Readers sometimes share their Charlotte dating stories with us. Here’s one of them, as told to the editor:

Tradition might dictate that “the man pays for dinner,” but some modern dating practices might say otherwise.

In two separate interviews, QCity Metro spoke with Ben, 28, and Toya, 28, about their dating experience. 

The two met in college nearly a decade ago and reconnected through a mutual friend in 2021. Shortly after, they began spending time together.

Toya told QCity Metro they went on several causal “hangouts” — coffee meetups and short lunches — before Ben asked her on what she called a “real” date.

“We worked in the same area back then, so he would be like ‘you want to meet for coffee?’ And I would go,” she said.

Ben said they met for coffee a few times before she suggested getting lunch together. 

“We went to lunch three, maybe four times over like a month,” he said.

Toya said she mentioned that she liked Japanese food, and a few days later, Ben asked her out to dinner.

Dinner plans

They met at Nakato, a popular Japanese hibachi restaurant, in the University Area, and were seated in a small, floor-booth-style room centered around a large grill.

Not long after, the chef entered and began prepping the food to cook live.

“[The chef] was doing tricks and stuff, making an onion tower with fire coming out of it, flipping the shrimp onto our plates. We were having a good time,” he recalled.

Toya said the chef’s grill show was entertaining but made her “nervous.”

“It felt like he kept getting the flames too close to us. He knew what he was doing, but I kept having to lean back because I thought something would go wrong,” she said.

Ben said initially only he and Toya were in the room, but once their food was ready, the host brought in another party to join them around the grill. 

Is this part of the show?

“So he started the show over, which was cool because me and Toya were having fun and we already had our food so we didn’t mind,” Ben said.

About halfway through the grill show, Ben and Toya had finished their food and the host brought the bill.

According to Toya, Ben didn’t look at it, but instead gave it to her.

According to Ben, he asked how — card or cash — she wanted to “split” the bill.

Regardless of the interaction, both said a disagreement ensued. 

And before long, Toya said, she became irritated and raised her voice. 

Ben raised his too.

“Then, before we knew it, she was saying my momma ain’t raise me right. And how the hell I ask her out and not want to pay,” Ben said. “So I asked her why she got ‘feminist’ in her [Instagram] bio if she can’t even pay for her own food and she got really mad.”

Toya admitted that she cursed at him. “I just couldn’t believe he was being that cheap. He was out of line. I may or may not have said his momma raised a broke b-word,” she recounted. “Then he called me a ‘broke hoe’ and said my breath stinks. He was just saying anything,” she said.

As their argument progressed, the grill show continued. Both Ben and Toya recalled the size of the flame, remembering it as a large and alarming size.

“By this time, the chef was doing new tricks, but the flame was getting way too big. But the way the booth is set up, you can’t really go anywhere. It’s not like you’re in a chair where you can scoot back. And me and Ben were yelling and cursing so it was just a big dramatic scene,” Toya said, calling the moment embarrassing.

The host returned to the room to retrieve the check, but, Ben said, there was no check to collect.

“Toya threw the check in the [expletive] fire. I mean the whole thing, the leather case it comes in, the check, everything. Everybody at the table was shocked,” Ben said, laughing, as he recalled the event. 

“I was so mad that I didn’t realize until after I had thrown it that the other people still hadn’t got their food. So basically, I ruined everyone’s meal,” said of her actions.

Both Ben and Toya said they were asked to leave.

Ben did so immediately.

The outcome

“And I guess she won because I went ahead and just paid our bill. I got my keys and left. Didn’t even say ‘bye’ to her Toya,” Ben said.

When asked about the outcome of their argument over the bill, Toya said at first she felt vindicated because Ben paid for their dinner, but once she headed for the door, the manager stopped her.

“Ben was already gone, so he doesn’t even know this. The manager said I had to pay for everyone else’s food at the table because when I threw the check into the fire, they would have to remake everything else on a new grill. But I never told Ben that. I text him ‘aha you paid anyway’ and then blocked him,” Toya said.

Ben said he never received a text following their last date because he had blocked Toya before he’d even gotten into his car.

Today, both Ben and Toya still live in Charlotte.

They even walked down the aisle earlier this year — in the wedding of the same mutual friend they reconnected through. They have not dated since the incident at Nakato and have no plans to.

Toya is also single, but says she is not dating at this time.

Ben is still single and datin’ in Charlotte.

If you have a story about dating in Charlotte — whether good, bad, or in between — we want to hear it. And don’t worry, you’ll be anonymous. Submit your story here.

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