As said in Say Anything (aka the greatest ’80s romcom), “a date is a prearrangement with the possibility of love.” First dates are both exhilarating and terrifying. What to wear? What to say? What to eat? Hence, Spoon decided to ease your navigation through that last question by investigating common date places in Berkeley and their less run-of-the-mill substitutes.


first date

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

Usual pick: Caffè Strada

Pros: Two words- “Bianca Mocha.” Also, the closest a poor college student will get to a romantic (albeit electronic) fireplace chat.

Cons: Being surrounded by fidgety students being interviewed. Doesn’t exactly set the mood for romance.  

Overall: Café Strada is the perfect spot for a professional meet up or that much needed caffeine jolt. It is, however, far too generic a spot for a memorable first date.

Alternative: Elmwood Café (good coffee, European ambience)


first date

Photo Courtesy of SmellslikeCactus at Flickr

Usual pick: McDonalds

Pros: If you get a second date after bringing someone to McDs, you’ve got yourself a keeper.

Cons: The chances of that happening are very low.

Overall: Are you a risk taker?

Alternative: Chipotle (because guacamole; also, the fanciest fast food in town)


first date

Photo by Mira Nguyen

Usual pick: CREAM

Pros: It’s $2. It’s good.

Cons: Your date has probably been there a million times.

Overall: Delicious as it is, CREAM is a guilty, late-night indulgence, a self-reward for surviving Cal but not exactly impressive first date material.

Alternative: Ici (adorable shop, flavors ranging from from chicory-whiskey to lemon meringue, an excuse to have fun experimenting with your date)  


first date

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

Usual Pick: Pieology

Pros: Affordable. Delicious. Quotes on the wall provide conversation stimulators.

Cons: Long wait.

Overall: As with other extremely popular eateries, going to Pieology runs the risk of being conventional (and maybe boring). Besides, the long wait could lead to awkward pauses in conversation. There are, after all, a limited amount of quotes you can read out loud to each other.

Alternative: Sliver (good, quick pizza; a string quartet as the soundtrack to your date on Fridays and Saturdays; what more could you ask for?)


first date

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

Usual pick: Sweetheart Café

Pros: Convenient.

Cons: High probability of running into familiar faces, which is not exactly conducive to a successful first date.

Overall: The risk of being awkwardly wolf-whistled at by friends in the vicinity may not be worth the consistently good boba. Plus, there are definitely more interesting date spots in Berkeley than the Asian Ghetto.

Alternative: Asha Tea House (quaint, independent establishment that serves not just boba but all kinds of delicious tea and tea-infused desserts; oh my god, Matcha Affogato, anyone?) 

Ultimately, an excellent first date is defined by more than its venue. But, hey, good food and good atmosphere never hurt!

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