So, What Can You Even Order on a First Date?

[Content Notice for Eating Disorders]

Prescriptive articles about what not to order on a first date seem to have a huge hate-on for non-WASP food (stereotypically speaking). They hate a lot of WASP-ish foods and other foods, too, just without the xenophobic and/or racist commentary.

For fun, I aggregated 19 such lists and discovered that you can’t really order much if you follow all the rules.

Numbers before item denote number of times the item has appeared throughout the 19 lists.

Ew, Foreigners. / Flavor.

  • 5 spicy food (+1 each if chicken curry, noodles, or wings)
  • 5 anything with garlic (+4 if garlic bread, +1 if raw)
  • 4 anything involving chopsticks (3 of which are sushi, one of which is specifically the house special sushi roll)
  • 2 tabbouleh
  • 2 difficult-to-pronounce
  • long noodles (+1 for ramen)
  • fermented foods (kimchi, fermented tofu)
  • “truly weird things” (duck tongues [?], offal, organs)
  • any notably-spicy Asian cuisines

Don’t Be Boring

  • 5 salad only / as a meal (+1 just for men)
  • 5 soup (+1 each if noodle, french onion, or for a man)
  • 4 beans (+1 if baked)
  • 3 the same thing your date ordered
  • 3 meatloaf
  • 2 sandwiches
  • fast food (+1 if dollar menu)
  • kids’ meal

But Don’t Be Exciting

  • 2 the most expensive item on the menu (+1 if dover sole)
  • something your date doesn’t care for
  • excessively-customized orders


  • 6 tacos with an extra +1 if for a man
  • 3 burritos
  • 2 fajitas
  • sangria or tequila


  • long noodles or cuts of pasta requiring slurping (+3 if spaghetti with an extra +2 if with meatballs and +1 if spaghetti in a tomato-based sauce)
  • 3 pesto
  • pizza with toppings
  • ravioli

Savory Animal Products

  • 4 burger (+2 if messy, +1 each if structurally unsound, a double patty, a Big Mac, or a Big Mac for a man)
  • chicken (+1 each if breast, fingers, spicy curry, Vindaloo, or fried; +3 if wings with an extra +1 each if spicy wings or for a man)
  • 2 barbecue (+ 6 if ribs with an extra +1 if baby back)
  • veal (+1 if parmesan)
  • fish sticks (+1 if for a man)
  • cheese
  • lamb chops
  • a huge piece of meat
  • tiny game bird


  • 5 lobster (+1 each if steamed or for a man)
  • 3 oysters
  • 2 crab
  • messy
  • whole
  • prawns in a shell
  • mussels

Gluttony While Eating? No Way

  • all you can eat
  • food challenges (+1 if “suicide” chicken wings)
  • something that’s big enough to be shared (+1 for dover sole)


  • 5 onions (1 of which is french onion soup, onion rings, or any raw allium)
  • 3 asparagus
  • 2 leafy greens (+3 if spinach with an extra +2 if spinach dip; +1 if a salad)
  • crucifers like broccoli or brussels sprouts
  • pitted olives (though I think, based on the commentary, that the author means “olives with pits”)


  • Red Bull (+1 if with vodka)
  • a third drink
  • shot of jager or sake
  • red wine
  • beer
  • sweet mixed drinks (Cosmos, Appletini / Flirtini, mudslide)
  • flavored vodka
  • Adios Motherfucker / Long Island Iced Tea
  • a bottle instead of a glass (wine)
  • for a man: light beer, low alcohol drink, peaty smoky scotch, drinks with umbrellas


  • ice cream (+2 if in a cone, +1 if vanilla for a a man)
  • anything with powdered sugar
  • chocolate cake
  • souffle
  • milk for a man
  • non-dessert “dessert” (sorbet, cheese plate)


  • 7 corn (6 of which are on the cob)
  • seeds
  • chili dog
  • 5-hour energy
  • watermelon
  • baked beans

* As in, what restaurants even serve these things?

Um… A small steak with a side of mashed potatoes and broccoli might be okay? Maybe?

Via Bon Appetit / Huffington Post / AskMen / Reader’s Digest / The Frisky / eHarmony (1) (2) [content notice for blatant Fox News racism on the second one] / GoodFood / Half Hour Meals / SF Weekly / The Village Voice / The Date Report (1) (2) / Sydney Morning Herald / CityPages / / / Buzzfeed / mbrace

So, What Can You Even Order on a First Date?

19 thoughts on “So, What Can You Even Order on a First Date?

  1. 1

    I had heard the commentary of “either both eat garlic, nor neither do”, which I don’t thing falls into the same category as the objectionable ones you found. But I’m still surprised that garlic didn’t make any of the lists of “first date meal don’ts”.

    Chili’s serves corn on the cob.

  2. 3

    This list is biased toward people in the southern US. Where is the chicken fried steak? The true form of German schnitzel that found a home with German settlers in Texas and spread to the rest of the south? True schnitzel is not the pounded beef you can order in classy French and German restaurants. Chicken Fried Steak is the true schnitzel. Pure lean grass fed beef pounded thin and batter fried, cause beef that’s never seen a feedlot is pretty tough.

