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Jan 23, 2018
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Cheap Date

Cheap Date: Saturday in Soulard

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

CheapDate_logoWelcome to Cheap Date, a new online column that takes the stress out of planning your next date. Every other Thursday, Nightlife reviewer Matt Berkley will reveal how you can enjoy all our city has to offer for under (or around) $30.

A fancy night out might be the quintessential romance maker, but it’s hardly the only option for a memorable rendezvous. For as fun as it is, dinner can be superbly overrated and overpriced. A date over breakfast, on the other hand, has some great advantages: novelty, intimacy, affordability, anticipation – hollandaise.


Soulard Coffee Garden

Breakfast and brunch offer the perfect opportunity for decadence on a budget. Forget Starbucks or Uncle Bill’s; St. Louis is teeming with cozy morning spots hidden in plain sight. My personal favorite is Soulard Coffee Garden, an overlooked local gem (with a great patio during the warmer months) that serves as an early morning home to a menagerie of hip kids, retirees and neighborhood regulars who dig the eclectic atmosphere and mismatched coffee cups. I was serious about that hollandaise sauce, and so is the kitchen here. This delightful drizzle is best enjoyed on the overstuffed Pappie’s Omelet (a gorgeous mix of lemon-kissed hollandaise and thick guacamole, coupled with chunks of smoked turkey breast and tomatoes). Fresh home fries come along for the ride, all for only $7.49. Big enough to share, the omelet can be paired nicely with the freshly made Ooh La La French Toast, a concoction of house maple and vanilla batter smothered with whipped cream – another $7.49 steal.


Soulard Farmers’ Market

Linger for an hour or so (depending on your server’s schedule/mood), then – with to-go coffees in hand – head north about four blocks to hit up downtown’s largest outdoor bonanza: Soulard Farmers’ Market. Open every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. all year long, this is the grand-pappy of couples’ spots. Fritter the midmorning away and lose yourselves in the rows of local produce, confections, greenery, butchered (and live) meats, cheap leather goods, jewelry and knickknacks. They even have a pet shop.

Cheap Date: Burgers and Beers

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

CheapDate_logoWelcome to Cheap Date, a new online column that takes the stress out of planning your next date. Every other Thursday, Nightlife reviewer Matt Berkley will reveal how you can enjoy all our city has to offer for under (or around) $30.

As a local, it’s my duty to hide certain things from the masses. But every now and then, it’s also fun to throw some crumbs. Whether you know it or not, St. Louis has a substantial movement of bars with weekly burger specials that are insanely well-priced. And I’m talking 1984 insanely well-priced. They may not be the best burgers in the city, but they’ll fill you up and the eateries where they hide offer some cool pastimes to keep you entertained while you graze. You and the lady feel like slumming it for a night with a burger and a few brews? Here are some joints to get you started:


Bar Louie

Definitely the most well-known (and fashionable, if you hit the Central West End location) of cheap burger nights, Bar Louie offers half-pound monsters for only $1 from 5 p.m., till lights out every Tuesday. Burgers are decent, not amazing. But get there before 7 p.m., and you can grab $3 drafts and $4 glasses of vino to wash it down. Dollar burger and a glass of cheap wine. Oh yeah. 14 Maryland Plaza, St. Louis, 314.678.3385


Fast Eddie’s Bon Air

You know this one had to make it on the list. Do yourself a favor and score a designated driver before making the sojourn over the river to Alton, Ill.. Like all the frozen-in-time prices at this legendary hot spot – a venerable rite-of-passage destination for local drinkers – the half-pound Fat Eddie Burger is served up fast at only 99 cents. Scarf it down and enjoy a few drafts in this pleasantly kid-free, biker-friendly, alcoholic institution where the beers are cold and the music is live (Thursday through Sunday). It’s great for groups of couples. 1530 E. Fourth St., Alton, Ill., 62002


Nick’s Pub

This dark horse is my personal pick. On Wednesday nights, Nick’s drops down the thunder on all pretenders by offering 75-cent burgers after 7 p.m. What’s more, these flame-kissed patties of greatness are by far the best of those mentioned so far. Plus, $5 bottomless cups of “You call it’s” for the ladies and über cheap buckets of domestics. 6001 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.781.7806

Cheap Date: Playing Hooky

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

CheapDate_logoWelcome to Cheap Date, a new online column that takes the stress out of planning your next date. Every other Thursday, Nightlife reviewer Matt Berkley will reveal how you can enjoy the best our city has to offer for under (or around) $30.

With the fall season in the deep throes of a last gasp, now is the time to get outside and enjoy the last of sunny days and crisp, falling leaves. This is prime outdoors romantic couples time, people. There’s just one issue: You’re stuck inside slowly going blind at work. It’s time to make a break for it and take a mental health day. For better results, grab your significant other and coordinate a day off. That way, you’ll both have something nice to remember when the first ice storm rolls in.


Get Outside

Everybody ditches on a Friday. Be crafty and opt for Wednesday instead – less questions that way. Plus, everything is less crowded. It’s a nice preview of what retirement is going to be like. With the leaves turning, head downtown for a mid-morning bike ride through the heart of Forest Park and across Lindell Boulevard to ogle some real estate you’ll never be able to afford. Better yet, take advantage of our top-ranked and totally free Zoo. Yes it’s corny, but it’s also been too long since you’ve last been.


