My Friday Night Tradition That’s Way Cheaper Than a Night Out

published Mar 16, 2023
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Credit: Heather Bien

I love a weekend date night out. Scrolling through menus, making a reservation, getting dressed up. All of it. But in the depths of 2020, my husband and I started a Friday night tradition that’s still going strong three years later — and those date nights out have now been relegated to a Saturday night-only occasion (easier on the wallet, too, right?). 

We do our Friday date nights at home. And they feel just as special and anticipated as any fancy reservation I’ve made. It’s when we make our most ambitious recipes, set the table with candles, and toast with sparkling cocktails. 

During the week, I try to plan out meals, use what’s already on hand, and generally avoid desperate trips to Whole Foods at 6 p.m. But, for those Friday night dinners, I’m ready to splurge. I’ll go to the local market, Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, and drop by the vendor with the most exquisite freshly made squid ink pasta. I’ll go to the butcher for a tender cut of steak, or visit the cheesemonger for his latest recommendation, along with a delicious spread accompaniment. I’ll stop by my favorite coffee shop and Italian gourmet store for a slice of their decadent cappuccino cake (Radici, for those in Washington, D.C. — it can’t be missed!). Even with the most expensive ingredients, I’m still in for less than a nice dinner out. 

This is when we try out the most complicated or time extensive recipes that seem like too much of an undertaking for a busy Wednesday night. It’s when we take the time to make the thin mandolin parmesan potato stacks, the tacos with homemade tortillas and a flurry of salsas and fixings, or the steak frites that seem too indulgent after a long day of work and an evening workout class.

And I’m not a big weeknight drinker, which makes those Friday night at-home cocktails even more special. I’ve picked up various locally made cocktail syrups and have a fully stocked bar at home, but it’s still less than any $19 drink I’ll get at the cocktail bar up the street (though I do love theirs!). We try out different recipes, working our way through the classics, as well as choosing a random ingredient and exploring what we can make. 

Credit: Heather Bien

We set the table with candles, cloth napkins, and the fancy glasses we might not pull out on a weeknight when we’re more likely to have our water bottle in hand. We make an effort to put on music in the background as we cook rather than the news (just look up any Spotify dinner party mix!) and keep the lights dim, echoing the ambiance we’d get from any trendy date night out.

Three years into this Friday night tradition, it doesn’t even need to be said that this plan will close out our week. Every Friday, the only question is which recipe we’ll attempt, or which cocktail we’re in the mood for. It’s become an incredibly grounding way to end the week, celebrate the weekend, and, in the process, avoid another $100+ dinner out. Plus, we’ve found this tradition is also a reminder to us, as a couple trying to embrace ritual more, to usher in Shabbat, which makes it even more meaningful — though our track record with remembering to say the prayer before lighting the candles isn’t yet nearing 100 percent.