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Why dinner destinations make a difference to your date

Jesse Colautti | Fulcrum Staff

SOME WILL ARGUE that you enter adulthood through a landmark occasion—the day you move out from your parents’ house, the day you do your own laundry, or the day you pop your cherry, for example. But what I have found is that after each of those events, I felt no more mature than I had beforehand. The day I grew up for real, when I declared to the harsh and cruel world that I was ready to face it head-on, was the day I went on a date to a restaurant other than Kelsey’s.

Chain restaurants are not without value—they’re great spots to go to as a kid with your parents or with your soccer team, but there’s simply no excuse for taking a date there. Dates are a chance to show someone what your true colours are, a time to separate yourself from the hundreds of other people that person meets in a day. The location you choose is a big part of that.

A restaurant choice shows more than just your tastes and cravings. It shows you’re not just a tourist in the city you live in, and more importantly, it shows that you’ve actually put thought and effort into the date. The restaurants I like reflect me, and when I bring someone there on a date I take it personally whether or not she enjoys the place as much as I do. I hope for the sake of everyone reading this that you do not see a paper tablecloth (and I use the term “cloth” loosely here) you can write on with crayons as a reflection of your true self.

With dates, you reap what you sow. If you’re going to choose an impersonal and generic setting, then that’s all you will probably get out of that experience. It’s hard to really intimately connect with someone when there are babies screaming into your ear from the booth behind you or when the entire staff of the restaurant is busy singing a strange alternative to “Happy Birthday” to the 12-year-old girl dressed up in a moose hat three tables down. It also tends to show someone you’re not really interested in what she/he has to say when you take her/him out to a place where the biggest selling point is the number of televisions on the walls.

When I’ve brought up these points to friends, many have defended their choices of Boston Pizza or East Side Mario’s on the very basis of their convenience and predictability—these are probably the same people who didn’t take their training wheels off until age 10. Our world is more complicated than it was back when we had recess, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you want to base your life on simplicity and ease then I’m sure you will have a predictable and safe path to a nice comfortable plot in the ground.

The richness of life comes from taking chances, and although not every unique, local restaurant you choose will be a winner, I guarantee the good experiences will outweigh the bad. It is simply naive to decide on Swiss Chalet because you want to avoid risk. If you applied this type of reasoning to the rest of your life, you’d probably never see more of the world than the town you grew up in. Might as well just rename yourself Alfred Prufrock and be done with it.

Moreover, in today’s world of smartphones and Urbanspoon, it’s becoming incredibly easy to find a restaurant that fits your taste. In a matter of minutes, you can have insight into dozens of restaurant choices that will not only be the backdrop for a hopefully rich and rewarding experience, they will actually add to that experience. You can score extra points you might not even deserve by being able to suggest a spot with tons of personality.

So, next time you find yourself planning that perfect evening out, consider spending a few minutes looking up some of Ottawa’s best restaurants—my suggestions would be Ahora, Town, or The Green Door—and if you have to make it a chain restaurant, well, at least make it The Keg.