Author: Hope S. Philbrick
It’s easy to be frugal and thoughtful at the same time when planning a date night in Athens, Georgia. Make a good impression and have fun without emptying your wallet at these restaurants where great vibes, amazing food, and fantastic drinks are standards. Since one person’s cheap is another’s expensive, how did we decide what’s a bargain? All the restaurants on this alphabetical list have plenty of satiating entrées on their dinner menus for under $15. Bon appétit, y’all!
- Cali N Tito’s offers outdoor dining with a lively, authentically-Latin American vibe at its East Side and Lumpkin Street (cash only) locations. The menu is loaded with south-of-the-border options from Cuban sandwiches to Mexican burritos, empanadas to ceviche, but the fish taco most consistently lures fans to return again and again—and it’s $3.95!
- Clocked! uses organic and natural ingredients in all its fresh cooked-to-order fare. The diner’s menu presents over a dozen ways to top a beef, black bean, falafel, or vegan patty for under $10, including ‘Bronco!’ loaded with cheese, bacon, onion ring, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and house-made BBQ sauce. Creative shakes and malts like Cheerwine, PBJ, and mocha are hard to resist.
- Grindhouse Killer Burgers prices even its award-winning double-stack style burgers well under $10, so add sides, drinks—psst, the Grindhouse lager is $2 a pint!—and you may still have funds for a handspun milkshake or malt for dessert. The rooftop sports bar and patio, available for adults age 21+, is the go-to spot for pre- and post-game festivities.
- The Grit is out to prove that vegetarian fare can satisfy all kinds of eaters with its fresh, simple, wholesome dishes like veggie plates, noodle bowls, tabouli salad, and more. Even vegan and gluten-free diners will fall in love with this menu, the generous portions, the value prices, and the restored historic building that houses the restaurant.
- The Royal Peasant Pub is a cozy, British-style pub that pours some of the United Kingdom’s best draft and craft bottle beers alongside English fare with upscale twists. From vegetable curry to lamb burger, bangers & mash to fish & chips, this menu affordably covers all the bases.
- Saucehouse Barbecue sets a jovial mood with its biergarten-style patio. Grab a half-rack of ribs or dig into a quarter- or half-pound of tender pulled pork, sliced brisket, or chopped chicken served with your pick among a lavish assortment of sides. Nine different sauces from sweet molasses to hot vinegar to mustard ensure you’ll find a favorite.
- Seabear Oyster Bar is a lively neighborhood gathering spot that’s made Condé Nast Traveler’s list of ‘Where in the World to Eat.’ Seasonal ingredients are sourced with an emphasis on local and sustainable for scrumptious dishes like crab & shrimp cakes, scallop fried rice, and green curry mussels. Desserts like key lime pie and molten chocolate cake are sweet to share.
- South Kitchen + Bar boasts an award-winning menu with creations like iron skillet tots tossed in duck fat and veggie burgers with house-made tempeh. With two sommeliers and craft-beer experts on staff, the service level is high here. Look for the BYOV (build your own veggie) plate where you can choose three sides for $12—and note that fried chicken is one of the side options!
- Ted’s Most Best, a casual place tucked into a previous tire storage garage, features a spacious patio with a bocce ball court. The kitchen consistently proves that simple can be excellent, with its bargain-priced artisan pizzas and calzones, pastas, salads, and paninis. Equally impressive is the beer and wine selection.
- Viva! Argentine Cuisine is a quaint space decorated with local art and fresh flowers on each table. You could make a meal by sampling picks among the mouthwatering array of empanadas and cupcakes, but combos like beef tenderloin or shrimp atop black beans, mashed potatoes, or crispy fries with tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and chimichurri sauce are hard to resist.
- Schedule a dinner date before 6 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays at Hilltop Grille—say something sweet like, “I can’t wait until the weekend to see you!” to rack up some bonus points—and you’ll save $4 off any entrée, which gets you under $15 for Southern comfort favorites like fried catfish at this romantic restaurant.
- George’s Lowcountry Table, an upscale full-service restaurant, offers two prime rib dinners for $35 on Thursdays. Add a bottle of house red or white wine for $10.
Spend More Time Together, on the Cheap
Beyond foodie fun, options abound to extend your time together without spending a whole lot of cash. Here are some budget-friendly ideas for fun around Athens:
- Head to any of Athens’ six craft breweries to learn how beer is made, taste an assortment of styles, or just hang out among beer enthusiasts and curiosity-seekers from near and far. Tours, sampling opportunities, and events like live musical performances, food truck rallies, and new release parties are routinely on tap alongside delicious brews at Terrapin Brewery, Southern Brewing Company, Akademia Brewing, Creature Comforts Brewing, Normaltown Brewing, and Athentic Brewing.
- Take a hike. Whether you prefer a vigorous workout or meandering through nature, there’s a trail worth exploring—and holding hands along—for free.
- Discover the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a stellar 313-acre collection of flowers, plants, and even birds—all with no admission fee.
- Tour the Georgia Museum of Art, home to over 10,000 works of art. It’s free!
- Bike The Firefly Trail, a free-to-use, multi-use, rails-to-trail route with a bridge over Trail Creek.