Matchmaking in Date Lab is not normally done by professionals. And while some readers may think that is why Date Lab gets the results it usually gets, I'm here to tell you that professional matchmakers face similar hurdles. I would know. I got my start as an amateur matchmaker while in college. I set up my fellow classmates and wrote a weekly column about their blind dates. At 21, I joined a top matchmaking company in New York. My experiences there inspired my first novel, "Playing With Matches" (Touchstone), about a young matchmaker whose own love life is falling apart.

As faithful Date Lab readers know all too well, a couple can appear to be compatible on paper, but you can never accurately predict if they’ll have chemistry until they meet in person.

I had high hopes for Danny Mannka and Ally Hall because they had so many things in common. Danny, a Florida native, is a project manager for an international development company and lives in the District. He said on his application that his favorite date occurred while on safari in Uganda. He likes outdoorsy brunettes who can make him laugh.

Ally is an Illinois transplant who lives in Northern Virginia and helps people make mobile apps. On her application, she noted that she plays ultimate Frisbee and enjoys rock climbing, canoeing and solving crossword puzzles. She had her worst romantic experience last year, when she was dumped at her own birthday dinner.

Both seemed passionate about travel, fitness, the outdoors, books and more. I thought their adventurous spirits would go well together.

They met at Supra, a restaurant in Shaw that specializes in the cuisine of Georgia (the one next to Azerbaijan, not Alabama). The evening began with a lackluster introduction by the restaurant’s hostess. “She didn’t exactly tell me which table, so Ally broke the silence and was like, ‘Danny?’ So that was nice,” he said. “She was really cute.”

Posing for photos wearing some of the Georgian hats displayed on the walls helped thaw the ice but didn’t quite break it. “It was a little bit of a bumpy start, but then it was a good conversation with us just asking the basic questions,” Ally said later, admitting that she was a little nervous for her first true blind date.

The duo quickly understood why they were matched. “She’s active, so am I. We both play sports. She’s into rock climbing, which is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Danny noted.

They ordered plates of the traditional Georgian dish khachapuri (cheese and egg bread), but they weren’t quite sure how to properly eat it. So they cut it like a pizza and spent the next three hours swapping travel stories and talking about their families, jobs and hobbies. He recently returned from a trip to Tanzania, while she spent a few months earlier this year living in Australia for work.

“He seemed like a really adventurous guy who likes to tell good stories,” Ally told me. “He genuinely cares about having new experiences, trying new foods and meeting new people.”

The admiration was mutual. “Ally is a great girl,” Danny said. “I really enjoyed getting to know her.” But after a while, he recalled, he thought he was “ asking her more questions than she was reciprocating, so maybe she wasn’t that interested.”

I was surprised to hear that Danny felt Ally could have been more conversational, since her profile was written in such a warm, outgoing voice. Danny attributed her reticence to the fact that their personalities “didn’t really vibe that well.”

“She was kind of yawning at the end of dinner, so we both agreed that it wasn’t going to go anywhere as far as us, like, going out afterwards,” Danny explained.

“It wasn’t pulling teeth or anything,” Ally told me. “It was a good conversation, but I would not say that I felt a romantic spark.”

They exchanged numbers. Once her Lyft arrived, they hugged goodbye and he got on his bike. When Danny arrived home, his roommate filled him in on the proper way to eat khachapuri (stirring the egg and cheese into a gooey mixture inside the bread before eating it), so he texted Ally about it.

“She got back to me the next day,” he said, “which was kind of telling.”

Rate the date

Danny: 3 [out of 5].

Ally: 3.5.


Danny asked Ally if she wanted to go on another date. She said that she wasn’t interested in being more than friends.

Hannah Orenstein is the dating editor at Elite Daily. Her second novel, “Love at First Like” (Atria Books), is due out this summer.