You’ve done it. Finally, after a period of awkward flirting, you’ve managed to snag a dinner date with the object of your affection. You pick a restaurant, order your drinks, and peruse the menu. But choose carefully, folks, because your next decision could make the difference between a second date and an evening of awkward embarrassment.
Is it shallow to judge someone based on their dinner choice? Sure, but we’re not interested in doing that. Order your steak well done, put fruit on your pizza, whatever—that’s not what this is about. Instead, advising against the foods listed below is more about saving you from the social inelegance of messy, complicated, or otherwise hard-to-eat foods.
People have different preferences, tastes, and dietary restrictions, and that’s all totally okay. This is a roster based on personal hits and misses; your romantic mileage may vary.
Let’s dig in.
Drums, flats, or boneless—nearly everyone loves buffalo wings in some form. But have you tried keeping up a conversation with someone distracted by the task of gnawing through a pile of saucy bones? It’s not exactly a good look, especially when making a first impression. Ribs, with their deliciously sticky coating, pose a similar problem.
This is especially true for those of us with facial hair, as there’s really no way to get yourself clean at the table. No amount of napkins or wet wipes are going to drag the hot sauce from your beard. And by the time you get back from the restroom, your date might have bolted for the door.
One caveat here: If the other party is explicitly onboard, then getting mutually sauced could be a pretty fun icebreaker. Maybe just save the mess for round two.
There’s a wonderful scene in “Lady Killer” where James Cagney (ironically playing a movie star) eats several cloves of raw garlic before filming a scene. His romantic interest swoons as tears spring into her eyes, but definitely not from the dialog.
Theatrics aside, this rings pretty true in life. I adore garlic, in nearly every shape and form. But I wouldn’t want it on my breath if I were talking to a close friend, let alone someone I’m trying to know romantically. Maybe avoid dishes like pasta puttanesca (another personal favorite), which has not only a strong garlic flavor but a slight anchovy scent as well.
This one might ruffle some feathers. But you’re reading an article on a food website, right? So, I’ll assume there’s at least a pinch of adventure in your blood.
Here’s the thing about plain cheeseburgers and chicken tenders: They’re basic. In and of themselves, this isn’t a bad thing! But think about the image you’re projecting. If a potential romantic partner orders dry nuggets, unsalted fries, and a glass of chocolate milk, they’d better have some good conversation to back it up. And will they be up for trying new things, or are they forever set in their Happy Meal ways?
Spicy food is amazing. However, it also has some rather profound side effects. It might be tempting to order the super-hot noodles or ghost pepper burger, in an effort to demonstrate your toughness. But even if your stomach can handle extreme levels of spice, what about your eyes, nose, and forehead?
Think about it. Would you enjoy sitting across from someone who’s dripping sweat and snot into their food and trying to keep their fingers from brushing their eyes? Seems like a bad call for a first date.
Look, we all want our Lady and the Tramp moment. But ordering the Honeymoon Steak and Shrimp Special or the Love Boat for Two might be jumping the gun. Not only will this be costly, but it borders on cringeworthy. There’s nothing wrong with sharing an appetizer, or even an entrée if your date is on board. But picking out a heart-shaped pizza before you’ve exchanged more than a dozen sentences? That’s a little presumptuous.
I’m going to put a special exception here for White Castle, because its Valentine’s Day Special is such a fun idea. Otherwise, maybe rein things in a little bit on the first date.