10 Dishes Not to Order on a First Date

?Written by Olivia Ware

Your palms are sweating, you inadvertently raised another awkward conversation topic, and you’re pretty sure your pants seam just ripped. Aren’t first dates stressful enough without a cursed dinner order?

What goes on during the meal will make or break what happens — or doesn’t happen — afterward. Here are some menu items to avoid if you’re hoping for a round two.

1.  The Meal Salad


?Unless your first date is a midweek lunch — which feels disappointing from the get-go — salad does not constitute a full meal. Yes, even with the obligatory strips of grilled chicken or seared tuna.

Go for this instead: If you’ve got to have your greens, start with a small appetizer salad before moving onto a heartier entrรฉe, showing your dining companion you can commit — at least to a whole evening of dining. Chances are the conversation will improve after the first glass of wine, anyway.

2. The Burrito


?No matter how much you love Mexican food — and we all do — wait until at least your third date to go down the taqueria route. The meal will only end in a strong onion odor and mid-to-heavy bloating, which is just enough to kill the after-dinner romance. Save this stop for a group outing, or get to know each other a little better before showing off your guacamole domination. You’d rather not have to hold back anyway.

Go for this instead: Enchiladas or stuffed peppers. You don’t have to pick them up with your hands, but you’ll still get the bean-and-cheese fix you crave.

3.  The Mile-Long Noodles


?Spaghetti and meatballs feed the body and soul, but those tender strands rarely end in a Lady and the Tramp-style kiss. Envision instead unappealing slurping noises and sauce-drenched pasta being shoveled from fork to mouth. Constant slippage and fumbling will just frustrate you and embarrass your date, destroying any sparks that might fly.

Go for this instead: Penne, orecchiette, fusilli — any noodle that lends itself to a single forkful. Those shapes always end up covered in more sauce anyway.

4.  The Tiny Game Bird


?It’s natural to be seduced by quail on a chichi nouveau American dinner menu. More interesting than chicken and lighter than beef, the little birds pair beautifully with fall fruits and rustic flavors. But before you order, note that it is physically impossible to detach the meat from their bones using a fork and knife. Yes, it’s considered appropriate etiquette to pick quail up with your fingers. Still, everyone looks barbaric when gnawing at bony legs — and it’s an all-too-vivid reminder why most people prefer boneless and skinless.

Go for this instead: Duck usually wins in elegance and taste when it comes to high-end game. A rare seared breast will keep bones off the table and your date’s attention on what you’re saying.

5.  The Kids’ Meal


?Go ahead, order a cheeseburger at a fancy restaurant, because it’s A) probably deliciously decadent (caramelized onions! Gorgonzola!) and B) charmingly unpretentious. But do yourself a favor and skip the pepperoni pizza, mac and cheese, and chicken tenders, which can’t help but raise a few questions. Mama’s boy? Frat boy? Repressed gal looking for someone to baby her? Even if your date isn’t judging, he or she will most likely have reservations about your obvious lack of adventure.

Go for this instead: When in doubt, go classic. A margherita pizza shows a respect for simplicity, and even fancy veggies taste good battered and fried with a smoky aioli. Save the nostalgic stuff for dessert, when s’mores are still adorable.

6.  The Vodka Red Bull


?Presumably you and your date are at a restaurant, not a club. Skip the college-era booze, which will only reveal immaturity (and total lack of awareness).

Go for this instead: Beer, a glass of wine or a selection from the cocktail menu never fail, and if you must mix caffeine and liquor, save it for the dance floor. By then you’ve proven you know how to behave like an adult, so it’s okay to act like a teenager again.

7.  The Nondessert


?You won’t win over a date with a sweet tooth by ordering a cheese plate, dessert wine, or even sorbet after main courses are cleared. It’s safe to assume your companion wants a real dessert — and doesn’t want to feel guilty about it, either.

Go for this instead: Even if you prefer potato chips over cookies, give your date the chance to indulge in the flourless chocolate cake. Remember, chocolate is an aphrodisiac.

8.  The Tooth Magnets


?Anyone who loves tabbouleh knows its aftereffects are not pretty. Same goes for pesto, spinach, and corn on the cob. You know the foods that seem to find themselves into every crevice in your mouth, so make it easy on yourself and avoid them. No one wants to be so hypnotized by the food in your teeth that they can’t focus on what you’re saying — not to mention how this blunder hurts your kissing chances.

Go for this instead: Nonchunky, nonleafy, nongreen sauces like bolognese and vegetable purees are generally safe. Just feast on the chimichurri after you drop the L-word.

9.  The Whole Shellfish


?There’s a reason seafood boils are generally a family affair. Any meal that starts with a layer of newspaper on the table is one to be shared with no one less than kin. Besides the near-massacre of tearing apart a lobster with your bare hands, you’re also faced with the difficult decision of whether to suck the crawfish heads.

Go for this instead: Opt for crustaceans with soft shells when you’re still at the small talk phase, and you can roll up your sleeves when the relationship gets serious.

10.  The Raw Allium


?It’s the cardinal rule of dining and making out: Don’t eat garlic if you want to get kissed later. But since so many dishes start with garlic and onions, it’s impossible to avoid them all. Read between the lines and order wisely. If "garlic" or "onion" is listed in the title of the dish, skip it; those are the main ingredients, and you’ll be tasting them for days. If the garlic and onions are served raw — rubbed on crostini or topping a hamburger, for example — they’ll also stick with you long after the check is paid.

Go for this instead: Make sure the strongly scented stuff is cooked beyond recognition before you order (slow-roasted garlic and caramelized onions are generally okay). And if you decide halfway through dinner that this date is going nowhere? Flag the waiter for a side of garlic fries and enjoy.

Bonus: To the members of US Congress


4 thoughts on “10 Dishes Not to Order on a First Date

  1. Mark

    These also apply to business meetings as well. For those, also take your queues from the execs when it comes to what to order and what to drink. If they aren’t ordering booze, don’t you do it. If they are hard drinkers, order a beer and keep sober.

    Never order the most expensive thing on the menu for a business meeting. Order something medium priced. Same for the wine. Even if you are a wine expert, order a modestly priced glass.

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