So you've decided to take a lady out for a fancy dinner but quickly come to the realization that you know shit-all about etiquette. This can either be your time to shine or, alternatively, your opportunity to make a total jackass out of yourself. The outcome of your date could all depend on whether or not you read this article. Now is that a risk you're really willing to take?
Choosing the Restaurant
When choosing a nice place, take a few minute to think of what she might like. Is she fun and adventurous? Try Mexican or Cajun. Romantic and intimate? Go for Italian or French. Quirky and mysterious? How about Japanese or Indian. Try to avoid family joints that could end in embarrassment. Try to be original with your choice. A new experience for both of you could bring you closer.
Basic Table Manners
A few basic gestures go a long way when at the table. Firstly, always wait until the lady is seated. You're a putz if you race to your seat before her. You don't have to make it a big scene and stand up straight like a marine; just casually stall until she sits.
Never play with your cutlery. This may sound stupid and needless to mention, but too many guys will fidget with their utensils out of nervousness. Not only does this make you look like a 5 year-old, but you're also loosing eye contact with your date and just create long awkward silence.
Never refer to any waiter as "garçon", "boy" or "my good man". These clichés won't impress anyone and will only make you look like a pompous douche.
Ordering a Drink (wine)
A properly ordered drink is the first indication that you might, in some way, be cultured in cuisine. If you haven't already read up about wine, don't pretend you know all about it to show off. This will piss off your waiter and could result in you having a bad match with your meal. Instead, ask the waiter (or sommelier) what he would recommend with your meal. When you get the wine, you will be shown the label first. It's important to check the label to make sure you're getting the right wine. People make mistakes and the wrong bottle could cost you a pretty penny or, alternatively, could mean for a mismatched wine with your meal. Now that the wine's been checked, you expect to smell the cork like in the movies, right? Not unless you want to seem like an idiot. The only things you do with the cork is check if it's moldy or cracking. A cracking cork could mean that pieces fell into the wine during fermentation and "corked" it. Mold doesn't mean the wine's bad, taste it first. When initially poured a sample, hold the glass by the stem (so as not to warm it) and smell it (you could examine it for sediment first, but don't take too long, that's pushing it). If it smells like old gym socks, that's the first bad sign. You should be able to pick up on some flowery, fruity or earthy smells. Red wine may need a gentle swirl to aerate. When you taste the wine, don't just gulp it down. Sip a bit and, while it's in your mouth, try to gently chew it. This will again activate some of the palate of the wine. If you like what you're tasting, then you'll give the waiter the okay to pour for the table. He should fill up the woman's glass first then come back to you. One last thing to remember before you enjoy your wine; never swirl a glass of wine that's more than 2/3 full; you risk making a mess of the table and a fool of yourself.
Ordering a Drink (cocktail)
When sitting down at a lounge, you're going to need to know how to order a drink. As classy as the trademark "vodka martini, shaken not stirred" may seem, it's not how we order drinks in the real world. When asking for your chosen liquor, it's important to specify which brand. Otherwise you'll probably be given the cheapest brand available. So a "whiskey and coke" should be a "jack and coke." Next you need to let the waiter/waitress know how much alcohol you want in your mixture (single or double). So far that's a "jack and coke, double." Lastly, you want to let the order taker know in what kind of glass you want your drink: tall or short. That leaves us with a "jack and coke, double-short." On a personal note, two drinks stand out as more masculine than others. Those being: a) jack and coke, whiskey never goes out of fashion as a man's drink. b) absolute and pineapple, vodka mixes very well with juices. Pineapple is something not heard as often as "OJ" or "cranberry" and it's been said to have other benefits.
Avoid foods that will make you look messy or make a scene. This means that finger-lickin' ribs are best reserved for your night with the guys. If you don't know how to use chopsticks, then either learn now or ask for a fork. Spaghetti is also ill-advised for obvious reasons. Other than that, there's no real rules to which you need to adhere. It's understandable that you might not know everything and it's okay to ask your waiter about a certain meal but try asking your date first. Giving her an opportunity to help you out (even with something so trivial) will make her feel more useful to you and could possibly end up bringing the two of you closer.
Table Etiquette (continued)
Try to avoid looking at your date while she's eating. Eating is a sign of vulnerability and a strong gaze is likely to make her uncomfortable. Carefully avert your line of sight while she's putting food in her mouth. With the corner of your eye, check when she's at least halfway into chewing before looking at her again. This will make you appear less intrusive and will lighten the general atmosphere.
A hefty bill tends to discourage many from properly tipping. The tip is something you have to take into consideration while ordering and you can't cheap out at the final round. A fantastic waiter should be seeing about 20% of the total bill. An average waiter that pretty much did their job should get the average 15%. Though you might not want to share this with your date, outright rudeness on the waiter's part might push him/her to 10%. Credit cards make this process a lot easier. Try to avoid annoying debit cards.
What you do after the restaurant is left for you to decide....or wait until I write another article telling you what to do. Eating out shouldn't be a stressful activity. The goal of this article wasn't to scare you, just to bring your attention to certain details that might make a big difference in the outcome of your date. Try to be generally well informed, confident and, above all, in tune with your date. No strict set of rules can tell you what your specific woman is looking for. Relax and enjoy.