Let's set the scene.
It's Valentine's Day, and romance is in the air. Maybe your date is a new flame, or maybe you've known them a bit longer, but regardless, tonight that fire's burning, and it's burning bright.
It's a night to love and be loved, a night for roses and prix fixe menus and wine-stained kisses. It's a night of post-dinner promises and passion, rekindled.
Which is why it can be so intimidating to narrow down exactly where you'd like to go for that all-important-dinner, but never fear. We've done the work for you.
So without further ado, here's 13 places you should never, ever, ever take your date for Valentine's dinner if you don't want it to become a Valentine's disaster.
Trust us. You'll be glad you did.
1. Places with a special Valentine's "prix fixe" menu that's just their regular menu at 3.5 times the price.
It's your favorite spot, and whether they're serving filet mignon or foie gras, you're in love with the way they fold the napkins and lay the silverware just so.
It's silly, you know, to get caught up on the trappings of a restaurant — much more important are things like whether the men's bathroom attendant speaks fluent metropolitan French — but you need to take your focus away from that washcloth-holding man's non-native-sounding accent to make sure if the prices are raised, so is the qualité.
2. Your parent's house.
Okay, we know things are getting serious. And we know that because things are getting serious, you want to start including your family on things. And maybe even get an up close and personal look at whether your relationship could possibly emulate the strongest, most loving relationship you've ever encountered: your dad and Rocky, the (second!) dog he named after that Sylvester Stallone movie he's seen too many times.
But don't. Everyone will thank you.
3. Anybody's parent's house, really.
It's actually not particularly appropriate to take your date to anyone's parent's house on Valentine's Day, and we're kind of surprised you didn't realize.
This includes your date's parents, your ex's parents, your pharmacist's parents, and Papa John's, who only found out that he was a carrier of recessive flat bread alleles after his wife started giving birth to mini pizzas.
Seriously, what's up with you and people's parents?
4. The next evolution of the farm-to-table restaurant.
Farm-to-table restaurants are all the rage nowadays, and the perfect answer for when you want to be chic and wear flannel at the same time. But hang on, let's extrapolate: what'll be the next big thing? What comes after farm-to-table in foodie culture?
The answer isn't pretty. We doubt your date will be as amused by a trip to a farm-to-table-to-sewage-treatment-plant restaurant. Might be best to steer away (upwind, if possible).
5. Vladivostok, Siberia.
Ever sat too near the door at a popular restaurant and been unable to stop shivering because of the draft?
Imagine that, while also being geographically convenient to a large number of Soviet-era prisons.
7. Hometown cemeteries, even if you've never been, and even if you're this close to deciphering a decades-old prophecy.
We know that history is common interest you both share. We know the solitude and the quiet and the time to yourselves might seem romantic. We know you might think that being hemmed in by gravestones will bring you closer.
But again, we ask: What is it with you and people's parents?
We all know that this Greek town is a solid choice for good times, days spent relaxing in sunny vineyards, and pumice-infused spa retreats, but just a quick reminder that it occasionally winds up awash with molten rock. Probably best to skip.
8. Wendy's, unless you're being ironic.
If you're going to do this, you're going to do it like you mean it.
Roll up to the club — and by "club," we mean the local Wendy's where they're always out of those tiny little paper ketchup holders your mom likes — dressed head-to-toe in your finest. Use a different plastic fork to spear your fries than you use to eat your salad. Drink your Value Diet Coke® with your pinky finger to the sky.
This is a feast fit for a burger king and queen, so you'd better come prepared. (It's also fit for a king and king, or queen and queen, or any other royal pairing with sufficient monarchial standing. Rulers of burger principalities need not apply.)
9. Sbarro, even if you're being ironic.
There is a time and a place for enjoying a romantic dinner over greasy fast food, and that place is not Sbarro.
10. The DMZ.
The DMZ, or the demilitarized zone that splits the two Koreas along the 38th parallel, stands near what was originally the boundary between the Soviet-administrated north and the United States-administrated south in World War II's aftermath.
That boundary, initially intended to be only temporary, became the focus of heated Cold War tensions, and on June 25, 1950, 75,000 northern soldiers advanced across it into the south, beginning the Korean War.
Although the Korean War officially ended with an armistice in 1953, the DMZ exists today as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. Occasional skirmishes still occur along its length, and there's always the threat that something bigger could break out.
"Apocalyptic thoughts come easy here. In a world full of scary places—Kashmir, Chechnya, the West Bank—the DMZ is perhaps the scariest of all, considering the massive fire-power deployed on both sides and the brinkmanship practiced by the rival camps," wrote Tom O'Neill of the zone for National Geographic.
So maybe not a good pick for a dinner date.
11. The permanently grimy corner bistro you definitely saw a rat king in once and it's only still in business because you saw its kind of skeezy manager flirting with the (skeezier) Health and Safety inspector and hey, at least they found each other.
It's actually kind of sweet.
Despite the appeal the dystopian fictional nation of Panem might hold for star-crossed lovers, its damningly classist hierarchies and brutal ongoing revolution — and the general scarcity of authentic Sicilian restaurants — should make you want to look elsewhere for your candlelit rendezvous.
13. Anywhere without free breadsticks.
Life is too short for places without free breadsticks.