First dates are terrifying enough. Is your outfit just right? Are you wearing too much makeup? What are you going to talk about? And what in the world are you going to eat?
Let’s face it: Ordering at a restaurant can be stressful, especially if it’s a new place. Add the heightened atmosphere of a first date and you’re bound to make a choice you’ll regret later. What kinds of food-related disasters do you need to watch out for? Jodi RR Smith, etiquette consultant and owner of Mannersmith, offers this list. “Spills and drips – on you, on the table, on your clothing,” she says. “Things in your teeth – things in his or her teeth! And, heaven forbid, an allergic reaction.”
When in doubt, etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas Diane Gottsman suggests always asking the server to explain the dish you’re thinking of getting. If it contains anything you’re allergic to, or seems particularly messy or difficult to eat, steer clear. Spaghetti, wings, ribs and chili dogs are definite no-gos. Gottsman sums up her advice in two simple words: “Order smart.”
Okay, so you know what not to eat – but what should you actually order? Here are the best things to eat on your first date, no matter where you decide to dine out.
Also known as the “bowtie pasta,” these compact noodles will fit delicately on your fork or spoon, and the same in your mouth. While your spaghetti-spinning skills may be next to none, this pasta will help you avoid any potential flyaway specks of sauce or embarrassing slurping sessions.
It’s like risotto was made for first dates; this rice dish is nice and compact and won’t fall off your spoon or fork. The creamy morsels do a good job of holding together on the way to your mouth, so there’s no fear of spillage or awkward leftovers clinging to the bottom of your cardigan.
Another spaghetti alternative, lasagna is held together by cheesy goodness and can be easily cut and eaten with your fork. No need to worry about any meatballs rolling all over the table (and into your lap); any meat comes nicely packed inside those flat strips of pasta. If you want more greens with your meal, see if a vegetable lasagna option is available, or add a side of crunchy zucchini fries.
Who says eating red meat has to be messy? Steak is a great choice for a first date food because it can be easily carved into bite-size pieces and placed directly into your mouth. No chance of sticky fingers or dripping sauces here. If you’re at a nice steakhouse and that rib-eye is calling your name, don’t be afraid to let your inner carnivore out.
They’re simple and light but can still fill you up, especially if you add chicken. Disclaimer: Stay away from corn or spinach, which are known for getting stuck between those pearly whites!
These appetizers make the perfect base of a meal for collegiettes with smaller appetites. These fried pastries come with a variety of fillings, including potatoes, peas and even chicken. You can eat these with your hands properly without worrying about sticky fingers (just make sure you have a napkin on hand in case they’re oily). Add an order of naan bread and a side of plain rice to help fill you up!
When in doubt, stick with chicken. Why? “A safe choice of meal is a meat without a bone such as a chicken breast to cut easily,” Gottsman explains. Chicken Tikka definitely steps up to the plate. The word “tikka” literally means “pieces,” so you’ll have no trouble chowing down on these bits of boneless chicken. (The dish may come served with a couple of onions, which Smith suggests you push politely to the side for breath scent reasons.)
Sushi is a very easy food to eat; fish, rice and veggies all come nicely wrapped in a strip of seaweed. And if you love soy sauce, the rice does a good job of soaking it up so you don’t have to worry about drippage. Our Real Live College Guy Dale says it’s a super popular choice for first date food: “It’s simple and clean, and a lot of sushi restaurants I’ve been to are great for conversation.” Chopstick-wielding collegiettes have the advantage of spotless fingers when digging into this dish! Be careful when ordering the house special or a king-size roll, however; that could lead to some less-than-flattering chewing, so if that bothers you, steer clear. Stick to the regular size if you’re worried about it.
Also known as “pot stickers,” these pan-friend dumplings are at once crispy and chewy. The filling you choose (pork, beef, chicken or vegetables) comes inside a sealed piece of dough, so there’s no fear of anything falling out. Like sushi, they can be picked up with chopsticks and eaten in one or two quick bites. A plate of six to eight and a side of plain white rice will have you full in no time.
Latin American or Mexican
Arroz con Pollo
Literally meaning “chicken and rice,” this dish is similar to the Spanish paella except it’s made only with chicken (no seafood here!). This is an easy entree to eat with utensils at your disposal. Use a spoon to scoop up the peas and rice and your knife and fork to bring savory cuts of chicken straight to your taste buds.
It’s like a grilled cheese sandwich, only better! Melted cheese, shredded meats and a host of other delicious things are sandwiched inside two soft, warm tortillas. Served in small, triangular-shaped wedges, this yummy dish is not likely to leave a mess on your hands (or your clothes).
You want your first date to go perfectly, and the last thing you need is for your date to think you don’t know how to feed yourself! Avoid messes and awkward toothy leftovers by choosing one of these easy-to-eat foods. Forget all those little anxieties so you can enjoy spending time with your date!