Dear Mr. Gold:

Christ. How one keeps up an appetite is beyond me. So where should I go for a date? I'm picking the restaurant, of course, somewhere between Santa Monica and Pasadena. It's an actual date, so it has to be bearable if the date is not. Of course it's some friend of a friend, so maybe it won't be horrifying. I have a terrific attitude, don't I? I think that's why I got a dog.

–Jean McCoy, Pasadena

Dear Ms. McCoy,

The easy answer to this question always used to be The Hungry Cat, because the ladies room was out in the little adjacent mall and it was easy to escape if necessary. I haven't checked this out lately – the restrooms, I mean; I go to the restaurant often enough – but I think the escape route may have been obliterated in the latest remodel. The rear exit probably also made it easier to skip the check, which is an act of bravado I can see happening after half a dozen oysters and nearly as many Greyhounds.

Which leaves us with – what, exactly? Sushi is always an option, although an omakase course at Kiriko may pump more potassium and zinc into your system than may be advisable on a blind date, and Mexican food, even the teeny-tiny tacos you can get at Loteria Grill, is something you should ease into. Luna Park has seen more dates than the city of Indio, but yet another evening of goat cheese fondue and poke wontons probably won't earn you style points. Animal and Golden State are great, but basically serve boy food – you'd be surrendering before you even walked out of the house. I love the wine bar

Lou, but it's way too intimate. Save Lou for your third or fourth date.

Bistro LQ is cool, a restaurant where the food is a little off-center, and it's sometimes amusing to gauge the funhouse effects provoked by garnishes like roasted duck hearts and oregano-scented goat tripe, where sea urchin comes in the form of tapioca pudding. The mozzarella bar at Osteria Mozza is an oddly peaceful place to spend an evening. But I'd probably opt for one of the restaurants in the Mercado La Paloma near USC, where the hours have recently been extended into the evening, and where you have your choice of the light, intensely flavored Yucatecan cooking at Chichen Itza or the refined, seafood-intensive Peruvian dishes of Mo-Chica. There's no alcohol and scant service. You'll be sitting on cheap chairs plunked down at tables that seem to be randomly scattered around the complex. But the food will be great. The room will be comfortable. And on the off chance the two of you get along, you can always head to Rivera, Bacaro or Seven Grand for a nightcap.

Mercado La Paloma: 3655 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.

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