In retrospect, this was the first red flag.
But we are young. To us, red flags are life's accessories, like a cute scarf.
The second warning sign, also unheeded, was the group of ballerinas who were seated after us.
"How did you know they were ballerinas?" my boyfriend interrupted, when I was telling him the story later. "Did they walk in so gracefully?"
"No, they were starved and limping."
My friend and I were starving as well, so we didn't waste time trying to decode the menu. As soon as the waiter came over, we gave our order. My friend chose cauliflower soup and a vegan "Reuben" sandwich, and I decided on the seitan special, whatever that is.
"Would you like any basics?" the waiter asked me. He was tall and thin, with his hair buzzed on the sides and fluffy curls at the top, like a human bean sprout.
He sighed. "Basics are sides of vegetables to add to your dish."
"What do you recommend?"
"Definitely the sea vegetables."
My brain immediately jumped to the image of a sea cucumber, which I'm pretty sure is a giant slug. "Um, maybe I'll go with the kale."
"It's and/or, so I'll put you down for two orders of kale."
"I have to get two?"
"It's and/or," he repeated, as if this explained everything. "So you can get kale and kale, kale or something else, or kale and something else. And/or."
Pretzel logic, gluten-free.
I opted for the kale and lentils.
After what felt like forever, our food arrived. My friend received a cup of soup and a half-Reuben the size of a tea sandwich. I got a dish with a wet pile of steamed greens and brown beans.
"That sandwich looks small," I said, squinting to see it better.
"Yeah," my friend answered. "Yours looks . . . healthy."
She ate her tiny food in roughly four bites, I ended up pouring balsamic vinegar on mine to make it more palatable. We wanted to be good, but even good girls have their limit. We snagged the attention of our waiter.
"Could I get the other half of this sandwich?" my friend asked sweetly.
"I'm sorry, we can't do that," said the waiter.
I couldn't help myself. "Seriously?"
"Well, I'll have to check with our kitchen," he said.
"Also, I know you guys are busy, but is my entree coming soon?"
"Did you order something else?" he asked, now looking like a surprised bean sprout.
"Yes, I ordered the special. These were just the basics."
He looked at me blankly.
It was and/or, I wanted to cry!
"Let me see what we can do." It was like he had never encountered two women so hungry. Like we were the hungry hungry hippos, gobbling all the soybeans he could shoot at us.
By the time the waiter rustled up some more spartan food for us, we had to leave to make the movie. We paid - "sorry, cash only" - and escaped.
At the movie theater, we approached the snack counter. I glanced over my shoulder, in case the ballerinas were behind us again.
"Should we get candy?" my friend asked.
We looked at each other.
I got the Raisinets, it has antioxidants. She got an Almond Joy, it has nuts.
For now, that would be good enough.
Look for Francesca Serritella and Lisa Scottoline's new collection of humor essays, "Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim," in stores now. You can write to Francesca at Francesca@francescaserritella.com.