Location, Location, Location
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
I'm the kind of serial dater that's done it all. I've been forcibly kidnapped and transported to an undisclosed location, I mean, picked up by a boy and taken to a neutral third location dozens of times over the last few years. Many guys have complained about the planning that goes in to picking these neutral third locations. One guy told me about a secret spreadsheet of the best neutral third locations he and his friend had shared. I'm here to lay out some of the pros and cons, from my perspective, of the best places. (These are all places I have actually been on dates.)
Starbucks/Coffee: Type 1
Coffee is a typical first date, but there are two ways to go about it. Type 1 indicates that the boy researched the coffee shops in the area, maybe found one that was certified kosher or was at least in a cute area and had lots of seating, put the address in his GPS, and selected coffee of all things because it is casual and easy to get to know one another in a coffee shop. That's an appropriate date choice and I understand why so many men choose it.
Pro: You get to have a real conversation in a comfortable chair without any pressure of this boy having spent serious money on you
Con: I don't drink coffee, tea, hot chocolate, kombucha, soda or really anything but water, orange juice, and Bartenura. So I spend this date with a very classy Poland Spring
Starbucks/Coffee: Type 2
He just pulled up to your place and as you get in the car (he didn't get the door for you) he asks: "so is there any coffee around here?" Ah yes, this date matters to him about as much as the subway cares about getting you places on time. In my college days, me and my fellow dorm mates would study at the Coffee Bean across the street from our dorm. Occasionally I would leave Coffee Bean, prepare for a date and get taken back to the same Coffee Bean where all my friends were hanging out. Pleasant.
Pro: You can basically start discussing panda sex/gymnastics as soon as you'd like. He doesn't care. And he only paid for 15 minutes of parking anyway
Con: You got dressed, did your hair and makeup, maybe even paid for a blowout or manicure for a guy who couldn't bother to look up a coffee house 10 minutes away. It's ego crushing and while he saved money by having the date cost a total of $7, you'll be spending that money on the phone with your therapist.
Restaurants are the BEST. You need to eat either way (wedding diet doesn't start until date 10) and while eating alone is great, they usually treat you better with a date. For the girl, this is a free meal so pack it in. Get an appetizer, carry out leftovers in a doggy bag, play your cards right and you won't have to cook for a week. Restaurants also have waiters and closing times-both things you can use to your advantage if you need to end a date. I've gotten to a point in my dating career where before he says hello, I say "so what are we eating?"
Con: If you have a slow waiter you are trapped until the check arrives. Also the most likely place to run into friends. That's not really a con though, as friends are great distractions.
Food and then park
This is a great way for guys to save a bit of money by getting cheaper food/takeout and still make themselves look creative and willing to spend on a date. In this case, a guy will text you beforehand for your order and then will usually arrive with the food ready and drive you to a nice park or hotel lobby where you can eat.
Pro: shows he has the fortitude to put TWO locations in his GPS
Con: sometimes means you end up eating in the dark and I have a thing that I need to see what I'm putting in my mouth
Weird themed coffee shop
Guys might think this is cuter than Starbucks. It is never cuter than Starbucks. There is always Kashrus issues with the most benign drinks here ("Yes, we flavor all our water with the souls of the flowers that should be growing here if it weren't for the industrial revolution.") There will be insane music playing that renders you unable to hear each other and the chairs will be bad. There's a reason Starbucks is Starbucks. Stay with what is safe.
Pro: You can later say to your friends "You know that weird place on 3rd? Do you know they have kosher cookies on alternate Tuesdays? I mean, they're mostly kosher."
Con: You won't last long here. That might be a pro.
Harry Potter Discussion Group
As I mentioned in Harry Potter and the First Date, a Harry Potter discussion group is a cool choice for many reasons. This is definitely a way for a guy to stand out with his choices. You just want to be sure that the same way you try not to talk about politics on a first date, you don't hit sticky Harry Potter issues. Find out how he feels about characters like Snape or Dumbledore before you make a statement of pure hatred/love.
Pro: This date will always be remembered, talking about Harry Potter is a major turn on for me
Con: Most girls in their right minds will ignore their dates and try to go home with the Harry Potter nerds leading this thing.
That's just me? Awkward.
Dave and Busters
Dave and Busters is a classic choice and is great for discussing your families as both of you have probably been to Dave and Busters a few times on Chol Hamoed. Dave and Busters also featured enough different types of games that you'll be occupied. They also usually have a quieter bar/restaurant area where you can really delve in to that childhood trauma. Not to mention, you get a prize at the end!
Pro: This is a girl's moment to show the guy her prize choice and let him decide what that means. If he doesn't give you all the tickets and let you get a prize DUMP HIM AND UBER HOME. I usually opt for the Dave and Busters boxers. They're great to clean the house in and they confuse my date like crazy.
Con: It's loud, it's dark, there are kids running around, both of you are trying to watch the game on the TVs without looking like you are watching the game on the TVs. If you are overly competitive (fire signs, Scorpios) it may also awaken a dark side of you that has to hold back from murder after Connect 4 doesn't go your way. Feelings of murder can ruin a date.
I have never been coordinated. Now add a 6 foot stick. Oh Lord, she's accidentally impaled 3 people. This is not my cup of tea, many girls enjoy this. I recommend to check with your date before you take her here.
Pro: it's a game and a good way to have fun in a chilled environment
Con: Many of these places are in bars where they don't allow under 21 year olds. Imagine my mortification as my date convinced the bouncer that at 20 I should be allowed in anyway. Pool halls in general are dark, smoky, and have a reputation of bringing romance. Not the best for shidduch dating.
