How To Choose A First Date Restaurant

coffee date

A great first date starts with choosing the right restaurant.

It's been a couple weeks since you and your latest match on eHarmony started corresponding, and after a few late-night IM sessions, the two of you are finally ready to meet in person. Do you test the waters over flights of beer? Or do you pump up the romance with a picnic in the park? Decisions, decisions—this one more challenging because your date is more or less a complete stranger. 

Singles living in San Francisco should thank the online dating gods, then, as a new city guide there offers recommendations for online dating-appropriate restaurants. Melanie Gagliardi, e-columnist author of The Tablehopper's Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco, recently shared some useful online dating advice with CNet.

"The trick about meeting someone from online is you need it to be quick (coffee, tea, or me?) because sometimes the transition from the virtual world to the real world can be one big mistake," Gagliardi said. We wouldn't want to endure a seven-course meal with someone whose love for books, which seemed so charming online, strikes you as pretentious offline. (True story, unfortunately.) Online Dating: How to Choose the Best Site For You

Gagliardi recommends inexpensive wine bars or charming cafes—nothing too romantic and that would allow you to duck out after twenty minutes or linger for two hours. After all, it's easier to politely end a date after finishing a glass of Sangria than it is while you're in the middle of a 16-oz. prime rib. 4 Signs That A First Date Is Going Really Well

"It needs to be a place that shows a little style—this is not the time for Starbucks. You also need a spot where you can talk and not have everyone rubberneck your first getting-to-know-you meeting," Gagliardi said. 5 Online Dating Red Flags Women Look For

Culled from our collective decades of dating experience, you'll know it's an ideal first-date place when:

1) The noise level isn't too quiet, as Gagliardi pointed out, or too loud. No need to scream on a first date, we hope.

2) You can make a reservation or be sure there's no wait time. Better to avoid awkward standing and waiting conversation.

3) The lighting is pleasant, not too bright or too dark. If the venue offers outdoor seating, even better.

4) The menu is diverse—and offers dishes other than salads. Men Want Women To Order Steak, Not Salad

Where do you meet for a first date? Any particularly great or poor choices?