Valentine's Day Restaurant Guide

In case the surfeit of decorative pink hearts and the palpable pressure to purchase jewelry haven't given it away, Valentine's Day is right around the corner. One of the biggest restaurant days of the year, couples go out in droves to celebrate their romance over food and booze, the foundation of most good relationships. The task of picking out the perfect restaurant can be a bit daunting, though, so here we've narrowed it down to some reputable options.

Heart-shaped cake at Pinstripes
(Heart-shaped cake at Pinstripes)

For the Procrastinator

If you're the type to forget about making Valentine's Day reservations until the last minute, you can prevent divorce by enjoying Bistronomic's Valentine's Day prix fixe all weekend long. Available February 14 through February 16, chef Martial Noguier's three-course affair showcases Bistronomic's attention to seasonality and locality, but with more of an alluring touch. Each course features several options, from lobster bisque and foie gras-bedecked salad for starters, to Parmesan gnocchi and thyme-roasted rack of lamb for entrees, and lemon curd crêpes and pistachio ice cream-filled meringue omelettes for dessert. The cost is $58 per person, which is a small price to pay considering you neglected to take your lover out on Valentine's Day proper.

For the Big Spender Not Afraid of Heights

Got $2,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Not nervous about enjoying a romantic meal 95 stories above ground? The Signature Room at the 95th is the place for you. The skyscraping restaurant offers two opulent Valentine's Day options, including a $2,000 romance dinner package, and a slightly more down-to-earth $99 option. The more lavish of the two includes butler service in a private dining room set for two, brimming with red roses, Dom Perignon Champagne, cocktails, wine, private musical entertainment, and a four-course menu. For $99 per person, guests can eschew the grandiose accoutrements and just enjoy a four-course dinner with incomparable views of the city.

For the Budgeted Couple With a Love for Banana Eggrolls

If $26 sounds more your speed, Rodan offers just the thing for you. The swanky Wicker Park lounge not only features an insanely good bargain on a holiday laden with overwrought prices, but it dazzles with unique dishes. Think red miso soup, pork belly splashed with citrus-sriracha glaze, and sweet banana eggrolls. The three-course meal is filled with choices every step of the way, allowing lovestruck diners to customize their meals to their hearts' content. Dinner seatings are taken from 6:00 p.m. until after midnight, so there's plenty of opporunity as well.

For the Pizza-lover

Nothing says "I love you" like a heart-shaped pizza. Plus, it shows that you're not too rigid and serious, and you're the cool couple secure enough in their relationship to eat pizza as their Valentine's meal. Pinstripes offers just the ticket, a weekend-long roster of V-Day specials that include heart-shaped pizzas, Frangelico chocolate cake, and Champagne toasts.

For Those Who Like Their Aphrodisiacs on the Exotic Side

Oysters with black tea-cured pork, scallops immersed in sabayon, espresso-scented sweetbreads, and brandy-splashed chocolate strudel are some of the dishes on hand at envelope-pushing Table, Donkey and Stick. The Alpine-inspired Logan Square haven is featuring an eclectic six-courser for Valentine's Day at just $75 per person, with beverage pairings available for an additional $35. Live on the wild side and show your partner how exciting you are.

For Those Looking to Booze it Up All Evening Long, But in a Classy Way

If you're looking to drink with your lover pre-dinner, during dinner, and after dinner, CH Distillery has you covered. The distillery/bar/restaurant is offering a trifecta of dining and drinking experiences on Valentine's Day, beginning with a pre-dinner caviar and carafe special that pairs one ounce of black caviar with a seven-ounce carafe of chilled CH vodka for $80. During dinner, a $30 cocktail tasting entails a sampling of three drinks, and after dinner, there's a dessert and cocktail combo for $20. Spoiler alert: foie gras s'mores are an option.

For Couples Who Share

Tapas are the perfect approach to Valentine's Day, because they're all about the sharing, and if you can't share with your partner, then you know it's over. So it's a good test for your relationship. Nacional 27 is the perfect destination, featuring its "Feliz dia de San Valentin" prix fixe menu at $40 per person earlier in the evening and $75 per person after 7:00 p.m. Shared tapas begin the meal with items such as boniato and plantain croquetas, chicken tostones, ceviche, and barbecued lamb tacos. Diners then get their choice of entree — think grilled grouper, chicken enchiladas, pig Cubano, and shrimp adobo — before concluding with chocolate cake and tres leches.

For Those Looking to Travel to Paris Without the Airfare

Parisians know a thing or two about romance, which is what makes an elegant French-inspired restaurant such as Cafe des Architectes the quintessential Valentine's Day destination. The elegant setting transports diners to France through exquisite food, finesse, Champagne, and luxury suites at the hotel in which it resides if it comes to that. For Valentine's Day, there's a can't-be-beat five-course degustation for $95 per person, with wine pairings available for an additional $55. Foie gras macarons kick off the evening as an amuse bouche, followed by the likes of beef tartare with bone marrow cream, poached Pacific sturgeon with lardo and caviar, sous vide New York strip with creamed cauliflower, triple cream Brie with puff pastry and apple-smoked bacon gooseberries, and chocolate tortes with dulce de leche and Moscato.

For the Classic American Experience

The four-course Valentine's Day menu at Tavern on Rush is straightforward but masterful, offering an array of well-executed American dishes and a glass of Champagne for $70 per person. Atlantic fluke crudo, baby greens in Champagne-hazelnut vinaigrette, filet mignon and potato-wrapped sea bass, and flourless chococolate cake comprise the special menu, offering an unintimidating romantic night out for couples.

For the Surf and Turf-obsessed

Seafood and meat combine in elaborate, beautiful ways at GT Fish & Oyster, the perfect downtown setting at which to enjoy a hearty (no pun intended, but happy that worked out) dinner for two. The nautically minded restaurant offers a six-course prix fixe this Valentine's Day, featuring alluring items such as marinated tuna in lobster salad with cauliflower panna cotta; steamed turbot with shellfish ragout and farfalle pasta; capon breast in brioche and foie gras sauce; beef tenderloin with green tea soba and truffle juice; brillat-savarin with crispy potatoes, pancetta, and walnuts in red wine essence; and a chocolate surprise for dessert (!). The cost is $95 per person, plus $50 for optional wine pairings.

For Those Hungry for Gourmet Aphrodisiacs

Pan-seared scallops with lemongrass emulsion and mango-chile jam. Braised monkfish with asparagus and morels a la creme. Smoked beef tenderloin with Jerusalem artichoke cannelloni, peas a Francaise, and red wine-shallot sauce. All this and more can be yours at The Lobby! Plus the world-famous Chocolate Bar, a dream come true for chocoholics, curated by world-revered pastry chef Dimitri Fayard. The cost is $160 per person.

For Those Who Really "Heart" Valentine's Day (and Offal)

Hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, and pig hearts comprise much of the heart-themed Valentine's Day menu at Atwood Cafe. The ever-so-clever executive chef Derek Simcik has fun with the theme, complementing his hearty creations with butter-popcorn, scallops, pork tenderloin, and caraway spaetzle. For dessert, there's a KOVAL Bourbon-smoked loganberry cake with malted brown butter "dirt," and loganberry glass, an apropos finale considering KOVAL exlusively uses the "heart cut" of the distillate. GET IT? The menu is $55 per person, plus $20 for wine pairings if desired.

- Matt Kirouac