The Austin Chronicle

Dear Glutton

Where to go on an unpromising Tinder date

By Emily Beyda, February 19, 2016, Food

Dear Glutton,

Where's the best place to take an unpromising Tinder date?

Ah, Tinder! Somehow simultaneously the best and worst thing on the Internet. The strange thing about online dating, and Tinder in particular, is how it seems to promise a world of infinite possibility, without ever quite delivering. There seems to be an endless supply of beautiful strangers, all charming and quick with an appropriate GIF on messenger, ready to tell you what you want to hear. But the first date usually fails to live up to the promise of each new conversation. Everyone's always shorter, older, fatter, has more emotional baggage. The rapid-fire texting transmutes into awkward silence in person. It's the emotional equivalent of a 3am trip to McDonald's – fast, cheap, and the pictures look pristine, but you always feel a little gross the next morning. Reality disappoints.

Of course, the classic move here would be to go to a bar, preferably a dive bar with low enough lighting to make you look cute, and cheap enough drinks that you don't mind springing for enough rounds to make your date look cute too. Barfly's, with its cheap drinks, surly bartenders, and amazing jukebox, is a favorite of mine. Plus you can tag your initials on the table if all goes well. But if you're at the point where you're writing to me for advice, I bet you've gone that route already.

Instead of yet another night at the bar, why don't you plan a food-based adventure? Going out for a meal can be a big commitment of both time and resources for a first date with an Internet stranger, although I suppose you could always hit one of our fair city's famed food trucks. Doing some specialty shopping is the perfect solution. It's a low-stakes way to make sure that your date shares your priorities (snacks), and is willing to try new things (i.e., new snacks). If conversation lags, you'll have something to talk about (what kind of snack is best, favorite snacks of famous historical figures, what snacks you'd bring to a desert island), and even if you end up having a terrible time you'll leave with a few delicious souvenirs.

Hyde Park's adorable Antonelli's Cheese Shop is a great place to start. You can stand around for as long as you like sampling and debating the merits of various washed-rind cheeses, getting a good sense of both your date's palate and how obvious they are about checking out the cuties behind the counter. Their incredibly lush lavender-honey blended goat cheese is a super-accessible favorite of mine, or you can test your date's tolerance by digging into some super-stinky aged Camem­bert or a ripe Taleggio. If the date goes as badly as you anticipate, you can just walk off with your pockets full of cheese and the whole day ahead of you. But, if you're pleasantly surprised, and all goes well, you can have one of Antonelli's talented cheesemongers assemble you a romantic picnic of cheese, charcuterie, and olives, plus one of their excellent baguettes to pile things on. Take your snacks and head for the grass of Shipe Park, where you can sprawl out under a tree and discuss the various merits of your purchases. Or, if it's really going well, pick up a bottle of Côtes du Rhône and head back to your place and find out if you really wouldn't kick them out of bed for eating crackers.

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