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Voices

Dumping grounds

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / March 4, 2009

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Thanks to the Zagat restaurant guide, we know where to eat sushi. We know where to get good burgers. And now we know where to break someone's heart - in public!

The maker of the purple books that rate restaurants has come out with a "Dating (and Dumping) Guide" for New York and Los Angeles.

The dating places are all obvious - well-known spots in those snazzy cities that have already been reviewed in Zagat guides as quiet, intimate, and dimly lit.

It's the dumping spots that are new. Zagat considers the following categories when ranking restaurants for breaking up: number of exits, proximity to transportation (so you can flee the scene), and attractiveness of the restaurant's crowd and wait staff so that after the dumping, you can find someone else to go home with.

Cute, right?

Zagat says that at the moment there's no Boston guide in the works, but never say never. Foodie and nightlife customers have embraced the New York and LA editions, so there's more money to be made.

"We did this just kind of for fun," said Zagat spokeswoman Tiffany Barbalato. "People really got excited about it."

In the meantime, we'll have to make our own non-Zagat-endorsed guide for dating and dumping, although Zagat's Boston editor Eric Grossman warns it's not an easy task. Before he got hired by Zagat, Grossman worked for Citysearch, a site that likes to put up online lists of the best places to do and eat various things. Best burgers. Best date spots. Coming up with a best-place-for-breakups list never felt natural, Grossman says. Some people want to be dumped around others. Most people don't.

"That's a weird one for me personally," he said, admitting he's not so sure breaking up in a public place is a good idea.

One of Grossman's Citysearch lists said that Sonsie was a good breakup spot, especially if you're looking to meet someone the same night. It's also by the Pike.

"I suppose there are a lot of people who take exit routes into consideration," he says.

Marc Orfaly, 39, the chef at Pigalle, admits that his own restaurant, which is known for romance, has also been a dumping ground. "I did have a woman say to me one time . . . she said she had the most horrific breakup at my restaurant," he said. "My heart was at my feet."

Orfaly says he'd recommend Jillian's near Fenway Park for breakups. The nightclub is all about distractions and stimuli. For a guy who has trouble with honesty and conflict (in Orfaly's hypothetical, the breaker-upper is male), Jillian's would provide the right amount of escapism.

Anthony Caturano, the owner-chef at Prezza in the North End, also admits his own restaurant has been the site of many a breakup.

"Drink throwing. Food throwing," he says. "We have these raviolis. I remember this one guy . . . he had raviolis dripping down him."

Imagine getting out those stains.

"If it was a real psycho kind of girl you'd want a place with no silverware. Plastic. So you're not stabbed by a big, heavy steak knife" Caturano adds, pondering possible breakup venues.

Sam Yagan, the Harvard grad who founded the online dating site OKCupid.com, says he doesn't understand why anyone would want to break up in a restaurant. (Of course, he says, it's better than dumping by text message.) He jokes that the South Station food court might be the best place for a dumping ("lots of getaway routes"). Or maybe the Boston Public Library ("You get the benefit of not being shouted at").

But in all seriousness, Yagan says that if you must end a relationship in public, you should find a nondescript place that won't linger in the dumpee's memory. A place that's comforting and familiar. A place that's cheap so neither party resents the bill.

What fits all of those requirements?

Yagan doesn't need Zagat to help him with an answer.

"Dunkin' Donuts," he says.

Don't tell me you're surprised.

Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. You can read her daily Love Letters dispatch and chat with her every Wednesday at 1 p.m. at www.boston.com/loveletters.