love and war

There Are Worse First-Date Spots Than Applebee’s

Photo: Justin Pumfrey/Getty Images

Going on a first date is more often than not like sprinting ass-naked into a snake pit — you are vulnerable, sweaty, and steeling yourself for a lot of potential pain. Everyone is entitled to strong opinions about where first dates should happen, because first dates are hell and we should do whatever we can to make them as bearable as humanly possible. This, I believe, is the sentiment we should extend to the woman who went viral on TikTok in October for refusing to get out of the car when her date pulled into the Cheesecake Factory parking lot. Her bold — and, to some, snobby — choice inspired a list that circulated Twitter in the following week, which claims to enumerate 28 places that women adamantly refuse to go on dates. The first item is, of course, Cheesecake Factory, to the ire and distress of many an avocado-roll fan. Who contributed to this list? How many women were polled? Who is taking their first dates to IHOP and how can I meet them? All questions that occurred to me while perusing The List, none of which I have an answer to.

Frankly, its origins do not matter much, because the list has naturally caused an uproar. Restaurant chains (and their fan bases) took issue with their high-ranking spots. LL Cool J, noted guy whom ladies love, rushed to Cheesecake Factory’s defense. Some establishments argued that, actually, taking a date to Buffalo Wild Wings is the perfect way to let her know you like “wings, beer, and sports” — interests shared by women, surely — right off the bat. Some people even argued they consider the list a guide for future date spots.

While this list makes some pretty valid points — I would rather walk over hot coals than go on a first date at church — some of its entries do feel excessive. If someone were to pitch a first date at the gym, I would block them immediately, and inviting a stranger to a family function is weird. A “first date” at someone’s house is just a hookup.

But a coffee date? An ice-cream outing? Bowling? “A bar for just drinks”? All these sound like pretty legitimate and tolerable environs to get to know a potential romantic interest. As many commenters have posited, what options remain? Hurtling into space to grab drinks inside a moon crater?

In search of some more realistic first-date no-gos, I consulted my wise and romance-weary colleagues, whose vast array of horror stories suggests that, actually, you could do a lot worse than Applebee’s. Here are their top banned locales, some of them (I won’t say which, for their sake) inspired by real-life experience:

  • Haunted house
  • Kava bar
  • Smoothie shop
  • House of Yes
  • Mood Ring on a weekend afternoon
  • “That bar in Bed-Stuy that smells like palo santo and always has a DJ”
  • Un*on P*ol

Plus, some other venues I personally believe deserve higher slots on this list:

When in doubt, just take me to a mid-tier trattoria and call it a day, okay?

There Are Worse First-Date Spots Than Applebee’s