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June 1, 2009 7:02 AM   Subscribe

How can I gracefully take the first date down a notch?

I asked someone great out. She said yes! She suggested a place to meet. It's out of my price range*. From what I read online, it is also really loud, and features a menu made up primarily of things I can't eat! Along with this, it basically has the vibe that to me would feel like a special place to go with someone I had an established relationship with - not someone I'm jut getting to know.

Since I AM just getting to know this person, I want to put out an agreeable, positive, initial vibe, but I'm also anxious about trying to keep cool while taking her somewhere I can't afford, with food I can't eat, while I struggle to hear what she's saying.

Would the hive mind suggest I just go along with her suggestion, and work on a better (for me) venue for a second date - if a second date happens? Or is there some smooth way to make a counter-suggestion of a place that's a bit more low-key?

*I offered to take her out, so I'm planning to pay.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should tell her that you looked into the restaurant and found yourself allergic or unable to eat most of the stuff on the menu....tell her that you saw restaurant XYZ and thought it was a better place......If she wants to see you she wouldnt mind...and she probably would like the fact that you can stand up for yourself/take control of a situation...
posted by The1andonly at 7:05 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're thinking way too hard.

"You know, I understand that place you suggested is kind of loud, and I was really hoping we'd be able to talk and get know one another on our first date. How about XYZ instead?"
posted by adamrice at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Yeah, just make a counter-suggestion. Unless she's just looking for a free meal at her suggested restaurant, she should be okay with alternatives. If she is just looking for a free meal then you don't want to go out with her anyways.*

*Experience talking, unfortunately.
posted by valkyryn at 7:11 AM on June 1, 2009 [9 favorites]

She's made the faux pas here, not you. (If you asked, you choose... and if forced to choose, she should not select an expensive place!) Make the counter-offer.

In the future, ask people out with specifics, like this: "Would you like to go out with me to [location or activity] on [date]? I could [pick you up/meet you there] at [time]."
posted by Houstonian at 7:25 AM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Never say what you really want or need in a relationship, just as you would never want to hear that from someone else. Always tell lies and do things that make you unhappy and unhealthy. There, when I put it like that, does the answer jump out at you like a snake? Try "I can't go there for these reasons, how about somewhere else?" Or tell lies and do things that make you unhappy and unhealthy. Your call.
posted by eccnineten at 7:39 AM on June 1, 2009 [18 favorites]

Don't cite anything you read online loudness-wise when you talk to her -- if we're talking about yelp and similar sites, people complain endlessly about things that aren't really problems for most people (people love complaining!) and it will just make you sound like a tool to repeat things you read online that aren't really true when she's clearly been there before and you haven't.
posted by hermitosis at 7:49 AM on June 1, 2009

She's made the faux pas here, not you. (If you asked, you choose... and if forced to choose, she should not select an expensive place!)

This is presumptuous. It's more than likely not an expensive place to her, so it's not a faux pas.
posted by Zambrano at 7:56 AM on June 1, 2009

Disagree with Houstonian, I don't think you automatically get to pick a place. A better approach would be to ask, offer a couple of ideas for places, and let her pick the option that suits her. You gave her no clues at to what you had in mind, so I don't think she erred by suggesting a place she likes (unless she just happened to suggest the most expensive place in town... that would be a red flag).

Anyway, I think it's fair for you to say that the food options are limited for you (or just don't appeal to you) at that place and suggest 2-3 other places that offer food you can eat (and just happen to fit your budget as well). Also, unless it's a gross medical thing, an explanation of your food preferences is part of getting-to-know-you stuff for a first date. I think it's your best excuse for changing venues.

Furthermore, if you're vegetarian and she suggested a Brazilian steakhouse, then if she's a nice person, she'll feel awful if you reveal the truth AFTER you get to the restaurant. Best to fix it now.
posted by parkerjackson at 8:02 AM on June 1, 2009

Just tell her what you told us (not necessarily all of it). The fact that you can't eat most of the stuff on the menu is, in itself, a perfectly legitimate reason to suggest an alternative. No reasonable person will be offended by this.
posted by ixohoxi at 8:05 AM on June 1, 2009

She suggested a place. She did not demand you take her there.

You have every right to make a counter offer.

Don't say: "Gezz, that's a bit steep, dontcha think?" Or, "I can't eat food that is prepared by human hands."

Do say: "Oh that sounds nice, but I really want to take you to place X." Or, "I'm betting that you'll really like X."

Although, if your budget is limited, you may want to drive that point home at some point, but not before the first date. Women will date broke-ass guys (they tend to date down) but only if you're straight up about your finances and have good reasons for being broke (starving artist, student, freelance writer, etc.)

Lastly, don't ever ask a woman out unless you know where you'd like to take her. You've already locked yourself into the old fashion notion that you're going to pay, you might as well assume your role as date-location decider too.

