Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Inexpensive Dates: Let's Start Downtown

Seems to me that dating on the cheap, which is far different than a cheap date, actually requires more thought, more research and a willingness to have fun that is not wholly dependent upon alcohol. Not only that but it accomplishes something that I think is very cool: it shows a lot about the person who planned the date. It lets someone see how creative you are, what interests you and what secrets you know about the city in which you live. So yes, you can impress your lady or gentleman by taking them to a fancy restaurant overlooking the water. But when it comes to dating, especially in LA, that's a little ho-hum compared to what probably would cost you a fraction of the price.

Have a drink by the pool at Hotel Figueroa
In other words, LA does not have to be cost prohibitive when you're going on a date. In fact in doing my research, I've been told of so many good inexpensive dating ideas in so many different parts of town that I can't fit it all into one post. So I'm breaking them into neighborhoods. God willing, by the time I'm done, I will have covered everywhere from Downtown to Santa Monica (and all that is in between).

To begin, let's start with the egg. Eventually we'll get to the chicken.

On a 2nd date at Mo-Chica. They were nice enough to pose for a picture. Aren't they cute?
Downtown LA, depending where you are, can be pure sexy. I truly believe this. If a dinner date is what you had in mind, there are a bunch of places that won't break the bank. I'm a huge fan of Mo-chica, an outstanding Peruvian restaurant on 7th between Grand and Olive, that has been written up on just about every best list LA has to offer. I recommend splitting one of their ceviches (like the Albacore or Yellowtail - $14). Entrees are usually 14 or 15 bucks each and the quality could easily be found at any fancy dancy restaurant anywhere in the world. Not the choices though - the menu is outrageously special and particular to the chef and owner Ricardo Zarate. Mo-Chica is authentic and a true gem of the city.

One of their more unique dishes and my absolute favorite is the Estofado de Alpaca - that's alpaca stew. 100% outstanding. And how often do you eat Alpaca? I mean, really, talk about an icebreaker. (tip: if for some reason you find yourself hungry any day between 2:30 and 5pm, you get a 20% discount off your entire bill).

I think fun can also be had going to Wurstkuche and The Pie Hole for a 1-2 punch.

They're across the street from each other in the Arts District, a block away from Little Tokyo. Even though you can't make a ressie at Wurstkuche and there's usually a line, it's okay. You might have fun chatting while on queue (I'm English now) and once you get inside you get to eat delicious crazy sausage (they have rattlesnake & rabbit sausage, I'm serious) fantastic fries and there's beer on tap... Classic type sausages (like the brat) go for 6 bucks and the real exotic types go for 8. It's also a fun communal kind of hang out. In other words, it's usually buzzing and hopping inside and at night there's a dj.

Once you're done with dinner, you might want to get some fresh air, walk across the street, and dig on some pie. The Pie Hole, open until 11, has great pie and coffee. Mmmm... pie and coffee. Sweet pie slices are 6 and under. And just so you know, The Pie Hole also serves savory pies. Those cost 6.75 or less. So, if sausage ain't your thing, make it pie for dinner. Frankly I see this restaurant as a win-win situation.

Over on Fig, you can pop into Colori.

Colori Kitchen
Well, you can't really pop in unless your plan is to wait on line for an hour. Trust me and make a ressie. This place is popular because it's cheap and GOOD. So there's a bit of hustle and bustle, but it's excellent for a reasonably priced totally autentico Italian dinner. (they have a bone in NY steak for 22 dollars that is delicious. Personally though, I'm much more into Risotto ai Funghi di Bosco for 15 bucks. Molto bene).

Afterwards, the Hotel Fig really isn't that far away. Stop by for a nightcap. I do think this is one of the more romantic hotels in the city with the lights, the pool, the Moroccan design...

Cozy up, snuggle up, get a room...?

For things that have NOTHING to do with eating and drinking...

