There's a specific color of rose for anything that a lover might want to convey. Red roses, of course, represent love. Yellow roses are given to signify friendship. Black roses often represent an infatuation with Glenn Danzig and cheesy horror flicks.
And just like roses, restaurants and bars convey a message. If you bring an Asheville-dwelling love prospect to Bojangles for a sack of chicken biscuits, for example, the only thing she'll be thinking about is how uncouth it is that you don’t eat free-range bird (and that you probably shop at Walmart with those greasy fingers, too).
While it doesn't necessarily take a lot of money to get your point across with your choice of date location, it does take a little foresight and planning. But assuming you, like the rest of Asheville, are too busy working three jobs to pay the rent for the house you share with four other people, two house cats, a rescue dog, a kombucha mother and a compost bucket, we've done the thinking for you, including where to go if you just want a night on the town all by your lonesome.
The “single and loving it” date
You channel George Clooney (or Carrie Bradshaw, as the case may be) and live the bachelor/bachelorette life to the fullest. You volunteer for at least one nonprofit, have a huge network of friends and do things like train for races, learn to sew or write a novel in your spare time, all the while resisting the urge to spend your time in bars trolling for the next soon-to-be ex.
If you do indeed exist, you whole and fulfilled person, and you haven’t moved to San Francisco yet, we suggest you write a singles column for the rest of Asheville. Honestly, where do perfect people like you go to drink? We suggest you hit up the Admiral late on a Saturday night, drink one or several Admiral flowers (those addictive Champagne-and-St. Germain concoctions), get a little tipsy and rub up against a few strangers. (400 Haywood Road http://theadmiralnc.com)
The "single and hating it" date
You've been whole and fulfilled for some time now, and you're sick and tired of the lack of similar prospects. You're alone and certifiably bent out of shape about it. It's Valentine's Day, everyone around you is all lovey-dovey, buying cute little boxes of chocolates, making their stupid Champagne toasts and holding hands. What the hell makes them so special?
Dear God, pull yourself together. Go get yourself a shot or two of Old Crow at Broadway’s, put some Tom Waits on the jukebox, shoot some pool and hit on the cute tattooed hipster drinking away her sorrow at the breakup table by the front window. (113 Broadway St.)
The "I want to impress you" date
Congrats! You've met someone. Your tattooed-hipster love interest has a master’s degree in creative writing and lives in Asheville, so naturally she works at a restaurant/café/bar. Where do you take your well-educated date to drink away the annoyances of the day’s customers while looking like an educated and worldly person yourself? The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar has books and booze.
There, you can hover near the poetry section and perhaps recite some of the Dylan Thomas you memorized earlier that day. And the wine list is impressive enough that you'll come off looking like a cultured oenophile with a taste for the romantic. I mean, a book-and-champagne date? Aren't you just so desirable? (1 Page Ave. Suite 1 http://www.batteryparkbookexchange.com)
The "I want to undress you" date
Enough with the wooing and poetry reciting. Let's face it: Zambra is dead sexy, and so are you. Since sharing tapas necessitates getting close, you can canoodle away the evening on one of those benches that's so stuffed full of pillows that you almost lose your wallet in their depths.
The lighting is low enough that all parties involved look ravishing, the food is outstanding (although you can't exactly see what you just ordered) and the bar is packed to the gills with libations from cava to absinthe. Don't forget to ask for the dessert list, which always offers interesting options and chocolate (girls love chocolate). Casanova, eat your heart out. (85 W. Walnut St. http://zambratapas.com)
The "not-so-subtle breakup" date
You've spent all the extra money you made bartending/waiting tables/making espresso on her while not pursuing your actual calling as an artist/model/interpretive dancer. You've decided that you need more space to grow emotionally/sleep with other people. A text breakup is for wusses, and you're better than that — maybe.
Schedule a date at Emerson's Coffee, located at the entrance to the Asheville Mall's food court. Buy her a bagel, baked locally by the Sweet Monkey Bakery (and only $2.75!) then let her know you can't take her to the Fine Arts Theatre, as promised. When she asks for an explanation, pretend to not hear her over the thumping Katie Perry song assaulting your ears from the nearby Abercrombie & Fitch, and quickly change the subject. Then, never reply to another one of her texts. Hey man, time to move on.
The "straight-up breakup" date
Perhaps you have a bit more class and want to break it to her directly. After all, she showed up to every craft show/comedy routine/sideshow act you've ever been a part of. Take her to Kubo's and order sushi and cold sake for the both of you before telling her the bad news. If all goes well, you'll leave the date on good terms. If things go south quickly, at least she won't be able to fling anything hot at you. It's all about planning. (5 Biltmore Ave. Suite B http://kubosjapanese-asheville.com)
The "let's get back together" date
Whoever it was that said "there's plenty of fish in the sea" clearly didn't hail from Asheville. She might not have been able to hold a steady job and spent all of her time (and money) at the bar, but when the two of you were getting smashed at The Wedge/Prospect/Smokey's After Dark, you got along so well — most of the time. And face it, she's the best option you have. Why not go crawling back to her in style?
Since you've got a history of being a bit of a chintzy jerk (come on, a bagel at the mall?), you may want to give the illusion that things have changed. To make it appear that you're blowing a ton of cash on her (without actually, you know, doing it), head to The Market Place. Steel yourself for some major gut-spilling by lubing your throat (and nerves) with a Benton's bacon-bourbon cocktail. Since she's an ethical vegetarian, that won't work for her (but don't ask her why she still eats dairy — she's still working on an explanation for that). The good news for the both of you is that chef William Dissen makes a number of fine meatless and affordable dishes, including a flatbread pizza with smoked gouda ($10) and spinach-ricotta fritters with romesco sauce ($6). (20 Wall St. http://www.marketplace-restaurant.com)
The "I'm almost totally sure I want to marry you" date
You've beat the odds and you've decided that it's time to tie the knot, although neither of you is pregnant — yet. You think. Both of you have miraculously found steady jobs in Asheville (although you both still freelance/wait tables/pour beer at a brewery on weekends for extra drinking/art supply/rent money). It's time to pull out all the stops, we say.
Make a reservation at Horizons Dining Room at the Grove Park Inn (with a secret second reservation for one of the mountain-view rooms upstairs). Order the chef's tasting menu with the wine pairings (it's a special moment; you can afford to put it on the credit card — not that one, the other one) and watch the sun set over the view of downtown Asheville. Make sure to remark about how the beauty of this special town we live in makes all of our struggles to live here worthwhile, right before you slip a certified conflict-free diamond over her finger. (http://www.groveparkinn.com)
The "I'm pregnant" date
It's time to have a serious conversation, and you've just spent most of your savings installing passive solar equipment to heat the water in your arts-and-crafts West Asheville bungalow. Head to the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company.
She breaks her pregnancy to you by asking for only one glass when she orders a pitcher of Ninja Porter. It certainly seems that the fertility yoga class you've both been taking has paid off, because she’s expecting triplets. Awesome.
Take a look around you at all of the families eating pizza together; this is what Friday night looks like for the foreseeable future. It's not half bad, is it? (http://ashevillebrewing.com)
— Mackensy Lunsford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.