Every Valentine’s Day, you hear people grumbling about how it should be stopped, that it’s a corporate holiday dominated by companies selling flowers, candy, and greeting cards. But in many ways, it’s more a holiday of stress — thrusting the newly coupled into discussions about relationship status, followed by the pressure to execute the perfect evening, purchase the best gift, and spend a certain amount of cash.
For all the uncoupled (deliberately or not) in this great city, the hype around February 14 serves as a giant billboard, outing the fact that even with a pool of over 8 million people, you still haven’t managed to become a party of two. This year, rather than settling for alone time with a TV screen, a bottle of wine, and a giant pizza, get out on the town. Here are ten dining options for singles this V-Day.
10. The Meatball Shop (200 Ninth Avenue, 212-257-4363)
Spend Sunday hungover in your PJs. On Saturday night, Underballs, tucked in the lower level of the Chelsea Meatball Shop location, is celebrating the unattached with its annual Single Jingle. The anti-Valentine’s party is cheap and easy — with no Monday morning hangovers, hopefully. The soiree will be hosted by Instagram celebs @brunchboys and @onehungryjew. It includes holiday-appropriate cocktails like Love’s Bitter Pill ($5), Moscow Mules ($5), $2 Jello shots, and a special appearance by RuPaul’s Drag Race star Jiggly Caliente. Meatball Shop’s main food menu will also be available throughout the evening. The party kicks off at 8 p.m.
9. Masa y Agave (41 Murray Street, 212-849-2885)
Tequila can fix just about anything. Taste a rainbow of the stuff this Valentine’s Day at Masa y Agave, the cocktail bar in the basement of the new Rosa Mexicano in Tribeca. The place offers more than 400 agave-based spirits, available à la carte or in flights created by first-level-certified mescalier Courtenay Greenleaf: “Jalisco,” featuring three bottles from the region, divided by the location of their agave fields (highlands versus low-); “Vertical,” which compares three styles of tequila (blanco, reposado, and anejo) distilled by one family; and “Barrel,” which stacks three tequilas aged in barrels recycled from making cognac, scotch, and bourbon. If you’re not into drinking your hooch straight-up, the bar offers interesting cocktails like the raicilla negroni, made from a lesser-known Mexican spirit, La Venenosa Maximiliano raicilla. Soak it up with bar bites like empanadas de chorizo con papas (chorizo, chile poblano, potatoes, and queso Chihuahua) and barbacoa de cordero tacos — slow-cooked lamb marinated in smoky chile sauce and steamed in avocado leaves with pickled carrot-jalapeño escabeche.
8. theBoil (139 Chrystie Street; 212-925-8815)
Few things are less attractive than sucking the juice out of a dead carcass. But that’s basically the premise of eating crawfish (properly). Give Valentine’s Day the ultimate middle finger by forgoing the dainty tasting menus and predictable aphrodisiacs in favor of a messy pile of mudbugs. Slightly rowdy and highly entertaining, this Bayou-style crab and crawfish joint is the ideal spot for a group. Brown paper is laid across the table before it’s loaded with heaping piles of spice-scented seafood waiting to be ripped apart. Crawfish ($13 a pound) come in a variety of heat levels, from mild to fiery, as do lobster, shrimp, clams, and Dungeness snow and king crabs. Every order comes with corn and potatoes, as well. For the most part, eating here is a chaotic affair, and you’re bound to be dirty by the end — make sure to grab a plastic bib to protect your clothes. The staff will hand out rubber gloves to help keep things tidy, if you desire. But let’s be honest — that’s not much fun.
7. Bierocracy (12-23 Jackson Avenue; 718-361-9333)
Counter-Valentine’s Day events usually fall into two categories: One emphasizes getting over an ex. The other celebrates singledom. Bierocracy is doing neither. The Long Island City Central European-style beer hall is hosting a singles soiree for those who haven’t given up hope. This little get-together comes with the possibility of finding a date — or a hook-up. Upon arrival, attendees pick a card from a deck that’s been cut in half. The goal is to locate your match. Once you do, you and your new other-half get discounted beers from the wide selection of Czech, German and selected American brews. Who knows, you may find someone worth keeping around until next February.
6. Virgil’s Real Barbecue (152 West 44th Street; 212-921-9494)
Most single’s events tend to be geared toward women. It’s just another gendered assumption that females are more worried about finding a mate than males. Lovely. However, this barbecue joint is bucking the trend, focusing its uncoupled Valentine’s efforts on men with a special “BBQ Bromance” deal for the day. The special is actually a meal for two — or one person with a really big appetite — with popcorn shrimp, a full rack of Memphis ribs and a slice of red velvet cake, all washed down with two shots of Knob Creek bourbon and a bucket of four beers. Ladies looking to avoid the clichéd dessert deals and wine meet-ups are welcome to join in on this meaty booze fest, too.
