Rules for eating on a first date
October 19th, 2011
10:00 AM ET
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What you should order: food you like, that will not make you sick or smelly

What you should not order: food you don't like or food that will make you sick or smelly

See how easy that was? You're a person of dating age and you've likely been eating food in the company of other human beings for a least a couple of years now, right? Ideally without causing the people in your immediate vicinity to vomit, faint, weep or cringe?

Good. You are ready to order food on a date. Go get 'em, tiger!

And yet, magazines and websites abound with lists of verboten fare like spaghetti (purportedly too messy), corn on the cob (apparently all the rage on menus in cities I never visit), soup (dinged as being "too loud," but really, shouldn't you have learned to eat without slurping by now?), beans (tee hee - gas!), and raw garlic (but that's because most fashionable young people are dating vampires nowadays). I've also seen cautions against asparagus because of its notorious olfactory effects upon urine, but if you're in a position to know that about your date, you've clearly made it way past the dinner table.

Other resources caution against ordering anything too "weird," spicy or hard to pronounce. But if someone is going to judge you for digging Szechuan peppercorn monkfish liver bruschetta (which you mispronounced with a "sh" in the middle instead of a "sk"), they are not a person off of whose pier you ought to be fishing anyhow. Skip dessert, say a polite goodnight and a cast out a line for someone who enjoys watching you being happy.

What you or your date actually ends up ordering is of infinitely less importance than how it's ordered. It's often said that how your date treats the waitress is a fairly clear indicator of how they'll treat you six months down the line. That may be true, but if they're being a big ol' jerk to the waitstaff right this moment, there's no reason to stick around and test out the theory. As Dave Barry said, "If someone is nice to you but rude to the waiter, they are not a nice person."

If it's too awkward to end the evening right then and there (which I did once after a date wouldn't stop embarrassing the sweet, young tiki bar waitress by ordering his piña coladas as "penis colossus"), please feel empowered to go right ahead and order the biggest, stinkiest, messiest meal the kitchen can muster. And definitely suggest that you split the check; have enough cash on hand for at least your half so you can make a quick getaway and leave a good, solid tip.

But as for those food rules, one of the best first dates I ever had came about because the gentleman and I ignored a big ol’ don’t. He and I had met online and agreed to go to a now-closed Vietnamese place in New York City's Chinatown. Crab curry sounded like a fantastic idea until it arrived and we realized that it came served still in the hard shell, slathered in nuclear yellow curry sauce, with nary a cracking device or metal implement in sight. We looked at each other warily and then just dove in, using our fingers and chopsticks to coax the meat from the shells.

By the end of the meal, we were both covered from fingertip to scalp with pungent curry sauce and had a first kiss on the street outside as he picked a shard of shell out of my hair. My previous boyfriend wouldn’t have set foot in the slightly divey restaurant, let alone used his hands to eat.

Crab curry man and I ended up dating for two and a half years after that and we still get together to eat from time to time - now with his girlfriend and my husband in tow.

Sometimes we even use utensils.

Share your tales of dating travails in the comments below. If we like what we see, we just might feature it in a future post.

soundoff (508 Responses)
  1. ner

    I don't even know the way I finished up here, but I thought this put up was once great. I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a well-known blogger for those who are not already. Cheers!

    August 7, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  2. website

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    February 24, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  3. Guest

    I think a simple date to coffee sounds more appropriate. Thanks for tip. :)

    October 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  4. bob

    Imagine you are on a first date with a beautiful young lady and she chews her food with her mouth OPEN! It is not very attractive and suddenly, she seems less "beautiful". I'm not saying it was a dealbreaker, but I was always taught to keep my mouth closed when in the process of chewing. No, we are not currently seeing each other now, but for other reasons. But if you want to make a god first impression, keep your mouth closed when you chew, it's not that hard!

    October 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • PairAzz Hilton

      That's what she said !!

