If you’re looking for a nice spot to enjoy a satisfying date night meal but you’re on a tight budget, Tampa Bay is the perfect area to do so. The dining choices are as diverse as the city’s population, featuring options that range from contemporary American and classic Italian fare to less common (but equally delicious) Ethiopian, Asian or Caribbean cuisine. Here are three Tampa Bay spots that won’t break the bank.
Nestled in the North Tampa area, just a couple miles away from the University of South Florida’s campus, you’ll find a relaxed little nook where patrons come to drink tea, eat healthy, and be zen. It’s called Kaleisia Tea. Once you step inside, you’ll discover a pleasant blend of students, professionals and older patrons coming together over bubble tea. You and your date can sit cross legged on the ground in the tea room, or dine at a regular table.
Try a classic tea drinks with boba or a fruit or creamy smoothies with a gluten-free salad, turkey sandwich or a brie and pear sandwich. If you want a heartier meal, their set meals come with tea, an appetizer (spring rolls) an entree (like noodles and tofu) and a delicious dessert (like chocolate cupcakes with matcha green tea or vanilla frosting). thetealounge.com/
Tea drinks: $3.00 (2)
Turkey Panini mea: $7.50
Curried Chicken Salad: $7.50
Brownie filled cookie $1.25
cupcake: $ 2
= $27.25 (+ tip)
Set meal: $12 (2)
=$24 (+ tip)
Jamaican Tropicale by Jerk Hut
In the heart of downtown Tampa, right off of Franklin Street, you can pop into Jerk Hut’s Jamaican Tropicale for a beautiful night of Caribbean food, then dance the night away to live reggae music. On most nights, you could blow past $25 easily on one meal and a drink. But on Friday nights, however, you’re in for a deal. Jamaican Tropicale hosts their weekly Rum Festival, which includes live music, a buffet and included rum punch drink. From 7pm until midnight, you can eat your fill of jerk chicken, curried chicken, plantains, rice and peas, steamed cabbage and much more! Need something sweet? Mr. Penguin is just a few minutes away.You can cap the night with a cool soft serve cone or delicious salted caramel gelato. jerkhut.com/
Buffet: $10 (x2) + tip
The Tutored Chef
If you and your date are up for trying something experimental with a promise of a full meal for dirt cheap, you have to make your way to The Tutored Chef. To provide a reference point for cheap, this restaurant has offered a fettuccine and smoked salmon meal for $5.95, but the quality is top-notch and they consistently gets rave reviews.
How’s this possible? The restaurant is run by students at the The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Tampa–but don’t let that make you uneasy. It’s still led by professional chefs serving up gourmet dishes. You can watch the action as the students prepare the food behind a glass window. 100 percent restaurant, but also 100 percent classroom.
The menu and even the hours can change from semester to semester, so you must call ahead to make a reservation and get seating. Currently, The Tutored Chef serves dinner from 6pm to 7:45pm Monday through Wednesday. And while the menu fluctuates, you could look toward a night of meals based off of this previous semester’s menu:
Fricassee Chicken with Basmati Rice: $5.95
Tutored Chef Artisan Burger:$6.95
Citrus Pinache: $3.95
Flourless Chocolate Cake: $3.95
= $20.80 (+ tip)
Feature image credit: The Jerk Hut