It’s the first date.
He steams a crinkled, church jacket and gathers a second-rate bouquet of grocery store flowers and scrambles out the door, praying traffic doesn’t make him late.
She stands in her bathrobe, hair in a towel, make-up half finished, staring at a closet of clothing, with nothing to wear.
He thinks he has everything figured out: his belt matches his shoes, he remembered to shower today and he filled his gas tank.
She packs her lipstick and Tic-Tacs in her clutch handbag when she hears him knock. The couple nervously greets and leaves the girl’s apartment.
There’s no telling if our hero and heroine will like one another. They may connect and laugh and fall in love. Or they might never see one another again. But on this night, Feb. 14, the one night out of the year designated for romance, our new couple will be prepared.
Whether you’re seasoned veterans to the dating realm or taking your crush to dinner for the first time, this guide highlights some of the many date-friendly jewels around Auburn.
For the “big spenders”: A cheap night out on the town. Big thrills, small spends. Easy-going and easy on the pocket book. Here are a few spots to hit Tuesday that won’t break your budget, but are a guaranteed good time.
Dinner: Sheila C’s Burger Barn for thick-cut fries and generously sized portions. It’s located off Shug Jordan Parkway, so no need to fuss and fight for a downtown parking spot.
Dessert: Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar is a great place for soft-serve ice cream cone or a hand-spun chocolate shake. A walk-up style diner bar, Mrs. Story’s has been around for 64 years, and there’s no surprise as to why.
Activity: Stimulus Tuesday at Carmike Theaters happens to be on Valentine’s Day this year, which means candy, popcorn and drinks are only $2 each. Need a movie suggestion? “La La Land” is a romantic movie/musical based in modern day Hollywood and has proven to thrill musical and non-musical loving audiences alike (and has been nominated for 14 Academy Awards).
For the “hipster” couple: Tired of chain restaurants and cliché, Auburn-themed date ideas? You don’t have to drive to Atlanta or Birmingham for quality cocktails, food and culture. Here are some unconventional options right in your backyard.
Activity: Hop in the car and head to Opelika. It’s time to explore downtown. Nestled next to the Lee County Court House on South Ninth Street is Almost Anything: a hodge-podge shop of comic books, posters and vintage video games. Play a few rounds of Mario Cart on Nintendo 64 and browse the record collection. You’re bound to find one or two gems at Almost Anything.
Right outside Almost Anything is the center square of downtown Opelika, with a fountain sitting in the middle. Grab two pennies and make a wish.
Dinner: Down the street is Zazu Gastropub, which moved from its downtown Auburn location last year. Zazu is a three-story, open-style restaurant with a rustic-meets-modern feel. Creative takes on classic southern comforts fill the dinner menu, not to mention their extensive wine selection and 15 craft beers on tap.
Night Cap: Red Clay Brewery sits on Railroad Avenue by John Emerald Distilling Company. The rich-flavored beers and late-night bites make this an appealing spot to settle for the remainder of the evening, but the ping-pong, corn-hole and card games keep things interesting.
For the new couple: Don’t be nervous. You have the perfect guide for an evening that’s well-paced and plenty of fun.
Drinks: The Depot is known for its fresh seafood selection, but its cocktail menu is not to be overlooked. Sit at the bar with your date and go through “get-to-know-you” questions over a craft beverage. The sprawling bar sits at the head of the restaurant, which is draped in a 1920s, speak-easy design: the windows cloaked in deep, red velvet curtains and the waiters sporting full aprons. The place is a talking point in and of itself.
Dinner: Next stop, The Hound. Be sure to make a reservation because tables here go quickly. It’s well worth it. From bacon wrapped dates to bison burgers, The Hound’s dinner menu is an experimental twist on southern classics.
Activity: Head to Waverly for some country tunes from Will Johnson and Early James and the Latest. Standard Deluxe is hosting the bands in their “little house,” starting at 8 p.m. You can check out the bands and buy tickets here.
No couple needs to go far for a memorable, adventurous or affordable date on Valentine’s Day.
Here’s to diving headfirst into Valentine’s Day, approaching that daunting day with confidence and poise, and leaving it with a full belly and fun memories (and maybe even a second date).