    The only food I would recommend avoiding on a date is okra. Yes, you don’t eat it often, that’s why your intestines can’t handle those slimy seeds. Most BBQ places in Texas have fresh okra flash fried at a temperature that browns the outside and preserves the flavorful seed slime. You are gonna have the runs if you overindulge.

  3. 4

    So….no food. You cannot order food on a first date.

    Also, what’s the point of going on a date if I can’t go to Olive Garden and drink an entire pitcher of peach sangria by myself?

  4. 5

    My eyes glazed over just looking at that. 🙂

    So the aggregate advice is effectively to just order extra glasses of water, talk for a bit while drinking them down to different levels then serenade your date and quickly leave to do something less risky like maybe sky diving or rock climbing?

    On a meta level I’ve never found lists like that to be very useful for anyone. It’s like the Christian 10 commandments. If you have to refer to a list all the time to figure out how to act, you’ll never learn what to actually do. Which leaves the only practical option being to ignore the lists altogether.

  5. 6

    A number of these, I can understand. You don’t want food that will leave your breath offensive (although, like buddhabuck, I’ve always heard it “both or none.”) You don’t want food that will make you look like you are uncoordinated: few westerners are able to use chopsticks well, and most Asian restaurants serve their food western style, on plates, rather than in bowls, which makes chopsticks much more difficult than they otherwise would be. You don’t want food that is likely to make a mess of your clothes, especially as many first dates include time together at a movie, theater or dance club after, and it would be a downer to have to go home for a fresh shirt or a clean skirt. And food you cannot pronounce only makes you look like pretentious and over-ambitious.

    To which I say: Feh.

    Because of my work hours, first dates are far more likely to be lunch and a movie than dinner and dancing. I’ll take my dates to one of the best burger joints in the city. Or maybe the Thai place with great curry (and use a fork, for reasons mentioned above.) If my hands get dirty, I’ll wash them. If my breath smells of mustard and onions, I always carry mints. If I drop a peanut sauce laden chicken satay in my lap, I will ask for a short detour home and pray that I had cleaned the bathroom recently. If being myself, or just being human, offends my date then clearly we should not be dating at all.

    1. 6.1

      Where’s this “few westerners” coming from? I’m from SoCal, a white guy, and I learned how to use chopsticks eating take-out food as a little kid. They’re not that difficult to operate! Hold one in place like a pencil with your thumb and middle finger, then use your index finger to move the other up and down. Now you can pick up anything! 🙂

  6. 7

    I never understood that. I think you would impress me more by sharing a plate of haggis. Frankly I don’t get the oysters.

    My date food? Anything that comes with a side order of sea food since the other half is death to anything that swims.

  7. 8


    also: CHICKEN FRIED STEAK IS NOT SCHNITZEL. For starters, Schnitzel is pork (or veal if you’re Austrian)

  8. 9

    and while I’m on the topic of Schnitzel, you’ll note that breaded pork cutlets with mushroom gravy are not forbidden. Jägerschnitzel is obviously the only allowable first date meal. Not beer tho, cuz fermentation.

  9. 11

    Jägerschnitzel is obviously the only allowable first date meal. Not beer tho, cuz fermentation.

    These lists are terrible. I have a funny sushi/first date anecdote, however.
    When I was young, I worked at a grocery store. Every evening we had our ‘beer and ice-cream’ regulars, young outdoorsy types who liked micro-brews and Ben & Jerry’s. One of these regulars was really cute. I would try to make small talk, and it was usually about food. One evening he asked me if I liked sushi. (At that time I hated fish with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns.) I was like, “Oh, I loooove sushi!”, because, cute regular. He promptly asked me out on a sushi date. I was so nervous as he ordered us up all of his favorites, and my eyes were getting bigger and bigger, trying to figure out how I was going to suppress my gag reflex. Luckily they served it with generous portions of wasabi and pickled ginger, so I was able to smother out the fish taste. I ended up impressing him with my spice ‘tolerance’.

    Moral of the story, if you want to be on the date bad enough, you’ll eat whatever and it won’t ruin it.

  10. 12

    Personal rule of thumb: The more savory and spicy and lush the food is that the date orders and enjoys, the hotter they will probably be in bed (food is sensuality). The more they fuss about my food choices, helpfully or unhelpfully, the more controlling and insufferable they are going to turn out to be in a relationship (if they make comments about the amount I choose to eat, they are likely to be frankly abusive).

  11. 13

    This list makes no sense in terms of lived experience.

    Maybe it’s cuz I would negotiate the restaurant with my date (my usual excuse was I didn’t know the area), but it felt like the more boring the restaurant, the less likely to see some action or a second date.

  12. 14

    food challenges (+1 if “suicide” chicken wings)

    I dunno, I think it’d be kinda cool if I was out on a first date and they wanted to do a food challenge.

    I can’t say I’d do one myself, and I’d never suggest it (I’d feel guilty if they got sick because of my suggestion), but I think it’d be really fun to watch. Would definitely be a plus in my book.

    Also, are there any restaurants that serve 5-hour energy? Are they picking up dinner at a convenience store or vending machine?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *