Totally Doin’ It with Art and Emily: Cheap Date Night at Zeno

This week we went to Zeno Cafe‘s Tuesday night Cheap Date Night. For $30, they will give you an appetizer, a salad, a dessert, a bottle of wine, and two tickets to the nearby Lagoon Cinema.

Art’s Part

I’d been to Zeno seven or eight times before I went for the cheap date night. None of those times had done a good job of convincing me that Zeno was capable of cheap: the food is delicious, the ambiance is classy-casual, and the prices are set thusly. So, for a special occasion or when I’m pretending I don’t care how much money I spend, I’m thrilled to go to Zeno. But as a cheap date? I’m skeptical.

Which is why, when Emily noted that Zeno indeed has a special labeled “Cheap Date Night,” I jumped at the chance to go. Thirty dollars for an appetizer, a salad, a dessert, a bottle of wine, and a couple movie tickets? You could easily pay that much for just a bottle of wine at a place like Zeno. But, like all things, it was a little too good to be true.

After it was all added up, it was much closer to $40, which is actually a moderate-to-high-priced date on the Art and Emily scale. I certainly can’t afford to drop $20 on myself for a Tuesday night date every week. (What will Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights say? Where, then, would be the money for them?)

It was also wonderful to see a movie afterwards. After paying the bill, it was nice to go and receive another two hours of entertainment without taking out my wallet again (for a $9 ticket!). But if you’re like me and you drink a lot of tea or coffee during the day, you probably tend to break the proverbial seal around 2 p.m., which means you’ll have to be strategic about how you handle that half a bottle of wine waiting impatiently in your bladder for two hours.

But if you can get past my crotchety, “cheap means cheap” complaints about the extra five dollars a person and my old man bladder, you really should try this out. The wine is drinkable, and the food is characteristically delectable. I may recommend eating a slightly larger or slightly later lunch than normal, as the three courses are individual servings intended to be shared (or consumed by the more assertive of the two of you), but I didn’t and I was fine. Plus you get to eat at Zeno, which is always a great time.

Emily’s Part

I decided to walk to Zeno (about two miles from my apartment), and because I always overestimate walking times and Art was a bit late, I spent about twenty minutes chugging water (it was hot outside) and taking in the atmosphere.

The first thing I noticed is that the staff of Zeno is mostly made up of impossibly beautiful, well-groomed men. (Even Art agreed. It was ridiculous.) I mean, I was excited to see Public Enemies because I was going to get to spend 2+ hours looking at Johnny Depp and Christian Bale (who I’ve had a major crush on since Newsies), but damn.

Anyway, Art eventually arrived, and we got right down to the business of ordering because we needed to be at the theater in an hour.

Ordering from the “date night” menu, we went with a Cabernet Sauvignon (rather tasty, though I’m no wine critic), baked clams (an automatic winner because they were served in a giant bowl of what was basically garlic butter), a spinach salad (their advertising and signage doesn’t say that a salad is included, so hooray, bonus salad!) and a raspberry sucree (eh).

All in all, I wasn’t overly excited by the food (though there were a lot of other items on the menu I’d love to try that go on special on other nights), but it was definitely tasty and a fun way to share a meal. It was also, at least for me, a perfect size for a meal (I felt full but not like I wanted to die), though I suspect that Art wouldn’t have said no to a sandwich after we’d finished.

One thing I did find problematic was that because dessert was included (and because I didn’t want to spend any more money), I felt too guilty to get Raisinettes. And a move is not a movie without Raisinettes.

But besides that glaring problem, it was a very pleasant evening, though you may want to steer clear of bringing a man with a hearty appetite. In fact, this special might even be better suited for a “date” with a girlfriend. That, or you can just distract the hungry man by taking him to a movie with more machine gun fire than I’ve ever seen. That works too.

1 Comment so far

  1. doniree on July 8th, 2009 @ 8:27 am

    I have only been to Zeno once (an awkward second date… I think…), but I remember the baked clams and the garlic butter they were served in – AWESOME. I didn’t know they did a date night, so Em… anytime you want to go ogle some mancandy (ahem… I mean… share a bottle of wine and some dinner), I’m game!



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