As far as first dates go, a dining hall isn’t exactly what most people daydream about. You may imagine a candlelit restaurant or cafe, a concert or comedy show, or even a nice movie, but hey, we’re all on a budget. And if it’s true love, location doesn’t matter, right?
You may want to start your journey of love in Upstein. It has its perks. Some may even go so far as to call it one of the best places on campus to grab a bite. After all, it has Jamba Juice and Chick-fil-A, and, unlike the Marketplace at Kimmel — notorious for its soul-crushing lines that end in a dish that barely qualifies as noodles —it’s a swift and simple experience.
However, be warned. Upstein isn’t as convenient for dates as it is for lunch. You may revel in the idea of blessing that rich daddy you met at Le Bain with a free chicken sandwich and waffle fries, and chances are he will be grateful, but such luxury comes with a wallet-wrenching price. You can count on running into every NYU person you’ve ever met. Hubris will destroy you if you think you’ll only run into a few close friends who know your plan and will politely leave you alone. That kid who talks too much in your Writing the Essay class? He’s there. The Welcome Week “friend” you haven’t talked to in a year? Oh, she’ll most definitely be there, and you can depend on the fact that everyone will not only be happy to see you, but eager to say ‘hi’ and meet your “older brother.”
O.K., so maybe Upstein isn’t the best idea for your first date. But how about Palladium? It has a ton of options, and some of it is healthy, so you won’t feel super bloated when you transition from Netflix to chill in approximately two hours, and above all, it’s secluded. Being all the way up on 14th Street, you’re far less likely to run into people you know, lending to an intimate evening free of any awkward conversations and introductions to distant friends.
You won’t even get interrupted when you tell him his eyes are beautiful and he responds with “I know, right?” You may think you’re safe when you scan the room and see no one you know. But don’t be fooled. That guy with the bleached hair in the corner? That’s his ex-boyfriend, and “he’s such a Gemini,” so you better be prepared for some glares and whispers in your general direction. Palladium will give you a date so uninterrupted no one will hear you scream.
If you have any brain cells at all, you might decide to skip on the dining halls going forward or just reevaluate your taste in men, but perhaps you give it one last Hail Mary try. After all, cuffing season is upon us. 18 Below is known for being on the nicer side, residing in the basement of the Torch Club, resembling an actual restaurant and not just a college building. The food is more or less the same as the Kimmels and Palladiums of the world, but it has cloth napkins, so your date will know you have a refined taste. Plus if you squint and use a little imagination, it looks like you could be at Balthazar. And the intimate lighting makes way for romantic conversation, revealing that the artist from Bed-Stuy is actually pretty funny. And over chilled glasses of fruit-infused water, he will tell you he thinks it’s cute that you snort when you laugh. If it comes down to dining hall dating, cut your losses with 18 Below.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 10 print edition. Email Scott Hogan at [email protected]