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Women-Led Restaurants That Won’t Break The Bank

Women-Led Restaurants That Won’t Break The Bank

California has a plethora of women-led restaurants that are upscale but won’t break the bank. Allow yourself to indulge in amazing food!


6 min read

December 15, 2023

Dating can seem impossible with high food costs and ever-increasing rent prices. It can be especially difficult when you’re trying to save money without moving out of California’s hottest cities, but there’s no need to despair. The Golden State is full of low-budget date ideas that feel upscale, which means you won’t have to sacrifice your entire savings account for your love life. 

At these women-owned restaurants in California, you don’t have to spend more than $50 on a meal for two, so they can easily become part of your weekly routine. Before you count yourself out of the dating scene, check out the best cheap date ideas in the state. 

Women-Owned Restaurants in Southern California

How about a delicious meal for two at one of San Diego's best women-owned restaurants? We know we can never turn that offer down.

San Diego Restaurants

1. Barrio Star

Address: 2706 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

Created by chef Isabel Cruz, Barrio Star tops the list of inexpensive date ideas in San Diego. Featuring a combination of Latin flavors, Asian influences, and soul-food comfort, this eatery is sure to become a favorite. 

Though the dishes are crafted with healthier ingredients (including organic and locally grown products, whenever possible), the vibrant colors and savory flavors will make you think otherwise. Start with the house-made tortilla chips and guacamole before diving into the indulgent carnitas tacos. Finish the night with a flourless chocolate chipotle cake and vanilla ice cream for a meal your date will remember for weeks to come. 

The woman-led restaurant also offers live music on Friday and weekend nights —making it one of the coolest women-owned businesses in town. For even more affordable cheap date night ideas, stop by during happy hour (between 3 and 5 p.m.) for discounted nachos, chipotle chicken wings, and à la carte tacos. 

Bonding over breakfast? Share a delicious waffle from Cafe 222 with your date and you'll be inseparable.

2. Cafe 222

Address: 222 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

When it comes to cheap dates near downtown San Diego, it doesn’t get much better than Cafe 222. Owner Terryl Gavre realized her dream of opening a restaurant when she sold a screenplay and moved to San Diego in 1992. The woman-owned small business has thrived ever since, serving unbeatable breakfast food—such as house-made buttermilk biscuits, pumpkin waffles, and corned beef hash—near Petco Park in San Diego’s Marina district. 

After you’ve finished with dinner, take a cruise to Coronado, seek out the perfect California burrito for dinner, or grab a cup of coffee before climbing on your board at San Diego’s best surf spots

3. Wayfarer Bread

Address: 5525 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

After growing up in Napa and moving through the ranks of San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery, Crystal White opened Wayfarer Bread to serve the local community high-quality, small-batch artisanal bread. From English muffins to baguettes, to blood orange and almond galettes, to citrus marmalade and pistachio croissants, everything on the menu is excellent. 

Wayfarer Bread is one of our favorite places for fun, cheap dates, but it’s not only because of the tasty pastries and loaves. The woman-owned business also serves savory sandwiches all day long and hosts highly sought-after pizza nights every Wednesday.

The pizza offerings at this women-owned restaurant change weekly but may include anything from a roasted broccoli pizza with cheddar cream sauce to a potato pizza with tikka masala, mozzarella, onion, and hazelnuts. The whole meal will cost around $40—but the experience will stick with you forever.

Los Angeles is home to a myriad of delicious women-owned eateries. Pick one of them for your next brunch with friends.

Los Angeles Restaurants

4. Huckleberry Cafe

Address: 1014 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Huckleberry Cafe is co-owned by couple Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan—who fell in love at their nearby farm-to-table eatery, Rustic Canyon—and celebrates the bounty of Southern California by highlighting local, organic ingredients. With a rotating seasonal menu where every item is made on-site, this eatery makes for fun, cheap date ideas that taste expensive.

