In search of the cheap date: Four nights out on a tight budget
On a first date, or even for the first couple months of a relationship, a cheap date is not a good idea. Those are the days for flexing your financial and cultural muscle. But after a few years in a relationship, and perhaps a couple of kids, a cheap date night can be a godsend. Every couple can use a low-key night out, with offspring at the sitter or summer camp, to enjoy a relaxing meal that won't break the bank. We recently set out to find good cheap date nights in a variety of price points. Here's our experience with four quick and inexpensive dates.
In Seven heaven: The restaurant's rooftop couches make a sublime cheap date
Super-inexpensive date: Monday night at Champps
French Onion Burger at Champps
Mondays are great dining nights in the Twin Cities as a general rule, but at Champps there are amazing deals to be had. The place offers huge half-price burgers made for sharing. We split the French Onion Burger with fries, drank water with lemon, and left with a bill of $5.26 before tip. It was plenty of food, and the au jus sauce for dipping was surprisingly enjoyable addition to the burger. Champps also has a variety of half-price beer and drink specials on Monday nights and throughout the week.
By the way, AMC Theaters has $5 movie tickets on Monday night as well. Dinner and a movie for two: $15.
Chino Latino Kung Pao Wings
Inexpensive date: Happy hour at Chino Latino
Happy hours can be as much about the food as the drinks. While there are many inexpensive eats around town during the 3:00-to-6:00 and 10:00-to-midnight hours, few are better than Chino Latino for cost and amount of food. Try the empanadas for $3.50 with their rice wine vinegar pico de gallo, the nine Kung Pao Wings you get for $3 (crunchy, spicy, and sweet treats), or the roasted Poblano Pundido with chips for $3. Sit at the bar and watch the sushi chefs work their magic. The $5 tuna roll and the $3 nachos are fine but not extraordinary. Past 10:00, Chino has $1 tacos. Its easy for two to eat three or four dishes and be full for under $15.
Afterward, bring your sneakers and hit the trail around Lake Calhoun for the best people watching this side of the airport.
Medium-cost date: Happy hour at Azia
This was a bit of a disappointment. There are only five offerings on the happy menu at Azia, all $4.95, and only one that we would get again. The potstickers were very tasty, with a delicious pork filling that barely needed the accompanying dipping sauce. The cranberry and green onion cheese puffs were fine, but the wonton skin was too thick, making it hard to eat them without the cheese spilling out. The fresh herb rolls with chicken and shrimp were bland, with bad texture, and they left us picking green bits out of our teeth the rest of the night. Sometimes the little things make a difference. The bowls with the dipping sauce were too small to fit most of the apps.
Moderate-cost date: Happy hour at Seven
The Seven roll at Seven
Seven, the 26,000-square-foot restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, is part steak house, part sushi restaurant, and part patio hangout joint that is impressive on every floor.
While not the cheapest of our stops, Seven was by far the most enticing. Our storyteller/server painted such a picture of each dish, both the ones we ordered and ones we casually asked about, that he ensured a return visit. The happy hour offers wonderful small plates: sushi (try the Seven roll with tempura shrimp, tuna and eel sauce), steak (try the beef tips with Roquefort cream mashed potatoes), or the calamari (tempura-battered squid with hot peppers). There are also fun couches and beautiful views of the city to enjoy. For a cheap date, Seven was by far the most impressive of the lot.
After dinner, enjoy a walk down by the river on the loop between the Stone Arch Bridge and Hennepin Avenue bridges.