You’ve asked the question, “want to grab drinks?” and they answered ‘yes!’ Now what? An initial feeling of excitement about a first date can be followed by a wave of anxiety when trying to figure out where to go. Are we doing dinner or just drinks? Inside or outside? Do we want to dress up or be comfy in jeans and a T-shirt? What time of day? Brainstorming options, you start to wonder, ‘Can I even afford a worthy first date?’ Hopefully we can answer some of these questions.
Charleston is a city full of diverse destinations and hidden treasures, so it’s time you start using that to your advantage. Money is of course a factor, but you don’t have to break the bank to make a stellar first impression. Here, we provide a daily guide detailing the affordable Charleston options guaranteed to impress on your next first date (which hopefully leads to a second):
*Price Guide: Cheap AF ($); Moderate, but nothing crazy ($$)
The “Monday Funday” half- price sushi deal at Locals in Mt. Pleasant is rare in that it doesn’t skimp on quality. Expect a wait, but see this as a positive, as it provides a chance to exchange initial pleasantries while sipping on a local beer. Live music outside and chatter throughout the restaurant provide a natural and relaxed atmosphere for you and your guest to get to know each other.
Trade your tired “Taco Tuesday” date idea for $2 local canned beer at the Alley. Bowling, which is also just $2 on Tuesday, can be a fun way to break the ice, and the elevated bar food at the Alley offers something to nibble on between rolls. If you’re stuck on the taco idea, Revelry Brewing is the spot. Two-dollar tacos, a variety of beers, and a dog-friendly outdoor roof deck could make this the ultimate first date setting.
Quaint all-day cafe 60 Bull takes advantage of its location on the corner of Bull and Smith in Harleston Village to offer guests a residential feel with an ambiance to match the time of day. At night, low warm lighting highlights a wall of wine bottles — selections over $30 are half-price on Wednesdays. Dinner plates like braised short ribs and crispy duck along with the neighborhood vibe offer a more personal evening that shows your guest you made a thoughtful location choice.
Rather not wine down on Wednesday? Check out the crisp brews at Charles Towne Fermentory. This Avondale tap room brews refreshing hits like the Pineapple Sungazer IPA. Darts, foosball, and astonishingly cheap Spanish bites from pop-up Castejons, who take part in “Tapas and Trivia” at the brewery each Wednesday, make this a fun and engaging first date destination.
Downtown’s Persimmon Cafe doubles as a laundromat and is often filled with students, but don’t let that deter you from checking out their Thursday “Date Night.” For just $20, you and your date can get two sandwiches, two sides, two drinks, and one custard to share (Aw!). For those who desire a more formal but equally quirky option: Check out Harold’s Cabin’s Thursday half-price burger night. Dining in the Westside eatery almost feels as if you are having a home cooked meal, and the rooftop garden provides an intimate escape before or after dinner.
Workdays tend to finish before 5 p.m. on Fridays in Charleston, so an earlier first date may be in order. One spot that’s sure to impress is Indaco, where you’ll find guests sipping on wine over refined Italian bites. Furthermore, the 5-7 p.m. happy hour barely feels like one, as diners can find half-price full pizzas, $5 appetizers, and $4 Peronis, making the date more casual than the atmosphere implies. If you’d rather just grab some oysters and a drink with your date, sidle up at a table or the copper bar at Rappahannock, where $1 late afternoon oysters provide an edible “activity” while you chat.
Just steps away from the main strip of King Street, Spanish tapas restaurant Barsa is busy, but not packed to the point of being unable to get in on a Saturday night. There’s never a lull in the action when testing the reasonably priced tapas, and guests preoccupied in a conversation aren’t forced to make a rushed order all at once, as small dishes are constantly coming out of the kitchen. If you and your date are ready for sharing, the paella is authentic with the added bonus of being half-price during a daily happy hour. If you’d rather spend your Saturday near the beach, check out Jack of Cups Saloon on Folly. This option errs on the side of adventure with dishes (all under $13) like green curry mac and cheese and chickpea Chana masala. Pair with an affordable local beer before taking a sunset stroll on the beach.
Daytime dates aren’t for everyone, but Sunday is a day for brunch in Charleston, meaning you could make an exception. Whimsical options like fruity pebble pancakes along with mimosas on tap make Daps Breakfast & Imbibe an option that you will simply feel “cool” suggesting. Nearly the entire menu is under $15, and there’s a patio in the back if you want to enjoy some midday sun with your date.
If you’re after a more social atmosphere, The Pour House on James Island features live music during the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market, which runs from the late morning to early afternoon and has a rotating cast of local vendors and food trucks.
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