Don’t get me wrong, I adore nice dinners out on the town for date night. But there are plenty of nights I want to go out for just a bit with my boyfriend, to experience a new place, to cultivate that sweet little spark of romance, and then go home and cook dinner in pajama pants.

There are also some nights I feel like budgeting, but also want to order a glass of wine or a cocktail as expensive as an average entree.

Charlotte has so many date night dinner spots that are perfect for just grabbing a drink. Here are five:

O-Ku

This new sushi hotspot in South End was overflowing with people waiting to dine the Wednesday after opening weekend. If you’re not in the mood to wait, grab a seat at the bar and take in the mysterious, forest-like atmosphere, with branches and low lights dominating the decor.

Bonus points if the 9-to-5 crowd gets a little rowdy and starts taking shots.

O-Ku: 2000 S. Blvd., #510

Blue Restaurant & Bar

Blue oozes with sophistication and has a bar area tucked away from the main dining room that’s ideal for live music. Sip a classic or seasonal cocktail (the Poison Apple with Crown Apple Whiskey, Peach Schnapps and White Cranberry Juice sounds intriguing) and catch one of the many nights of live jazz coming up.

Blue: 206 N. College St.

Gallery Restaurant

Seeking an artistic vibe? Gallery Restaurant at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge features a contemporary art exhibit from Shain Gallery. Double the art atmosphere by planning to grab a beverage at the bar when live music is rolling out every Saturday night from 9 p.m. until midnight.

Or opt for a Friday tasting at the bar if you’re feeling extra fancy (prices hover around $45), complete with complementing appetizers. Upcoming tastings include Oct. 21 (Bitters, Complexity, Structure and Depth – A Tribute to Brad Thomas Parsons), Nov. 4 (Rum Trader – A Tribute to Berlin’s Oldest Speakeasy) and Nov. 11 (Fall Cocktails — Spice & Everything Nice).

Gallery Restaurant: 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy.

Poplar Street Tapas, Café & Bar

Situated in The Morrison House that was built in Fourth Ward in 1885, The Poplar Street Tapas, Café & Bar has a historic-Charleston vibe. Find a two-person table overlooking the front porch if you can, and soak up a glass of wine and the quiet, wood-paneled ambiance with its shimmering faux candles.

This is an exquisite, no-stress spot for strategizing about your grocery list, I’ve found.

Poplar Street: 224 W 10th St.

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Namastay Kitchen & Hangout

Ideal if you’re getting in a post-work yoga class with your special someone (seriously, yoga dates are a thing), or just cooling off at the end of the day. Sit under the strings of white lights and simmer down with a glass of red-wine sangria in your casual wear.

Magical key word: Casual.

Namastay: 274 S. Sharon Amity Road

The best part of going to any of these places for a glass of something good: You can always opt to stick around for dinner.

Photos: Katie Toussaint

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