Recently I was at an Italian restaurant and overheard what was clearly an internet date in progress. The woman was pretty and casually attired (clearly not getting her hopes up) while the man was perhaps overly dressy and -- sad to say -- unequivocally obnoxious. He talked non-stop about being a "hard-partying sort of guy", his ex-girlfriend's yoga expertise, and his roommate's poor hygiene (something about a clogged shower drain). The poor girl couldn't get a word in, and what's worse, was trapped through the dessert course. If only they'd picked a venue with a better exit strategy.
If Internet dating is like romance roulette, the odds are that eventually you'll find yourself in the company of Mr. or Mrs. Not Right At All. So, to insure yourself against a never-ending nightmare date, consider setting up your rendezvous at one of the following establishments:
Hotel Lobby Bar
PRO: Perfect for a quick drink, hotel bars offer top notch service, comfortable seating, and usually some sort of nut mix, so you can get some protein in. Further, the crowd is composed of travelers and businesspeople -- the transient atmosphere makes it even easier to politely exit in the event of zero chemistry.
CON: Drinks can be expensive and the hotel location could potentially send the wrong message.
Create a convivial hotel-bar vibe in your own home with this sweet and spicy Sticks and Stones Snack Mix.
PRO: A coffee shop is an easy, convenient, unpretentious and universally accepted internet-date meeting location. If things go well, you can set a second, more ambitious date, and if not, you're just out the price of a latte or two.
CON: Be warned: A certain subset of the population can sit in coffee shops all day, aided by caffeine and their own sense of importance. If your date falls into this category, have a believable excuse handy (personal trainer appointment, Vietnamese cooking class, must-get-home-to-feed-the-cat...you get the idea).
For a refreshing take on a coffee house classic (sans espresso machine) try this delish Iced Latte.
PRO: Sharable small plates, festive salsa music, easy-sipping sangria -- the Spanish have the market cornered on low-pressure dining. Plus, selecting and sampling the different dishes can help fill up any awkward silences.
CON: Easy-sipping sangria can go down a little too easy, leading to poor judgment and, even worse, brutal honesty.
Try your hand at this simple and refreshing White Wine Sangria.
Sunny Park Bench + Hot Dog Cart
PRO: Great for those on a budget (and those who live in temperate climates) grabbing a scenic park bench and a low-key street vendor offering can be an ideal way to get to know someone.
CON: It's a long walk back to your respective means of transport if things don't work out.
If true love strikes, relive the experience with this summertime Picnic Hot Dog Platter.
Family-Friendly Chain Restaurant
PRO: Mellow, informal, and further, most major chain restaurants have a Swiss watchmaker's precision when it comes to turning tables, so the check will likely arrive before you've finished your ice tea refill.
CON: Potentially unflattering lighting, proximity to families and children puts relationship pressure on, plus chain restaurant meals are notoriously high in calories and sodium -- there's nothing worse than consuming 1,200 calories out of politeness.
Recreate your own version of a popular restaurant dish with BBQ Chicken Burgers and Waffle Fries.
PRO: Classier than a regular bar, but less of a commitment than a sit-down restaurant, plus you'll get to experience different wines (you might learn something!) and enjoy light bites with your flights.
CON: Intimate and/or candle-lit atmosphere makes lack of attraction all the more obvious, wine by the glass can get pricey.
Speak like a sommelier with this quick and handy Wine Guide.
PRO: A gelato-date is quirky and unexpected, and even if it's not a love match you'll still get to indulge in this dense Italian delicacy. Also: possibility of attractive counter-person!
CON: Availability can be a challenge. Gelato shops are few and far between and, sadly, "Let's meet at Jamba Juice" just isn't the same -- it telegraphs such low expectations that your date might not bother showing up.
DIY gelato isn't as challenging as it sounds - try our 30-minute Double Chocolate Gelato recipe.
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