10 Ways to Make Dinner Dates Less Awkward

10 Ways to Make Dinner Dates Less Awkward

Every decision you make on a date can determine the course of your love life.

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Photo: Lucky Business (Shutterstock)

Dating can be the worst. You have to decide what to wear, make sure the conversation flows, and constantly update your friends to assure them that you haven’t been kidnapped (yet). And when you add in the social minefield of dining out at a restaurant, there’s a lot of room for things to go very wrong.

We’re here to ease at least one aspect of the dating burden for you. Here are some tips for making the most of your mealtime dates, whether you choose to meet up for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Without these things plaguing your mind, you can focus all your energy on the potential love of your life (and not getting kidnapped).

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Find a quiet restaurant

Find a quiet restaurant

Image for article titled 10 Ways to Make Dinner Dates Less Awkward
Photo: Dragon Images (Shutterstock)

You’re here on this date to get to know the other person, and you can’t do that when you two can barely hear each other. According to a recent survey by SevenRooms, 43% of people said they wouldn’t return to a restaurant for a date night if it was louder than expected. So opt for the quieter spot to start, and if you’re hitting it off head to the raucous bar later.

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Choose your seat wisely

Choose your seat wisely

We here at Takeout HQ have argued this one before: Should you sit next to your date at a restaurant, or across from them? There are points to be made for both options. Sometimes sitting next to each other allows you to hear each other better (though refer back to the last point to make sure that’s not an issue), and your date might find it romantic if you prefer to be physically next to them. Sitting across from someone, however, allows you stare into their eyes while giving your elbows plenty of room to navigate your nacho platter. As long as you and your date are on the same page here, you can sit however you like. Just please don’t get too handsy in the restaurant—no one wants to see that.

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Don’t feel pressure to choose something fancy

Don’t feel pressure to choose something fancy

You don’t necessarily need to go big for a dinner date—in fact, it’s perfectly fine to have a first date at a fast food chain. We have plenty of proof that fast food spots can be super romantic and relieve some of the pressure. Like this couple, who had their first date at chicken chain Jollibee and then eventually got engaged there. Then, of course, there are the couples who got married at Subway, Taco Bell, Dunkin’, and McDonald’s. You could be next.

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Don’t order your steak well done

Don’t order your steak well done

If you opt for a fancier restaurant, be mindful of how you order. According to a meat survey from last year, 59% of participants said they judge their romantic partner based on how they order their steak. And if a series of TikToks are to be believed, ordering a steak well done might not just be a red flag but also a complete dealbreaker in a relationship. Maybe just go for the chicken?

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Only share food if you’re comfortable with it

Only share food if you’re comfortable with it

Earlier this year The Washington Post reported on an ill-fated date ended with what one person saw as a tragic flaw: a man was completely turned off when his date didn’t offer him a bite of her tiramisu. Well, we’re on her side here. You don’t have to share a dang bite of your meal on any dinner date, let alone a first date, if you don’t want to. So don’t feel pressured to split anything with the person sitting across from (or next to) you, and by the same token, don’t reach across their plate to grab a fry without asking.

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Make your own dinner

Make your own dinner

If the thought of heading out to a restaurant is too stressful, or if you just want to show off your culinary skills, make the meal at home. There’s one main guideline for what you cook, though: it’d better be sexy. If you need some inspiration, check out the recipe for Danny Palumbo’s Parmesan Broth Mac & Cheese, a hot, sexy, horned-up date night classic.

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Get creative

Get creative

Sometimes the best way to break the ice with someone new is to turn dinner into an activity. The roulette model could work for you.

If you’d rather kick off your relationship with a virtual date, try delivery roulette, in which you and your date order a surprise delivery meal for each other. But there are plenty of ways to play the game IRL as well. Head to a grocery store and switch off who gets to pick what you have for appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks, or if you don’t feel like cooking, do the same thing while hopping between your favorite fast food drive-thrus to build the full meal.

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Order wine like a pro

Order wine like a pro

If you want to impress your date with a wine order (or at the very least not completely embarrass yourself), you don’t need to be a master sommelier. Just keep a few tricks up your sleeve. For hearty food like a steak, go for reds. For seafood, order something crisp and light like a sauvignon blanc or a pinot noir. For spicy foods, pick a sweeter wine, like a moscato or a resiling. And when in doubt, go for the bubbles—Prosecco or another sparkling wine will class up any date.

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Be prepared to pay

Be prepared to pay

The question of who should pay on a first date is an age old one. Should it be all on the person who initiated the date? Is splitting the check a given? If so, will it be split by item or right down the middle? The bottom line is that it’s best to be prepared for any scenario, so just go into the date expecting to pay. If the other person ends up covering the meal, consider covering a round of drinks after. If they insist on paying for everything, go ahead and let them without a fuss. And if they Venmo request you for your half after the fact, don’t go on a second date.

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Bail if things go badly

Bail if things go badly

We’d love to tell you every date will be wonderful and magical, but we all know from experience that’s just not true. And sometimes if you’re locked into a dinner date it can be hard to gracefully bail if things really go south.

To set yourself up for success ahead of time, you could opt out of a full dinner altogether. Otherwise, arrive early and develop a code with your server to signify when you want the check to come out without straight up asking, bring cash in case you want to cover your half and leave as quickly as possible, and establish an excuse to cut the night short ahead of time, like telling your date that you’re meeting friends for drinks later.

If you’re already in and need a way out, the classic “texting your friend to call you with an emergency” always does the trick. You could also feign disaster, like spilling on yourself or faking food poisoning, to excuse yourself. And of course you could always just be honest that it’s not working out, but where’s the fun in that?

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