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Realtors like to say that selling a property always comes down to “location, location, location.” The success of a first date follows a similar pattern with a slight tweak. It’s more like: “location, location, are you a total creep that your date can’t stand?” I can’t help you with the creep thing — perhaps the issue is your Axe body spray — but I’ll do my best with the location problem. Picking the best place for a first date is almost as important as picking who you take there. Your choice says a lot about you, be it the high-roller flashing his cash at the most expensive restaurant in town or the schlub who goes for the 2 for $20 special at Applebee’s.

When picking the right place, you have to ask yourself: What are you trying to accomplish and who’s your date? If you’re just looking to get laid and your date seems to be of the same mind, you can probably skip dinner altogether and grab some drinks at a fun bar with the hope that the sex gods (Fabio, Wilt) will treat you favorably. If this is an internet date and you might want to bail because the lady was a bit generous when it came to describing herself, don’t set up a nine-course tasting at your local Chez Whatever. Start with the girl (or guy as the case may be), figure out if you think this could be someone you might want to introduce to Mom down the line, and then plan accordingly. The value of a memorable first date increases exponentially if you can tell the story at your wedding.

Instead of trying to impress your date by dropping a lot of coin, figure out a place that proves you listened to what she likes and you’re interested in making sure she’s happy. Back in college, I was lucky enough to find a girl who shared my love of hot dogs. I knew exactly where I wanted to take her on our first real date: Superdawg, a wonderful old hot dog drive-in on the outskirts of Chicago. For anyone who’s been, Superdawg is legendary.  This is due in no small part to their insanely good fries and the giant human-like hot dog statues on the roof. On the way there, I took a few shortcuts (read: I got lost) and ended up in some less-than-populated areas, which made me realize how similar dating is to serial killing. But I digress. The hot dog date was a huge success. We ended up dating for four years after that and shared many more encased meats. I’d like to think that she agreed to a second date because I took the time to take her someplace interesting on our first date instead of just somewhere “nice.”

The spot you pick is also a really good way to test out your date. Does she freak out because there’s no specific butter knife? She may be a little more high maintenance than you thought. Does she get upset because most of the menu is in Italian and this is America? Perhaps you’re looking for someone with a bit more sophistication and less xenophobia. Does she eat crushed peanuts off the floor? Run. Run away as fast as you can. While you may have spent hours figuring out the perfect place, your date’s reaction to your idea of the perfect place speaks volumes about who she really is.

Ultimately, dates come down to people not places. Pick the wrong place, however, and it won’t matter that you’re a wealthy firefighter/model who also runs a foundation that brings water to desert tribes. Take the time to figure out the best location for your date and your time investment will pay off down the line — hopefully in sweet, sweet loving. And lose the body spray. Even the best date location in the world can’t make up for a man who smells like a stripper’s locker.

Read last week’s debut of Heart Attack.


Any first date stories from you, oh experienced readers? Let us know in the comments.

Jason Kessler writes many things for many outlets including BonAppetit.com, Sunset Magazine, and various TV shows you have and have not heard of. He lives in LA and has a problem with portion control.