A first date can be nerve-wracking for even the most confident of guys. You want to impress her, but you don’t want to go over the top or appear too desperate or cocky. And while you can plan an extravagant, event-filled evening, you certainly don’t want to put too much pressure on an already stressful situation. This is why most first dates involve the getting-to-know-you standard of dining out, which allows for conversation (unlike a noisy bar or club) mixed with a functional distraction (focus on the food until you think of something witty to say). So the question then becomes: do you cough up the dough for a gourmet meal, or go for cheaper fare?
There are many reasons why going gourmet is the proper choice. First off, the majority of women like to be wined and dined. My husband took me to El Pollo Loco on our first date and left me wondering if I was loco for going along with it (although he maintains, to this day, that it wasn’t a “date”). I let him make it up to me, but you might not be so lucky. In addition, most women won’t admit it, but we’re on the lookout for a guy who can provide for us. Hey, don’t hate! It’s our biological imperative to find a man who will stick around and take care of the family he creates. Plus, we don’t spend two hours on our hair and makeup and try on everything in our closet just so we can scarf down some chicken McNuggets and biggie fries. We work hard to impress you and you should return the favor! Just keep in mind that a hefty price tag doesn’t necessarily equate to a suitable meal. Lobster and crab may be expensive, but you certainly won’t win any points by selecting an eatery that requires her to wear a plastic bib and wield a hammer. Finally, there is a reason men court the opposite sex. You know what it is. And while you might not get it anyway, substandard eats will pretty much guarantee you don’t get a second date, a goodnight kiss, or any other recompense (except maybe indigestion).
That said, there are certain situations in which taking it down a notch is warranted. The best reason is if you simply don’t have the money. If you thought taking her to a cheap restaurant was a mood-killer, just imaging what will happen if your card gets denied and she ends up paying for an expensive meal. If looks could kill, you’d be fricasseed boy-bits. You can also go a bit more casual if you tell her ahead of time. A jeans-and-t-shirt affair like dinner and a movie doesn’t require a four-star restaurant, and in fact, she might be uncomfortable if she feels under-dressed. But at least spring for sit-down dining (shoot for a step above low-cost chains like Denny’s at the minimum). If you’re worried about harsh judgment for your choice of cuisine, just let her pick the place (but be prepared to pay if you hand over the reins).
A first date can be an amazing, revelatory experience or it can seem like an eternity in Dante’s inferno. But you can try to start things off on the right foot by taking her out for a nice meal at a classy joint. At the very least, you will show your character and sophistication (you’ll be even more impressive if you can choose a fine wine, but don’t get too snobby with long-winded descriptions). From there you just have to let the evening play out and see if your personalities mesh, but there’s no doubt she’ll be more inclined to accept a second date if she doesn’t have to wash her mouth out with soap after the meal.
Jamie Palovoy is a content writer for Gourmet Food where you don’t have to be rich to enjoy a gourmet meal.