Date night—an institution key to any relationship, a crucial time to escape the noise and distractions of home and work life. An opportunity to nostalgically reconnect with those simpler, dopamine-filled days of courtship that led you to this moment—romantically carving out time together on your mutual Google calendar.
Our most frequented local haunts (Lampo, Oakhart Social, Brasserie Saison, and C&O Restaurant, to name a few) are prime wining + dining locations, but after a couple months of such outings, our bank accounts start to look a little ... drained.
So, for the sake of economic sustainability without the sacrifice of great food, our top local spots (in no particular order) that make it easy to do date night for two under 50 bones:
1. Fry's Spring Station - An undercover, neighborhood favorite of ours for both dining in + taking out, this converted garage in Fry's Spring features from-scratch pizzas (homemade mozzarella or bust), a great beer list, live music on Thursdays + Sundays, and plenty of outdoor seating. Plan date night for a Wednesday and enjoy all bottles of wine at half price.
2. Monsoon Siam - If you're a Thai food fan and live in Charlottesville, this place is already on your list. Located off the Downtown Mall on E Market St, its endearing, walled-in front patio adorned with bistro and rope lights is perfect during the warmer months. Most dishes are under $15 and both vegetarians + carnivores can rejoice over an equitably split menu. As a crew who admittedly skews heavily towards the latter culinary camp, the flavors and textures of the tofu + veggie-only options quickly made us forget they are sans-meat unit. Pro Tip: Monsoon margaritas are bomb and pair surprisingly well with Pad Thai.
3. Firefly - Outdoor seating? Check. Arcade games? Check. Classic bar food? Check. There's something about the vibe at Firefly that keeps bringing us back (insert predictable moth to the flame reference here). We also don't know of any other place in town where one can order mead by the glass, if one happens to have the hankering (Game of Thrones season is upon us, after all). We also can't ignore the inspiring, bittersweet origins of the place - "In May of 2014, a cancer diagnosis led Mark to follow his dream of opening a bar + restaurant that combines craft beer, great food, and gaming. Though Mark is no longer with us, his spirit and vision lives on at FIREFLY."
4. Boylan Heights - Sure, it's on the Corner but hot damn - those burgers! Part of what makes Boylan special is we only really go during the summer when school's out and the student crowd dies down. That said, when those build-your-own burger scantron sheets call to us August through May, we can't help but brave the sea of undergrads and check our pride at the door as a neon clad 21-year-old interrogates us about our weathered IDs. Don't ever change, Boylan.
5. Whiskey Jar - What already feels like a Cville classic after only five years, Whiskey Jar is perfect for low key dinner on Tuesday night (fried chicken + collards), brown water explorations on Friday night (best accompanied by fried chicken + collards), and recovery brunch on Sunday (studies show fried chicken + collards is particularly absorbent of moral hangovers). Incidentally, Whiskey Jar also happens to be one of our favorite cozy spots for catching live music on the downtown mall. Delightful Southern food with a focus on all things local and hearty, we recommend (in addition, of course, to a judicious helping of friend chicken + collards) the hush puppies or fried oysters to start, followed by a BBQ platter. Also, definitely a restaurant to follow on social media - they've sparked more than one spontaneous date night decision with a well-timed and photographed menu special.