The restaurant’s all-day breakfast menu is swoon-worthy. From “Dad’s pancakes” with TCHO chocolate and maple syrup to fried egg sandwiches with bacon and Gruyère, there is something for every craving. 

Though Huckleberry Cafe is always an excellent choice, there is nothing quite like Hot Chicken Nights. Stop by on a Thursday or Friday between 5:30 and 9 p.m. for organic fried chicken, house-made pickles and slaw, and a luxurious selection of rotating pies. Order two entrées and a slice of pie to share, and you’ll still be comfortably under budget.

5. Pine & Crane 

Address: 1120 S. Grand Ave. Unit 101, Los Angeles, CA 90015 (DTLA); 
1521 Griffith Park Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026 (Silver Lake)

Pine & Crane is a women-owned restaurant offering the opportunity for a cheap date night that feels anything but. Chef-owner Vivian Ku and co-owner Moonlynn Tsai opened the joint in 2014, selling the same popular dan dan noodles that adorn the menu today. 

Start with the noodles to see why they’re a crowd favorite, but don’t miss out on the pork potstickers, scallion pancakes, vegetarian rice, or spicy shrimp wontons. With a plethora of tapas-style dishes, Pine & Crane is always the right choice.

6. Sqirl

Address: 720 Virgil Ave #4, Los Angeles, CA 90029

Chef-owner Jessica Koslow is a master of culinary creations, crafting a legacy of bread, jam, and plant-centric dishes that are just as craveable now as they were when women-led restaurant Sqirl opened eight years ago. The restaurant has been on our radar for cheap date ideas thanks to its highly regarded ricotta, avocado, and brioche breakfast toasts, but the eatery is equally enviable during lunchtime. 

Order the tomato jam sandwich with cheddar cheese and arugula, or go for something a bit more unique with the aptly-named “Yeuban” sandwich featuring pastrami-spiced yuba, pickles, sauerkraut, and rye bread. Add rhubarb lemonade or red peach iced tea for even more memorable (yet inexpensive) dates.

Female-Owned Restaurants in Northern California

The S.F. Bay Area is one of the world's most impressive culinary hubs. The women-owned restaurants in the region are top-notch.

Bay Area Restaurants

7. Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement

Address: 5959 Shellmound St Kiosk 15, Emeryville, CA 94608

Located in the Emeryville Public Market, Minnie Bell’s is the comforting soul-food destination you’ve been looking for, offering both indoor and outdoor dining. The menu here will beat out all of your other inexpensive date-night ideas with its rosemary fried chicken, sumptuous mac and cheese, refreshing pickled veggies, and nostalgic sweet tea.

Owner Fernay McPherson uses her family’s recipes, so it’s easy to taste the authenticity at one of Emeryville’s most memorable female-owned restaurants. Order the four-piece rosemary fried chicken and choose two of your favorite sides—like braised greens, candied yams, or cornbread—or settle on the fried chicken salad for a balanced meal you’ll continue to crave long after your date.

A good workout and a fresh smoothie is our favorite combination to kick off a productive weekday. It works like a charm.

8. Yo También Cantina 

Address: 205 Hugo St, San Francisco, CA 94122

Yo También Cantina is full of flavor and love—and dancing when owners Isabella Bertorelli and Kenzie Benesh are around. The couple takes their cuisine seriously, but not themselves, so there’s always a carefree spirit wafting around the cozy eatery. While this Sunset District spot is the ideal destination for cheap, romantic dates, it’s also the place to be for social gatherings. 

Plan a morning date in San Francisco, and order the “Jammy Sammy” with a jammy egg, provolone, rosemary ham, and seasonal greens. Or, go for the ricotta and preserved Meyer lemon toast topped with herbs, dukkah, and olive oil. The innovative combinations of simple foods are impressively tasty and just as photogenic.

Do you know of any other low-cost date ideas in California? Share them in the comments below.

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