Cafe Society

Best of Denver 2009: Fifty first dates

As with yesterday's post about the sudden shortage of rice-flour baguette in Denver, this is another explanation of how I came to choose a certain award in this year's Best of Denver issue.  This time around, it's about the best restaurant for a first date.

Award in question: Best First Date Restaurant

Possible winners: Indulge, Vesta, Delite, Deluxe, Corner Office, Super Star Asian, Le Central, Tacos D.F., Bistro Vendome, Rioja and too many others to list.

Appearing in this year's issue?  Yes

 Best First Date Restaurant...  You know the worst guy in the world to have to pick that kind of place?  Me. I don't think I've been on an actual date -- as in dinner, a movie, whatever, followed by a chaste kiss at the front door -- since high school. 

Seriously. The ex and me? Met her in a bar, fell in love, moved in with her about a week later because, at the time, I was more or less living in my car and sleeping on the beach.  After we split, there were some waitresses, some food-industry girls and chef-groupies. No real dates there (unless one counts a visit to a dealer's house a date...). Then there was Laura, my wife, and that's a whole other kind of story.

Anyway, long story short, I have no idea what kind of place a proper and upstanding young gentleman would take a blushing young lady on a first date. My original pick for this category was Indulge, but I was told by a chorus of women that Indulge would be terrible for a first date: It's often intimidatingly quiet, offers little in the way of conversational diversion (about the decor, the flatware, the other customers), and has a menu that's very French and not terribly approachable for someone who's not a gastronaut to start. 

I shot back with the fact that anyone who is intimidated by a French menu or doesn't have anything more interesting to offer conversationally than a running commentary on the drapery wouldn't be a very good fucking date in the first place, but was shouted down by the assembled ladies. 

To my mind, a first date ought to be a kind of gauntlet -- a test whereby you expose any potential suitor to the person you really are and the things you really love. It shouldn't be easy. It should be a challenge -- to see whether or not the girl in question can really hang.  And so as not to sound sexist about it, I'd expect the same from any girl asking me out. If she was, say, a professional bicycle racer, our first date ought to be a fifty-mile endurance ride. And if I couldn't hack it, I would fully expect her to leave me gasping by the side of the road.

Apparently, though, this Survivor-style dating strategy is not cool these days, so I had my companions give me suggestions. We discussed Beatrice & Woodsley (certainly plenty to talk about if the conversation founders) and Vesta (sexy as hell on a Friday night). I offered up the Corner Office because, if things are going really well, the two lovebirds can jump out and go have sex in the bathrooms or just take a room at the Curtis Hotel (to which the Corner Office is attached). My friends countered with Delite for a sort of drive-by first date -- a quick cocktail, a little snack and then an easy out if things are going poorly. I upped the ante with Super Star Asian, because if a fella like me were to find a girl not freaked the fuck out by the sight of me eating chicken feet and jellyfish for breakfast, she's probably a keeper -- if only because she has the same adventurous willingness as I do for putting unusual things in her mouth before lunch.

The final pick came down as a compromise -- a place that could both be used as a gauntlet for gauging the tastes of a potential mate and also as a romantic retreat. It's an easy place to get out of if things are going badly, and a wonderful spot for wasting several hours over a lovey-dovey romantic dinner.

You can see for yourself which place finally made the cut when the Best of Denver 2009 comes out on Thursday. It's a date.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan

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