You’ve been pushing this dinner off for a while. And after several text exchanges involving increasingly fake-sounding excuses, it’s finally happening - you’re meeting up with a third-tier friend. Legally, you don’t have to hang out with this person. But socially, you’re obligated. So whether you accidentally talked your way into meeting up with a college acquaintance when you ran into each other on the street, or someone you had jury duty with seemed really nice at the time and now is maybe weirder in hindsight, use this list of places for a dinner that won’t cost too much or take too long.
When you’re not sure how things are going to go after you haven’t seen someone in a while, go to Tamari Bar. That way, if things are going smoothly, you can enjoy a pleasant dinner consisting of drinks and several small plates. But if you’d rather sit through four episodes of 90 Day Fiancè than a meal with this person, just order one sushi roll and say you have to run home to let the plumber in. If they ask, yes, some plumbers work night shifts. Clogged drains can’t tell time.
No Anchor is a great choice if you want to seem cooler than you actually are, while simultaneously eating a good meal. It’s a beer bar that looks like a nautical basement filled with tchotkes that could be weird but work - like a jar filled with maimed baby doll limbs. Split a few seafood rolls on pretzel buns and get involved with the large assortment of beers.
You’re anticipating a lot of silent intervals where you’ll pull arbitrary topics out of thin air that you equipped yourself with beforehand. At Village Sushi, the quality fish and recording studio paraphernalia like drum sets and amps scattered around will keep the two of you distracted until the other person decides to break the ice (which one of you will ask the other person about their job first?).
Trailbend Taproom is a bar in Ballard that serves pizza and sandwiches. Sit at the bar so you can make minimal eye contact, and then order a big beer so you can take a teeny sip every time you feel uncomfortable. It’s pretty casual in here, so allow the screams of children to drown out the awkward silence.
Last night, the thought of having to make small talk with this person haunted your dreams. In that case, In Bocca Al Lupo is a nice Italian spot to keep in mind. You can walk right in at pretty much any time and get a seat immediately. And, the tasty Neapolitan pizzas cook in just a few minutes. So just be a little pushy about not ordering appetizers, and that might even give your third-tier friend a reason not to make plans with you again. It’s foolproof.
Essex is a cocktail bar that doubles as an exciting place to share a weeknight meal. If you’re going for the bare minimum with this person, disguise the event as “grabbing a drink,” and if things are going well, order some snacks. Regardless of what you drink or eat, it’s so dark in here that your friend won’t see you rolling your eyes at their lame anecdotes from whatever extravagant vacation they took last month. And the burger is so big that they might not tell any to begin with. Essex is full of silver linings.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to sit back and say “Ah, isn’t this place nice?” as a coping mechanism, Copal is the way to go. It’s a very attractive Peruvian restaurant that looks like it was decorated by the Rifle Paper Co. design team. We’re fans of the tacos and alcoholic slushies here - grab a couple along with some guacamole and you’re set. Between sips, throw in a “Ah, isn’t this place nice?”
Sometimes, a friend is third-tier to you, but you’re first-tier in their eyes. If there have been one too many strange conversations about how special your friendship is, that calls for a kind-of-loud bar where you can get your fingers greasy to keep hand holding at a minimum. Supreme is perfect for that. They have delicious New York-style slices and garlic knots you definitely need to use your hands to dip into the cheese sauce. And if things really get that awkward, put all of that money you spent on improv classes to good use by faking a really bad case of brain freeze brought on by your creamsicle slushie.
Slurping noodles requires you to hang your head down in silence, so that’s always an option. It takes care of not having to make eye contact, and it also takes care of not having to physically speak. Ooink serves delicious bowls of ramen that you won’t mind having your face nearly submerged in for 15 minutes while both of you refrain from talking to each other. Split an order of gyoza to keep your mouths full while you wait for your soup.
If you both work downtown and you want something quick nearby, Bangrak Market in Belltown is a very cool place with a lot going on. It’s designed to remind you of a night market, so you can waste a load of time commenting on all of the woven baskets, colorful beams, little packages of spices and nuts, and the many Thai food products on shelves. If you’re just doing drinks and a light bite, you can’t go wrong with satay and moo ping pork skewers.