It probably won't surprise you to learn that I haven't been on a lot of dates. Thus far, my personal history of socio-sexual relations has been divided into two very distinct categories. Depending on the year, the place and my condition, I have either gotten by as some kind of sleazy Lothario man-skank or in a state of almost hysterical serial monogamy.
In the first instance (which usually saw me as a wasted and twitchy cook or chef, rarely out of my whites or out of my kitchen), my liaisons with the opposite sex were generally confined to running across a waitress or hostess or girl-cook with a hungry look in her eye, pouring her a drink (or worse), then lifting her up onto the stainless and knocking the cutting boards loose. Not exactly a date.
In the second case, the setup was generally the same (me, kitchen, wasted, etc.), but something in my head was different. Our first date would customarily involve the same preliminaries, the same outcome, but would then end with me immediately moving my pawnshop TV into her living room and my work boots into her front hall. At which point we would begin living together -- a state that would persist for months or years, however long it took the lovely lady to get entirely sick of me. Again, not really a date.
Still, I write about date restaurants a lot. Last week's Ask the Critic question was about man dates -- where to go, what to eat, how to behave. And aside from those accusations of rampant homophobia, we got a lot of good responses, some reminders on etiquette and a nice (if informal) discussion on manliness going between rival groups of posters.
This week, I'm talking about actual dates (gay, straight, crooked, what-have-you) and, in particular, the most uncomfortable date of them all: the last one.
Despite my complete lack of actual on-the-job experience (so to speak), someone recently asked me for a good restaurant to go to for the inevitable break-up date: that sitcom standard, "It's not you, it's me," weepy, awful, drink-in-the-face moment when one must look another human being in the eye and explain to them that while everything has been going just swimmingly in the relationship and the six-hour jazz fusion concert last night was just great and that the thing they do with their tongue during sex really isn't weird at all and that everyone gets angry enough to hit the mailman once in a while, you've just been called away for work and will be spending the next six to twelve months in Yemen. What my curious friend needed was a break-up restaurant. And fast.
And though I explained that, having had very few first dates in my life, I've had even fewer last ones (I was most accustomed to either just slinking away the next morning or being thrown out on my punk ass two years later), luckily, I had what I thought was a perfect place on tap: Katie Mullen's.
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Why? Because I'd meant to give the place a Best of Denver award for Best Last Date Restaurant, but then realized that it hadn't yet been open long enough to qualify for the award (a restaurant had to be open by January 1, 2009, to qualify; Katie missed that by six weeks). And ever since, I've been itching for the chance to talk up this one, perhaps overlooked quality of Denver's biggest and best Irish-American pub.
So imagine the (completely fictionalized) setup: You've managed to tolerate the quirks and fetishes and weird social flaws of another human being for a number of weeks or months. But finally his/her tonnage of personal baggage and weirdness is getting to you. Doesn't matter what the situation is, you just know that you've got to get gone, and you know that it would probably be better, safer and slightly less socially awkward (read: fewer tears and less chance of them coming across the table at you with a butter knife) to cut the cord in a highly public location. To me, Katie Mullen's is perfect simply because it's so large and so densely packed. The avenues for escape are plentiful. And once you've dropped the bomb (or mentioned the restraining order), you can simply excuse yourself to the bathrooms and vanish into the crowds. Matter of fact, since you're now newly single, you could probably spend the whole rest of the night at Katie Mullen's -- at one of the other bars, just around the corner from your now heartbroken-slash-enraged ex -- without ever having to see him or her again.
But then again, as I've said, this is not exactly my area of expertise, so I am turning it over to you, my loyal readers. Where's the best place in town to stage a highly public break-up? Where would you go if you had to unload a hundred-odd pounds of human deadwood and wanted to do it in front of witnesses? As always, bonus points for creative reasoning, and double bonus points for telling the true stories of public heartbreaks you've experienced, either as the breaker or the breakee.
So let's get this soap opera started, shall we?