It might not be too late to snare a table at your favorite restaurant. Rather than spending an afternoon on the phone, turn to opentable.com, the handy website that manages reservations for 168 Twin Cities restaurants. Who knows? The answer you're looking for might be a few short clicks away.Think a day in advance.
Several restaurants are previewing their V-day specials on Friday the 13th, including chef Victor Ruiz, who is offering three courses for $40 at his charming Cafe Ena (4601 Grand Av. S., Minneapolis, cafeena.net); at his El Meson (3450 Lyndale Av. S., Minneapolis, elmesonbistro.net), Ruiz is preparing a special a la carte menu and tossing in live flamenco music. At his cozy and romantic Heartland (1806 St. Clair Av., St. Paul, Heartlandrestaurant. com), chef Lenny Russo is offering a trio of four-course meals (meat, fish or vegetarian, $75 per person) on both Friday and Saturday evenings. Fugaise (308 E. Hennepin Av., Minneapolis, fugaise.com) chef Don Saunders is cooking six courses for $75, but going a step further by spreading the festivities across the 12th, 13th and 14th.Think about brunch.
Who decreed Valentine's Day as a dinner-only event? Enjoy a midday meal and then spend the afternoon and evening with a movie, a long walk and/or other up-close-and-personal pursuits. Share a lovely duck confit salad, smoked salmon-filled crépes or a hearty black bean-sweet potato omelet at chic Spoonriver (750 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis, spoonriver.com). Sunny Nick and Eddie (1612 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, nickandeddie.com) keeps things blessedly simple: bialys topped with gravlax and roasted tomatoes, eggs baked in brioche, eggs Benedict and a truly remarkable Gruyere-topped burger, all $10.50 or less. Or head to the Strip Club (378 Maria Av., St. Paul, domeats.com) for the zesty shrimp scampi scramble, hearty wild rice sausage-mushroom frittata and something refreshing from the bar, perhaps a blood orange caipirinha. Cheers.Go the takeout route.
Stay out of the kitchen and pass off someone else's cooking as your own. Two tips: Maintaining the charade is easier if you thoroughly ditch the packaging and drag out that wedding Wedgwood (the pattern you swore you couldn't live without yet let years pass between uses) and rely upon some top-quality takeout. Lucia's to Go (1432 W. 31st St., Minneapolis, lucias.com) is the place for soups, sandwiches and prepared salads, as well as a few daily entrees -- love those fish cakes -- and better-than-grandma's desserts. A quick drive-by at United Noodles (2015 E. 24th St., Minneapolis, unitednoodles.com) will fill the car with fresh-roasted pork and duck, fabulous dumplings, savory soups and more. Yum! Kitchen and Bakery (4000 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, yumkitchen.com) is banking on chicken pot pies topped with heart-shaped puff pastry -- and luscious red velvet cupcakes -- as a conduit to someone's heart. Surdyk's Cheese Shop (303 E. Hennepin Av., surdyks.com) is featuring a three-course Valentine's Day spread, with three options in each course, for $39 per person. You could also go the ribs route with a full rack, a side of slaw and a pair of twice-baked potatoes at the always swell Scott Ja-Mama's (3 W. Diamond Lake Road, Mpls., scottjamamas.com). Personally, I'd be happy with a sack of the fabulous roast beef sandwiches from Maverick's (1746 N. Lexington Av., Roseville, 651-488-1788), a couple of 16-ounce cans of Surly Furious ale and a roaring fire; no bear-skin rug required.Chocolate never hurts.
With so many divine locally produced chocolate products, it's not difficult to spend a little to make a huge -- and hugely memorable -- romantic gesture. Track down a carton of Potion No. 9 from Legacy Chocolates (2042 Marshall Av., St. Paul, legacychocolates.com) and watch it turn a few scoops of Blue Bunny vanilla into second honeymoon material. B.T. McElrath chocolatier Brian McElrath (btmcelrath.com) is cranking out a pucker-up goodie he calls "Love Notes," round truffles of dark chocolate ganache finished with timely messages along the lines of "Kiss Me." Or you can always whisper sweet nothings over a steaming cup of the extraordinary hot chocolate at Kopplin's Coffee (490 Hamline Av. S., St. Paul, kopplinscoffee.com), prepared with the good stuff from Minneapolis-made Rogue Chocolatier (roguechocolatier.com).Get your friends together.
Single? Rather than allowing the armies of lovey-dovey couples to keep you from a fun night out, corral a group of pals and make a night of it. Drop in on Brasa Rotisserie (600 E. Hennepin Av., Minneapolis, brasa.us) and pig out on a family-style meal; don't skip the amazing slow-roasted pork, the creamy cheese grits or the excellent corn bread. Steer the gang into a row of seats at the lively tapas bar at Solera (900 Hennepin Av. S., Minneapolis, solera-restaurant.com) and graze your way through the menu's 50-plus options (if you see the word "croquetas," order it). Or hunt down a spot at the bar at Bar Lurcat (1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, cafelurcat.com) and dig into pork belly sliders, miso-marinated sea bass, warm mini-doughnuts and the darned best little burgers in the city. With snacks this tasty (not to mention those countless wines by the glass), who needs a date?