Besides practical advice (check your city paper, lots of them suggest guaranteed-pleaser first date restaurants), you have three options:
1. Make a Wild and Unfounded Assumption
You can scrutinize the sparse details that you know about the girl and then make a bold move accordingly. If you met her dumpster-diving outside the local bagel shop, you can assume she’s pretty low-key and is down to eat with her hands. But let’s say you bumped into her while she was walking into an anger management seminar entitled “I Got Mad When I Lost at Golf So I Flushed All My Diamonds Down the Gold Toilet at the Country Club.” In that case, you should choose somewhere a little more elegant. If there’s nothing specific like that to guide you, try to remember what she was wearing. A lot of times girls dress for where they want to be going instead of where they’re really going. All things considered though, this is probably not your best option.
Wait until the date starts, gather all of the facts and then decide. Choose a staging area where you can stall for time while you gauge her affinity for your chosen destination. Suggest a pre-dinner drink at a happy hour or a walk in the park. She just might let it slip that she has been craving jalapeño poppers all day. In the staging area, you can also check out her outfit. It may or may not indicate where she wants to be going, but it will certainly indicate where she thinks she’s going (high heels = somewhere with a tablecloth probably, shorteralls = you start a fire, she’ll catch the crawdads). Even though this option will give you a better read on your date, I still would recommend having a place in mind before you guys meet. Often ladies like it when you make (at least the first few) decisions.
Intimate + engaging + chill + in vogue = (somehow) low-maintenance, upscale casual. Trendy restaurants satisfy any girl because they’re destinations that interest everyone. Even if she’s used to servers who speak French, she’s still probably curious about the place downtown that can cook a pizza in your mouth. She’ll at least have to concede that she’s a little hipper for the new experience and she’ll respect your choice. If nothing else, a trendy restaurant will likely offer a more intriguing menu and unusual, stylish drinks that she’s never tried before. When you experience something new with someone, your body releases all kinds of love-inducing hormones that foster an exciting bond with your companion. How convenient that she’s already flushed when you lean in for your first kiss!