Over Thanksgiving, I was talking with one of my friends, who, when he got back to Chicago, was going on a second date with some girl he's kind of in to. "Where should we go?" he asked me. "Thai, sushi or tapas," I responded. "Yeah," he said, "those really are the second date places."
He and I had never discussed this before. So how did we both know the three cuisine options for a second date? I think it's because, clearly, there are just some universal rules out there about what you eat on what number date.
And because this is 11 points, I'm going to lay out your first 11 dates, and what you should eat on those dates.
Your first date can only hope to be as classy as they used to do it in the '50s.
Nothing. Can't go out to dinner on a first date anymore. I did this for a while. It's a bad call. (Especially for me-- the last time I did a first date dinner my car got stolen while I was in the restaurant.)
The weekday drinks first date is pretty much the norm now. And that's totally fine. It's low commitment, it's inherently short, and if it's going poorly it's easy to bail.
So on the first date, all you should be eating is the lime in your drink. Maybe if things are going well you order an appetizer together.
Tapas, Thai or sushi. What do these all have in common? They hit the right second date price point, they're faux-exotic so you look cool, their respective restaurants serve signature alcohol, and they're light so no one feels sick or in desperate need of a nap afterward.
Also, operating under the assumption that a second date is probably going to lead to some kind of kiss (unless you're really awkward), none of these has an awful taste that lingers in your mouth and taints that kiss.
Italian. Italian's a real meal. It's a commitment of a meal. It's richer food, it's romantic food. Atmosphere matters. It's more expensive. Assuming you don't go to an Italian restaurant where an organ grinder and monkey go table to table trying to get you to sing "That's Amore". (Although that would be AWESOME.)
Someplace cheaper. No specific cuisine necessary. It's just that on the fourth date, the female is going to feel compelled to pay. And it's kind of a dick move to soak her for a $250 steak and lobster dinner.
Mexican. I think this is a good fifth date for two reasons. One, margaritas are a legalized version of the "Men in Black" mind erasing gun, so they can help get over some awkwardness over potential physicality. And two, because this is the first date where you could probably talk your way out of accidentally farting.
Home cooking. I will operate under the assumption that two good cooks will never date. I do not know why but, in general, it always seems like one person in a couple wants to create dishes that incorporate words like "reduction" or "scallop" and the other person is all Easy Mac and Frosted Mini Wheats.
The sixth date is a good chance for the one of you that cooks to show it off with a nice, thoughtful dinner at home. (Note to anyone who reads this who may one day date me: I will not be the one cooking this meal. Because I am just the absolute worst.)
Brunch is SO cool! Asparagus and pancakes side by side!
Brunch. Not every meal has to be a dinner, and this is a good point for a brunch. Either because it follows a sleep over or because you're doing an entire Sunday together.
True brunch is a couples' activity, and an opportunity that you can only truly experience as part of a couple. It's like being able to call someone and complain for 20 minutes about how one of your co-workers eats Doritos really loudly. Only in couples.
Someplace healthy. All the eating these great, rich, delicious meals together is a fantastic experience. Around date eight you are starting to notice some of the effects on your body. So you say, "We've got to eat somewhere healthy," and he or she goes, "YES. Oh my God, yes." So then you go and have salads and feel like you've really made a difference. Whether you actually have is arguable.
With your friends. The ninth date means he or she has had some real longevity. So it's OK to invite him or her out to a meal with your friends.
For instance, on most Sunday mornings, my friends and I go out to breakfast. I would call it brunch but as I mentioned before, that's a couples' activity, and also, brunch sounds classy... and we usually just have an orgy of food to combat the lingering impact of Friday and Saturday night.
Around this point, I'd feel comfortable bringing someone into that world. It might end up happening a little earlier circumstantially, but that's risky. Once you open someone's eyes to a food orgy, they can never un-see it... and never want to miss it again.
A place you already went. Ten dates in, you have started really figuring out what you both like. And you can stop doing the international tour of restaurants and focus in on something you both really like. So now, with 10 dates of familiarity, you don't need to impress with innovative food choices at every meal... and you can propose a place you already went that you both liked a lot.
It's nice when you can relax and stop feeling like everything you say and do has to be brilliant. Of course, taking it to that level of reality instead of excitement tends to be the point where a lot of people completely lose interest in the relationship. But hey, at least you're eating somewhere you both really like for your last meal together.
Ribs... maybe. You can't do ribs any earlier than this. That also goes for buffalo wings, chili cheeseburgers, buffets, or the steakhouse from "The Great Outdoors".
This post was originally published on Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 12:01:00 AM under the category Food & Drink.