How to pick the right place for dates

Couple toasting red wine during a romantic dinner date.
Couple toasting wine during a romantic dinner date. (Photo: Getty Images)

In my friend group, I’m known as the girl with the best taste in places. You see, I love food and drinking experiences and I take going out on dates or just having a great time with my friends extremely seriously.

Don’t worry, I’m not obnoxious enough to call myself a foodie. True foodies never say that about themselves, anyway. Instead, we call it living.

So when a friend asked me where he should take his date to dinner one day because he felt I knew the best places to go, I was flattered. Unpopular opinion: Selecting the right place for dinner or drinks could make or break a date. I mean, think about it, even if you’ve played all your cards right and it feels like things are swell, all it takes is one bad meal or one bad experience to really ruin the vibe of the night.

That said, when it comes to choosing the right place for a date, it’s almost vital that you dig a little deeper instead of deciding on a place to go on a whim. While great things can happen even if a meal didn’t turn out so nice, it’s likely they’ll remember you more for all in all a great experience.

Here’s how to pick the right places for a date:

Decide what you might want to do

Before you even begin to plan for your date, it’s crucial to think about what you might want to do in the span of the date and see if your date would be keen. For example, is the idea to do dinner then drinks? Or spend the entirety of the date in the same restaurant? Alternatively, are you thinking of doing an activity after dinner?

Having a clear idea of how the evening (or day) gives you a viable starting point. From there, you can decide which restaurant, bar, or cafe to visit. If you’re struggling, consider giving your date options and asking them what they’d be more keen to do.

Personally, it annoys me to hell if someone doesn’t have an opinion when presented with an option about what to do for the evening. If you’re the same, it’s likely that this is clear sign the two of you just aren’t that compatible.

I have a list of places I absolutely love that I will never bring new dates to.

Go somewhere you know

The trick is to pick somewhere you’ve been before that you know is good but not enough that you’re considered a regular and that the staff know exactly who you are. That way, if the relationship doesn’t work out for any reason, you don’t really run the risk of seeing them again or have any of the staff remember who this person is.

Personally, I have a list of places I absolutely love that I will never bring new dates to. To me, these places are sacred and I never ever want to be reminded if I’ve ever been there with a date that failed.

Make sure the food (or drinks) are solid

The next time someone recommends you a place to eat, ask them if the food or drinks are good or if they just really enjoyed it because of external factors, like the vibe or the music of the place. Alternatively, ask them which other establishment is as similar to the one they’re recommending, this should give you a better idea of what to expect. It’s never fun when someone hypes a place up only for drinks or food to be weak.

Make sure you can actually speak to your date

Once, while on a date at a nice Italian restaurant, my date and I ended up smiling awkwardly the whole time we were eating because we couldn’t even hear each other while talking. Music in the restaurant was way too loud and for some reason, at least two tables in the venue were celebrating birthdays.

This is partly why it’s important to go to a place you’ve been to before to ensure its quality.

Don’t visit newly opened restaurants

I have three good reasons for this. Firstly, it’s almost always impossible to get a table at a newly-opened restaurant that everyone seems to want to go to. Secondly, most newly opened restaurants have teething problems when they begin operations. Thirdly, if you miraculously get a table, it’s likely you’ll bump into someone you know.

To prevent this, pick a place that recently opened and had some time to figure out any issues they might have had when they first opened.

It’s worth thinking about a back up plan in case the restaurant you’re at isn’t living up to its standards.

Have a back up plan

Now, I’d be lying if I said that the best restaurants never mess up. They do and they can. That said, sometimes, it’s worth thinking about a back up plan in case the restaurant you’re at isn’t living up to its standards. For example, some restaurants might just have incredibly busy nights and the vibe just isn’t fitted for the evening, even if you’d got a reservation, consider looking at other places as back up.

Once, while on a date, the restaurant we were at was hosting a corporate event and while there was a door separating the private function area and the dinner hall, it was hard to focus on my date because of how loud it was. When the event was over, event attendees started spilling into the restaurant and hogged majority of the seats at the bar.

Be open to suggestions from your date

What kind of person would you be if you didn’t take feedback or suggestions once in a while? Not that great of a person, I assume.

Don’t do that. Ask your date how they felt about the restaurant or the bar and find out if there’s a place they really like to go to next time. No, really, it’s a great way to segue into asking them out on a next date, too.

A Millennial's Dating Diary series explores real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series features the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.

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