Like love itself, dining out on Valentine’s day can be a complicated, messy affair. There are those who go for special menus, big-deal gifts, grand gestures, and heck, maybe even a proposal (though personally, a commercialized holiday about love feels a bit … on the nose for us), while some would rather keep things a bit more low-key, like, say, “Italian night” at one of the loveliest new neighborhood spots in Brooklyn. Whatever you choose, the best thing you can probably do to assure a stress-free big night out is to make sure you and your significant other are on the same page. And if you’re flying solo this year, we’ve also got you covered. Check below for a few inspired ideas.
At Camilla Marcus’s virtuous all-day spot swimming in California cool, lovebirds ready to make a major commitment can swing by between noon and 8 p.m. for free permanent tattoos – the preset designs include flowers and palm trees – by Brooklyn-based artist Lexi Hollis. Afterwards, toast your freshly inked epidermises over culinary director Amy Yi’s West Coast-leaning menu, which includes dishes like bananas foster yogurt bowls and a “mushreuben” vegetarian riff on the lunch counter classic.
137 Sullivan Street, 347-534-3050; westbourne.com
Casa Del Chef
The Ecuadorian décor accenting this cozy Woodside café run by chef Alfonso Zhicay and his daughter Sandra nods to their family’s heritage, while the New American cooking reflects a career spent working closely with Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Come February 14, they’ll offer two $75 five-course prix-fixe menus for the night – one focused on seafood (scallops with sweet potato foam, halibut with beet-ricotta gnocchi), the other meant for carnivores (foie gras, rack of lamb over spelt berries) – set to the smooth acoustic sounds of local musician Katelyn Richards, who’ll be performing live.
39-06 64th Street, Queens; 718-457-9000; casadelchefny.com
This popular Prospect Heights newcomer, enjoyed as much for its fun and clever diner fare as it is championed for its LGBTQ inclusivity, goes old-school Italian-American for the evening, rebranding as “Bella Notte” (beautiful night). Think stuffed peppers, chicken piccata, and canoodling over noodles Lady and the Tramp-style with spaghetti and meatballs. For dessert, chef-owners Libby Willis and Bill Clark, who met working at Brooklyn’s creative Ovenly bakery, will dish out appropriately homey and celebratory sweets like rainbow cookie cake and cannoli in pie form.
657 Washington Street, Brooklyn; 718-636-2900; memesdiner.com
Amanda Cohen’s vegetarian paradise has never been better, and this Valentine’s Day, the creative powerhouse and her crew will be cooking up a seven-course meal for $100 that “starts with a glass of something sparkling from one of the incredible female winemakers” featured on their list. Expect candy cane beets roasted in salt and stuffed with their greens, roasted squash in leche de tigre, and a Canadian cheese course that pays homage to the chef’s roots up north. If instead you’re unattached and looking to treat yourself, you can stop by until Saturday, February 17, to take advantage of the restaurant’s solo diner’s week, which features a similar seven-course menu, scaled down for one person, for $75.
86 Allen Street, 212-228-7732; dirtcandynyc.com
Japanese comfort food is on the menu at this cozy NoHo spot, which will eschew its typically low-key vibe in favor of a $60 five-course tasting menu. Chef Emily Yuen will kick things off with a trio of sandwiches, including the ever-trendy beef katsu sando, followed by small plates like sesame tofu with smoked trout roe, and creamy cod roe pasta or wagyu steak as main courses.
5 Bleecker Street, 212-228-8502; bessou.nyc