Austin Foodie Bits ~ Valentine’s Day Special Edition

The word Love done with letterpress type on white background.The Super Bowl is over (yay Packers) and now it’s on to the holiday especially created to balance out the male obsession with championship football: Valentine’s Day. Okay, so maybe the holiday wasn’t expressly created as a foil for championship football, more like a way for Hallmark to sell more cards, but it is a nice way to balance out the man-focused bacchanalia with a woman-centric intimate celebration of love.

Not that I’m generalizing or anything.

Valentine’s Day is a week away and if you are in Austin and want to go out, you need a plan. Austin Food Lovers’ Companion to the rescue! I’ve rounded up the details on interesting and fun menus at some of the best spots around town to help you narrow down your choices and create the perfect evening.

Since early January I’ve been warning you – no begging you – to make your reservations for Valentine’s Day in advance so you can get the seating time of your choice at the restaurant of your choice. If you haven’t headed my advice and still don’t have a plan, I’m not sure how many more ways I can say MAKE ONE NOW. IF you’re without a reservation you’d better be ready to fire up the stove or prepare to spend some extended quality couple time waiting in line for the next available seat.

While not an exhaustive list of your options, I think these are some of the best. Reservations are required at every single one of these places, so if you see a listing that strikes your fancy, MAKE ONE NOW.

