Reason for Not Eating Out #25: Creative Dating

There are many people who read the phrase “not eating out in New York” as synonymous with “not dating in New York.” And those male species of the lot, I have no use for.

Not to be “difficult” or “stubborn,” two things I have been called, oh, a few times in my romantic repertoire, but there is nothing more pathetic than a person who has forgotten that a date isn’t simply about impressing someone with their Zagat-like city restaurant knowledge.

I’m not going to assert that by not going to restaurants I have had a richer, fuller dating life, because I haven’t. I’m sure my friends would agree that it has been interesting, though, to say the least. And for now, I’m going to stick with saying the least and saving the details for a later time and purpose.

But just because I’ve had a strange run of this course doesn’t mean that creative dating (defined here as anything but going out for dinner) isn’t a great, and potentially fruitful, experience. Here are some of my suggestions for things I would like to do instead of going to a restaurant. I’ve left out the obvious answers, like seeing a movie, checking out a museum or just going out for drinks. It’s a little New York-specific, but for everyone out there, I hope reading about these ideas might help to get the creative dating juices flowing (yikes, no innuendo intended!):

Bike to Red Hook or DUMBO, sit by the waterfront, throw pebbles into the water or pet dogs running around. This is kind of similar to an ancient article I wrote about the most romantic waterfront spots in Brooklyn, the earnest conclusion of it being that there’s really nothing more beautiful than watching murky water wash up used condoms along a broken glass-strewn pebbly shore. If Red Hook’s your destination, there’s a great current list of neighborhood hot spots in Brooklyn Based today.

The biking bit is imperative here. Subways are the death of dating. What’s romantic about trying to stand still in a packed car with a changemonger to your right, loud pack of teenagers to your left and sleeping hobo stench all around?

Pick a park, any park. It’s more rustic than urban, but nature reputedly cleanses the Metropolitan angst from your system for a short period of time. Which is a good state to be in on a date, if you ask me.

If it’s colder out:

Go see some music. This is definitely one of the obvious answers, but since there’s such variety of live music in the city you can really cater your evening to a range of tastes -– so snap your fingers in an intimate jazz club, crowdsurf at a raucous loft party, splurge on classical music tickets for the sake of random refinement, or why not get up on the stage at Hank’s Saloon and croon some country lyrics with a live band on stage backing you up?

Some no-fail places with free live music every night: Barbès (with its cool, Bohemian, instrumental-themed selection of music), Pete’s Candy Store (fun because you will have to squash close together), Freddy’s Bar and Backroom (it’s not always music, but the backroom always has something goofy going on like trivia, or a diorama-rama).

Take a cooking or wine-tasting class together. It’s amazingly fun! You’ll still get to eat or drink ‘till you’re smashed, plus, you’ll get to make wink-winks at one another if the teacher is acting freakish or fuddy-duddy, à la classroom crush of seventh grade! (Unfortunately, no one but girl pals have ever taken me up on this type of “dating” request, which some might not have even realized was such…)

I don’t know if I even need to get into all the different places that offer wine-tasting/pairing, or food tasting/cooking classes and demos, but if you’ve been reading the “Today’s Specials” box on this blog I like posting my favorites there, like free ones, and those held at The Brooklyn Kitchen. The 92nd Street Y is another place for some frequent food class culture, though I myself haven’t attended any there yet. For wine and spirits, Bottlerocket is a perfect place for a relaxed, yet informative, class session.

Then we have the really, really, I mean, really, you-have-to-do-this obvious answer that should be considered above all else:

Cook at home. Even if it’s just dessert and coffee or tea. Invite him or her over. Put on your choice of music, not the café’s. Take a little pride in what you did with your pad (or what you didn’t – hey, yourself is yourself). Don’t be guarded and sit up straight and act all proper like you would in a restaurant. Or do — anything goes.

As I got into a bit more here, cooking for someone can lead to wildly intimate stuff. But if you’re still in that first-date phase, it doesn’t have to. It might sound like a lot of work, but consider the fact that next time (if you want there to be a next date, that is), you’ll probably get the royal treatment at his or her place. And that’s also way better than going to another restaurant.

14 Responses

  1. David

    Creative dating is such a healthy idea… It’s a tough first date, cooking at home, seems like at least a second date to me, but certainly doable! I wonder if I would err towards prim and proper on such first dates…

  2. Erynn

    Oh, I’d go on a cooking class date any time… though I guess I am a girl.

  3. James

    Making tamales is great example of the cook-at-home date! Plus, it scores you and your date extra points with all of the tamal loving people in your lives.

  4. Jay

    I like this too much to get into the subtext. 😉

    But, thank you, Cathy…

  5. Miss Tiffie


    You’re so cute!!! Haha… too bad they didn’t let you air the original tape you wanted :]

  6. Bri

    I love this post (and your site in general – I have been reading it for a couple of years now). It seems every time you go on a date in NY the men are just so braggy- trying to impress with the “now” restaurant. Yawn! As much as I do love to eat out in New York – I would love for a guy to try to woo me as creatively as any of these ideas you have posted here!

  7. Nora

    I love this post — and I hadn’t read that rather racy post from last year. 😉

    I presume some of the things left unsaid will end up in the book — can’t wait.

  8. matherine

    i think a “cook at home” date is less stressful than a restaurant date–you are in control of every aspect from the music to the speed of service, etc.. maybe it’s just me, but i feel more relaxed on a date if it is just the two of us without the rigamarole of the ordering process and the crowd of other people milling around. plus, it makes obsolete the question, “your place or mine?”

  9. hoppie

    restaurant dates are wildly overrated. you pay alot, and it’s kind of pressury. but cooking together is intimate – i think it’s too intimate for a first date unless you’re trying to get laid right away. it’s not good to oversell yourself.
    i’ll be landing in brooklyn on january first. since i don’t know any hotshit restaurants there, i won’t even know how to make a hotshit impression.

    oh god. dating sucks.

  10. joe

    One of my first dates with my girlfriend was simply staying in and preparing your fried green eggplant with peach salsa that was posted last july. We enjoyed this private meal more than most of the restaurants we’ve visited since then. it was because we both cooked together in her small kitchen that made it as special of a dinner as it was… of course it came out great, and it looked as good as it tasted; so we took pictures to remember it by. we’ve been together for 9 months, and the catalyst was that date.

  11. […] And this is a young girl, a cute girl. One who the fellas might want to take on a date. In this town, a date basically equals a restaurant trip. What’s a girl to do? I am reminded of the Beavans of No Impact Man, and how when they gave up eating out, they sort of fell in love with dinner parties and family time. Erway, too, reminds us–both on the blog and in her book–that there are many more fun and creative ways to court a person than going to a restaurant. Her #25 reason for not eating out? Creative dating. […]

  12. […] And this is a young girl, a cute girl. One who the fellas might want to take on a date. In this town, a date basically equals a restaurant trip.  What’s a girl to do?  I am reminded of the Beavans of No Impact Man, and how when they gave up eating out, they sort of fell in love with dinner parties and family time.  Erway, too, reminds us—both on the blog and in her book—that there are many more fun and creative ways to court a person than going to a restaurant. Her #25 reason for not eating out? Creative dating. […]

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