By: Derek Nelson
Photos by: Sophie Roberts
Hey, do you want to go to dinner and maybe catch a movie sometime?
It’s a phrase many Hoyas hear during their stays on the Hilltop — a sure sign that a guy or girl is into them and looking to show effort beyond a 2AM phone call after a night pounding whiskey sours at Mason Inn.
Let’s say you’ve been into a certain girl for a while. She thinks you’re cute, and you’re trying, so she accepts the invite. The night comes and you enjoy dinner at a mid-level Italian restaurant on M street, with the conversation moving constantly but not rapidly in any direction. After dinner, you stroll down to AMC on K, watch a cute romantic comedy, and walk her back to her dorm when the film is over. Her friends ask how it went the next day, but she doesn’t really have anything to tell them, since the date was so lackluster.
I’m going to make sure your date doesn’t go that way.
A first date is the most important step in starting a fledgling relationship out on the right foot, and an opportunity to show that you’re capable of putting in some time and effort. This means that it’s imperative you’re organized and well prepared, but not overtly so, as that can be equally off-putting and honestly a little creepy. To strike the balance properly, let’s consider how you’re going to plan each part of the night.
Dinner should be the easiest part of putting together a date itinerary, especially in a city like DC with options to satisfy both kids-menu-only eaters and the most advanced epicurean palates. If you extended the invitation, it’s also your job to book the restaurant. You’re looking to make an impression, so a safe Georgetown standby like the Tombs isn’t going to cut it. Instead, look for a location with a cuisine that neither of you are too familiar with. Indian food at Rasika is going to be a far more memorable experience to most people than sushi at Kintaro for the third time in a month.
An often-overlooked variable in choosing a restaurant is the style in which food is served. Your dinner isn’t just for eating, it’s creating an opportunity to get to know one another better and assess compatibility. Tapas or family-style restaurants are the best for this, because they both create points of conversation throughout the meal and make you and your date a team in ordering, providing an opportune icebreaker when you first sit down. China Chilcano near the Verizon center offers delicious, unusual Peruvian-Asian fusion cuisine, and will require your planning a veritable food odyssey with your date, a great opportunity to work together to decide the courses Bodega on M serves Spanish food in this style, and Das offers a similar method, with several Ethiopian dishes coming out on one massive plate covered in injera (a delicious spongy flatbread). Tapas restaurants often have the added benefit of trendy atmospheres and liquor licenses, and if you don’t like a dish, it doesn’t ruin your whole meal, as it’s only one small course.
When the bill comes, at least offer to pay for the full meal if you initiated the date. It might be expensive, but cutting down on Wisey’s sandwiches for a week is worth not looking like a cheapskate at dinner.
You should never go to a movie on a first date. The idea is unremarkable and safe, and you’ll have no opportunity to do anything but sit next to each other in the dark for two hours, watching Hugh Grant try to be charming. “Netflix and chill” is a popular concept because it implies never actually watching Netflix. That being said, there is a reason movies are such a popular first date activity; they’re low-cost, low-stress, and allow for a dark setting to relieve awkwardness. But there are better options, for all comfort and experience levels, some of which provide the same comforts of movie going.
For those of you who are still fourteen, both at heart and in social maturity, go get dessert instead of hitting up the cinema. Unlike the aforementioned Hugh Grant rom-com would have you believe, first dates aren’t supposed to be marathon events that end in you tripping into a moonlit fountain together, surfacing deeply in love. Dessert is easy — it’s quick, and there are dozens of places in Georgetown to go, from T. Sweet to Dolcezza to Baked and Wired. Coffee and pastries is an option at Maison Paul, while Ben & Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, and Pinkberry deliver familiar ice cream menus. Dessert provides a change of scenery to continue dinner discussion, without dragging it out too long, and you can always extend some post-dessert ice cream with a walk to the monuments if you’re really hitting it off.
For Intermediate Daters
Comedy clubs provide all the comfort of a cinema, but offer a much better form of entertainment on a first date. You can still relax and enjoy the show, but just proposing the comedy club alternative already makes more of an impression, as it’s less common. Live entertainment comes across as more mature, and most comedy club tickets are relatively inexpensive. Additionally, a night laughing at jokes sets a positive mood, and allows you to show your fun side very early on. This represents an activity for intermediate daters because they still require commitment to an entire night. If you’re not having a good time, it’s more difficult to end the date earlier than intended, which is something to consider when planning.
For Experts Only
Desserts and live entertainment are fun, but the best dates are usually those where you’re actually participating in some activity. This requires more time and comfort, but if you’re willing to rise to the occasion, there’s really no comparison to interactive bonding. If you’re confident in your abilities, or maintain a Ted Mosby-esque optimism, hard-set on impressing a girl who’s “totally the one”, book a dance class and take your date. This can be any kind of partners dance, including waltzing in a ballroom class, but salsa dancing is both widely offered, and a surefire way to spark any passion that might exist between the two of you. It’s not even important to be good (although this helps), as dancing shows that you’re willing to step very far out of your comfort zone, bringing both spontaneity and mystery to your personality Many won’t be comfortable with this option as their first impression, but it’s certainly something to consider once you’ve built up the confidence to pull it off.