As a married couple who loves food, every dining-out experience is a special date. We even have a particular strategy whenever we plan and embark on our dates.
Usually, we seek a delicious meal that appeals to our almost-anything-goes tastes, a free activity we can enjoy in the same area before or after our food, then an option for a simple-yet-satisfying dessert at another nearby location.
Recently, a friend and former coworker sought our foodie travels insight for some new date ideas. That got us thinking: Those ideas would be great to share with everyone! Now that we’ve had more time to consider what we most enjoy, here are some of our favorite dates in western North Carolina and South Carolina, where we live and do the majority of our adventuring!
Eat: We adore the super-creative tacos and eclectic space you find at White Duck Taco, and they recently moved their River Arts District location to a new, even hipper space!
Before/After: Even if you’re not a major bookworm, checking out Malaprop’s at 55 Haywood Street in downtown is a must. If that’s still not your cup of tea, explore the beautiful nearby Basilica of Saint Lawrence at 97 Haywood Street, where you can marvel at the architecture after lighting a candle.
Extra Indulgence: Have dessert in a double-decker bus at Double D’s Coffee & Desserts at 41 Biltmore Avenue, or share a divine pie flight at not-too-far-away Baked Pie Company.
Eat: We don’t eat at Italian restaurants often, but The Open Kitchen is a rare exception. Everything we’ve had there is outstanding, and the atmosphere inside makes you feel like you’ve left the South altogether. There’s a good reason this place has been here since 1952.
Before/After: Down South Boulevard, there’s a treasure trove of entertainment delight at a neat place called Manifest Discs, where you can browse a seemingly endless selection of vinyl and CDs, film and television DVDs, pop culture paraphernalia, and much, much more.
Extra Indulgence: Delight in a fancy treat at Amelie’s French Bakery, which has multiple locations. We prefer the NODA (North Davidson) spot since it has its own parking lot.
Forest City, N.C.
Eat: If it’s early in the day, step back in time and enjoy the breakfast or lunch counter at The Fountain at Smith’s Drugs at 139 E. Main Street. If it’s later, settle in for a burger, an “adult grilled cheese” or another delicious menu selection at The Copper Penny. We also enjoy the wide array of barbecue and Southern sides at The Shak, where you might even catch some live music.
Before/After: Have some fun playing games at the Carolina Arcade Museum at 145 E. Main Street! Take a little extra cash with you, just to be prepared.
Extra Indulgence: Sample a slice of pie or cheesecake, or try another treat at The Pie Safe Baking Co. at 102 W. Main Street.
Eat: A great meal in a beautifully simple country space awaits you at the Carolina Café, where we especially recommend the beef medallions and the shrimp and grits.
Before/After: Of course, there’s the Prime Outlets, or the “Yellow Mall” as many locals call it. But if you like thrift shopping, an alternative is the Bargain Shoes at 507 Windslow Avenue, which sells much more than shoes at discount prices in its large space right off Interstate 85.
Extra Indulgence: Get one or several of the old-fashioned donuts (classic, chocolate, blueberry, etc.) at Sunny’s Donuts, which you’ll find alongside a small local gas station by the same Sunny’s name.
Eat: If you’re OK with spending and dressing up just a bit more, Webb Custom Kitchen offers a fully delicious menu in a beautifully restored former theater that now screens classic cinema on a large screen. As a starter, we recommend the duck cigars for a unique experience.
Before/After: Just a few miles from downtown sits the Avon-Catawba Creeks Greenway, a beautiful space with a lengthy trail for a stroll or a bike ride. There is free parking available at 632 E. Garrison Boulevard.
Extra Indulgence: Drive a short distance to Tony’s Ice Cream at 604 E. Franklin Boulevard for a milkshake so tall you won’t get, need or want a lid. (Seriously, don’t even ask.)
Eat: Want sushi? Want tacos? Want both?? You can get it all at Takosushi at 34 S. Main Street, and you can do it while sparing significant expense.
Before/After: Stroll together through the gorgeous and expansive Falls Park on the Reedy at 601 S.Main Street. Don’t forget to take a selfie on the pedestrian bridge!
Extra Indulgence: Try the Donut Experiment at 2123 Augusta Street C, where you start with a cake donut and customize it any way you want with treats and drizzles to your heart’s content!
Eat: Savor the succulent boneless fried chicken on a fresh biscuit at HenDough, alongside a cup of Dynamite Roasting coffee from nearby Black Mountain. Follow it up with a doughnut from the counter selection later in the day.
Before/After: Roam the beautiful hilly homestead of the late great poet Carl Sandburg at the national historic site named for him at 81 Carl Sandburg Lane in Flat Rock. There’s no admission charge unless you want to explore the inside of the house itself with a tour guide. Check the park website, just to be safe, for hours and details before you go.
Eat: Go on a Saturday morning and devour a delicious brunch at Downtown Deli & Donuts at 147 E. Main Street, which serves everything from Huevos Rancheros to Chicken & Waffles to biscuits and gravy, and so much more! Be sure you sample a donut, too, and keep your ears open for an offer for complimentary mimosas.
Before/After: Play some absolutely free miniature golf at Sparkle City Mini-Putt between East Main and East Broad streets. Just bring your own putter and golf ball, or borrow one from participating local businesses! Each hole on the course features a design that pays tribute to the Spartanburg region’s past and/or present.
Do you have a favorite date you enjoy in the western Carolinas or somewhere else in the American South? Tell us in the comments below so we can try it too!