First dates are a tricky thing. You want to come across as cool, worldly, sophisticated, etc. Yet these things must be suggested, not explained. One attempts to project a subtle evocation of suave inner character underneath a veneer of good looks and impeccable cologne. A lot of this has to do with how good of a liar you are, but you can put some significant mileage towards that goal if you take your date to the right location.
For me, a kid who never had two dimes to rub together and only ever owned really cheap cologne, this has always been Café Gitane. An unassumingly cool restaurant down in Soho, Gitane blends together French Cuisine with Moroccan spices to scintillatingly simple effect. Throughout college and in the few years since, whenever I needed a good, relatively affordable spot to take a prospective lady friend, this was my go-to. The décor reminds its patrons of one of those cozy little French cafes they had seen in postcards.
Café Gitane allowed me to casually reminisce on my time spent abroad and that movie where Marion Cotillard puts on all the old lady makeup (see, I told you I was worldly). In particular, the Organic Roasted Chicken sandwich on a crispy, French roll with spicy Chipotle sauce perfectly embodied the exciting combination of the cuisines.
Along with the trendy little boutique shops lining the street next to the white and blue umbrella tables in front, you may actually forget that you’re in Manhattan. And for a broke college student who definitely couldn’t afford to take his date to Paris, that was just fine for me.
Take your taste buds on a world tour. Catch the "global mashups" episode of "1st Look" this Satruday after "Saturday Night Live" on NBC.