Photography by David Brooks
Matchmaking by Jessica Pelligra
This evening's would-be romantic adventure has already begun. Blind daters Sarah and Jonathan met an hour ago in the Epic Limo that's about to drop them off at Wonderspaces, a pop-up museum in Mission Valley . Before they arrive, let's review their pre-date interviews.
PACIFIC: Where are you from and where do you live now?
SARAH: I'm from Pennsylvania and I live in Point Loma . I moved to San Diego in 2014.
JONATHAN: I'm born and raised in beautiful San Diego. I've lived here all my life, except for four years of college in Missouri.
What do you do for a living?
SARAH: I'm a student and a paralegal.
JONATHAN: I work as a firefighter in this beautiful county of ours.
What do you do for fun?
SARAH: Fun? In this economy?
JONATHAN: Normal guy stuff. I like to work out, go to ball games, play sports. And recently I've gotten into taking walks and just seeing where I end up.
What are you best at?
SARAH: Knowing a bunch of random stuff
JONATHAN: I'm really good at Disney trivia. Seriously, I take pride in those games; ask my siblings.
What do you suck at?
SARAH: Taking shots.
JONATHAN: I suck at pool.
What are you looking for in a date, physically and/or otherwise?
SARAH: Intelligence, ambition, sense of humor, the usual. Physically, I look for someone who is symmetrical, has nice teeth and is strong enough to open all jars and lids, but sensitive enough to tell me how hard it was, to protect my ego.
JONATHAN: When I think of a woman that I would like to date, I think of a woman that has a sense of humor and loves to laugh. Doesn't have to be physical at all - that will come in time.
Describe your special brand of sex appeal in five words or less.
SARAH: Unfortunately, my brand of sex appeal is trademarked, and I won't get permission to use it in time for this interview.
JONATHAN: Eyes and smile are what catches my attention in a woman. I go crazy over beautiful eyes and a killer smile.
What do you like least about yourself?
SARAH: Oh, gosh. Where do I even start?
JONATHAN: I put a lot on my plate sometimes and struggle to be on time.
Rate yourself on a scale from one to 10 for looks.
SARAH: Eight with hair and makeup; nine with false lashes and filter.
JONATHAN: I'd say I'm a solid seven.
How about for personality?
SARAH: Eight with hair and makeup; nine on the Internet.
JONATHAN: I'm a good 8.5. I think my personality lets me get along with everyone.
What's your biggest fear?
SARAH: People finding out how many people I've slept with.
JONATHAN: Failure, and that I'm not good enough at something.
What traits could your date exhibit that would be deal-breakers?
SARAH: Being boring or dumb.
JONATHAN: Bad table manners at dinner.
How many people have you slept with?
JONATHAN: I'm not one to kiss and tell. But, if I have to answer, only four that matter.
Fill in the blanks: I want my blind date to be "blank" and "blank."
SARAH: I want my blind date to be smart and interesting.
JONATHAN: I want my blind date to be funny and gorgeous.
Will the night end with a kiss, something more or something less?
SARAH: I have no idea. There's a lot of variables, like if there's chemistry, if drinks are included, how pretty I feel at the time, et cetera.
JONATHAN: I think the date could possibly end maybe with a kiss or an exchange of a phone number.
What's the most important thing in the world?
SARAH: I'm gonna say oxygen, with water and the sun coming in close behind.
JONATHAN: Family. Without family, I wouldn't be where I am in life today
As the limo pulls up, Sarah and Jonathan emerge, and then head inside Wonderspaces.
Multisensory sights, sounds and surroundings
Inside Wonderspaces (in San Diego through July 30), Sarah and Jonathan immerse themselves in interactive art exhibits ranging from immense, tactile installations to mind-bending virtual reality films. They appear to be getting along well as they walk through the temporary museum, talking and laughing along the way.
After an hour or so, the couple jumps back into the limo for the ride up the coast to Park 101, Carlsbad 's brand-new hotspot from the folks behind P.B. Shore Club, Duck Dive, and the P.B. and Encinitas Fish Shops (among other popular venues).
The much-anticipated Park 101 finally opened a week ago (July 4), and the place is jumping when Sarah and Jonathan arrive and grab a booth. They sit close and continue to laugh as they get acquainted over cocktails and appetizers. Once they've had time to enjoy their entrees, they're split for mid-date debriefings.
PACIFIC: How's it going so far?
SARAH: It's going pretty good. I'm having a good time.
JONATHAN: I think it's going great; I have a good vibe. She is a very personable person like I am, and we are having great conversation.
What were you first impressions of your date?
SARAH: I thought he was very well-dressed, tall and symmetrical.
JONATHAN: Her eyes, beautiful eyes. First thing I saw, her eyes lit up. I was like, "Yes!"
Is this the type of person you'd normally date?
SARAH: Honestly, no, not the type of person I would normally date. But, so far, I am very pleased with how it's going.
JONATHAN: Actually, no. It's kinda different than what I usually date. I usually go for athletic girls, like, meet them at the gym. It's different; she is very smart and very driven.
What do you think of the way your date is dressed?
SARAH: Very well... way better than I am.
JONATHAN: I think she looks great. It's a very nice, casual dating experience. She didn't go all out, but it made me feel comfortable.
How was your experience at Wonderspaces?