One other thing: it's entirely acceptable to go dutch on dinner for a first-date. Especially if it's phrased as a casual, "Hey, let's a get a drink and grab a bit to eat..." rather than, "My dear, I insist on the finest dinner, with rosy red lobster to match your cheeks, and sparkling champagne to go with your eyes." But you shouldn't count on that. When the check comes, if she makes a fuss, or reaches for it, or wants to know how much it is, then that opens a dialog for going dutch. Also, pat yourself on the back if she does this because it means you've got well rounded, independent girl on your hands who hasn't allowed her mind to be poisoned by Cosmo and The Rules.
posted by wfrgms at 8:15 AM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'd just go with the food restrictions. She probably didn't know about them when she suggested the place. Tell her of your dietary needs and suggest a few different places that are more in line with your style. It's the truth (maybe not the whole truth -- but that can come out in the date -- which is the point of the date to get to know each other better).
posted by bluefly at 8:43 AM on June 1, 2009

Yeah, I agree with the "you can't eat the food" option. "Hi Datelady, I am really looking forward to this weekend, but I checked out Restaurant's menu online, and since I am a vegetarian/allergic to seafood/whatever, I would be really excited to take you to Alternative1, Alternative2, Alternative3. Which sounds best to you?" The "money is tight" thing can come up later.

The "who pays on the first date" thing IS a bit tricky. On the first 2-3 dates I do tend to let the man pay. (I am a woman who dates men.) This dating business is tricky enough as it is, and letting the man pay might signal that yes, this is a date, I am potentally interested and am not attempting to hold this firmly in the "friends" category. After those few dates, then I pay for approximately half as we go. Not sure if this is right or wrong, but it is what I typically do.
posted by teragram at 9:02 AM on June 1, 2009

Yeah, let her know about the food restrictions but have a suggestion of your own when you do. It would be more appealing to her if it had similar food to the place she suggested (as long as it also has food that you can eat). Everybody wins.

(they tend to date down)

I hope what wfrgms actually mean was, "Most women understand that everyone has a budget."
posted by katillathehun at 9:08 AM on June 1, 2009

I would just suggest some place else, you absolutely do not need to take her somewhere you can't afford, and really, it sets a bad precedent to do so. Also, unless there's a medical reason for the food avoidance, I woudn't say anything. Maybe this isn't fair, but if you're a vocally picky eater, that would totally be a strike against you, much more so than the restaurant budgetary issue.
posted by robinpME at 9:52 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yes, if I were the date in question I'd much rather hear that you had a special place in mind that you wanted to take me to rather than that you were picky or broke. I could handle picky and/or broke, but I feel a first date should have a touch of magic feeling to it that the "special place" provides. A first date ideally involves each person focusing on the other person rather than on themselves and their food sensitivities OR, on her side, their desire to be taken to such-and-such snooty restaurant.

I would say her requesting to be taken to a fancy restaurant (if indeed it is considered fancy by your peer group) is a strike against her already. I may just be prejudiced, however, as I once knew a woman who was really not very nice but who men seemed to gravitate towards. She would always get the ones she wasn't interested in to take her out to a really expensive place and then give them the "lets just be friends" speech on the way home, after they had already paid.
posted by hazyjane at 9:59 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Feels reasonable to relate that the menu doesn't suit you and, as people have said, suggest a couple other places. Does the place she suggested feature a cuisine/type of food that would be good options at places more suitable to you?

If she has a problem with this, be grateful; you will save time and money--and better to get disappointed sooner than later.
posted by ambient2 at 10:01 AM on June 1, 2009

Speaking as a gal with expensive taste in food, adamrice is dead on. That's what I'd want to hear.
posted by Ollie at 11:22 AM on June 1, 2009

Frankly, OP, if a man told me he didn't want to go to "XYZ Restaurant" because he didn't like the food there, it would be a definite turn-off. Of course, I would never suggest a restaurant when he was the one who asked me out, but my point is, unless your reasons for not eating the food there are something akin to "I'm allergic to seafood/gluten/MSG" or "I'm vegetarian/vegan/kosher" then that's not the reason I would recommend giving when you call to suggest a change of venue. I have several dear friends who are picky eaters, but I wouldn't date any of them.

Count me as a vote for the "there's this special place" justification. You can say you "discovered" that some great jazz singer is performing down the block from your suggested restaurant that night, and wouldn't it be nice to catch the show? Or maybe it's right across from the park, or close to the best pie place in town (for dessert) or something. Even the "price range" factor is totally acceptable (i.e. not a turn-off) as a reason for switching restaurants, but I don't recommend it as it might make your lady friend feel guilty for having suggested "XYZ" and awkwardness could ensue.

