First dates can be stressful events; sometimes hard on the eyes, sometimes tough on the pocketbook, and occasionally downright dismal. She’s an accountant with a case of shyness; he’s a lawyer with a case of psoriasis; she eats and purges, he eats and belches, and—given his belly—should probably purge like his lady friend. These ailments can be overcome with the help of angelic intervention, Toastmaster classes, or antidepressants. Or—better—Serafina.

We’re talking about the perfect first date bar (and ever after): fabulously dim lighting, hard alcohol, live music to fill up the nervous pauses, plus an intelligent staff that senses when it’s time to step up and chat, and when it’s time to bring the check, please.

Frank, the surly New Yawker who’s often behind the bar, will entertain you if need be, but prefers to deliver drink orders in a timely manner and stay the fuck out of your business. He is, quite Frankly, one of the best in town (and knows it). For better service, ask about the love of his life, his dog.

The Serafina bar has five great seating areas: a single booth behind the door, a four-seat peninsula table, the window spots on the restaurant’s south side, and comfortable upper and lower bar stools. You can also stand dead center when things are so crazy there’s not a seat in the house (which is often the case). If you do manage to grab one, water will be brought out and soon enough you’ll have a moderately priced cocktail and be doing some of the best people-watching in the greater Seattle metropolitan area: lots of black Eddie Bauer leather, tall goddesses, tattooed hipsters, swank Xers, new money, middle-aged swingers, and the regular lower Capitol Hill/Lake Union patrons who take it all in with knowing amusement.

Things are goin’ bad on your date, order a cappuccino to pick it up. Things goin’ really bad, have one of every tequila in the house. If it’s going great, relax and order a full meal (the best of which, linguini alla cubana, is not even listed on the menu). I’ve had 12 first dates at Serafina since 1990, when Lois and Susan took over the space from some horrid deli. Thank god for evolution.

2043 Eastlake E, 323-0807.

Bar Joke: A seal walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a drink.

The bartender asks the seal, “What’s your pleasure?”

The seal replies, “Anything but Canadian Club.”