Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Exclusive New York dating app Lox Club brings matchmaking magic to Austin

Exclusive New York dating app brings matchmaking magic to Austin

The Lox Club logo is projected onto a brick building in Austin during South by Southwest.
Lox Club emphasizes in-person connection, and the absurdity of modern dating. Photo courtesy of Lox Club

The good news about dating apps is there are new members every day. The bad news about dating apps is those new faces are often the same people rejoining and switching apps, over and over again. There’s little to no commitment or continuity within each platform. An exclusive app called Lox Club is new in Austin and trying to break that cycle.

Lox Club, born during the pandemic in response to a widely-shared longing to meet people in public again, made its Texas debut during South by Southwest after successfully building hubs in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. It calls itself — with a strong dose of silliness according to founder Austin Kevitch — an “app for Jews with ridiculously high standards.”

Like the fictional deli Lox Club is modeled after, it considers itself culturally Jewish, but accepts members of all kinds, and actually operates with pretty reasonable standards. Although it doesn’t share an acceptance rate, app store reviewers speculate most people are accepted. Rejected applicants go back on a waiting list to be re-reviewed later. From there, members get 10 to 15 swipes per hour, and help from a matchmaker on staff if they ask for it, hopefully avoiding burnout or autopiloting.

“We have a membership committee,” Kevitch explains of the application process, which shepherds each potential user through a series of questions about careers, goals, and that user’s interest in joining a Jewish community. “We want people to be authentic and honest, and silly in the application … we don't care about your Instagram followers … it's more about down-to-earth-people who don't take themselves too seriously.”

Each profile is very simple, but every element is required, thus eliminating the low-effort profiles that litter other apps with one obscure image or no text. Aside from one short field of 50 characters, the rest of the profile is Hinge-like: a list of personal facts and three very short finish-the-sentence type prompts.

On May 10, Lox Club rolled out a digital card game to use on dates, targeting the potential awkwardness of coming up with topics. The cards are awkward on purpose, meant to inspire silliness or a taste of social abandon. “How many other dates did you go on this week?” asks one card. "Kiss right now and rate it 1-10," dares another.

The club’s love for people who don’t take themselves seriously can sometimes lead to profiles with dismissive or self-deprecating attitudes, but taking a chance on a sarcastic tone is ultimately their matches’ choice. In fact, this dry humor is the broadest tangible link to the Jewish culture the app claims as an identity. The thoroughness of making a profile and a monthly fee alone certainly deter users less serious about the app itself.

Ultimately, without long, meandering profiles, it can be hard to vet potential matches without meeting in person. This — somewhat counterintuitively — is the point. This is the intangible Jewish culture link: essentially, the feeling of meeting someone at a deli until you begin to recognize them.

At events, members slowly get to know each other in essentially the opposite of speed dating. Feelings have a chance to develop more naturally, and some of those feelings may even lead to super stable platonic bonds that make dating more bearable together. If attendees don’t leave with a strong feeling about anyone in particular, at least they enjoyed a night out, and got to know some others in the community without feeling awkward about an unsuccessful night together.

“That's the whole point of the Lox Club brand being focused on absurdism, making fun of dating,” says Kevitch. “I would acknowledge, ‘Look, I think you're awesome. I don't think we're compatible romantically. But we should be friends, because we're going to run into each other at Lox Club events, and we can laugh at it together.’”

New York, hometown of Lox Club, has the most frequent events, from Broadway plays to comedy shows. Since the fake deli speakeasy is still so new in Austin, it hasn’t had many events yet. So far, there has been an invite-only mixer at Juniper, a SXSW kickoff party at Bangers that doubled as the app kickoff, and a meetup at the Nova Room in all four cities.

“I feel like we need something like Disney,” says Kevitch. “I’m obsessed with Disney, and escape rooms, and magic shows, [and] speakeasies. Any themed experiences, I think, are so fun and take the edge off of the awkwardness. Most of the other apps are very sterile [without] a story behind it.”

Every dating app has some kind of twist to lessen that pain. At the end of the day, with so many users on so many different platforms, it’s the culture that makes the experience. And however we feel about apps having their own cultures, it’s 2022, and taking those cultures seriously is one strong path to a more balanced future in dating. Get out there and find a mensch or two.