The New York Times ran an article called Tater Tots for Two: It's a Date! last week. It's all about the trend towards eating casual and drinking cheap while dating in New York. Apparently, the dinner date is reserved for later in the game, when you've decided you actually like someone.
The article has a logic to it that I can certainly uderstand. I met my guy in a bar my first week in the city. I was out with friends celebrating my birthday. He complimented my emerald green patent leather ballet flats and bought me a glass of bar wine. We left with each others' numbers and an agreement to meet for drinks.
Meeting for drinks is safer. You go somewhere quiet-ish, talk a little, build up your confidence over a gin and tonic (or a Jack and ginger), and see how the night progresses. Our first date progressed past the drink stage to dinner at Giorgio's where he's a regular, and where I now am too. Clearly, it didn't take us as long to figure out that we liked each other and that sharing a nice meal was something we wanted to do. But I understand the hesitation.
Later that week, I went out with another guy I met at the same bar as Michael. Remember, it was my first week living here, so I figured making friends was high on the priority list. We also met for drinks. He took me to a tapas bar in midtown that served cucumber sangria, which is the only thing I remember about the place. Then he took me to a hookah bar. I don't smoke. We didn't see each other again. It was an awkward, exhausting evening, and I'm glad it wasn't dinner. The addition of food to the evening would have made it even harder to muddle through.
These bar dates have some truth to them. There's a ton of pressure at dinner to behave a certain way, talk about certain things, and even be dressed accordingly. But when you meet at a dive, or a cart selling falafel, that pressure sort of goes away. And there's that element of adventure. My friends and I used to joke about getting dressed for prom and going to McDonald's for dinner, but that's exactly what you're doing on a dive date. You're getting dressed to go somewhere unexpected. If it goes well, then you can progress to the next step. Whatever that step is.
Like Michael and me. We do things out of sequence. We follow our food whims to Crif Dogs, or Whole Foods, or take out at his apartment. Or Brandy Library and Ayza for some self indulgence. I like that I never know what neighborhood I'm going to end up in when we go out together. I like the idea of starting somewhere and then meandering to somewhere else. It's planned spontaneity and it suits me. And that's the most important part of dating. Not the food, not the restaurant, the dive, or the bar, but meeting someone that fits your flow. Mine is erratic, even capricious, but then again, he thinks its charming. So far.