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!
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.