it seems like they're trying too hard -- and then somehow this analysis is supposed to change for the second date.

      and someone else mentioned that the second date place ought to be not too romantic, etc...

      i guess i was just confused by the fact that everyone seems to have a common understanding of what "i want a second date restaurant" means -- and i don't!

      1. re: cimui

        Well if you want to 'play footsie' a little ambiance would be nice. I'm sure you'll be chatting and discussing things like 'where shoud we go' so, you maybe be able to inject some opinion and agree on a place that you both like.

        1. re: cstr

          a little communication is always good, cstr. thanks for your thoughts! (and i was just kidding about footsie. we save that for home. in any case, we haven't been on a first or second date for eight or nine years, so perhaps that explains my complete ignorance of restaurant date posturing.)

          1. re: cimui

            Have a fun date and enjoy the evening, get back to the board with your dining comments.

            1. re: cimui

              After breaking up with my long-term boyfriend, I also was kind of ignorant about the restaurant dating etiquette as I was really out of practice. I think everybody is different about what they would consider the ideal first date restaurant. Personally, I like something nice (no fast food, no hole-in-the-wall) but casual for the first date. My first date with DH was at Tia Pol -- casual tapas restaurant. The sharing of food made it intimate. And the atmosphere was nice and dim (we all look better in dim light, you know ; )), but didn't scream ROMANCE. But I've seen many first dates (or at least in the getting to know you phase) at restaurants like French Laundry, Le Bernardin, etc.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                now tapas makes sense to me. i also think i'd like something fun and sticky like fondue.

                (and just as an aside, i know this board is not the place, but sometime you'll really have to tell me how you and DH met. you two sound so amazing. any dating site would love to have you as their poster child. ;)

                1. re: cimui

                  Yes, I think something interactive is great on a first date as first dates can sometimes be quite awkward. It facilitates conversation.

                  Thank you for your kind words! I'll be Emailing you soon with our story! : )

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    luckily, tapas is still good for dates -- even the 900th one. which i think we're probably at, at this point!

      2. BiscuitBoy believes just the opposite....Nothing fancy, or dressy on a first date. Somewhere you can be yourselves. No ribs, first date, anyway. He has had good luck with picnic kind of things, especially

        17 Replies
        1. re: BiscuitBoy

          Yep. I would be sort of terrified if someone took me somewhere romantic on a first date, both because A.) I would know we were coming from very different mindsets and B.) I would feel like I...owed him something (or that HE would think that, at least).

          Romantic spots are also usually very small and closely-seated, and I wouldn't want anybody else nearby to hear our awkward first-date conversation.

          If a first date is going to turn romantic, it will regardless of whether you're at a 5 star restaurant or KFC.

          Actually, to be honest I'd rather just go to a bar than a restaurant on a first date.

          1. re: Olallieberry

            how odd. terrified really? i would be flattered to head to a really nice restaurant. (of course, i'd offer to pick up the check, so no risk of feeling as though anything were 'owed'!)

            1. re: Olallieberry

              I have a non-traditional view of romance and would also be horrified by a "romantic" place on a first date. If a date is going to turn romantic, it would more likely be because a guy paid attention to my specific interests instead of heading for somewhere generically considered as being upscale/romantic.

              1. re: queencru

                agree. i'd rather have a more casual place for the first date. sharing small plates would be low-pressure and fun. if it's going really well, you can always propose a second, more romantic place for cocktails and dessert afterward. . .

                1. re: queencru

                  Agreed. My favorite recent first date was a bike ride at the beach followed by pizza. I'm not exactly a wallflower, but the idea of sitting across the table from someone I don't know for a 2 - 3 hour long fancy meal, trying to make conversation and wondering if I have lettuce stuck in my teeth or red wine stains around my mouth, stresses me out. Now if it's someone I already know reasonably well but this is the first official "date," that may be a different story.

                  1. re: cookie monster

                    i hear you, cookie m. yet another reason why i am clueless about restaurant date ettiquette: i don't think i could actually get to know someone for the first time while eating. the food -- esp if it's good -- would be far too distracting! i would much rather go rollerblading or play ultimate, as well.

                2. re: Olallieberry

                  You're all assuming that it's the guy doing the asking. That's more common, sure, but hardly the only way things work. As a man, I avoid anything that's too big a deal on a first date, exactly to prevent any misinterpretation that I feel like she owes me something -- which would be absurd for someone who knows me, but, well, you usually don't know first dates very well. However, when women have asked me somewhere schmancy or romantic for a first date, it can be pretty charming.

                  1. re: tmso

                    ok, i can see the rationale of that. do you up the ante on the second date or make it more low key? does it depend on how seriously you feel about someone?

                    maybe this is in part a personality question. i have approximately no tact, so if i like someone, i let them know. and i'd take them to the coolest restaurants i could come up with -- including those uber glitzy schmancy places i'd never have an excuse to go to, otherwise.

                    1. re: cimui

                      Yeah, totally, the where for a second or third date just depends on how our personalities click. The most romantic second date I probably ever had was a picnic up in the East Bay hills. So I don't sound like a total hippie child, n° 2 involved a fancy dinner and dancing.

