Written by Katherine Tandler
Maybe you’re hungry in the library and she just asked if you want to grab some food? Maybe he asked you out and you need to take control of the situation? Or maybe you’re interested in fostering a friendship and want to make sure you give off the right signals? Whatever the reason, you need a good local place to eat that says “Friend Zone.”
Clearly, the area around NYU Law School is rife with culinary options. Not all of them, however, will accomplish the delicate task at hand. Most notably, you don’t want to find yourself in a prolonged, white-tablecloth situation. Yet there are also other things to look out for.
For example, Saigon Shack, an excellent meal under different circumstances, would not be a good choice. The inevitable queue will prolong your time together, thus increasing the opportunity for them to swoop in with “date-like” conversation (beware of all questions about your life outside of law school). The long line will also highlight the fact that the place you’re going to is extra-special—something worth waiting for that you want to experience with an extra-special person.
However, you also don’t want to make the mistake of going too casual. If you head to a location that is primarily a bar (like Thunder Jacksons) or that is known for its cocktails (e.g., Carroll Place) you run the risk that the experience will become “drinks”—a common first date move. Likewise, I need not remind all you Bar Review denizens that drinking alcohol can lead to a loss of inhibitions\…and you don’t want to end the meal having done precisely the opposite of what you set out to do.
Speaking of inhibitions, you’ll also want to avoid the myriad Macdougal Street establishments that are casual, but cramped (Turkiss, The Kati Roll Company, Meltkraft, etc.). Close quarters could give your non-date an excuse to get a little too close. While of course you can (and should) always tell that person to back off, the best way to emphasize the friend-zone-ness of the situation, without embarrassment, is to avoid close proximity at all costs.
I haven’t yet mentioned the most friend-zone threatening moment of any meal: getting the check. Clearly, the friend-zone-friendliest move would be to split the bill, since you don’t want that person to be able to say they “took you out.” To make this a little bit easier, consider choosing a restaurant that is cash only (and bring cash). Doing so makes it more likely that your suitor will not, in fact, be able to help pay at all. Even if they brought cash, it’s at least somewhat unlikely they will have enough to cover the whole bill. Problem solved.
My final vote? The NY Dosas cart in Washington Square Park. It’s quick and cheap—which sends good signals—not to mention delicious and filling. Because it’s outdoors, there’s no excuse for unwanted touching, and you can easily find a well-populated, unromantic place (e.g., Kushner/Golding) to enjoy your meal. Plus, it’s cash-only and they don’t sell alcohol. Go forth and break some hearts!