The City Magazine Since 1975

Raising the Bar

Raising the Bar
True tales and tips from food & bev pros who work the front lines of the dating scene

One of my most unforgettable first dates was with a bartender at Basil downtown. And by this I mean my real—and far-too-inebriated—date had to be tucked into a cab before our meal had even arrived, while I was left to finish my pad Thai and freshly uncorked bottle of Bordeaux across from Xan McLaughlin, the bartender on duty. So, wondering what other dates, good and bad, our area food and beverage folks have witnessed—and the nuggets of wisdom we can glean from each—I asked around:

Josh Alford
14 years in F&B

Best date: “A friend came in for brunch with a first date, and they sat at the bar. Things seemed to be going well, and when his date went to the restroom, my friend asked me what I thought of her. I told him she seemed great. I had a good feeling about those two. Sure enough, eight months later he showed me the ring he picked out for her. They’re now happily married.”

Tip: “Sitting at the bar is a great way of warming up to one another. You always have a bartender you can lean on if you need to.”

Erin Perkins
Former server
10 years in F&B

Bad Date: “A couple was on a blind date, and the guy paid more attention to me than her. She asked for her entrée to go and left before he paid the bill. Later that night, he came back to the bar with another woman.”

Tip: “Don’t have the pressure of a first date in a high-end restaurant. Perhaps coffee or a cocktail is a better idea for a shorter initial meeting. At least she got some good leftovers.”

Tara Foye
Former server  
10+ years in F&B

Worst Date: “This first date far surpasses the word awkward. A bubbly young couple took their seats at my table. Two minutes after the first course was served, the girl’s face collapsed into her plate. When I approached the table to see if she was okay, she admitted she had had too much to drink before they arrived.”

Tip: “We’ve all experienced anxiety before the first date, but spare yourself the agony and never get day-drunk beforehand.”

Brad Cline
13 years in F&B

Worst Date: “While I was tending bar one Saturday night, I noticed a couple who clearly had reached their limit. They were very friendly and we assumed by the ring on her finger that he was her fiancé. I was about to ask if I could call a cab for their safe journey home when a gentleman entered the bar. Seeing the couple set him off, and before I knew it, we had a full screaming match in our otherwise calm bar. Turns out, the woman who had been getting frisky with her “date” at the end of the bar was engaged not to the man she’d been with, but to this gentleman who had just arrived on the scene.  

Tip: “Be yourself. Be confident. Tell good stories, smile a lot. And always start off with a good cocktail.”

Don Goodemote
Assistant GM
Worst date: “Two couples came in and took a seat at the end of our bar. All seemed to be going well until one of the women abruptly left. When I approached the group, I learned she’d just issued an ultimatum to her first date: ‘Are you going to take me home, or are you going to wuss out on me.’ He chose the latter, and she stormed out when she didn’t get the response she wanted.”

Tip: “Being assertive isn’t always the best approach. Also, when you storm out of the restaurant after an epic encounter like this, be sure to take along all your belongings. She left behind her caricature, which she must have had made that evening via one of the street artists. The other couple didn’t take it either, and now we have a souvenir to remind us of this colorful encounter.”

Mickey Bakst
General Manager
40 years in F&B

Worst date: “A young man calls to set up dinner reservation as he is going to propose. The couple arrives and are seated in a banquette with champagne and flowers. When he asks the question, she flat out says no and walks out of the restaurant. He was left sitting there alone dumbfounded and totally destroyed.”

Tip: Don’t go somewhere where it will take hours. Meet for coffee and a walk so that you can part ways if it doesn’t feel being right. I have watched too many people have to sit for two hours on a first date with nothing to really say to each other.