A holiday dedicated to love and romance is cause for celebration, whether with your special someone or with friends. This year, Feb. 14 falls on a Monday; here are some dining considerations for your Valentine’s weekend and day.
A friendly, lively gastropub with good, simple food and craft beers on the menu. On Valentine’s Day the restaurant will feature a special three-course menu created by chef Chris “CJ” Jacobson of the TV show, “Top Chef.” The dinner is $50 per person and includes a glass of champagne. There will also be $12 Valentine’s specials at the bar, such as mini cupcakes served with champagne, or bacon-wrapped pigs-in-a-blanket accompanied by a shot of whiskey.
The Yard, 119 Broadway Ave., 310.395.6037, www.TheYardSM.com/
Hostaria Del Piccolo
Share the fun of discovering a new restaurant together with your beloved on Valentine’s Day at Hostaria del Piccolo, the new casual sibling of the esteemed Piccolo Ristorante in Venice. Barely 2 months old, Santa Monica’s new Italian eatery offers two dozen eclectic, hand-made pizzas; the dough can be made gluten-free or with alternative types of flour, so everyone can relax and enjoy their pies.
For Valentine’s Day, manager Christian Bertolini recommends a Pizza Nera: seared ahi tuna, mozzarella, and tomato sauce on a black squid-ink crust, or the Garganelli (a tube-shaped pasta with arrow-like ends) prepared with parmesan cheese and truffle oil.
“In Italy, parmesano is considered an aphrodisiac,” said Bertolini. A full bar and mixologist are on hand, as are indigenous Italian wines and beers. Pizzas are in the $12 to $17 range; pastas are $16 or $17, fish or meat are $18 to $24, and desserts are $10.
Hostaria Del Piccolo, 606 Broadway, 310.393.6633, http://hostariadelpiccolo.com
When it opened on Fourth Street in downtown Santa Monica, Border Grill virtually changed the concept of Mexican dining in the city. Twenty years later, Border Grill is still the place for carefully conceived, complex Mexican cuisine using top-quality ingredients.
Border Grill’s “spicy” Valentine’s dinner will be offered on Valentine’s weekend and served exclusively on Valentine’s day. Menu highlights include Oysters “Enamorados” (oysters in love), an appetizer duo of a chipotle oyster taco paired with oysters on the half shell, and a dessert of Aztec chocolate cake with whipped raspberry crema and spicy pecans coupled with a vanilla flan with homemade caramel sauce and fresh berries. $48 per person.
Border Grill, 1445 Fourth Street, 310.451.1655, www.BorderGrill.com
Locanda del Lago
This northern Italian trattoria on the Third Street Promenade has a following among local residents as well as tourists. A special four- or five-course Valentine’s Day tasting menu will be served Feb. 12 to 18.
Begin with a butternut squash soup with amaretto cookie crumbles, followed by housemade prosciutto and mushroom ravioli in butter sage sauce, pan-roasted monkfish (plus grilled lamb chops for the five-course menu), and profiteroles with strawberry cream and dark chocolate sauce for dessert. $55 for the four-course dinner; $69 for five courses. Wine pairings are available for an additional $24.
Locanda del Lago, 231 Arizona Ave., 310.451.3525, http://www.LagoSantaMonica.com/
Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples at Tiato Market Garden and Cafe – there will be special menus for couples, groups, and kids.
“Whether you’re coming with a group or with your sweetheart, you’ll find a fun, flirty atmosphere here,” said chef/owner Catherine An, who is the youngest daughter of the An family, owners of the Crustacean euro-Vietnamese restaurants famous for their garlic noodles.
Tiato opened quietly on Colorado Avenue last summer and serves organic food with Asian flavors enhanced by herbs from an adjacent garden. The four-course Cupid’s Couple menu for two is $55 including champagne or $70 with beer and sake pairings. A Cupid’s Club mix and match menu for larger tables is offered at $45 or $60; both options include a s’mores pot of love fondue for dessert. Choices include coconut prawns in garlic lime sauce, sesame meatballs, and An’s garlic noodles. Heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches and bow-and-arrow chicken tenders are on the Cupid’s Kids menu.
Tiato Market Garden Cafe, 2700 Colorado Blvd., 310.866.5228, http://tiato.com/
For an elegant gastronomic indulgence, traditional French restaurant Melisse offers a special Valentine’s day five-course menu for $250 per person. The menu features a poached egg with American osetra caviar, an appetizer course, a fish selection, a meat selection, and assorted desserts. A four-course version of the menu is also served on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 12 and 13, at $135 per person. Acclaimed chef/owner Josiah Citrin is a Samohi graduate who began his culinary career in Paris; Melisse is Santa Monica’s only two-star Michelin restaurant. Melisse,1104 Wilshire Blvd., 310.395.0881, http://melisse.com/
At the other end of the dining spectrum, take your sweetie out for a night of gourmet street dining at the specialty food trucks roving the city. Each truck specializes in one dish or genre, such as the grilled cheese truck, the lobster roll truck, the Korean Mexican tacos truck, or the buttermilk truck (serving breakfast items). The trucks tend to congregate at the same time and place, so you can sample a few trucks and enjoy a multicourse meal that’s gentle on the wallet. Lines at the most popular trucks can be long, so be prepared to wait and join in the street party ambiance.
Find out where and when the trucks will be making their stops by checking their websites or by signing up to be notified via Twitter. Truck menu items $2.50 and up; lobster rolls $12.