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first date on a budget...

I have a first date tonight, and although I'm not opposed to breaking the bank, I found out this morning that I had left my wallet at a friends cottage, and all I can scrounge up is ~$40.

I'm picking her up from work near the CNE and will have a car. I figure Pho on spadina and then moving down towards the lakeshore for a walk would be half decent for what I can afford right now, especially with the weather prediction tonight.

Any other recommendations?
Cheers, and thanks for any input.

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  1. Terroni is a great first date on queen st. Its always busy, so never any really akward silences. You can get a pie for 15bucks.

    1 Reply
    1. re: visualhornet

      Second Terroni, You could also Check out the EX, A nice walk through the EX would be a great first date. Some good food too and you can see if she can handle a jumbo corn dog. lol, sry I know I'm horribly crude. Have fun dude.

    2. RiceBar in Kensington? Pretty patio and nice, fresh food (also, excellent cocktails too, although budget restrictions are noted). Very eco-conscious spot so you may just seem green versus temporarily destitute. www.ricebar.ca

      Although I'm a big fan of pho too (potential date caution: some of the pho joints are not-so atmospheric).

      2 Replies
      1. re: Rabbit

        Nice suggestion, Rabbit. Or somewhere else in Kensington -- a nice wander through the market...The Mexican place? I'm afraid you'd be a bit tight on $40 at Terroni. Dude, scrounge up another $20 from co-workers just to be safe. Another suggestion: Musa on Dundas. Great patio.

        1. re: EarlyDrive

          Mexican place is called El Trompo, on Augusta, and you'd be hard-pressed to spend over 40 without completely overeating.

      2. Mezzetta on St. Clair just east of Christie. Dine there (it's Toonie Tuesday) and then go for a wander past the old TTC car barns that have been all prettied up and through Wychwood park.

        1. It is beautiful weather outdoors. What you planned sounds like fun. Or skip eating indoors altogether. Get a few sandwiches from California sandwiches then eat on the lakeshore, walk and talk.

          2 Replies
          1. re: merlot143

            I second the picnic idea for a first date + budget. It shows you're thoughtful without too much focus on the fact you didn't spend too much. Pho kind of screams "I forgot my wallet" or "I didn't want to spend too much on a first date cuz I'm just not that sure I'm into you...". Plus, all the slurpy noodles are going to make a mess of your date's outfit.
            Another suggestion if you've got time is scramble down to St. Lawrence market before they close. Pick up some fresh bread, olives, cured meats, dips, fresh fruit, etc. for $40 and make it a nice picnic event by the waterfront.
            Good luck

            1. re: BokChoi

              I third the picnic idea. It's definitely more romantic (but not scary/intense romantic) than Pho or Kensington. Plus, if I were you I'd be a bit nervous about going to a restaurant, because even at a relatively cheap one, the bill can add up to $40 awfully quickly once you factor in drinks, tax and tip (what if your date wants to order a second glass of wine and you have to say no?!?).

            1. re: torontofoodiegirl

              on my way out, I noticed my (new) neighbor watering her garden. we struck up conversation and she gladly lent me a few extra dollars.

              We ended up at La St Tropez on King, grabbing a nice seat on the patio with still a little sunlight gleaming down on us. She ordered the stuffed chicken, and I had the pork tenderloin with a delicious blueberry sauce. Both excellent. Skipped dessert, and with tax and tip (including 2 drinks each) we were out of there for under $65. Not bad in my mind.

              we then roamed humber bay park and sat down to watch the sailboats and sunset.

              Extremely enjoyable date, and I'm sure there will be another one soon.

              Any recommendations for next time? (same area of king/spadina would be preferred as she usually is off around 7) - budget of ~$100 is ok?
              Cheers.

              1. re: craigger

                - Le Select at Wellington and Spadina (nice patio if you can catch a good day)
                - Tutti Matti on Adelaide for authentic Tuscan

                And congrats on a successful date #1... sounds like you had a great time!

                1. re: craigger

                  if she's into wine and/or has a good sense of humour, i might suggest the revamped crush.

                  you can do a blind taste test there and if you guess it right, you get it free! it could be an entertaining way to while away some of your after dinner hours.

                  1. re: craigger

                    Niagara Street Cafe, close to King and Bathurst, is excellent. It's pricier but you could probably fit it into your budget if you don't overdo the liquor. It's also cozy, romantic, on a side street.
                    There's also Fressen on Queen West. Granted, your girlfriend may not be vegetarian, but they serve great food and the atmosphere is hip and cozy. Plus, I'd be impressed if a man voluntarily took me to a vegetarian restaurant.

