Candles, roses and romance: Find anniversary dinners on a budget

    Although 1835 Hinman’s lavish lettuce garnishes are about as swank as it gets, you’re probably looking for something a bit classier for your relationship anniversary, whether it’s been a year, a quarter or a week. Unfortunately, not everyone can always afford to dine to the nines.

    But that doesn’t mean you should resort to Stir-fry Steve’s creations. We’ve compiled a list of some of Evanston’s tastiest restaurants with romantic potential, so big spenders and cheapskates alike can celebrate monogamy in style.

    High rollers

    $20-40 per entrée, $75 for six-course chef’s tasting menu

    Located at Chicago and Main

    It’s safe to say that Oceanique — ranked the No. 1 seafood restaurant in the Chicago metropolitan area by Zagat for 13 consecutive years — is our closest available fine dining. Wine Spectator Magazine has given Oceanique the Award of Excellence every year since 1994. From brilliantly presented seafood prepared by chef Mark Grosz to the selection of 600 fine wines and the adorable French bistro inspired interior, Oceanique provides the true foodie’s dining experience that may well be worth the extra buck.

    Davis Street Fishmarket
    $18-40 per entree

    Located at Davis and Hinman

    The charming seafood decorations lend a hand to the warm and inviting atmosphere of the Davis Street Fishmarket: there’s nothing quite like enjoying grilled swordfish while a swordfish statue watches from a perch on the wall. The filet mignon in the surf-and-turf options cost a pretty penny, but any meat lover knows this tender cut of beef is well worth it, and any seafood fan will be satisfied with the wide selection of fresh fish and shellfish that the Davis Street Fishmarket offers.

    Just pushing it…

    Photo by the author.

    Vive La Crepe
    $9-20 per entree

    Located at Sherman and Davis

    If you’ve ever wanted to be served ratatouille by a waitress with a French accent, this restaurant is for you. The entrée crepes are nothing to write home about, but where Vive La Crepe shines is dessert (and that’s what crepes are for, aren’t they?). Try any dessert crepe on the menu and thank me later.

    Tapas Barcelona
    $5-8 for tapas, $14-17 per entree

    Located at Chicago and Davis

    Why bother with an entrée? Munch on a huge selection of tapas (a kind of Spanish appetizer) — they can more than constitute a full meal in Tapas Barcelona’s cute outdoor dining room. Choices range from the delicious Aceitunas Rellenas (fried Spanish olives stuffed with chorizo) to the even more scrumptious Chuletitas De Cordero (grilled lamb chops with cous cous, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms and bacon). Honestly, what’s not to like? With Tapas, you can’t go wrong.

    $7-20 per entrée, $10-40 per sushi plate

    Located at Chicago and Davis

    For adventurous types with reliable digestive systems, Koi is the hipster’s go-to place for sushi and Japanese cuisine. Beautifully decorated and offering lavish plates of sushi and sashimi (straight-up raw cuts of fish), Koi can give your date a taste of the high life.


    The Lucky Platter
    $10-15 per entree

    Located at Chicago and Main

    This self-proclaimed “funkalicious post-Hippy eclectic world cuisine” restaurant features entrées inspired by various cultures around the world (when do you ever see Tandoori grilled salmon and Tuscan roasted portabella on the same menu?). The fun, garage-sale-reject décor only adds to the restaurant’s charming, offbeat atmosphere.

    Photo by Ricky Pai / North by Northwestern.

    Flat Top
    $11.99 flat rate for dinner

    Located at Church and Orrington

    Perfect for a fun, relaxed date, the DIY dinners at Flat Top are delicious, and what’s more, you can take credit for it! Pile your own choices of vegetables, noodles, meat and sauce into a bowl, and Flat Top’s chefs will throw it on the grill for you. Get as much as you want (dinner is unlimited for an extra buck) and try turning your stir-fry dish into soup or a wrap. I suggest switching with your significant other and surprising them with a personalized meal prepared by you. As for my own dessert secret, try putting only pineapple into your bowl and have it grilled. Yum! A warm, fruity treat, included in the price of dinner. Bring your WildCard for a discount.

    Thai Sookdee
    $7-10 per entree

    Located at Church and Elmwood

    This charming, delightful Asian restaurant is a reliable source of old favorites like Pad Thai, sweet and sour chicken and yellow, red or green curry. Benches topped with pillows are used in lieu of chairs; it almost feels like you’re eating in the home of an elderly Asian grandmother. Be sure to try the smoothies with tapioca pearls — my favorite flavors are mango and lychee.

    Penny Pinchers

    Photo by Ricky Pai / North by Northwestern.

    Burger King
    $5-8 per meal

    Located at Church and Orrington

    If you’re really in a tight money spot, Burger King always has your back. Why not get dressed up, bring your own white tablecloth, vase, and rose and order off BK’s dollar menu? In any case, if your love is strong enough, something as silly as a Whopper shouldn’t get in the way. Perhaps this year, save money on your anniversary and let your sense of humor and shared love of fast food bring you closer to your honey.

    Armed with these ideas, you should be more than ready to take your sweetheart out for a good tasting time, no matter how much cash you have (or don’t have). Worry not about money, because regardless of whether you’re dining on seared sea scallops, spicy tuna rolls, or a double Whopper with cheese, your special night together should be about just that — being together. Just don’t forget your wallet “in your other pants.”

    Centerpiece photo by alexandrechang on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.


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