All it takes is a tiny bit of planning ahead—and avoiding any and all wheatgrass shots.
Picture this: you’re on a promising first or second date with a person you met on a dating app (or maybe IRL; apparently that still happens). After drinks, you’re both a little hungry. So you suggest a couple of places nearby. One serves your favorite carnitas tacos; the other is known for its hefty cheeseburgers. Then your date tells you she’s a vegetarian.
Don’t worry, you say, there are vegetarian options available at both places. She looks at the menu at the second place, since the first place lacked an option that wasn’t cooked in lard. There is a portobello mushroom sandwich. A giant mushroom between two pieces of bread. Now your date must make a decision: eat an unsatisfying meal or risk killing the good post-drinks vibe by trying to find a new restaurant.
A lot of vegetarians (myself included) feel the need to reveal their dietary restrictions before a first date to avoid the awkward scenario above. If I’m suggesting a date with someone who eats meat, I try to find places where we can both order more than one item off the menu that we enjoy. Likewise, I expect the men I date to find restaurants that accommodate my diet. Once a date finds out I’m vegetarian, they often try to impress me by taking me to an exclusively vegetarian restaurant or declaring that they won’t eat meat in front of me. (So brave!) Both of these moves are fine, but not required.
Eating for the first time with a new person is a very intimate activity—one that is very easy to screw up. So here are a few tips for meat eaters who are on an early date with a meat abstainer.
Don’t book a table at a restaurant if you’re unsure what the vegetarian options are.
If you don’t usually eat vegetarian food, ask one of your vegetarian friends for advice or consult online reviews. (This is one scenario in which Yelp is actually useful.) Look up the menu. Italian food is always a safe bet; there’s usually at least a couple of pasta dishes sans meat. Picking an exclusively vegetarian restaurant is a bolder move, so you better know what you’re doing. Just like “regular” restaurants, not all exclusively vegetarian restaurants serve great food. And don’t expect that your date will like the restaurant just because it says “vegetarian” on the awning. Stay away from cheaper restaurants that serve several main courses with fake meat. Fake meat is hard to do right—and not all vegetarians like eating it. Pick a place that simply serves great food with options that your date can eat.
Don’t go to a place that doesn’t serve alcohol.
Stay away from super health-focused establishments on an early date. Wheatgrass shots do not lead to a great first kiss. And nothing is more awkward than sipping tap water while sitting across from a stranger while you wait for appetizers to arrive. Several vegetarian restaurants do not serve any alcohol, or only serve cocktails that taste like a salad. You’ll have plenty of time to eat healthy together once you know each other a little better. Stick to bars and restaurants that allow both of you to cut the tension with a drink or two. (Obviously, ignore this one if your date doesn’t drink alcohol—find a place with a fun selection of sodas or mocktails instead.)
Consider lighting and atmosphere.
Unfortunately, many vegetarian restaurants (see above re: wheatgrass) are more earthy than sensual. If you end up at a place that is well-lit like an office, the date will feel like a business meeting. Opt for darkened corners, candles, and good music. You want a setting that allows you and your date to feel relaxed and comfortable.
Don’t mention your date’s diet too much.
Usually, people ask me why and when I became a vegetarian. This is fine. It’s normal to ask questions about each other’s interests and lifestyles on a first or second date. But if you fixate too much on this part of your date’s identity, it starts to feel like an interrogation. Definitely don’t make jokes about being a vegetarian or offer up one of your chicken tenders in an attempt to be funny.
Split something to show that you’re accepting of your date’s diet.
If you really want a pizza with sausage, but your date prefers a pizza with kale, it’s okay to order your own dishes. But compromise by ordering an appetizer without meat (and dairy, if that’s also an issue). Sharing dishes also makes the dinner a little more intimate, so this is a good move to pull regardless of your date’s diet. If you absolutely refuse to share any dish, you’ll likely come off as uncompromising or selfish. (Or both—a very sexy combination indeed.)
Find out what your date likes to eat.
It sounds obvious, but if you’re dining with a person you barely know, it’s a good idea to find out what they like and don’t like to eat. You’ll appear thoughtful and prepared—and you’ll have to do less research. So ask. Preferably before you embark on your date. That way you can focus on more important things, like whether or not you actually like being in the same room with the person you asked out.
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