SARAH: Really good. I thought the installation art was really cool. The strings were probably my favorite - it was called the "Religious Experience."
JONATHAN: To be with her and to see what she thought of the different exhibits, it was awesome.
What do you think of Park 101?
SARAH: Really good. The BBQ was incredible, and I like the set-up. The wine was really good, and it is such a cool space.
JONATHAN: The food is amazing, the view, the ambiance - especially with someone you can talk to. It's been great.
What's the most attractive thing your date has done so far?
SARAH: He is a really good listener and has a really good sense of humor.
JONATHAN: The way she carries a conversation. Lately, girls I date can't even hold a conversation for three minutes, and she has been able to keep a great one going for the past two to three hours.
Rate your date on a scale from one to 10 for looks.
And for personality?
JONATHAN: Definitely 10-plus. I love the way she holds a conversation.
What's your date's most attractive quality?
SARAH: Probably his intestinal fortitude. His job requires a cool head and a lot of intelligence. That is really attractive.
JONATHAN: I won't keep going on the eyes. I like her passion for things. She has goals, and I like seeing that she has drive. To me, that is attractive.
Do you want to kiss your date right now?
SARAH: I mean, maybe after another glass of wine or two?
JONATHAN: Of course. She is gorgeous. Why I wouldn't I?
Does your date want to kiss you?
SARAH: I don't know. Maybe?
JONATHAN: I don't know.
How and when will the date end?
SARAH: By me going back to my van?
JONATHAN: Maybe a phone-number exchange? I like it to be on a friendship level on a first date; no pressure.
Nice to Meat You
Bad-ass barbecue is just the beginning
After the mid-date break, Sarah and Jonathan return to their table at Park 101. As dessert arrives, the magazine crew finally leaves the couple alone to enjoy the rest of their evening away from the camera. The next day, we call to see what we missed.
PACIFIC: How was the rest of your time at Park 101?
SARAH: Perfect. They really know their meat.
JONATHAN: Park 101 was amazing. The dinner and the ambiance of the restaurant were incredible. The service and the food were definitely a highlight of the night.
What did you eat and drink there?
SARAH: Various barbecue, zucchini Caprese, bottle of red wine, beans and potato salad. We had an awesome dessert, too - churro and a cookie with ice cream. Amazing.
JONATHAN: We ate a meat sampler with different sides - makes my mouth water just thinking of it. We also had a bottle of wine and a homemade ice cream sandwich, which was the cherry on top.
What did you do for the rest of the evening after dinner?
SARAH: We called it a night. I had a Spanish exam in the morning, and we both had the "itis" from all the booze and meat.
JONATHAN: After dinner, the limo dropped us back off downtown. We spent the ride from Carlsbad listening to music and having a couple drinks and getting to know each other more.
When did you get home?
SARAH: Around 12.
JONATHAN: I was home around 11:45.
Was there a kiss or romantic exchange?
SARAH: We exchanged numbers.
JONATHAN: Like I said earlier, I don't kiss and tell, but we did exchange numbers.
How and when did the date end?
SARAH: The date ended when John was dropped off at his place, and we gave each other a hug and said goodnight. And that was it. John was a total gentleman.
JONATHAN: The date ended with a long hug and number exchange. We really couldn't do much since she had an early class in the morning.
What's the funniest thing that happened during the date?
SARAH: There were a lot of funny moments. We had a lot of interesting stuff to talk about, and our senses of humor were similar. My cheeks hurt at the end of the night from laughing so much.
JONATHAN: There were a lot of funny moments. Maybe when I played her my favorite country song, and she looked at me like, "Wow." We laughed, because I definitely don't look like the type to like country music.
What was the best part of the date?
SARAH: Country karaoke in the limo.
JONATHAN: The best part of the date was honestly when we were heading back to downtown and just talking and listening to music. I felt we really had a great vibe.
What was the worst part?
SARAH: Waiting for the food to be photographed before being able to eat it.
JONATHAN: Worst part of the date was not having much alone time. Sounds silly, but when we did have that time, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Will there be a second date?
SARAH: Perhaps. It is hard to say at this point, because I am moving to Orange County soon.
JONATHAN: Hopefully there will be a second date. Hopefully I played my cards right.
What's one thing your date should know before going on another date?
SARAH: Ordering one 18-inch pizza is more pizza than ordering two 12-inch pizzas.
JONATHAN: She should know that there is more to me than meets the eye.
What could have made this date better?
SARAH: Not having important stuff to do in the morning
JONATHAN: The only thing that could have made this date better would be more time to spend with her on a more personal level, without the cameras. Other than that, this date was perfect, and I couldn't have asked for a better blind date experience.
Anything else you'd like to add?
SARAH: Hi, Mom.
JONATHAN: I would just like to thank everyone involved that made this experience a reality. Also would like to thank Sarah for being an amazing woman, and I can't wait to get to know her better.
Aftermatch: As Jonathan the fireman or any proverb lover would confirm, where there's smoke, there's fire. Will last night's blind date live up to that promise? Smoke emanating from the barbecue grill at Park 101, not to mention the fact that both daters' grilles were showing from Wonderspaces through dessert (they were laughing, yo!), suggests the answer is yes - or at least that there's a chance of love smoldering beneath the surface. As for whether there will be a second date, it's hard to predict when it comes to matters of the art.