Second only to Mother's Day is Valentine's Day in popularity for dining out. It's a big deal. So, if you're planning on cuisine with Cupid, you damn well better book a reservation. Here are some spots that are featuring special menus and prices, as well as some suggestions for hosting your honey at home.
Whether it's Valentine's Day or any other, one of my true loves is carnitas, and one sure way to my heart is El Cabrito (956 W. 1000 North, 801-363-2645) in Rose Park, where you can pick up a pound of incredible pork carnitas—already cooked and ready to eat—for a mere $6. Or, consider El Día del Amor y la Amistad (the day of love and friendship) fare at Alamexo (268 S. State, 801-779-4747, alamexo.com) from Feb. 14-18, featuring regional Mexican dinner specials.
Chef Andy Morrison at Caffe Niche (779 E. 300 South, 801-433-3380, caffeniche.com) celebrates with a four-course, $45 menu featuring choices like French onion beef tenderloin, lobster sliders and wild mushroom bisque. A little further west, at Current Fish & Oyster (279 E. 300 South, 801-326-3474, currentfishandoyster), chef Phelix Gardner's four-course, $70 dinner offers selections such as whole branzino, beef short rib with lobster croquettes, a seafood tower, oysters on the half-shell, beef tartare, crab cakes and many others. Stay-in seafood lovers would be wise to raid the fresh selection at Aquarius Fish Co. (314 W. 300 South, 801-533-5653, aquariusfish.com) for an in-home seafood extravaganza.
East Liberty Tap House (850 E. 900 South, 801-441-2845, eastlibertytaphouse.com) isn't exactly on board with Valentine's Day. With tongue firmly in cheek, they're throwing a Singles Awareness Day (S.A.D.) bash, and a chance to "escape all the mushy-ness around town" with anti-Cupid garlic soup, single-serving desserts and sloppy dishes like lamb and mushroom sandwiches.
Finca (327 W. 200 South, 801-487-0699, fincaslc.com) offers a dine-in option—a six-course dinner ($65 food; $36 wine)—or a take-home tasting menu, which includes paella, for $29-$34 per person (two-person minimum). To stock up on Spanish provisions like bomba rice, jamón, olive oils and smoked pimiento for an at-home fiesta, Liberty Heights Fresh (1290 S. 1100 East, 801-583-7374, libertyheightsfresh.com) is a great place to shop. And, speaking of fresh, at the Oasis Café (151 S. 500 East, 801-322-0404, oasiscafeslc.com)—which specializes in fresh, healthy fare—you can get a four-course dinner for $40. Choose from dishes like ahi tartare-stuffed Campari tomato, pan-roasted halibut, seared beef tenderloin and pistachio cheesecake.
From Feb. 11-14, Pago (878 S. 900 East, 801-532-0777, pagoslc.com) features a five-course dinner tasting menu for couples ($75 food per-person; wine pairings $42) with options ranging from beet soup, pork belly with strawberries and steak tartare, to honey-ginger glazed duck breast, curried cauliflower and Rioja-poached pasta, all with wines specially selected to pair with each dish.
For a virtual Valentine's trip to the City of Light (and love), look no further than La St. Valentin à Paris at The Paris (1500 S. 1500 East, 801-486-5585, theparis.net). The "Magnifique" five-course menu ($89.95) offers choices like Thai-spiced Alaskan King crab, grilled Canadian lobster tail, pan-roasted Chilean sea bass, seared Muscovy duck breast, French-style surf and turf and crépes Suzette.
If a jaunt to Italy is more up your alley, enjoy dinner with your love at Stanza Italian Bistro & Wine Bar (454 E. 300 South, 801-746-4441, stanzaslc.com). Their Valentine's feast ($65) includes buttermilk panna cotta, Alaskan King crab with saffron-fennel-citrus sauce, black truffle spaghettini with leek-butter infusion, blood orange with black olive and candied walnut intermezzo, porcini-dusted New York strip loin with Barolo glaze and a special dessert surprise. This is the first V-Day at Stanza since opening, and operations manager Hillary Merrill promises "great Italian food in a stunning, dramatic setting."
Over at Trestle Tavern (1513 S. 1500 East, 801-532-3372, trestletavern.com) a four-course dinner tasting menu with optional wine pairings ($40 food; $25 wine) is in order. The menu includes a cheese board for the table, lamb meatballs with shitake and oyster mushroom cream sauce, stuffed zucchini with farmer's cheese, grilled quail, seared albacore tuna with spaetzle, braised beef short rib and chocolate cheesecake with berry sauce.
What could be sexier than a taste of Brazil? Tucanos Brazilian Grill (162 S. 400 West, 801-456-2550, tucanos.com) is the Rio way to the heart for this Valentine's Day with their special lovers menu and fresh flowers for every table. The $29.95-per-person, all-day menu features Tucanos normal churrasco feast complete with hot and cold buffet, plus special additions like rosemary herbed salmon, roasted rib eye, grilled shrimp and chocolate Brazilian truffle.
My ultimate indulgence would probably be an intimate picnic at home. For that, I'd first raid the cheese cave at Tony Caputo's Market & Deli (314 W. 300 South, 801-531-8669, caputosdeli.com) for some cave-aged taleggio, forteto boschetto tartufo, testun al barolo and Igor gorgonzola piccante cheeses, plus some of Spain's incredible Fermín acorn-fed, free-range Ibérico ham and a terrine of Three Little Pigs Mousse Royal. And while I'm there, I'll pick up a fresh truffle to grate over a helping of bronze-cut pasta from Maestri. Since the chocolate selection at Caputo's is second to none—housing some 400 different choices—finding the perfect chocolate will be a slam-dunk. Throw in a trip to the wine store for a bottle of Moët & Chandon Rosé Imperial Champagne, Saved "Magic Maker" Rosé, Loveblock Pinot Noir or Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé, and Cupid's arrows will be a-flying.