So do you like it spicy?

Stolpe gets the dish on dating at a local Mexican restaurant

Posted: Sunday, January 17, 2010

Being single and alone in a Mexican restaurant is like plain old cheese nachos instead of a mucho-gusto, triple-pepper variety of red sweet, pepperoncini and jalapeno.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

So how did I find myself being waited on hand and foot in El Sombrero on Friday night? And how is it that my servers know so much more about me than most people find out on a real date? Communication.

"It's always nice when you can come in and know the owners," said El Sombrero co-owner Fritz Moser, 51.

Moser met his wife at a security pacific bank in San Diego. She was a bank teller working her way through college.

"I made a major withdrawal! We've seen a lot of relationships develop here over the 30 years we've been doing this. A lot of people started their courtship here and eventually they started their family here, and some we have had their kids work here."

Mine could have. It all started with an e-mail. Someone thought their colleague would be perfect for me, told me to e-mail said colleague (which I did and included humor) and suggested a meeting at a coffee shop, Mexican restaurant or possibly a tire rotation at the local garage - all conceivably, semi-interesting places for a noncommitted first meeting. I thought.

Looking around the restaurant, all I saw were couples. Laughing, talking, eating, mariachi singing and smiling.

"I have been dying for Mexican food," Mary Jane Gordon said as she sat with her date, Bill Fischer. "It reminds me of California."

"And this is one of the best," Fischer added.

When asked what they suggest singles do to find a date, Fischer, advised to take the initiative.

"Find places to go and things to do, go on hikes and camp fires," he said.

Parker just smiled and squeezed his hand, "I've never really looked, so ..."

My wait staff soon inquired how my latest trip to New Somewhere went, my bubble gum fiasco, my bidding on eBay duct tape and the exact number of free throws I have made in a row. And I struggle to remember all their names.

"I think a restaurant like ours is good because we get some of the smaller tables in here, the low light conditions and relaxed atmosphere," said waiter Phillip Moser, 19. "It doesn't have the tension that a date has. ... You already have a relationship established with a waiter or waitress. ... If you don't like them too much, you can send them to get you something else. I mean, how good is it when you have a relationship where they immediately start serving you?"

Odette Edgar and husband, Doug, just married six months, like spicy. They met contra dancing and find time for a Mexican meal once a week.

"We're poster children for meeting at contra dancing," Edgar laughed. "I think doing things you enjoy and that are social. ... Contra dancing is certainly that ... ball room dancing, salsa dancing, family dining, you get to meet people while you are doing something. To me it seems a lot easier than meeting people in bars where you have to come up with clever conversation, which is a challenge for a lot of us."

So my e-mail was unanswered. The romantic in me (or the desperate) checked the suggested coffee shop, aforementioned restaurant, and, oops, the garage was closed when I got there.

As Owner Fritz said, "Pick a place where it is casual, no pressure, fairly in expensive and it's quick, so if things aren't working out, you don't have to bear a lot of time with that person."

Or don't answer an e-mail.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com with suggestions for ideas, not hookups.



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