                  2. re: Olallieberry

                    "I'd rather just go to a bar than a restaurant on a first date."

                    I find that a lot of people say that. Personally, I find that a bit odd -- just because if it turns out that the date is going pretty badly, I have food as a distraction. But I guess at a bar, the alcohol can help make a date seem better! ; )

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      >> But I guess at a bar, the alcohol can help make a date seem better! ; )

                      yes, but ever so much worse the next day...
                      not that i would know.......

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        There are a few reasons I say this.

                        1.) ...I'm a pretty messy eater. Even when I try, I usually end up with food on my face if not my clothes, and my teeth are very close together (TMI?) so I get food stuck in them a lot...just nice not to have worry about it at all.

                        2.) I know this is a really silly reason, but I'm sort of embarassed to eat in front of guys until I'm really comfortable with them, especially a big meal.

                        3.) A guy is usually going to spend less money on you at a bar than a restaurant, which I like not because of any feelings of obligation but just because I know most guys I date are not exactly flush with money (I'm only 23, and most guys I date are in their 20s too). I suppose if I were dating some older man this might be different.

                        4.) Social lubrication...

                        1. re: Olallieberry

                          haha. fair enough, olallieberry! for the record, i really enjoy being messy while eating as well -- picking up ribs with both hands, smearing it all over my face for later, etc... i can see how that could filter out the boys from the men. of course if you're both grubby, it could be fun!

                        2. re: Miss Needle

                          A bar for A drink, a coffee place for a cup of coffee was my preferred first date.

                          The reasoning was that these had a naturally implied tailgate. If it went badly, I could excuse myself to my next obligation. If it went well, I could linger or suggest we go to dinner or take a walk.

                          I remember thinking that lunch on a work day would be an ideal first date. I mean, I can tolerate an hour with anyone, right? No. I dated through the personals for about five years before I met my husband (of 11 years). I met a lot of good guys that way, but I met a lot of others, too.

                          1. re: BeaN

                            Glad for your hubby, but sorry for the "other guys."

                            Been far too long, but I'd have agreed with you on principle that a weekday lunch should be a good way to do it.

                            Shows how little I know, or recall.

                            Hunt

                            1. re: BeaN

                              Lunch on a work day? Genius! You either tear yourself away reluctantly because you really do have to get back, or you can cut it short because of work pressures. What a great idea.

                          2. re: Olallieberry

                            I am a bit out of practice on the dating thing, but like cimui and some others I really don't get the obligation concern. I'd give the guy or gal who chose a romantic place points for wanting to make a nice impression rather than assuming that they are out to get something in exchange for their choice. Why start a first date by assuming the worst of someone instead of the best?

                            The way I look at it, I see one of three possibilities in that regard:

                            1. the guy (or girl, or whoever/whatever) who chooses the romantic place does it just to be well, romantic (which I think is nice on a date), and not because of any desire to build up expectations/obligations, in which case he/she is worth getting to know better...

                            2. the guy/girl *did* choose the place to create a sense of obligation, in which case it will come out soon enough that she or he is a jerk and too bad for him or her...I'd eat and leave with no feeling of obligation.

                            or

                            3. Doesn't matter why he or she chose the place, because the chemistry is so right that things are going to happen regardless. Which is what happened to me on my first date with hubby :-) The place he chose is fairly romantic (to me at least) and very good, which I think is particularly nice since eight plus years later it is still going strong, and we can still celebrate there! (Bacco in SF)

                        3. Well, it probably belies the fact that I am not from Manhattan, or maybe that I have not dated in 37 years (I’m talking real “dates,” as I have been married that long), but I never gave it much thought. I loved food and always tried to share this love with whomever. This was true for fine-dining or a local spot with great food. Many of those decisions were based on my budget, but the quality of the food was always the main consideration.

                          I always told my date, where we were headed and described it, as well as I could. Last thing that I wanted was her to be in a long dress with opera-length gloves, only to be going to a local seafood shack with killer fried shrimp. OTOH, I didn’t want cut-offs, if we were going to Galatoire’s. I was always truthful and pretty exacting in my instructions for attire.

                          Again, it made no difference whether it was date #1 or #12. I might have been more inclined to go up-scale early, and then introduce them to other fare, but never made a really conscious effort at it.

                          Gotta’ remember that this was way back in the 1960's so much of dating etiquette has probably changed.

                          Hunt

                          1. Wow...its been about 24 years since I've had to think about this. But I do agree with those who say it shouldn't be overly romantic. After all, my first date with DH was a "blind" one...and I suspect that might be even more true of couples in these days of meeting online....so I chose a place that I knew would be crowded, and asked for a table on their deck because it was June and the weather was nice...and decks tend to be less noisy than inside crowded restaurants. Food had very little to do with the decision. I chose a place that had good but generic food so that tastes could be accommodated, and a place that was nice, clean and friendly. As it turned out, I needn't have worried: DH is an adventurous eater (with the exception of offal....) and would have gone to any hole in the wall. Lunch ended up lasting three hours, and only ended then because I had a previous appointment. The second date was at Marie Callendar's for pie after a movie. The third date was in Hawaii........

