Editor's note: The couple went out before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.

For years Brittany Linke, 28, worked at an assisted-living facility. There she would read Date Lab to her clients, all of whom wanted to find her the man of her dreams. One day she decided to apply.

These days Brittany is a newly minted post-surgical-care nurse. After years of nursing school, she feels like her life is finally getting started. “Now that I’m out of school and I have my job and career in place, I am more open to find something serious, because I can give back to that person what they deserve,” she said. She no longer has to rush home to study — and she has gained new confidence. She’s so down for the dating game that she participated in an actual dating game, during Date Lab’s Valentine’s Day happy hour.

Her only worry on the night she set out to meet her date was about being late. “I started a new job, and it’s kind of far away.” She made it to the Turkish restaurant Ottoman Taverna in Mount Vernon Square about one minute before 6:30. Julio Torres had gotten there ahead of her. They hugged hello.

Immediately she felt underdressed. “I wore jeans and my black Vans, black leather jacket” paired with a flowy black tank top. Because she had to bring it to change in to at work, she hadn’t checked out “the vibe of the restaurant.” She joked with the waiter that “it was way swankier than I was expecting!” But she rolled with it.

Julio, she thought, was “really cute. He looked nice, put-together, his hair was styled nice, he had a nice smile.”

For his part, Julio, who works in IT, thought Brittany was attractive and sensed some immediate chemistry. He was relieved. He’d never been on a blind date but had dated a Date Lab alum a year ago. Her experience intrigued him, and it’s why he applied. “I thought it would be a good story to have.”

Plus, “I’m definitely looking for something steady, long term at this point in my life,” he said. “I turned 30 last year and am thinking I am kind of ready to start settling down with someone. Not necessarily getting married right away, but definitely moving into the phases of that type of relationship.”

Brittany and Julio both said they went into the date feeling like it would be a low-key, fun experience. They ordered beers — his a Turkish brand, hers a Shock Top — and broke the ice taking photos.

For both, the most memorable part of the meal wasn’t the food — but each other. Julio recalled that they ordered a tasty appetizer “cake” made of carrots and zucchini. (Brittany is a vegetarian.) Brittany ordered falafel as a main course, and the waiter kept bringing over small bites from the chef (the names of each item escaped her). Julio got a lamb and beef entree. They kept the drinks coming.

They began by talking about how and why they applied to Date Lab and quickly pivoted to their careers. Both have started new gigs relatively recently, Julio after years of moving around for the Air Force. They talked about how they like dystopian books and movies.

Also discussed: dating apps, bad first dates and really decent ones, like this was shaping up to be. By about halfway in (“Once I got a feel for the type of person she was, she seemed normal!”) Julio knew he’d be interested in meeting Brittany for a second date.

“For me it was: She was more outgoing, extroverted than I am. I tend to be more reserved, introverted, and I was looking for someone the opposite of that,” he said. “She was very easy to talk to, and that’s what jumped out at me; that’s what I found most interesting and attractive.”

Said Brittany: “It was nice talking to him. There was never an awkward pause or anything. It was a really easy, lighthearted night. We both said out loud [that] we had no super expectations going into this. We just wanted to have fun. ... There was no pressure. It just felt easy.”

Plus, she said, “we just laughed a lot.”

Rate the date

Brittany: 5 [out of 5].

Julio: 3 or 4.


They exchanged texts, and plans were in the works for date No. 2. But it never took place.

Sarah Wildman is a journalist and the author of “Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.”