5. Momofuku Noodle Bar (171 First Avenue; 212-777-7773)
Noodles aren’t the easiest food to eat while attempting to looking attractive. That’s exactly why you should be slurping ’em down solo, while no one’s watching. Noodle Bar is offering a S.A.D. (Single’s Awareness Day) three-course tasting menu on February 14, in addition to its regular à la carte menu. The menu begins with fresh mozzarella with leek, Sichuan peppercorn, and chili oil, before moving on to rib tips with ssam sauce, masago cracker, and shiso. Garlic noodles are the star of this holiday show, filled with shrimp, citrus and fried garlic (and you don’t have to worry about your breath afterward). The price is $50 per person with an optional beverage pairing an additional $20. Like every other day of the year, be prepared to wait in line — it’s for walk-in guests only.
4. 99 Favor Taste (285 Grand Street; 646-682-9122/732 61st Street, Brooklyn; 718-439-0578)
New York has a little of everything: food from all over the world, world-class museums, Broadway shows — the list goes on and on. But the city probably has more single people in it than anything else. Rather than mourn your solo-status, grab all your friends and make a mess of meat and broth with some hot pot. With locations in Sunset Park and the LES, these two sprawling restaurants are meccas for celebrations. Every night of the week, multiple times throughout the evening, you’ll hear the signature birthday song blasting from loud speakers as servers gather around tables, singing and passing out cake. We heard the staff has something planned for Valentine’s Day, but no announcements have been made yet. Either way, it’s a good choice for a group who prefers to go DIY. Everyone chooses their own soup base (there are seven total), and ingredients from a list of 26 veggies, proteins (including seafood) and noodles. It’s just $18.99 per person (barbecue is $25.99), so there’s no awkward divvying up the check at the end of the night.
3. Syndicated (40 Bogart St., Brooklyn; 718-386-3399)
Do dinner and a movie by yourself or with your friends. This new Bushwick “theaterant” is offering double features on Friday and Saturday night that are all about purging memories of exes. Part of Syndicated’s Hi/Low pairings series, both evenings are showing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, starting at 4:45 and 9:45 p.m. Before, after, or during the screening, grab a meal from the onsite eatery. Executive chef Bret Macris is offering a number of specials including Royal Miyagi oysters ($15 for six) with blood orange mignonette and buttered marbled rye; braised short rib ($26) with chanterelles, potatoes and horseradish cream. Finish it off with a couple orders of red velvet doughnuts ($6) and chocolate bread pudding ($6) and some drinks. Bar manager Kenneth Vanhooser (Piora) has created the perfect cocktail for commemorating a broken heart, My Bloody Valentine ($12) a mix of jalapeño-infused Lunazul tequila, tomato water, fresno chili and pickled horseradish.
2. Baita (200 Fifth Avenue, 212-229-2560)
Bubbly tends to be the beverage of choice on Valentine’s Day. Go for the other one this year — drink lots of beer. Head up to Baita, Eataly’s Italian Alps rooftop pop-up, to drink your heart out. Don’t worry, it’s not open to the frigid temperatures that might be reminiscent of your frozen heart — there are heaters set up throughout the retractable roof-covered space. For the holiday of love, the restaurant is offering copious amounts of booze from seven breweries, ten wineries and a full menu of “love bites.” For the first hour of the party, starting at 12 p.m., the place is offering complimentary antipasti. Entrance is free, but all-access drink bracelets cost $40 at the door, which includes a choice of more than 30 beers and wines, along with individual $4 food and drink tickets. Save $5 if you purchase a ticket before you arrive. Early bird buyers get a chocolate gift bag and one fortunate single will score two-tickets to a La Scuola cooking class. Visit eataly.com
1. Dirt Candy (86 Allen Street, 212-228-7732)
It’s notoriously difficult to land a reservation at Amanda Cohen’s ode to vegetables — unless you want to eat at 5:30 or 9:30 p.m. But this week, dine solo and get an easy reservation for one of the L.E.S.’s most coveted tables. Cohen isn’t a fan of Valentine’s Day, so she’s offering an awesome (and accessible) Solo Diner’s week. Starting on Tuesday and through February 13, all chef counter seats are reserved for diners eating alone. That’s right, call the restaurant and book a seat for one with a good chance of getting in at a normal dining hour. Cohen created a $65 six-course tasting menu with one-person portions of the restaurant’s signature dishes, like Korean fried broccoli, portobello mushroom mousse, and radish spaghetti. It comes with a glass of prosecco or a virgin vegetable cocktail. Go ahead, make the call now.