                    1. re: merlot143

                      Niagara St Cafe was just 'meh' for me when I went last time. Granted, I have only been once - but I was not in the least impressed for it to warrant a return visit.

                      I would recommend against it just for the fact that I have had much better food elsewhere for a much more reasonable price. The food was just OK IMO and the price was high for what you get compared to some other 'bistros' around town. As well, unless your date is on a diet, I found the portions to be measley. I was starving after completing my 3 course meal and wondered where I could go to actually have dinner to fill up. I'd recommend paying a tad bit more and going to Nota Bene.

                      If you want good value for a very cheap price point, I'd go with Le Paradis. It's very safe and friendly to the wallet. It's along the same lines as Le St Tropez, except with better food. It's a bit of a drive North, but you mentioned you had a car. It has a nice little Parisian bistro atmosphere to it, and you can request a seat near the kitchen if you want a show, or a nook in the downstairs area if you want to be a bit more removed / romantic. It gets quite busy, so make a reservation ahead of time.

                      Those are just my thoughts. Lots of people on this board love Niagara St Cafe though. I, however, just didn't get it. I rather prefer being full after a meal...

                    2. re: craigger

                      Show you've got a good sense of humour and bring her to Hooters.

                      1. re: grandgourmand

                        It would only be funny if the woman took him there.

                        1. re: merlot143

                          The food wasn't bad at Laide the last time I was there.....or is that more of a third date place?

                          1. re: Snarf

                            Snap!
                            People, just wondering if it’s crossed anyone’s mind that his GF could be a CH’er. If so, he’d be in for a tussle. Quite the guffaw this thread is generating for me though...

                            1. re: BokChoi

                              if you are willing to stroll a bit go to Jamie kennedy wine bar....you can share alot of dishes, it would make for a good 2nd date

                              1. re: pancake

                                JKWB is an excellent chow spot. Could add up quickly though if you show up hungry. Dishes are quite small, but excellently executed. Best fish dish I've had in the city was at JKWB. And unfortunately, you cannot fill yourself up on bread - there's a steep charge for it...last time I went, I had some flatbreads + dips for $7.

                                1. re: BokChoi

                                  As a student (not to mention being only 21 y/o) I think I will save that for (touch wood) a bit bigger occasion than a second date

                                  thanks for ALL of the suggestions though
                                  Cheers.

                                  1. re: craigger

                                    Ahh... Then I will still suggest Le Paradis for a good occassion as the prices are about $17-22 for a main (about on par with Le St Tropez).
                                    And many girls appreciate the thought - so effort is first and foremost the important factor. Picnics, nice sandwiches, themed snack events/evenings, etc. Best of luck. Let us know if you need any further suggestions.

                  2. I'm always a big fan of takeout from the Golden Turtle, a bottle of wine & a picnic in Trinity Bellwoods.

                    1. Well....
                      one of my first dinner dates with my fiancee was at MiMi's for pho. but as a general rule, i would say that pho and chicken wings are the two worst things one can eat while on a date. with Pho, you are slurping, shovelling, etc. gets gross. and chicken wings involves lots of sauce, bone pulling, etc.

                      I would also steer you away from Mexican due to some possible unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects that can occur due to the refried beans.

                      I used to like Kalendar on College st. haven't been there in years, but it was cute and quaint and not expensive.

                      Jules is on Spadina and Queen. its cute and has a patio. I would stay away from King St (Esp at night, when its more of a meat market than a dining experience).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: atomeyes

                        Your experience is similar to mine. I took my now wife to Xe Lua on Spadina on our first date. Most people would recommend against that, but I figured if she was cool with an atypical "date place" and with me drinking beer from a tap with a playboy bunny on it (whatever brand that is), she would likely tolerate my other idiosyncrasies. (In my defense, fancier places followed).

                        I do agree with the Mexican, though. "Unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects" might not help you seal the deal.

                      2. Since you're a student (and perhaps, so is she) could you meet for a late lunch on the weekdays? Gilead Cafe is a really lovely spot, and would be great to hang out for an hour or two with someone. There are walls of windows, so lots of light (albeit one wall looks out onto condo construction), and one wall has preserved fruits and veg as decoration. Weekdays won't be as packed (don't go during lunch hour).