Most restaurants offer enticing Valentine’s Day events and menus, but how do you decide between all the choices? From upscale to interactive cooking, when it comes to fine dining for two, here’s how to pick the best restaurants for Valentine’s Day.
Set the stage for an unforgettable meal for you and your sweetheart by picking the best restaurant to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The right restaurant can create a cozy and romantic atmosphere that makes it the perfect setting for a special night out, but if you choose the wrong eatery, it could put a damper on the mood and ruin the evening.
That’s why choosing a restaurant that fits your taste buds, wallet, and style is essential. Maybe you’re in the mood for a fancy fine-dining spot, or perhaps you prefer a cozy candlelit bistro. Whichever you pick, the ambiance, cuisine, location, and price are all crucial factors to consider so you can have the best Valentine’s Day meal. After all, it’s a special occasion to celebrate your love, and the restaurant you choose plays a big part in making sure it’s a night to remember.
Ambiance is the overall vibe of the restaurant. Is it dark and cozy or loud and bright? Are there intimate tables in nooks, or is it communal bench seating? All these factors combine to create ambiance, and you want to pick the right restaurant. Look at pictures and reviews, and ask friends so you can get a sense of the restaurant before you book your table.
“Choose a small, local restaurant as opposed to a chain, and make your reservation as far in advance as possible. The atmosphere will be calmer and more intimate than larger restaurants that are slammed on the day itself.” — Gen La Rocca, Two Cloves Kitchen
Are you in the mood for Italian cuisine or spicy Thai? Do you want to stick with a cuisine you know well, or do you want to try something new? Consider what you and your significant other like to eat, and think about the cuisine that best fits the mood of the evening. A fancy, fine-dining experience might call for more upscale cuisine, while a casual, intimate evening might be better suited to comfort food. No matter what you choose, make sure it’s something you both will enjoy.
Many restaurants offer prix-fixe menus on Valentine’s Day, with a selection of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts. Some places will offer a bundle deal, like a shared appetizer, two entrees, and a shared dessert for one special price.
What is a prix-fixe menu?
A prix-fixe menu is a menu that generally includes a limited selection of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts. This is so that the kitchen can turn out plates quickly, and the restaurant usually offers decadent picks that aren’t on their regular menu. Here are some pros and cons to prix-fixe menus.
- Budget-friendly: The fixed price of a prix-fixe menu is a great option for diners trying to stick to a budget. You know exactly how much you’ll be spending ahead of time, so there are no surprises when the bill arrives. It may also mean you’re paying more for dishes you wouldn’t normally order.
- Set menu: A prix-fixe menu typically offers a limited selection menu of options, which can take the guesswork out of ordering. You don’t have to worry about choosing from a long list of menu items or figuring out what to order.
- Limited options: With a prix-fixe menu, you’ll only have a set list of options to choose from, which can be limiting if you’re in the mood for something specific.
- No customization: With a prix-fixe menu, there’s usually no room for customization. If you have dietary restrictions or preferences, you may not be able to find something that works for you.
- Wine pairings: Some restaurants offer wine pairings to go with the prix-fixe menu, or you could opt for a glass of sangria or a cocktail with your meal.
With rising prices everywhere, cost is a big consideration for many. You want to ensure you’re getting good value for your money and have a great dining experience without breaking the bank. Finding a balance between cost and quality is vital if you’re concerned about overspending. Consider what you’re comfortable spending, and then look for restaurants in that range.
You can also look for special deals or coupons or consider taking your meal to go and save on tipping.
Some restaurants require a downpayment to be made along with your reservation, so be prepared with your credit card handy when calling to make your reservation.
“To avoid crowds and the need to plan ahead, consider a Valentine’s date at breakfast or lunch instead of dinner. Follow that with a walk through the park for a memorable day together.”
— Bella Bucchiotti, XoXo Bella
You don’t want to spend all your time in the car, so pick a restaurant that’s convenient. This may be convenient to work, and you can leave from work to go for dinner, or it’s closer to home. Also, consider how easy it is to get to that restaurant and find out about parking.
Other Factors To Make Your Night Amazing
- According to the National Restaurant Association, Valentine’s Day is the second busiest day of the year, behind Mother’s Day, to dine out. If the hustle and bustle are too much for you, consider going out the day before or after Valentine’s day.
- Due to the number of diners, service and food quality can sometimes suffer on Valentine’s Day. Be prepared for rushed service and food that may not be picture-perfect.
- Special requests are often not as easily accommodated on Valentine’s Day. Need a seat by the window? It could be first come, first served at the restaurants.
- Make a reservation! Make your reservation two weeks ahead, and even then, the most popular restaurants could be sold out.
- Restaurants often offer extra touches like roses, customized desserts, wine pairings, and more. Choose one or more of these offerings to make your evening more special.
- Instead of dining out, pick up a few things from your favorite restaurant and make the rest at home! Make something special like Seafood Stuffed Salmon or a Smoked Tomahawk Steak to really impress!
Everybody wants to impress their someone special on Valentine’s Day, and if you’re prepared, it can be a magical night. Consider the ambiance, cost, location, and cuisine when choosing a restaurant, and be sure to book your night out well in advance.
Jenn Allen is a retired chef turned cookbook author, blogger, and traveler. She lives at home with her family and the cats that rule them all. Sign up for all her best recipes at Cook What You Love.