Start With a Cup of Joe

"Let's go to Stephen Starr's Morimoto for dinner," he says.

"Oooh, I've always wanted to go there," she replies.

("And I won't have to pay," she is thinking.)

I've already discussed what to do on a first date, but not where to go.

Going to an expensive restaurant for dinner will check it off your list of most-wanted places to go, but it doesn't guarantee a good time. So, is it really worth it? I don't really think so. I went to El Vez (another Starr restaurant) on a first date. Although the guy was very nice, I realized he wasn't for me six minutes into dinner, which lasted over an hour and wasn't cheap.

I don't think the planning of the first date should be a big deal since all you're really doing is deciding if you want to meet for a second date. Dinner can be too long and too expensive if the person's not for you – better to plan for a drink, coffee or brunch.

Here are some suggestions on where to go for a first date. The majority of places are in the city, but even if you don't live there, isn't it nice to visit town once in a while?

For All Ages:

• Sam's Morning Glory Diner (735 S. 10th St., 215-413-3999) – This adorable diner has an "all-about the-food attitude," and therefore, you don't have to stay long. The servers dress in jeans; the kitchen is directly behind the diner bar; and the menu is filled with homemade specialties, including hot chocolate. My favorites are the Eggs Benedict (replace the ham with salmon) or the challah French toast.

Morning Glory has more than just amazing food; it has outside seating for nice weather. Unfortunately, it does not take reservations despite its huge volume of customers, so be sure to arrive early. But don't be discouraged if there is a wait; it's well worth it!

The restaurant is open weekdays, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekends, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Parking is free on the street, though you might want to allow some extra time to find a space.

If the date goes well, you can continue your day by window-shopping in the Italian market a few blocks southeast, around Ninth and Christian streets.

• La Colombe Torrefaction (130 S. 19th St., 215-563-0860) – This coffee house, just north of Rittenhouse Square, produces what I think is the best coffee in Philadelphia. It's made in a warehouse in Port Richmond, and delivered fresh about once a week. You can sip a cappuccino, macchiato or espresso in beautiful blue-and-white china while getting to know your date.

Parking may be a problem if you don't want to pay for it, but if you drive around for a while, you should find a spot. Most of the meters are free in this area on Sundays. Hours are weekdays, from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; weekends, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

To continue the date, take a stroll through Rittenhouse Square. If it's chilly and things are going well, snuggle up on a bench.

• Double Shots (211 Chestnut St., 215-351-5171) – A serene coffee shop in the midst of Old City is the setting for a first date without a lot of background noise. If you want more than just coffee, some munchies are served, such as the soup, which changes daily.

Hours are Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (closed Sundays).

If you're meeting during the day, continue the date by strolling the tourist sites in Old City: Betsy Ross House, Elfreth's Alley or Ben Franklin's Court.

For 20s & 30s:

• Drinkers Pub (1903 Chestnut St., 215-564-0914) – This is one of my choice bars in the Rittenhouse Square area because the drinks are reasonable (especially at happy hour), the dress casual and the jukebox music great. The wall is filled with items for many a conversation-starter, and the staff is fun. The music can grow loud, but at least it's decent.

If, after a drink or two, you work up an appetite, the pub offers some Mexican and American favorites. Or wander into one of the many other bars in the area, such as Irish Pub (20th and Walnut) or The Good Dog (15th and Locust).

For 35 and Over:

• The Pub of Penn Valley (863 Montgomery Ave., Narberth, 610-664-1901) – Start by sitting at the bar at this small but quaint restaurant, where the prices are moderate and the food wonderful. If you're having a great time, ask to move to a table or join in the Quizzo night, where you have a chance to win a gift certificate.

Going out in the suburbs eliminates the cost of parking and offers a more relaxed environment.

For 65 and Over:

• Ralph's (760 S. Ninth St., 215-627-6011) – This old-fashioned Italian restaurant is replete with character, as well as reasonably priced food and wine. Start with a glass of vino, if you like, and nibble on some bread or greens; if all goes well, move on to the main course.

I keep talking about where to go if the date is good, but what happens when you finish your coffee or drink, and the date just isn't what you expected?

You can politely say, "It was nice to meet you, but I scheduled something right after this," or "It was nice to meet you. Thanks for your time, and good luck."

You might think that it's rude to say "good luck." You might even think it's nicer to end a bad date by saying, "I'll call you" or "Please, call me." Yes, that's easier in the short run, but all you're doing is implying that you are interested enough for a second date. That is unfair – even rude. People want to know where they stand, and yes, they can handle it; they realize not every date will be successful.

Personally, I have much more respect for someone who lets me know up front what he thinks. I also don't want to lead on a man when he seems interested in me and the feelings are not returned. Each date is a new experience, and hopefully, these suggestions will help make your next first date your last.

If you want to share a dating story, e-mail: [email protected]



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