Where To Go On A First Date? Coffee House Or Bar?

where to go on a first date

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

The good news: you met someone and your first date is set. But deciding where to go on a first date could present some stress. What are some good options?

Do you meet at Starbucks and keep things sober? Will he pick you up and take you to a romantic dinner? I once had a first date take me to the Art Institute of Chicago, followed by the Lincoln Park Zoo, followed by dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I never forgot that because there was obviously a lot of effort that went into it on his part. But was it too much? Maybe.

Deciding where to go on a first date can be tricky, because most times, people just want to get to know each other better. Let’s be honest, a first date is kind of like a double-edged interview. You’re being interviewed and your interviewing. So, isn’t sitting and having coffee enough? Or, maybe going to a bar is better because you can have a cocktail to relax.

There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both a date at a coffee house and a date at a bar.


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1. The sobriety factor.

This is a big plus for coffee. Being at a bar usually involves alcohol. If you are only having coffee, no one is getting tipsy and saying things he or she might regret the next day. Alcohol can also cause people to lose control and take things a little further physically that they otherwise would have had they been drinking espresso instead of wine.

2. The time and money factor.

I will never forget this. I once had a blind date with a guy who asked me to meet him at Starbucks.  I got there first. He walked up to the table and said, “Are you Jackie?”

“Yes,” I answered.

He looked really relieved and said, “Come on, let’s get out of here and go have dinner!” I should have known right then how superficial he was. He obviously wanted to check me out before committing to a dinner date (which takes more time and costs more.) That really bothered me. I’m sure that if he didn’t find me attractive, he most likely would have stayed for a quick Frappucino and that’s it. Coffee most likely means less time and money spent.  There are exceptions. I once sat in a Starbucks on a date for three hours. It was really sweet.

3. More time forces you to get to know the person.

This is a huge plus for drinks and dinner. Several years ago, I went on a blind date. When he came to pick me up, I thought to myself, “Ugh…I can’t believe I have to go out for an entire dinner with this guy, and it’s probably going to be 3 hours minimum before I get home!” Yes, I was acting like a total bitch.


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Shortly after we ordered our main courses, however, I began to really fall for him. I noticed how pretty his eyes were and I was appreciating his wit and intelligence. I ended up dating him for 4 months. And by the way,  he ended up breaking up with me.

4. Bars can be sexy.

There’s not getting around it. Dinner and drinks definitely go with a more relaxing environment than a bustling coffee house. Coffee is edgy. Do we really need caffeine to make us more jittery on a first date, when we are already so nervous as it is?? Being at a bar with music and people and drinks can set the tone for a sexy time together.

5. Coffee takes the pressure off.

Having coffee on a first date is like meeting a good friend. So, unlike a date at a bar, you are perceived as being either platonic friends, or it might appear you are there for a business meeting. It’s kind of nice to have that pressure lifted off.  Plus, if you don’t hit it off, you really are just two platonic friends having coffee. And, the best part is, no one has spent a lot of money, so no one feels worse if the date doesn’t go well.


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I have two solutions that I think are the best when it comes to where to go on a first date.


1. Meet for coffee, and if it’s going well, turn it into dinner!

Plan to meet at 4 or 5. Then if you want to take it to dinner, it will be around 6 or 7. Perfect timing. I know I sound like the guy who turned our coffee date into dinner, but maybe there is a plus to only committing to coffee at first.

2. Meet for lunch!

Lunch is somewhere between a casual coffee meeting and a bar or dinner. You can drink coffee or you can have a glass of wine, but the good news is, no one will have more than one or two at lunch, so that’s a plus. And with lunch, you can always say, “I need to get back to work,” or “Want to get together tonight for our next meal?”

Like this article? Check out, “Dating after Divorce At 40”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

    6 Responses to “Where To Go On A First Date? Coffee House Or Bar?”

    1. Doug, Chicago

      Romance on the first dinner date? That’s a pretty high aspiration (probably stoked by Hollywood and our favorite RomComs) … but doesn’t a casual meeting in an informal environment under natural light with something easy and fun to eat (coffee, gelato … a shared scone) give you a great idea if this is a guy you want dress up (or get a sitter) for? We all head to a first dinner in our most impenetrable suit-of-armor (even, or especially, if it’s form fitting and revealing) … isn’t it nicer to go to that dining experience with enough sense of your partner that you can leave the helmet, sword and shield at home? Romance is built through familiarity and trust. It can be really nice to go to that first dinner with someone you already know, relaxed and unselfconscious enough to order dessert … and to enjoy a cup of coffee with that person … again.

    2. paperwhite

      I think you can tell a lot about how sophisticated the man is on a coffee date. ..just stop for a minute and picture the guy who meets you at starbucks and orders a big paper bucket of oversweetened milky rubbish.

      Now think of the guy who takes you to a cool little italian cafe and orders macchiato in a glass cup and a little almond biscotti.

    3. Brian

      I like the idea of coffee first, as you can eat something if you like, and really hang out a while to chat and get to know someone a bit. Dinner is so set with preparing, then getting there for appetizer-dinner-coffee – and is way too structured for me.

      Lunch is a great idea, as it can be casual, and is a good springboard to asking about dinner that night, or the upcoming weekend.

    4. Jenna Hunter

      I like what you said about how coffee dates are less pressure and that dinner or drinks are more romantic, but that they mean more of a time commitment for the date. I think that going to casual lunch restaurants is a good alternative because it is not as automatically romantic or as busy and hectic as a coffee shop might be. I like going out to lunch during a work day so that if the date is bad, you have a reason to escape it!

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        good point! “Oh, darnit, look at the time! My boss is going to be looking for me, I better get back to the office!” LOL!!!

    5. Ellie Davis

      I loved that you mentioned meeting for lunch will guarantee that you meet the person without distraction and without having to drink that much. My husband and I are trying to help my brother to plan his first date with a girl, and we are looking for advice. I will let him know about the benefits of meeting with her to have lunch and take it from there.


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