If your significant other is anything like me, they appreciate a good meal out on the town — where someone else handles the cooking and the dishes and you're able to enjoy a nice plate of food without having to lift a finger. I'm also quite food-motivated, so roses, while beautiful, aren't necessary (they're going to die after a few days anyway: sad face). My suggestion: Skip the flowers or heart-shaped box of chocolates and aim straight for the heart (the gut).
If you're going to brave the dining crowds for Valentine's Day, keep these things in mind.
Make a Reservation
If you're looking for a romantic, sit-down experience, you're probably not the only one. And with Valentine's Day falling on a Friday this year — an already busy day/night for many restaurants — you may have a tough time getting seated if you just show up unannounced. This goes for the day of and likely the entire weekend. If you've got big plans in your mind but haven't acted on them yet, stop reading this right now and call (or go online) and make a reservation. Do it. Now. We'll wait.
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Will your restaurant of choice have a limited or special menu that night? Will there be special pricing? Since you're already calling to make a reservation (ahem, have you done this yet?), ask some questions and know what you're getting into.
Prepare for People
Remember that you won't be alone out there. It's going to be extra people-y, folks! Many groups and couples will be lining up for a taste of Valentine's fare. Somewhere in the crowd, you may see a lot of hand-holding, or possibly some more-blatant PDA. If you're flying solo, know that you might bear witness to a good bit of mushy, romantic verbal or physical proclamations of love — maybe order to-go or delivery if that sort of thing annoys you. If you're the kissing couple, be mindful of others — we came to eat; we could do without a full-on show. (But we love that you're in love!)
Be Patient and Polite
In a packed restaurant, things can get a little hectic behind the scenes. Be respectful of the servers who are busting butt to get your extra salad dressing and drink refills as quickly as they can while juggling multiple tables. Understand that the bartender has a dozen drinks to shake and pour before yours. And know that the kitchen staff is all-hands-on-deck churning out plate after plate of food for hungry V-Day diners. This is not the time to be impatient. Enjoy some good conversation with your dinner date between courses, and the night will unfold as it should.
Tip — and Tip Well
This should really go without saying — because DUH! — but absolutely tip your servers well. Over-tip even. The people making this happen for you are missing this time with their own loved ones. You don't have to cook, and you don't have to do the dishes. Make sure you show your appreciation for their time, attentiveness, and job well-done in the form of cold, hard cash (or a few extra dollars written in on the "tip" line of your credit card receipt). Show them the money!
If you follow these suggestions (the tip thing is more of a demand, really), you should be all set for a successful Valentine's dining experience. Happy Day to you and yours and bon appetit!