First Date

Flyby Blog and Kane Hsieh

In this series, columnist Lingbo Li will tackle all your questions about foodie life at Harvard and in the Cambridge/Boston area. Got a query? Leave a comment or e-mail us at

What's a good, cheap first date?

A first date should be a couple of things—first, it should be low stress. That means don't take your date out for dinner with your parents and extended family; don't (overtly) plan 7 hours of continuous activity in the hopes that the chemistry won't fizzle somewhere between movie, dinner, drinks, dancing and catching a comedy show; and don't take your date somewhere very expensive (unless you wish to be a sugar daddy/mommy), etc.

Second, the first date should be personal. Know your audience. That means don't take a vegan to a steakhouse. If your date has mentioned that he/she loves croissants, show how thoughtful you are by taking him/her to a great bakery. Pick somewhere that's conducive to conversation. Be polite. Bathe beforehand. Smile.

With that being said, my favorite first date venue is a low key coffee shop or cafe. Maybe a cool, cheap ethnic restaurant if I'm feeling more peckish. My favorite options in Harvard Square include Algiers—which has a beautiful circular second floor, cozy nooks, tables for two, and mint tea. They do delicious things with eggplant there. Crema Cafe is also a perennial favorite for just about any event in life. Its new turkey sandwich (with jicama slaw, avocado, and bacon) blew me out of the water—an absolute must-try. This is such a warm, casual space with great drinks and food—really all you could ever ask for.

If you're feeling more adventurous, a fun option could be hitting up Rialto, in the Charles Hotel, for their $1 oyster night on Mondays. In the mood for romancing over weekday lunch? Kebab Factory, a ten minute walk up the street from Annenberg, has the best Indian lunch buffet in Cambridge. Across the street from Kebab Factory is The Biscuit, another adorable independent coffee shop that is more of an "I'm in the neighborhood" stop rather than a destination. Then there are the sweet cliches: tangy fro yo at Berryline, cupcakes at Sweet, a stiff brew of molten chocolate at Burdick's.

If you don't feel like convening over food, you could catch a show at Club Passim, walk by the Charles River, check out a festival, or explore some new part of town. Preferably Inman Square, because Inman Square is amazing.

My final point is that it really doesn't matter where you go. If it's meant to be, bad coffee certainly won't stand in your way.

Lingbo Li, a junior in Quincy House, is a food blogger, an FM food columnist, and FlyBy's resident gastronome.

Photo by Kane Hsieh/The Harvard Crimson.