During the daytime, it might be fun to go window shopping on Olvera Street, see what's what. Get a taste of old LA.
Olvera Street
And do one of those Angels Flight flights on Hill to Grand for only 50 cents a pop. Why not, right? You can take a nice walk at the top, around The Disney Concert Hall, which I think is one of the most stupendous structures on the planet. And if it's Thursday, MOCA is free from 5 to 8pm.

When it gets nice and cold outside - December? - think about iceskating in Pershing Square.
Carlos & Ellen, Pershing Square, on a date
That's on Olive & 5th. The price to rent the skates is $8 and you'll have to shell out 1 buck for a locker. There's music playing, other lovers out in the rink, families too... it's all a pretty sweet deal and atmosphere. And might I add that cold weather is a great excuse to put your arm around someone to keep them warm. If you think this isn't a good idea because you're a klutz, I relate. But something you should realize is that nervousness and the mere fact you're trying is very endearing. Besides, what someone does when you do fall is a good sign whether they're the right one for you. Am I right? I put this up there in the category of Worth The Risk.

Maybe afterwards, to soothe all those sore muscles from the ice, how 'bout getting a couple's massage?
Pho Siam
Pho Siam is in a weird location, near Chinatown and really close to Echo Park. Though the neighborhood is nothing to write home about, inside is a little oasis where these wonderful Thai women knead you around like pretzel dough until you're as relaxed as a lotus petal floating on water. Because it's a couple's massage you might want to have a certain comfort level with your paramour. But let's face it, you're almost naked, side by side, getting a rubdown. What more do you need? Barry White on the ster-e-o? A couple's massage is $50 per person. While I don't think that cost is too high - especially for the quality of what you're receiving - if your budget is say 30 bucks for the two of you for the whole night, this just will not do.

So how about something for free? If you think ahead or happen to be reading this the 2nd Thursday of whatever month you're in...

The Last Bookstore, 2nd Floor, Art Walk
Check out LA's Downtown Artwalk. I'm a HUGE fan (you'll find many posts about it here). It is so much fun, walking around, popping your head into this gallery or that...
Holding hands, looking at art. There ain't nothin wrong with that.
Maybe you want to cap the evening off with something sweet? How about while trolling around the galleries you check out Big Man Bakes, my favorite cupcake downtown. Or perhaps get a late night nibble at Nickel Diner.

My husband in front of The Nickel Diner. Photo by Carlos Michel.
In fact, that was the first date my husband and I went on when we got back together after the big break-up and before the big marriage. We kissed on the corner of something and something, popped into The Nickel Diner because he knew I liked bacon, and we sat across from one another, staring into each other's eyes, over a maple bacon doughnut ($2.75). Nothing spells romance like bacon. I really mean that.

Next stop, Echo Park.


Mo-chica is at 514 W. 7th Street, LA, CA 90014. 213-622-3744. If you have a KCRW card, you get %15 off (excluding alcohol).
Wurstkuche is at 800 East 3rd Street, LA, CA 90013. 213-687-4444. If you have a KCRW card, you get 15% off (including alcohol).
The Pie Hole is at 714 Traction Ave., LA, 90013. 213-537-0015.
Colori Kitchen is at 429 West 8th Street and 800 Figueroa Street, LA, CA, 90014.
Figueroa Hotel is at 939 South Figueroa Street, LA, CA 90015. 213-627-8971.
Olvera Street is about 2 blocks from City Hall.
Pershing Square is at 532 South Olive Street, LA, CA 90013.
Pho Siam is at 1525 Pizarro Street, LA, CA 90026. Call to book an appointment at 213-484-8484.
LA Downtown Artwalk's website
Big Man Bakes is at 413 South Main Street, LA, CA 90013. 213-617-9100.
Nickel Diner is at 524 South Main Street, LA, CA 90013. 213-623-8301.

Parking downtown can be a bit of a pain in the butt. You can though drive around for lots and probably stumble upon a decent price. If possible, think of taking the Metro line. Check HERE for more information.


No comments:

Post a Comment