Valentine's Day is Friday, and, frankly, anyone who expects to book a reservation at a high-profile restaurant this late in the game is kidding him or herself. That's OK.
A table at Vic & Anthony's or Underbelly isn't necessary to have a romantic evening, and savvy diners are probably better off finding options that aren't full of people who only go out once a quarter anyway. All those emotions. All those expectations. It's just asking for trouble.
Here then are a few options that are likely to offer good food without the stress or crowds of the usual Valentine's Day destinations.
Try Something New: People like to celebrate special occasions with old favorites like the place where they had their first date, but isn't the thrill of discovery sexy, too? Houston's fervid restaurant scene always has new options to consider. Recently opened Italian restaurant Luigi's will serve a $65, four-course menu that features crab cake, choice of salad and either filet mignon or grilled snapper as an entree.
Looking for something even more adventurous? Two new sushi spots, Fish & The Knife and KUU Restaurant, are both opening their doors this week. That means they're too new to be booked already, which is perfect for procrastinators.
People like to celebrate special occasions with old favorites like the place where they had their first date, but isn't the thrill of discovery sexy, too?
Admittedly, brand new restaurants typically suffer service hiccups, but the chefs in both kitchens have enough experience that at least the food should be solid. Also, they're both great looking spaces, and pretty restaurants make almost any meal feel special. This plan certainly isn't for everyone, but, if a couple is suitably adventurous, it could make for a memorable evening.
Goro & Gun may be approaching its first birthday, but chef JD Woodward is using the holiday to spotlight several recently introduced dishes as part of a $55, four-course menu (add $35 for drink pairings) that includes beef carpaccio and whole fried Gulf fish for two.
Celebrate at Home: Most people realize that staying home is the most reliable way to avoid the pitfalls of Valentine's Day dining, but responsible adults with jobs also don't want to spend hours prepping a meal, cooking and doing dishes after a full day's work. Turn to the experts at Revival Market for prepared specialties like lobster-stuffed crepes, sausage-stuffed quail, osso bucco, saffron rice and chicken marsala.
Simply heat and serve. There will still be a few dishes to do, but they can wait until the morning.
Revival also has plenty of dessert options, including a wide variety of pastries from Fluff Bake Bar. For something a little more old school, Three Brothers Bakery has heart shaped cookies cakes, rum balls and other sweets. In the River Oaks/Upper Kirby, celebrated local chocolatier Cacao and Cardamom will host a pop-up in West Ave's Langford Market from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Friday.
Consider a Bar: Heading to a bar that serves food instead of a restaurant may not be the classic, candlelit dining experience traditionally associated with the holiday, but it's a solid option for couples that want a more relaxed atmosphere (or prefer the sort of romance that comes after a couple of cocktails). At Lowbrow, recently promoted executive chef Jason Kerr is offering a $65, five-course meal that includes tempura oysters and smoked duck breast and a Karbach beer pairing with each choice.
Couples seeking variety should consider The League of Extraordinary Brewers UnValentine's event, in which diners are only allowed to spend 30 minutes at a table featuring a cuisine and corresponding beer pairing. Afterwards, people have to get up and try something else.
Couples who attend will be separated to different tables during the evening, but that's part of the fun. The three chefs who are creating the meal worked together at downtown tapas spot Batanga and bring a wide variety of skills to the kitchen. Purchase the $65 tickets online.
Downtown late night favorite MKT Bar will run a special Valentine's menu all weekend that features live music, by the glass wine specials, 22-ounce beers to share, and upgraded food items in the form of curry crab cakes, parchment-roasted salmon and more.
Best of all? Everything is priced a la carte and it all tops out at about $15 per item, with several running less than $10. Being smart enough not to overspend on a holiday is totally sexy.
At the Rosemont Social Club, a $100 reservation secures a table, two Knockout Rose cocktails, a bottle of sparkling wine, six chocolate-covered strawberries and roses on the table.
Go it Alone: While I'll be spending a solo Valentine's at home with Chinese takeout, my dogs and season two of House of Cards, solo diners who want to get out of the house and avoid all the schmoopie nonsense at restaurants might want to patronize a food truck. In the Energy Corridor, My Food Park Houston will host 10 trucks between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Friday that includes favorites such as H-town strEATs, the Waffle Bus and Taco Nuts.
Finally, chef Dawn Burrell, a staple at Saturday's Urban Harvest farmers market, is offering a four-course meal for $90 per person that she promises is singles friendly. While cashew miso soup and slow braised tamarind beef cheeks with wine pairings aren't enough to lure me away from watching Kevin Spacey's machinations now that he's (spoiler alert?) Vice President, it does sound pretty delicious. Only five spots are left as of Wednesday morning, so act fast.
Sometimes even procrastinators need to hurry.