The Smoke Daddy in Wicker Park

The Smoke Daddy in Wicker Park (February 8, 2013)

Not everyone has been on a great date, but we've all definitely been on bad ones. Ones that were so bad, they left a sour taste in our mouths for the place we had the date at. This is a story about one of those dates.

Editor's note: Instead of sharing a story from an anonymous, first-name-only writer, this week I'm sharing my own story of horror. Enjoy!



I had been to The Smoke Daddy once before this, with a longtime friend from college for a catchup session. We sat on the patio on a beautiful summer day. We ate deliciously saucy chicken. We drank. We laughed. We genuinely hugged afterward. Though that experience was a pleasantly memorable one, this other one, with a rando from OKCupid, was not. Pleasant, that is. And I can never go back to The Smoke Daddy again.

I was on OKCupid for a long time--no secrets, OK?--but at this particular time in my life, I am on a serious "Go get 'em! No fear!" roll, where I am intent on embracing the weird things and weird people on OKCupid who are the only ones to message me that scare me a little. This guy fit the bill pretty well. He is attractive enough, but his points of conversation over messages just barely toe the line of crazy date potential. The one girl he had ever dated was part of a cult, he says, and he tried to save her from it by going to a gathering with her and basically kidnapping her in front of them. "Should we grab drinks sometime?" I ask. I've invested a whole week or so into this weirdo, I might as well see where my newfound laisse faire, "Just go with it!" attitude takes me, even if it basically proves that I need to quit OKCupid for the 10th time.

After giving a friend this guy's name and phone number for security purposes, he picks me up about an hour late. My fashion sense kind of sucks and I always have jeans that will have the crotch blow out at any minute or whatever, but I'm a little surprised this guy couldn't bother to wear real clothes tonight. He's wearing flip flops, giant, tattered jeans from middle school and a smelly Sublime T-shirt. Gulp. Keep cool. Just go with it.

I ask him to park not too far away so we can just walk down Division Street and find a good spot for drinks that isn't too packed. A half-hour later, we have walked up and down Division Street, asking every single hostess on the block if the kitchen is still serving food. Because it's now 11 p.m., and he's apparently starving and can't go another minute without something to eat on our "drinks" date. Our conversation while pacing the street consisted of all of the things he wanted to eat at that very moment. Riveting, I tell you.

We end up at The Smoke Daddy, where he orders a basket of wings and begins to complain about the country trio playing music on a small stage near us. "I'm leaving immediately after this beer is finished," I tell myself. He's irritable, not nice, hasn't asked me one question this entire time, seemingly quick to anger when you hit a sore subject for him and the sweat dripping from his face--he opts for the extra hot sauce on the table when his wings arrive, on a hot summer night--worries me a bit. Just when I'm sure this situation couldn't be more painful, he tells me about the back surgery he had last year and asks if I want to see his scar. "Oh, thanks, but no," I reply firmly. Too late, his shirt is coming off. His shirt is coming off in the middle of this damn restaurant and lands on the table next to the plate of wing bones. I can't.

The rest of the night is kind of a blur. I know I retreated to the bathroom and tweeted an SOS to a coworker at the time, who suggested I tell the guy I had AIDs and needed to leave. I know I paid the check immediately--it ended up causing me to overdraw my account because I was a poor intern and I spent more than I had planned to pay for all of his beers and food just to get the hell out of there--and felt bad when he said he would "hurry up and finish" so I could show him the way back to his car. I know he was completely oblivious to the past hour-and-a-half of torture, said he had a great time and asked for a hug. I know I gave him one of those A-frame hugs where your torsos stay at least 7 flashlights apart. And then I probably went home and fell asleep to a "Law & Order: SVU" marathon. We never talked again. I've quit (and rejoined) OKCupid about three times since then. (And I'm currently, probably indefinitely, off the OKCupid juice, by the way.)

To this day, I can't even walk by The Smoke Daddy without having a cinematic flashback in my head to this guy with wing sauce around his mouth and his shirt off. Yes, I do know the barbecue is great there, but I just can't bring myself to walk inside and relive this moment in time. Sorry.

Have your own Date Diary to share? Email your story about the date that ruined that one place for you to jgalliart@tribune.com. Don't forget to include your first name and age.

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