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: janetofreno

                              aww, good story!

                              agree that places that are really nice and friendly help a lot. so maybe this for a first date: go to a restaurant that has the funniest and nicest waiters you know of. that should help break the ice. and if the date doesn't work out, maybe the waiter / waitress is single. ;)

                              1. re: janetofreno

                                I can relate. First date was totally blind and almost did not happen for a half-dozen reasons. We ended up sitting in a hurricane-stranded tugboat's wheelhouse and just talking. Second date was to the Southern Yacht Club in NOLA, and she spilled her drink. She then took my drink and emptied it onto the floor, because she thought I'd throw mine on her. I'm now down two drinks and it's only a second date. Third date was to Galatoire's for fine-dining, and things went better. From those, it's now been over 43 years, with 37 in marriage. Fortunately, there have been many Michelin starred spots, no spilled drinks and I still seek out romantic tables.

                                Glad that I do not need to know the contemporary rules of “dating.” Still, if I were doing the “dating scene,” I’d opt for what I wanted in cuisine and wine and accept that my date may, or may not, enjoy what I did. I’d not expect anything in return, except a wonderful companion, as I dined. What is wrong with that?

                                Now, if I were still 21, I might feel differently, but I’m not, so I don’t. I’d suggest that one not get too hung up on the details and just take one’s date to a place that they enjoy. If the date does not, then that might be an indication that this is NOT the right person.

                                Hunt, the “old guy in the group”

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  I agree Bill. Since we discovered pho, the Spousal Unit and I have joked about pho as a first-date outing, Anyone who is put off by noodle slurping and broth splashing should be weeded out.

                                  Seriously, there has to be a mutual fit for dating to work (just like job hunting). I don't want to impress you by being something I'm not. I don't have the time or energy for that.

                                  1. re: BeaN

                                    I loved the last line!

                                    I am learning something that I never hope to ever use here. Thanks for sharing a more contemporary perspective with an old, married guy.

                                    Hunt

                              2. First Date-Fun, low pressure, not terribly romantic, but quiet enough to have a conversation. I'm a fan of sushi as a first date. It's not messy, can be shared, isn't terribly expensive, and if the date is going well, you can always order more. Somewhere very upscale makes me feel like the date is "AN EVENT" which is kind of uncomfortable.

                                Second Date-Similar to first date. Maybe one place for dinner, and if it went well, a smaller more intimate place for a shared dessert and some espresso.

                                Once you get into Third Date and beyond land, a fancy, romantic place is fine, (and maybe a morning after trip to the farmer's market for breakfast fixings? ;-) )

                                1. Unless you're going out with someone you already know very well, keep the first date pretty casual. Meals often take longer to get through at more "romantic" restaurants, which can be really uncomfortable if the date isn't going well. Plus, even if I'm not that into a guy, I feel a bit more pressured to accept a goodnight kiss or a second date if he's just spent a lot of money on me. Casual = more comfortable in a first-date situation.

                                  For the second and third dates, you can feel free to up the ante a bit, and you definitely should. After all, you want to let the girl know that you think she's worth the effort of getting dressed up for and worth spending money on. At this point, you know there's a mutual interest and you know that you can sustain a conversation, so a "romantic" setting isn't likely to be as objectionable.

                                  And I just want to offer a bit of advice for all you men: If you're going to a nice restaurant, the last thing you want is to act like you don't belong there. Even the most cursory knowledge of wine (like types of red versus types of white) is essential. One of my best friends went on a first date where the guy ordered her a glass of "chardonnay white wine." She said that was the moment she knew there wouldn't be a second date. This type of thing is probably less of an issue for the CH crowd, but you might want to do your non-chow friends a favor and pass it along. Women will collectively thank you.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Al_Pal

                                    Gosh, shows how out of touch I am/was. I put it out there on the first date, so that we both got to know what each was about. Then, if there was a second, third, etc., we knew something about each other. However, I have to admit that I married young (23) and also "robbed the cradle," with my wife. Still, after 37+ years, I guess I did not do too badly, but you have to remember that these were the conventions of the Deep South and also the 1960's, so they carry no weight nowadays.

                                    Again, thanks for adding to my knowledgebase. Hope I never need to use any of this info, but who knows? Her family did a pool on how long the marriage would last, and the longest term chosen was 6 mos.! Shows what they knew...

                                    Hunt

                                  2. Our first date was a visit to the Hirschorn (sp?) Museum in D.C., then dinner at a little French Bistro, then his car refusing to start. This was actually a great first date because I learned so many useful things about him in a very short period of time. But, really, a great pizza place or ethnic dive would've worked for me. I think I would find ultra-romantic a bit disconcerting on a first date: you're just getting to know each other, so how can you tell if romance is appropriate or not?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      Oh, by the look in his/her eyes, the waiter in a tux folding your napkin when you leave the table, the candlelight, the wonderful DRC Burg that your date chose - just for you...

                                      No, I understand what you mean, and was just having fun.

                                      Actually, until now, I had not really considered these aspects. I am learning something, but hope that I never have a need to use this new info.

                                      Hunt