When it comes to planning a trip, I’m the bomb-diggity.  Everything’s booked months in advance, I do so much research on the area that I could probably be considered a local expert by the time we arrive, and my packing lists leave no stone unturned before we leave the house.  When it comes to planning and acting on a local date night though, I’m terrible.

You’d think that since I love food so much I’d put in just as much effort into planning out the perfect date night.  And I do.

  • I check out Yelp and other review sites to find the best restaurant for the occasion.
  • I review the restaurant’s website.  (If they don’t have one, then we don’t go and the process starts over.)
  • I make a reservation.
  • I map out our drive to make sure we leave the house with enough time to park and get to the restaurant.
  • And I ride my boyfriend’s ass to make sure he gets ready early enough since he is the slowest person alive.

We should be golden, right?

Wrong.

I don’t know what it is, but we’re terrible at factoring in other people when we plan out a visit to a local restaurant.  I’ll use last night for example.  We were looking forward to going to Columbia Restaurant.  We got in the car with plenty of extra time factored in to make the 35-minute drive.  We knew it was Halloween, and yet it never crossed our minds that that would be an issue.  Kids go trick-or-treating door-to-door, right?  And everyone else may go out to eat, but we made a reservation so that wouldn’t matter.  Nope.  Apparently, kids trick-or-treat right where we were planning to eat.

As we approached our destination, my GPS screamed a bright-red color for the remaining mile drive.  It should only have taken us a minute or two to get to the restaurant.  Instead it said we would be there in seven.  I didn’t understand what was going on until I looked all around and noticed that people were parking up on the last remaining spots on the grassy median separating both sides of traffic.  What the fudge?  Was this all so people could trick-or-treat?  Ummm… yes.

After driving around for 20 minutes in search of a parking spot, we gave up when we realized that even if we found something, we already missed our reservation and would probably have to wait over an hour to get a table.  We had a few options:

  • Throw a Hail Mary and hope to find a random restaurant nearby on Halloween night without a reservation and risk another failed parking situation?
  • Go back towards home and go to one of our regular haunts?
  • Use our Cheesecake Factory gift cards at the new CF that just opened by us?
  • Or go to Jose’s Real Cuban Food?

Jose’s was the most appealing option, but we were all dressed up and felt like it would be a waste to go there, no matter how delicious their food is.  It really is.  Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives doesn’t lie.

Going to the same ol’ restaurant would be lame.

Risking a random, unresearched restaurant is never my idea of a good time, so we passed on that.

Cheesecake Factory it was.

We arrived at the mall and started panicking when we realized there really wasn’t much parking available there either.  What?  Why???  It’s Halloween!  Take your kids out trick-or-treating in the neighborhood!  What’s wrong with you people?

Okay, so we found a spot and took a second to chill.  We’ll totally be fine, I thought.  Maybe it’s just busy because everyone’s shopping, I reasoned.  Plus, it was so late at that point that we should have beat the dinner rush.  Right?  Right??  We walked up to Cheesecake Factory confidently, despite the hordes of people waiting everywhere.

“If it’s more than an hour wait, let’s just go somewhere else.”

“Deal.”

That’s usually how we deal with the host stand at restaurants.  We don’t want to be those awkward people standing there fighting over whether we’re too hungry to wait that long.  So we set our parameters ahead of time and then approach as a united front.

“Table for two,” I said confidently.  I knew she’d appreciate my confidence as well as the fact that we were only two people that required seats.  Two chairs are easy to free up.

“That’ll be an hour wait.”

We presented our united front and headed into the mall.  We looked at the directory to see what the food court had to offer.  Yes, we were that desperate.  To our surprise and our stomachs’ disappointment, they didn’t really have a food court.  Seriously? This was getting ridiculous.  We walked outside and passed by three fancy-looking restaurants.  We decided to give some place called Brio-something-or-other a try since there were no people waiting outside.

“Table for two.”  Again, very confident and only two butts that need seats.

“Sure, that’ll be an hour-and-a-half wait.”

We laughed it off and headed to our car.

“What do we do now?”

“Freddy’s?”

“Ugh, no, I don’t want burgers tonight.”

“Okay, how about that Italian restaurant you told me about that one time.”

“What restaurant?”

“You know, that one up on the corner?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Ummm…  Okay, so why don’t you suggest something?”

“Bonefish Grill is near here.  We could do Bonefish.”

“Okay, that works.  Just anything.  Let’s go.”

“Ooh, World of Beer is around here.”

“No, let’s just commit.  Bonefish.”

We committed and drove across the street to the shopping plaza where Bonefish sat.

“Shit, there’s a lot of people waiting outside.”

“Okay, let’s see.  What else is here?  Pei Wei?  There’s a bar over there.  And a pizzeria.  What do you want?”

“The pizzeria works.”

As we’re about to pull into a spot, my boyfriend changes his mind and says, “Nah, let’s do Pei Wei.”  My stomach takes over and screams:  “Okay…  Let’s just park!”

We went to Pei Wei.

Every time I have seen Pei Wei in the past I always just laughed at it.  An Asian diner?  What does that even mean?  Ummm…  It means you get delicious, clean, and not-that-heavy Asian food really quickly.  The trade-off is that they only have like four or five meal options and then a handful of appetizers to add on.  That’s fine.  I could make do since they had chicken lettuce wraps not so different from the lettuce wraps you get at P.F. Chang’s.

We were pleasantly surprised and quite happy with our meals even though we had to laugh at where we ended up on date night.  If we had known we would have spent almost two hours driving around and trying to find somewhere to eat only to end up at an Asian diner ten minutes from home, we might have just stayed at home.  But I’m glad we didn’t.  It was nice to get out of the house, see some different parts of the local Florida area, and to try something we probably never would’ve tried.

I’d definitely go back to Pei Wei, but not on a date night.  For future date nights, do any of you have recommendations on how we can avoid these types of situations?  Maybe it just takes more common sense about typical human behaviors and habits.  Or maybe there’s an online resource we can check out ahead of time to figure out if there’s going to be issues with transportation, parking, increased wait times, etc.  Any recommendations would be most appreciated for a couple of unlucky-in-date-nighting diners!