As for paying, my perfect man would reach for the tab and pull out his credit card without comment, protest once when I suggest dutch, and then happily allow me to pay for my meal without feeling his masculinity had been insulted. I enjoy the nod to romantic gestures, but prefer my independence. But that's just me. Women may never reach a consensus on this, so it's good that you're prepared to pay.
posted by philotes at 11:27 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think I would be irritated later (assuming the relationship goes somewhere) if I found out that my date lied to me about food restrictions just to get out of going to a restaurant (especially if this person had other, valid reasons to not want to go there). Don't lie, but you don't have to over-share here. I like the idea of a "Special place" or mentioning that you've heard that it is pretty loud at Restaurant X.
posted by getawaysticks at 12:02 PM on June 1, 2009

I disagree with the "special place" approach, because she won't get the hint that you don't ever want to go to Original Place, and if she really likes it, she'll bring it up again. Then you'll have to find ANOTHER reason not to go there, and she'll wonder why you didn't just tell her about your food proclivities in the first place.
posted by desjardins at 12:22 PM on June 1, 2009

Also, if someone said "I'd rather not go to Place X because I've heard it's too loud" I'd peg him as a whiner. I'd be much more understanding of "I'm a vegetarian" or "I'm allergic to seafood."
posted by desjardins at 12:24 PM on June 1, 2009

With someone I've known for awhile, I wouldn't really care why they didn't want to go to a particular place. But with someone you are just getting to know, there is a risk of coming off as very picky, negative, or a stick-in-the-mud if you are too vocal about food restrictions or noise levels.

My suggestion for an alternate selection is as follows:
1. Best
2. That you can afford and eat at
3. That you can be reasonably sure she hasn't been to - think charming, out of the way, undiscovered gem kind of place.

Then you just say, "Have you been restaurant XYZ? I'd like to take you there." It's cute because you are sharing some place you are enthusiastic about, so it seems generous rather than negative.
posted by mai at 12:38 PM on June 1, 2009

it is really rude to suggest an expensive place for a first date. if this was someone you were friends with already, i would say less rude, but anyone with manners would never suggest anything *unless you asked her where she would like to go*. and even then, her mamma didn't bring her up right because the polite answer would be something like "I'm not particular" or "Why don't you choose a place."

No woman with manners picks an expensive place for a first date, and yes, while it may not be expensive to HER, that just means she doesn't have enough awareness to think that it might be expensive to other people. Also a sign of not being brought up right.

That said, just tell her you can't eat what's on the menu, how about [another suggestion] and see what she says. if she has any manners she'll be horrified she put you in that position. if she complains, don't go out with her! save your money. high maintenance.

(i'm a chick, by the way)
posted by micawber at 12:47 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can you ask her about getting drinks at the place she suggested and then getting dinner at a less expensive place nearby? I think your concern about being able to hear each other is a good one and avoids you having to talk about the price (money is always a sticky wicket you want to avoid on first dates) .
posted by bananafish at 1:06 PM on June 1, 2009

Social comfort zones.. you both need to find a place you're both comfortable at. If everything she suggests is a place you don't like, it could be a sign that you.. two.. aren't.. compatible?

first girl.. hey I'm gonna be at this club with my friend, wanna join us? (not compatible)
second girl.. hey I'm starving. let's get some fish tacos (Let's get married!)
posted by 0217174 at 2:34 PM on June 1, 2009

Absolutely go dutch. This is a first date. You guys don't know if you'll hit it off or not. My best relationships were with people who went dutch rather than expecting me to pay for everything. It's much easier to eliminate any feelings of obligation, guilt, or resentment by taking money entirely out of the equation. You asked her out on a date, she accepted.

Unless you already assured the lady backwards and forwards that you were going to pay.

As far as choosing another venue: do you know whether this lady likes to experiment/try new things, or if she has traditional tastes? If she's open to new foods, you can't go wrong with a good ethnic restaurant. You'll never fail to impress if you take her to a place where you two are in a sea of natives, half of the dishes are written on chalkboards in a language you don't know, and at least one dish contains an ingredient neither of you have heard of/eaten. Best of all, many ethnic restaurants have very reasonable prices for their menus.

As someone who personally has some dietary restrictions, I should caution that making a big deal out of them can be a bit of a downer or turn off, so you'd probably come out best if you suggested another place (her choice being too loud is a fine reason) for some other reason.

If you don't know of a fantastic restaurant yourself, go to Chowhound and you will be set. You don't sound like you're from London, but if you are London Eating always served me well.

If everything she suggests is a place you don't like, it could be a sign that you.. two.. aren't.. compatible?

Not necessarily so. It often takes a while for people to get in sync. It may be that you match up in contexts other than eating out. It'd suck to ditch someone who was perfect in every way except for their taste in restaurants.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:27 PM on June 1, 2009

A suggestion is not an order or a demand. A woman can make a suggestion and it's really that, a suggestion. Give her a little credit that she isn't going to throw a hissy fit if you make a counter offer. You didn't have any ideas (or you didn't voice them) so she interjected with one. She may not know it's expensive, she may never have been there, but has heard about it and wants to try it out. Really it's no biggy to be like oh I really don't like/can't eat that kind of food, how about X or do you have any other ideas? It really can be that easy.
posted by whoaali at 11:10 PM on June 1, 2009

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