Writer Alida Nugent is deep into a relationship with her polar opposite. This week, they walk the balance beam of deciding on a double date dinner spot in the mecca of too-trendy restaurants.


My friend and I are going on a double date in Williamsburg. It’s Friday, and feels like a satisfying thing to say: tonight, my friend and I are going on a double date. It means I have friends. It means I will probably go to bed early. And best of all, it means I will eat to the point of gluttony, with another settled kind of couple who wants to go home and Netflix The Office Season 6.

Finding a restaurant for four people is like a riddle. It’s 8 p.m. One of your friends is in the mood for something noodle-y. Another doesn’t want to blow all their money on one restaurant meal, on account of being invited to approximately 45 weddings this year. The third is interested in things like “Edison bulbs” and “pricey beet salad.” The fourth is not responding. Where do you send them? Why isn’t your boyfriend responding? Why is this so hard?

Answer: I don’t have any, but let’s keep debating about it.

Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber

The optimal first-round pick is the best thing I see on my Instagram that hour, so I scroll a bit and decide on Lilia , Missy Robbins’ attempt at making your Manhattan friends want to come to Williamsburg. I make my best argument—it’s trendy, the pasta looks like little pillows, and, I admit, I am the friend who wanted noodles. But who can resist pasta pillows, filled with ricotta instead of down feathers?

It’s perfect. We can get a table…two months from now. Or we can sit at separate corners of the bar at 4:45. Or we can put tents outside and see if they let us in eventually. I finally catapult to the realization that this would not work out well, and so scrap it we must.

I mention Kings County Imperial , another place that is supposed to be noodle-based and hard to get a seat at. I cannot believe I have become the person who likes to go to places that are hard to get a seat at, but here I am. I love food, but I also love the ridiculous lengths it takes to eat something that I will soon digest. No matter, anyway. One person vetoes. A fair rule of going out with good friends: if one person doesn’t want to go, you don’t go. Restaurant veto power is a powerful thing to give someone, but nobody should spend $80 to eat a meal they don’t really enjoy. Leave that to those pesky group birthday dinners.

So where to go from here? There are the old favorites: The Commodore , a place you will have to wait for a table next to someone so cool they no longer need to shower, but where the nachos are great. Baci and Abracci , or Juliette , or some other place where you will inevitably talk about splitting a salad for the table. Should we give ourselves over to the gods of small plates and go to Xixa or Traif ? If you are going on a double date, you must evaluate if you are close enough to share small plates, and trust if you can emotionally handle someone you are not dating digging their fingers into a plate of beef Carpaccio or burrata toast. Luckily for my sake, the answer to this is yes—I’ve been friends with them for years. I am no longer trying to impress them with ambience, or manners, or a vision where I am the kind of person that doesn’t spill food all over herself or double dip. And if they do not want to share with me, they are too polite to say.

Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber

Williamsburg restaurants have begun to melt together in that way where if you want Tiki cocktails, you can probably get them anywhere. There are a few key words you will find on any menu in the trendiest, arguably least trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn: Kale salad. Avocado. 5.00 upcharges. Almond milk. FUSION. I was beginning to think it didn’t matter where we went, which was interesting, because we had been talking about it for four hours. There is a sense of pride in being the one that snags the restaurant, in saying your name to the hostess because you made the reservation. I wanted to win.

We went back and forth for a while, rapid-fire naming places and challenging each one in an almost virtual G-chat shouting match. Each place was good, but it had its problems. I don’t like New American, or meat-heavy places.

Should we get different Chinese?

But you don’t like Chinese!

Should we just walk around until we find a place, like vagrants or street rats?

Then you’ll complain!

Should we get pizza?

I’m eating Italian tomorrow!

Finally, we come up with a solution, and it’s one so valuable that I feel compelled to share it: If you are going on a double date, or you must choose any restaurant ever, go out for happy hour beforehand. You will get so caught up in drink specials and conversation, and then someone will come into the bar and eat Chinese food next to you, and you will finally find common ground. And you’ll be just a little bit tipsy, and then anything will sound delicious.

Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber

That’s how we ended up at M. Shanghai on Friday night, drunkenly sharing ginger chicken, scallion pancakes, soup dumplings, and my third favorite sesame noodles in the world. Because it doesn’t always matter where you go. Sometimes, you just want to share an enormous amount of food with very good friends. Greasy, deliciously sloppy, covered-in-Sriracha food, of course.

I did get my precious noodles, though. I guess you could say I won—not that friendship is about keeping score.