On the television show Wizards of Waverly place, Selena Gomez's character Alex is taken mini golfing by a crush of hers. Naturally, she pretends not to know how to golf and he wraps his 14 year old body around her 12 year old body to show her, and 10 year old me at home thought "How romantic!" Good times. The problem is that, in my belief, Wizards of Waverly place has made its way into the national consciousness and now you can't go mini golfing without both of you thinking about Selena Gomez.
Pro: You both just stare at each other's butts
Con: You both just stare at each other's butts
Aside: Top Golf is another great venue that adds extra butt starting and removes any walking
I dated this guy once who was low-key obsessed with me and had, after three dates, started to change his personality to reflect mine. If I wanted to date myself I...am already doing that and love it and definitely don't need you here bothering me. Anyway he took me to the movies because I love movies and every date needed to be about me. Big mistake on his part. We went to a PG historical movie where he got scared and I started laughing at him.
Pro: you don't have to talk
Con: It's so long to be next to a person you can't stand.
Barnes and Noble
Here's real footage of me at Barnes and Noble:
A lot of guys take me here because they've heard I like to read (False. Reading is not something I like. It is the reason I wake up.) They are then treated to two-ish hours of me shrieking and giggling and getting weirdly intimate with the books. We smell the books. We hug the books. We tell the books they matter and we love them. It's a wild wild ride.
Pro: So many good conversation starters at Barnes and Noble
Con: Oddly not a ton of places to sit? Maybe that's just Manhattan
The classic. Thanks to my #1 dating goal of getting free food I haven't had to do this too much. It's too bad its become cliche because I kind of like this. Often the hotels will have nice views so you don't have to look at each other and the chairs are always nice.
Pro: if you angle yourself just right you can see the TVs in the bar and watch the game (you don't care what game, its something to watch) over your date's head.
Con: If you meet at a hotel in Manhattan, make sure you pick out a meeting spot ahead of time. These places are huge. Also, try to avoid the nights of major events. Having a lobby date in the hotel where the Chai Lifeline dinner took place on that very night wasn't a great call.
Prevalent for out-of-towners/COVID-19. Actually the worst experiences ever. Neither of you will know the etiquette for how long it should take, so you'll need a good excuse to end it. Luckily, you'll be at home and can say one of your siblings had a heart attack. Don't say your parents, you don't want to test fate. Some guys have improved their Zoom dating skills and do cute things like sending their date food or playing a game online. I have not dated these people and don't really believe they exist.
Pro: eventually you can learn to pay your taxes, knit a scarf, or pet a dog right out of the range of the Zoom camera so that you actually get something done.
Con: Your whole family/roommate is listening right outside
It doesn't matter which museum you go to, somehow on that day that you are there embarking on this fragile romance with this person you just met, they will have a massive exhibit on naked people and sex. And it will be blocking the hall to all the other exhibits so you will have to walk through and hear him either act like he's dying or make a really corny joke. I once went to a children's museum with a guy and for no apparent reason whatsoever, the Imax movie had a major plot point involving tampons. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the worst because you will spend the whole day getting lost and when you finally figure out where to go to get out it will be through a long hall of statues that are all naked and all have disproportionately large reproductive and child feeding organs. You will both pretend you do not notice them a full 6 inches from your face.
Pro: easy to pretend to be cultured
Con: museum floors are made to make your feet ache
There are a few places that have sprung up over the last decade where one can go to play games. This is actually a great activity for getting to know another person and how intensely they feel the need to thrash you at Blokus.
If you've ever felt like you've fully agreed with anything this woman has said:
You need to stay away from this date. Fake sick and leave. It's better than making a boy cry.
Pro: It's really the best shidduch dating spot there is. All of it is a pro
Con: Because so many shidduch dates go here you'll probably find a copy of the game "Perfect Matches" with notes inside telling you that some people got married from playing that exact game. And now, you are touching it with your fingers.
Getting an ice cream or slurpee and walking along the beach is very nice until the wind turns and the sand gets in both of your eyes blinding you both and then you have to marry each other by default because you became blind together.
Pro: The only thing more gorgeous than the scenery is your date
Con: The only thing grosser than your date is the dead seagull in the path
This is a cheap man who doesn't want to do coffee because it is cliche but won't pay for dinner. Ice cream is worst than both of those. There isn't anywhere to sit and the treat has an expiration date of 5 minutes, so what do you do when you're done? Not to mention if you are an ashkenasi jew dating other ashkenasi jews, there's like an 80% chance that ice cream makes you both fart.
Pro: A lot of ice cream places have TVs that show kids movies. I had such a moment with Beauty and the Beast on my last ice cream date
Con: Dating near children will probably turn you both off from each other, even if you are compatible, because children behave terribly at ice cream stores and who would want to set on a path to make another one of those monsters?
Escape Room The issue with this is that you are literally trapped together. Suddenly, your puzzle solving skills will be elevated because you just want to get out of this damn room with this guy.
Pro: Someone is on camera watching you the whole time so no yichud issues
Con: You'll usually be paired with other dates. They will probably be better at dating than you are
I did this once with a guy because I had a Groupon and wanted to go and all my friends have babies. It was a great workout-he tried to talk to me and I tried to use my spaghetti noodle arms to paddle away from him faster.
Pro: It's definitely unique
Con: If any of the Hudson river gets on you then dating is the least of your concerns
Just the Park
The best way to have the same conversation with everyone you know:
How was the date?
It was ok.
Where did you go?
Just the park?
He didn't buy you anything?
You didn't do anything else?
Just walked around the park?