Bartenders Tell Us The Strangest Dates They’ve Ever Seen


You might not like this, but bartenders see and hear everything. Just because they’re silently making your cocktail, that doesn’t mean they don’t savvy your unnecessarily loud first date convo. You might think that explaining your love for horse dressage, everything bagels, and Teen Wolf is extremely fascinating to your Tinder match, but the bartender may have other thoughts.

Of course, not all dates feature smirk-inducing mundanity. Some are wild and bizarre. Rest assured, bartenders don’t forgot about those ones. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the strangest dates they’ve ever witnessed from their vantage point.

The ghost

Stephanie Wheeler, head bartender at The Bar at Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco

“As you can probably imagine Tinder date stories abound. But the strangest and surprisingly most common is the repeat ‘ghoster’. This is a person who ghosts on every date, but never changes venues, and sometimes sees more than one match in the same night, often hiding in the bathroom or behind the venue waiting for the turnover. Some of these “ghosters” have it down to such an art that they even order the same drinks and food every time. We see you… the bartender sees everything.”

The regular

Johnny Livanos, beverage program director at Ousia in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC

“We have this one regular who comes in two to three times a week. On a first date with a different guy. While each date seems normal and fine, that’s also what makes it kind of weird.”

The awkward compliment

Marshall Emerson, bartender at Rustic Root in San Diego

“Sometimes It’s hard to tell who’s on their first date and who’s just being socially awkward and getting tipsy with another human but, I have seen people use ‘for a big person you don’t sweat much’ as a pickup line and have it work! As well as overhear a guy explain to his date why his ex had the nickname ‘First Date’… ’nuff said, yeah?”

The love connection

Amit Gilad, head bartender at GreenRiver in Chicago

“The strangest date story that I’ve seen from behind the bar is a personal favorite of mine. We had guests on a first date that had started kind of slow, and we weren’t sure where it was going, but it ended up being a great success. The pair wound up sitting at the bar from the moment we opened until the second we closed. Cocktails were shared, wine bottles were ordered, this lead to oysters, eventually dinner, and finally brief kiss when the night ended. What started off on rocky waters turned into six and a half straight hours of them being together at the bar. It was a lot of fun to serve them and see the sparks between them.”

The Adult Actress

Russell Davis, former Bar Rescue co-host, will be opening new bar Academia in Austin’s Warehouse District

“One time, I had a regular who somehow had landed a date with a porn star after meeting her at an event and getting her number. He was so excited and was totally in the mindset that this date would be a sure bet. She came in and as I served them, I noticed how ladylike and respectable she was, but he was getting drunk and rowdy and trying to score. It totally turned her off. I ended up having to put him in a cab and send him home early and she decided to stay to have another couple of cocktails and flirt with the bartender.”

The serial dater

Lucas England, beverage director at Mortar & Pestle in San Jose and San Mateo, CA

“One night a lady came in and met a gentleman soon after she arrived. Their talk was deep (but not satisfactory it seems) and he was gone in half an hour. Twenty minutes later, another suitor arrived. The chemistry seemed to be much better and they talked for about an hour and a half. She then escorted him out for a seemingly more private ending, and said something to the hostess as she left. Of course, I had to know what she said so I went and asked the hostess. She said that the woman told her she’d be back and asked if the hostess could tell her next date that she would be running a little late. The next guy arrived shortly after, and the woman showed back up a little later for the date. She left with him pretty quickly, but then came back 20 minutes later with, guess who, Suitor Number 2!”

The over-compensator

Steven Tuttle, beverage director at Kettner Exchange in San Diego

“I always see first dates going on. Bartenders can usually hear a lot of conversations, but we’re also good at selective listening. Most of the time it’s the same first date conversations that sound like train wrecks, so I try and be selective with those. I did see a very over the top not first date. A guy booked our private dining table for 14 for just him and his girlfriend(?) of 2 months. He showed up 6 hours before the date, covered the table and room with roses, candles, and presents. It looked like Valentine’s Day threw up in there. It was the most awkward dinner we’ve ever witnessed and I couldn’t tell if the lady was happy or mortified. Hopefully it all worked out for the two.”

The shared meal

Shawn Chen of RedFarm in NYC

“I didn’t experience any strange first date situations, but I did experience a funny story I would like to share. When a European lady told me she has to have Chinese duck with bbq sauce for every Valentine’s Day, because when she traveled to Beijing for work, she wanted to find a restaurant that served BBQ spare rib similar to western style. Instead, she found a local street food place serving pancake wrapped with Peking duck, what she thought was Chinese duck with bbq sauce. When she was at the local spot, she met a guy who was also traveling from Europe. She was so excited about her new discovery, she had to share the dish with the guy. Both of them ended up ordering the same dish and they both thought it was the tastiest Chinese duck with bbq sauce. Little did they know what they thought was the best dish of their lives also led to their partner in life.”