The Meal

For lunch or dinner, head up north to Crown Candy Kitchen, one of the best and cheapest food destinations in St. Louis. It’s also one of the most frequented. Weekends are slammed. That being the case, late afternoon or early evening on a weekday is the best time to avoid the crowds, which have a tendency to line up out the door. This place is a culinary institution for good reason: original turn-of-the-century décor, an out-of-the-way location (Warning: You’ll want to avoid riding your bike there.), and the best Rueben sandwich and biggest “heart-stopping” BLT you’ll ever have – at a price of only $8 a pop. Throw in two enormous hand-dipped malts (Yes, the malts are obligatory, people.), and your tab will be around $25. You’ll have just enough left over to grab a little something for later (read: milk chocolate-molasses puffs, almond toffee, milk chocolate Crown Candy hash).

— BLT photo by Carmen Troesser

Cheap Date: Mussels and a Movie

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

CheapDate_logoWelcome to Cheap Date, a new online column that takes the stress out of planning your next date. Every other Thursday, Nightlife reviewer Matt Berkley will reveal how you can enjoy the best our city has to offer for under (or around) $30.

It’s easy to be lulled. Dinner and a movie; the old fallback. Simple to plan and light on the wallet, right? Yeah, maybe in 1992. These days, with first-run theater prices skyrocketing to compete with the likes of competitors such as DirecTV and Netflix pumping out movies as soon as they can gobble up the rights, trips to the Cineplex are getting fewer and farer between. Which is a shame. Movie dates come off as clichéd, but they have the potential to be a couples’ most memorable. The challenge is to draw out some novelty and make it truly intimate. Thankfully, this need not include an über expensive scheme.


The Flick

When it comes to movies, romance is for suckers. Go for horror instead; the cheaper and campier the better. Whether it’s the bad acting; the cheesy, plastic ex-ray specs; the implausible story line; or the sub-par effects, you’ll both have something to laugh about on the way home. It’s probably been too long since you’ve been to the Tivoli Theatre, which runs a regular series of Reel Late Midnight Movies – classics from the 70s, 80s and 90s that are well worth revisiting for a meager $7 per seat. This weekend showcases the original 1975 Steven Spielberg masterpiece Jaws. Sorry, but if seeing Robert Shaw bitten in half doesn’t say romance, than I don’t know what does. Seriously though, its time you see this one on the big screen.


The Pre-Flick Food

Spend enough time around girls and you’ll figure out a few things. For example: In all honesty, when it comes to dining out, they much prefer appetizers and/or desserts to a main course. Grab this fact and run with it. Before the midnight show, hit up Three Kings Public House, across the street from the Tivoli, and share a delectable starter like the $10.99 mussels and fries – a smart combo of Edward Island mussels and fries with curried caper mayo dipping sauce. Throw in a few beers and you’ll just hit the $30 to $35 range with the movie included.

For a cheaper (and sweeter) option, skip the pub and instead share an oversized ice cream or yogurt creation of your own from Ben & Jerry’s, Cold Stone Creamery or FroYo (each within a block).

— Three Kings photo by David Kovaluk

Cheap Date: A blanket, a bottle of red and a little au jus (on the side)

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

083111_redwineWelcome to Cheap Date, a new online column that takes the stress out of planning your next date. Every other Thursday, Nightlife reviewer Matt Berkley will reveal how you can enjoy the best our city has to offer for under $30.

Some good news for guys: The ladies are much easier to romance than we give them credit for. Any female worth your time can, without hesitation, admit their preference for a slight hint of post-workout man-scent over a strong whiff of ineffectual, designer cologne. Likewise, some imagination, a bit of real taste and a few behind-the-stove skills are of infinitely more value than cookie-cutter dates that overcompensate with shallow, high-priced, “romantic” meals. It’s the difference between being stylish and having actual style.

Simplicity is good. Simplicity and red wine is even better (In reality, anything with red wine is better.). Any respectable restaurant in town will charge you a bare minimum of $20 for a bottle of red – usually more than double what they shelled out to the distributor. Cut out the middle man and opt instead for a store-bought $6 bottle of Yellow Tail Malbec – the dark, robust, monster of Argentinean reds.

Sounds weird, but sandwiches are the ideal comfort food for spur-of-the-moment dates. Not only are they highly mobile, but they also leave lots of room for imagination. If you haven’t been, definitely hit up Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium on South Big Bend Boulevard. Grab three sandwiches: One you think she’d like, one for you, and one communal – plus you might throw in for a house-made cookie. For about $23, you’ll both have plenty to share. And may I suggest Da Dip, a local take on the classic Franco roast beef sandwich, smothered in onions, Swiss cheese and a creamy “tiger” sauce? Do yourself and your date a favor and ask for the au jus on the side.

Outdoor Venue
Rather than feed the ducks from a random picnic patch, opt for a night out with some culture at an idyllic venue like Forest Park or the Botanical Gardens for a free outdoor concert or show. Here, I’ll make it easy: This Friday, smooth out an old blanket on your own piece of real estate on the field just south of the History Museum for the torchlight “calling” of the clans, which sets off the annual St.  Louis Scottish Games and Cultural Festival.

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