Last year a study from online dating site Match found that for 79 percent of women, their top priority on a first date is feeling comfortable. (Other first date insights from the Match study: Never be late, and never check your phone.) For me, second only to feeling comfortable with my date—no creepy behavior—is my comfort with the date spot itself. Now that there is a wealth of information available online about even the diviest bars, there is no reason to pick a less-than-perfect first date bar. Evaluate your picks according to the following criteria:
Will there be a wait?
I understand wanting to impress your date by taking her to the New Hot Place, but the New Hot Place almost always has a half-hour wait. For example: After Aziz Ansari’s character on Master of None took several Tinder dates to Brooklyn wine bar The Four Horsemen, it became literally impossible to get a seat there. A year ago a guy suggested we go on a date there, and we’re still waiting. A wait is fine on your second or third date, when you’ve already gotten over the “so, do you have any hobbies?” hump, but there are few worse ways to get to know each other than loitering for thirty minutes, clutching your coats and trying not to block the door, while you watch other couples enjoying their drinks.
Will you be able to hear each other?
Another ding against that trendy new bar you keep seeing on Instagram: Trendy means loud. You should shoot for a decibel level just loud enough that she has an excuse to lean in a bit to hear you better (i.e. not an empty bar) but not loud enough that you’ll never know for sure whether she said “I’d love to snowshoe” or “I’d love to blow you.”
Are there light bites?
Many a great first date has ended prematurely because someone got hungry. After my first drink, I can no longer even feign polite interest in your story about the woman who sits in the cubicle next to yours. I can only think about food. You shouldn’t go all-out by suggesting a restaurant for a first date—unless you specify beforehand that you’ll be sitting at the bar, restaurants are too high-pressure—but you should make sure the bar you pick serves food. Bar staples and fries are the bare minimum; upscale light bites are ideal. Think fancy tacos, oysters, and sexy small plates.
Are there wines and cocktails?
I’m not saying dive bars can’t be romantic, but most women don’t equate flat PBR with pasión. A lot of women—me, for example—don’t really like to drink beer on dates at all, because it gives them earth-shaking hiccups. At the very least, pick a bar that offers a couple wines (and not just an anonymous “house wine” that is almost certainly Yellowtail).
Are there TVs?
Besides shattering any ambience, a TV—or worse, multiple TVs—makes it really hard to focus on me, your date. Somehow, if there’s a TV in a bar, I always end up sitting with my back to it, facing my date while he sneaks peeks at the game over my shoulder while I’m talking. Even if there isn’t a sport happening, TVs are distracting.
Will there be karaoke?
Check ahead to make sure you aren’t visiting a bar on karaoke night, trivia night, speed dating night, open mic night, or the night you community’s Pagan meet-up group comes together to worship the goddess Lilith over beers.
Does it accept credit cards?
In my old neighborhood, when it was up to me to pick the bar before a date, I almost always picked a place called La Superior. It was a perfect date spot: The margs were strong, there were fancy tacos, and the lighting made everyone look tan and healthy. But on dates, the bar had one fatal flaw: It was cash-only, and the nearest ATM was outside. I worried it would be presumptuous to warn my date about this beforehand—as though it was a given that he’d pay—and so as each date wound down I’d fret about what would happen when the bill came. Inevitably, my date either had no cash or not enough cash (if you wanna be my lover, you gotta spend at least $40 on fancy tacos). I would pretend to look in my wallet, and he would run out to the ATM while I sat there for ten minutes, wondering if he was coming back. It broke the mood every time. Check ahead of time to make sure the bar you’re going to isn’t cash-only, and if it is, either change locations or bring way more cash than you think you’ll need.
Again, I can put away a lot of fancy tacos.
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