      October 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • emma

      Chewing with mouth open IS a deal breaker, as are elbows on the table, licking plates, picking teeth and general messiness and lack of manners. If someone was not raised or doesn't care how they act while eating in company, how do you think they will behave otherwise? Yes, rudeness and innuendo to the waitstaff are worse but bad table manners are a total turn-off.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
      • Jan

        I had a date with a girl that talked with her mouth full, licked her plate and ate food that fell onto the table.

        October 30, 2013 at 7:00 am |
        • Name*ladylike

          BS girls do not like there plate no woman would ever do that not even a homeless one .unless she found you to be gross and maybe wanted to turn u off as much as she could

          December 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  5. Demiricous

    I think we went to red robin or some other burger joint I don't remember the food. All I remember is heading down to the beach to spend a really enjoyable weekend together. She came out of a bad relationship and I was working 60hr weeks. A lil r&r and we were 2 peas in a pod.

    October 21, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  6. steve

    In Soviat Russia, first dates eat us!

    October 21, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  7. steve

    One time I offered to take a gal to a nice restaurant. She insisted on driving which I thought was odd, but whatever. Anyways on our way to the restaurant she pulls into McDonalds. I asked "What are you doing?". She replied that she was STARVING. I suggested that maybe she wait the 10 minutes until we were at the restaurant, I knew some appetizers that were VERY fast but she ignored me and ordered a supersized meal via the drive through, shoving it in her face on the way to the restaurant. Needless to say she hardly touched her very expensive meal that I paid for. I banged her that night, and a few times afterwards, but I never offered to take her out again. I saw her a few years later and she had become really fat. I wasn't surprised, and was glad that I broke it off.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • Millennium times four

      Steve's Eatocracy contribution: "I banged her that night, and a few times afterwards" What a toad. What a storyteller.

      October 21, 2011 at 6:14 am |
    • manny


      October 21, 2011 at 7:32 am |
      • steve

        Actually, the story is 100% true. I had already banged her once before this "date", but I didn't think it was relevant to the story.

        October 22, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  8. Overtheriver

    I'm really laid back at restaurants. I can only think of one time when I've really shorted a waiter on the tip. I've worked for tips, and it's really not fun. I think I left something like $2 on a $35 meal. My boyfriend and I waited a really long time for drinks, the waiter never checked on us, or refilled glasses, and it took him FOREVER to get us the check and then FOREVER to bring it back. We were paying in cash. The place was pretty empty too. Idiot.
    However, for first dates, I could care less what a person orders. I've got a few things I don't like, but I don't care if someone else likes them. My social circle would be very small if I took offense to everyone who liked mushrooms or pickles. If they're rude to the staff, I may sit through the meal, but I'll go back after and apologize and tip the staff. Also, that's the last time with that guy! I think the only times I wouldn't be offended if someone ordered for me would be that they know me really well (ie NOT a first date) or I've asked them for a recommendation/ surprise me if I'm not familiar with the cuisine. I would not be above ending a date right then if it was any other situation. If you're trying to control what I eat, I don't want to know what other aspects you'll try to control.

    October 21, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  9. umm

    This was a surprising article. I was afraid this was going to be yet another article telling us what food was acceptable and what wasn't.

    The fact is, when I take someone out on a dinner date, I want them to eat what they like and enjoy the food. The few occasions when my date seemed hesitant to order and chose to eat like a bird made me uncomfortable because I sensed they were nervous/uncomfortable.

    The best advice is to be yourself and have fun. If you can't do that, find yourself someone else who you will be comfortable with.

    October 20, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  10. Anita Bleaujob

    As long as she swallows, I don't care.

    If she spits....

    October 20, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • steve

      Spits or swallows, who cares, so long as she finishes it.

      October 21, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  11. J

    I can agree with Steve. If I take a girl out to eat, she needs to eat more than a salad. I don't care what they order just know I would like a taste if it is something I have never had before.

    October 20, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
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