Thursday, October 18, 2012

How to Have a Successful Coffee Date

I’ll be honest- I’ve never been a big fan of coffee dates. If I were a dude and it was my job to plan first dates, I would never, ever suggest meeting up at a Starbucks. Instead, I’d propose meeting at a nice, centrally located bar, and then I’d go trim my nose hair or whatever it is men do.

There’s nothing exciting about most coffee shops- particularly the chains- and the commonplace vibe they give off can make it difficult to drum up a romantic connection. Soy lattes and tall americanos scream, Let’s talk about our career plans. But a smooth pinot noir in a dimly lit bar? It says, Tell me about your day, baby. A strong dirty martini? Come over here and give me a kiss.

But despite my dislike of coffee dates, they have some real advantages. It’s a lower pressure environment. There’s no risk of beer goggles and next day shame (not, um, that this has ever happened to me). Rendezvousing over coffee offers flexibility on the length of a date. And of course, not everyone drinks.

I've been on a few coffee dates that went so well they led me to rethink my whole stance on the matter.  But then, I've also been on a few that bombed spectacularly.  Here's how you can avoid the latter.

Stay away from big chains

Starbucks is like an expensive version of McDonald's. There’s one on every corner, you pay at the register, and they’re usually filled with screaming children. Plus, I doubt your date is going to be jazzed to meet you at the same spot she stops in every morning before work. But what about Panera or Cosi, you may be thinking. They have funky couches! Sorry, friends, those are out too.

Look for ambiance

Whatever the vibe- relaxed, fun, sultry, sophisticated- make sure the place has ambiance to spare. Ladies love ambiance!

Make it interesting

One of the benefits of meeting at a bar is that you have an automatic topic of conversation (credit for this insight goes to Capital Katie). You can get the ball rolling by pointing out the unusual beers at ChurchKey or the interesting cocktails at The Passenger. It might sound stupid or obvious, but not starting off on an awkward foot will greatly improve your chances for a successful date. Look for something interesting on the menu- like the Nutella espresso at Napoleon- and go from there.

Don’t get stuck at a register

Another problem with places like Starbucks. It can be super awkward waiting in line together and trying to figure out what to order as you do your meet ‘n greet. And what happens if she gets there first and pays for her drink and then has to wait around uncomfortably while you stand in line? You may want to avoid any potential problems by choosing a place that only has table service, or you can choose a spot where your date can sit at a table while you order and pay for your drinks.

Be creative

One thing you CAN do with coffee that you can’t do with booze is drink wherever you want (within reason -- don’t try to get up close and personal with the Lichtenstein exhibit while you have a macchiato in hand).

Here’s an idea: text her before the date and ask what you can get for her. Have both of your drinks in hand when she gets there and take them to a nice spot close by -- the fountain in Dupont Circle, a sunny spot on the Mall, Meridian Hill get the picture. I guarantee your date will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Edited to add: an astute reader pointed out that there might be some safety concerns with taking a drink from a stranger.  If you and your date haven't met before, stick with one of the other approaches!

Need ideas on where to go? Here are some Gamma Girl favorites: 

Have any other tips?  Let us know!


  1. That's why I say take a quick trip outside the Beltway to Loudoun County and enjoy one of those beautiful vineyards and a view of the mountains (and the leaves at this time of year).

  2. Just to point out a safety aspect, if anyone I have never met brought me my drink, NOPE not drinking it. You have to think safety - just a ordering a head not a good idea.

    1. Good point, hadn't considered that! Definitely want to be conscious of safety, my bad.

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