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Inexpensive date night?

I realized the other day that the only time the husband and I have dinner out, just the two of us, it's because we're too tired to cook. So, I've decided to take him on a date Friday.

We're trying to be good about our spending in order to save up for vacation next month, so I don't want it to be too expensive. We do Matchbox all the time (miniburgers and a glass of Penfolds is the perfect meal) so that's out.

Tom Sietsema always recommends Straits of Malaya. Anyone have any experience with that? Are there other, brilliant ideas? It'd be nice if there was a good spot for an after dinner drink nearby, too.

Thanks, everyone!

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  1. Are you tied to DC? What about Tallula? If you're tied to DC, I'm a huge fan of the always solid and never terribly expensive Little Fountain Cafe for a nice date.

    1. Never been to the Straits of Malaya...

      Palena Cafe in the front of Palena is actually quite reasonable and very good?

      I always like Regent Thai on 18th St. across from Lauriol Plaza and that is a good value and it has nice atmosphere. Also on the Thai note- relatively cheap dining option there is a place in Alexandria that is right on the water that is thai and nice atmosphere for a date.

      The 13th and U area has some good places that aren't outrageous... Oh I forget the names though I didn't live there long enough to be able to frequent them. I will try to figure out what they were while others give you some other good options.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ktmoomau

        "Palena Cafe in the front of Palena is actually quite reasonable and very good?"

        Well, you're half right. We've never got out of there for less than $100.

        1. re: chickenlover

          Not if you get the burger. Isn't their INCREDIBLE burger around $10 or so? I think my boyfriend and I were closer to $50 or less when we went. Both got burgers, split and appetizer, and skipped dessert (because we went next door to the little market to get gelato instead :) ). And I think we didn't get a bottle of wine...probably just a glass each if that.

          1. re: Elyssa

            In my opinion, if you just get the burger you're kind of missing the point. I'm in the minority, but I think it's overrated. $100+ represents 2 dishes and 2 drinks each plus a shared dessert. I generally don't care about dessert but I would never skip it at Palena. It's one of their strengths.

      2. Straits of Malaya is nice. I had some of the best eggplant ever when I was there. And if you want to dine alfresco now that we got a break in the humidity, you can ask for a table on their roof. Always nice for a date!

        1 Reply
        1. re: debit

          I also vouch for their eggplant dish. It's a must order. Oh and if you like spicy food, make sure to let your waiter know that you want it to be spicy. I found in the past that if I didn't request it to be spicy, it came out good, but tame.

        2. Mourayo in Dupont maybe? Dino can be fairly inexpensive if you go on Sundays.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cleveland park

            I heard Mourayo is actually more moderate priced...and on the higher end of that. I've wanted to go a few times (this is the Greek place right?) but everytime I think about it I end up someplace cheaper like sushi or Bistro du Coin.

          2. My husband and I attempt to do date nights on a monthly basis to try places we've never been. Usually they're on the higher end, but on our list is to go to Etete and check out some jazz nearby. From their website it looks reasonable, and the place is always recommended by chowhounds.

            1. Regent Thai is a good idea...the food and drinks are really good there. And for sushi and Thai there is Thai Chef in Dupont which I just tried and really enjoyed.

              For my first date with my boyfriend he took me to Grill from Impanema in Adams Morgan. It's something a little different, good Brazillian food, and yummy drinks. You can also sit outside and people watch.

              Along U Street you can try Busboys and Poets for something fun and different or my favorite: Creme! If you go there try the mushroom appetizer. Then afterwards you can get cupcakes at Cakelove or ice cream at Maggie Moos.

              You can grab some French food at Bistro Francais in Georgetown. They have a 3-course early bird and late bird special. If you go to an 8pm or so movie and then go to their late-bird special its a great deal. I think the deal comes with a glass of wine as well.

              And right now Oya has a deal for $29/person 3-course meal plus a glass of champagne which is really good. The atmosphere is very sexy and chic.

              All of these places have tons of bars in the neighborhood to grab an afterdinner drink at.

              1. honestly, when it's nice out...i really like the greek place on Ct. Ave in Dupont. It's not to die for food, but it's cheap, fun, kind of romantic at dusk, and there are plenty of places to walk from there.

                I also agree with Busboys if you don't mind the possible wait. The food has gotten very good there lately.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Jeserf

                  When I was dating a lot Busboys was my go to spot because the food is good (the chocolate cake for dessert is pretty much a dream come true for a chocolate cake lover), there is always an interesting mix of people, and there is a chance to talk about the art on the wall and in the books in the book store.

                  Are you talking about Zorba's in Dupont? That is a good idea. The food is good...not excellent but food.

                  Also right across from there is the new Circa..outdoor seating. I haven't eaten there but the menu looks reasonably priced.

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    We've been to Circa. It was decent but nothing to write home about. I had a salad with shrimp and portobellos, which I enjoyed but my dining companions thought their meals were just okay (hamburgers, a halibut special, and pizza). Nice atmosphere and outside patio, but there was a 1 hour wait for the outdoor seating (versus 20 minutes for inside).

                    1. re: KWynn

                      They also have a bar correct? Maybe its just good for a drink if you can get a table outside for drinks.

                      I really haven't been because, while it doesn't seem expensive at all, their menu has seemed slightly uninspiring. I was thinking of trying a salad for lunch there.

                      It's such a prime spot. I would have loved to have seen a little french bistro there or a food mediterreanean tapas spot. Oh well. I've heard similar things KWynn. Nothing to write home about type of thing.

                      1. re: Elyssa

                        It's a prime spot and would have been killer for an INDEPENDENT and well done coffee shop with good panini and baked goods and open late at night, perhaps with some open mic nights or something. but alas...more of the same...

                        le sigh

                        1. re: Jeserf

                          Ah yes! VEry true. A good sandwich spot would be excellent. I can think of at least 20 different things I was hoping would go in there.

                          1. re: Elyssa

                            there's not much you can't already get around dupont. The best would an Open City-like place, with good hours and solid food.

                            And panini and baked goods because who doesnt like that? :)

                    2. re: Elyssa

                      I guess that's a good reason to go to Busboys...I go because it's in a great spot, the food is reliable, I like the like looking at the book store, and it's near good bars.

                      And yes, I meant Zorbas. It's lovely to sit outside there, share some food, even get an inexpensive carafe of wine, and then walk around. It's a GREAT bargain place.

                      I don't dig cakelove. I like the idea, but Sticky Fingers has WAY better baked goods. I also don't think Maggie Moos is any good.

                      But those opinions are probably my fault ;)

                      1. re: Jeserf

                        Truth be told I'm not a huge Cakelove fan either. But it's a nice dessert spot if you don't want to eat dessert in the restaurant. You can always go to Creme and get dessert and coffee at Busboys though. Or visa vera...Creme had an excellent coconut creme cake the last time I was there.

                        I wish a place like Magnolia Bakery or Sprinkles would open up because I think Cakelove's cupcakes are not very good...at least the few times I've had them the frosting was not very creamy.

                  2. theres a good list here:

                    I would go for Mon Ami Gabi in Bethesda