Story by Ali Garza
Photos by Claire Schaper, Ashley Ephraim and Miranda Chiechi
The usual agenda on a Saturday night with your significant other usually consists of your recent Netflix obsession, food cravings, cuddles or trying not to be lazy and get out of that apartment. These acts are typical and on repeat, but what if one night you want to stray away from that ordered in pizza, that late night Whataburger run, or that attempt at a home cooked meal?
For those couples that want to drift out of their comfort zone without dipping too far into their savings, because every penny counts for a college student, there are some great places to relax, drink, and enjoy.
To satisfy everyone’s cravings we have a few affordable restaurants that will supply you with a meal that is magnificent for the price. Not only is the food delicious, but there are a variety of atmospheres so that you can find one just right for whatever date night you’re looking for.
If you want a classic Italian meal with romantic lighting, wine, and tons of delicious cheese, Boticelli’s is your place. If you’re looking for a smaller area with a chill atmosphere and amazing Japanese food, head to Koriente. Lastly, if you’re looking for twinkly lights and some filling appetizers to pair with a glass of wine before you head to that movie, Winebelly will suit you.
Boticelli’s on South Congress was my first stop. Of course, it is a bit difficult to find a good parking spot on South Congress. But, if you’re patient, you might be lucky to find a spot right in front of the restaurant. I arrived there around 7 p.m. and there was no wait list. There were plenty booths and tables open in the front, but they also had a seating area outside and in the back.
The lights are dimmed and give off a red-orange shade to the room. Long red drapes hang from the ceiling pushed off to the side. They separate the kitchen area from the front entrance, but still give the view of the food being made. The night I went, three tables were placed in the middle and there were two booths off to each side. To top off the romantic “Italian night” atmosphere, you see the wine bar right after you walk in.
Prices on the menu are mid-range, from $11 to $30 which is quite affordable for South Congress. I ordered the Butternut Squash Ravioli, which was amazing. My boyfriend ordered the Classic Lasagna. It was easy to see that both dishes were homemade and a nice size for the price matched with it. To get a second opinion I spoke with a customer, Diane Milliken, to hear her ideas on the restaurant. “I like the atmosphere, very tiny place, very retro in the decorations and not too many people,” Diane says.
Second on my list was the Japanese gem, Koriente. A small, relaxing place on East 7th Street, surrounded by a garden that is nurtured by the owner. Not being able to go to the restaurant in midday to see the beautiful garden in the daylight was unfortunate, but the hard work that is put into the garden is still evident at night. They had their own pay-to-park parking lot right behind the restaurant, which was convenient.
The menu is placed over the cash register and a friendly staff member greets you at the door when you walk in. Paintings and cute art are scattered around the restaurant next to the tables and windows. There is seating inside, and there is also an outside porch with picnic-style tables.
They have a good selection of noodles, chicken, beef, fish, greens, and of course, the necessary Miso soup. The most expensive dish on the menu is $11, which is amazing considering the plentiful dish size you receive. Most of us couldn’t finish our meals and had to get a to-go-box for home. “It was just a good place to get stuff off your mind and have some comfort food,” junior communication major, Sofia Mendiola says.
Last on our list was the Tapas and Wine Bar, Winebelly. This destination is a farther away from campus on West Oltorf, but definitely worth trying. It’s a bit smaller than expected based on the pictures on their website, but the bar top displayed on the cover of the website, was inviting. To the side are some booths and tables, and in the back is an adorable patio with fans and lights hanging above -- a perfect setting for a nice day in Austin.
Ordering at the restaurant reminded me of being in Spain and going to a charming Tapas Bar after a long day of walking. In this case, it was perfect place to grab a bite after a day full of classes and studying. Since it was happy hour, original prices were cut down, so three drinks and two good sized tapas only cost $20.
Each restaurant gave off its own lively essence. Some date nights call for a reason to dress up or just go in comfortable clothing. Each of these restaurants gave you a chance for either. Being out on a weeknight or weekend to enjoy a good meal with your partner or your best friend always makes for a day well spent. And let’s not forget about the amazing prices! The only guilty feeling you will experience while you’re driving home from this date night is how much you ate.