  • Alamo Draft House Valentine’s Day Feasts – For a fun take on dinner and a movie, visit your local Alamo to watch a romantic movie and enjoy a paired menu. It’s certainly not your typical Valentine’s Day date. Choose from West Side Story at North Lamar, Chocolat at Lake Creek, or Eat Drink Man Woman
    Downtown. Sadly, Princess Bride at The Village is sold out. $75/person.
  • ASTI specials – This romantic Italian spot in Central Austin will have their regular menu plus a gulf crab bruschetta, local beet risotto in a lovely red to celebrate the day, grilled Texas quail, and a cherry semifreddo. You can enjoy these special menus Friday, Saturday, and Monday (they are closed on Sunday).
  • Barley Swine gets cozy – Barley Swine typically embraces a communal dining experience, but for one night only they will create a more intimate environment for sharing their wonderful local food with your sweetheart. The special seven course dinner includes baked oysters, beet borscht, grilled mushrooms, black bass, foie stuffed quail, braised short ribs, and opera cake. $80/person.
  • The Carillon Valentine’s weekend menu – Chef Josh Watkins serves up an amazing experience at every turn, and Valentine’s Day promises to be no exception. Featuring escolar sashimi, lobster and scallops, seared foie gras, apple wood smoked ribeye, and blueberry donut bread pudding, your date will remember this dine for many years to come. $75/person.
  • Chez Zee specials and prix fixe menu – If you’re looking for a cozy and well-priced four course prix fixe menu ($40/person) for Valentine’s weekend, Chez Zee has you covered. They will also have specials like Chateaubriand and Oysters Rockefeller along with their regular menu, so the options are almost limitless. And, as a final bonus, they will have live music and extended dinner hours so you have more opportunities to get a reservation.
  • FINO specials – Like its sister restaurant ASTI, FINO will offer its full menu along with special dishes like truffled manchago croquetas, beet gazpacho, grilled lamb chops, and white chocolate cake. If you want a casual yet relaxed dinner with small plates perfect for sharing, FINO is your spot. (FINO is also closed on Sunday.)
  • Fleming’s colorful weekend menu – For all of Valentine’s Day weekend Fleming’s will offer a special dinner for two especially designed for sharing along with their regular ala carte menu. Choose from filet mignon and crab stuffed shrimp ($99/couple) or New York strip steak and shrimp scampi ($90/couple) and follow either with red velvet cake and chocolate dipped strawberries for the perfect ending to the perfect night. With their extensive wine by the glass menu as well as their extensive cellar, you can enjoy a special wine experience along with your special meal.
  • Fonda San Miguel HAAM Benefit – When you celebrate Valentine’s Day at Fonda San Miguel, you’ll also be supporting an important local charity, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. Fonda will donate 10% of food sales to HAAM in memory of local musician and founder of HAAM Robin Shivers. Your someone special will not only appreciate the wonderful food and ambiance on this special day, but you’ll feel great knowing you’re giving back to the community as part of your evening out.
  • Foreign and Domestic special service – This intimate spot is usually closed on Mondays, but they will open up in honor of Valentine’s Day and offer a special four course dinner featuring selections like Waygu beef or duck fat poached halibut. If you want a dining experience that’s just a little unexpected but oh-so-amazing, this is a great choice. At $45/person it’s also a great value.
  • Hudson’s on the Bend 25th Valentine’s Day celebration – If you are looking for an Austin-style splurge out on the edges of the Hill Country, Hudson’s on the Bend will help you create a truly memorable evening. Their special $100/person menu includes a variety of tasty and unexpected options including oysters, foie gras, lobster, rattlesnake, chorizo enchiladas, grilled pheasant, back strap of venison, Meyer lemon cheesecake, ménage á trois of créme brulee, and more.
  • Monument Café weekend specials – Out in Georgetown, Monument Café will offer a different special each night of Valentine’s Day weekend. Down home favorites like pecan crusted pork tenderloin, NY Strip Steak, and tortilla crusted tilapia will warm the soul as you relax with your date. And of course, Monument’s amazing desserts like chocolate pie, banana pudding, and peach-strawberry cobbler are perfect for sharing, so be sure to ask for two spoons.
  • TRACE at the W prix fixe menu – If a hip and stylish Valentine’s Day is more your taste, choose from two different options at the new W Hotel’s restaurant. Start with a drink in one of their interesting bars then order from the full menu for the first seating starting at 5:30 pm seating (just before the Willie Nelson ACL show), or from a special four course prix fixe menu for the 8:00 pm seating. If you opt for the special menu you can look forward to grilled scallops or smoked trout, goat cheese ravioli, beef duo or grilled lamb, and chocolate cheery stout cake or strawberry shortcake for dessert.
  • NXNW dinner and brews – If a relaxed brew pub is more your style for this romantic occasion, NXNW is offering a special chef-crafted meal, a holiday-themed brew and music by the Suzanne Smith Trio. The special menu will include options like cream of smoked mushroom soup, grilled lobster ceviche, stuffed trout, grilled beef tenderloin, and pumpkin cheesecake. And to round out the dinner you can enjoy a special red-tinted brew that is aged in wine barrels and blended with cherries for a unique experience. $45/person or $80/couple. The regular menu will also be available.
  • Paggie House prix fix menu – For an in-town splurge in a beautiful space, try Paggie House’s prix fixe menu any day of the weekend (including Sunday when they are usually closed). This special experience from the chef will include choices like scallop and foie, Wagyu tartare, surf and turf, lamb rack, goat milk cheesecake, and chocolate terrine. $95/person. On Friday and Saturday you can also choose from their regular menu.
  • Parkside special dessert menu – Sporting what I think is one of the most inventive Valentine’s Day special menus I’ve seen, Parkside is offering a special $21/person dessert tasting menu as their weekend special. Feast on champagne and strawberries, spiced donut holes, ‘smores, and petit fours as the perfect way to end your evening. Start with a light dinner from the Parkside raw bar and then splurge on this amazing set of confections. You’ll even leave with a coffee cake muffin for breakfast the next morning.
  • Zed’s food and flowers – One of Austin’s newest eateries is not only going to make a great dinner easy as pie, but they will even order a personalized flower arrangement for your table ($35/half dozen or $60/dozen roses) so you have all of the angles covered. The prix fixe menu includes a shared appetizer, two entrées, two sides, two desserts and two glasses of champagne for $75 per couple. Your menu options includes Calamari, tossed with fried banana peppers and served with spicy ranch and cocktail sauces, beef tenderloin filet with poblano béarnaise, a fudge brownie with Amy’s Mexican Vanilla ice cream topped with jalapeno glaze or homemade crème brulee. They will also offer a reduced version of their regular dinner menu.

Sometimes though, an intimate dinner in is just what the love doctor ordered. If you want to create your special night at home, but aren’t quite up for the cooking, Central Market is offering special Dinners for Two paired with a bottle of wine. Menu options include oven roasted lobster tail, beef tenderloin and grilled shrimp, and chicken saltimbocca. Stop by your local Central Market, grab your dinner, the wine, and some fresh flowers for the table, and you’ll be all set for a lovely evening. To be sure your dinner is ready when you are, call ahead (512-206-1000 N. Lamar or 512-899-4300 S. Lamar) by early on the 14th to place your order.

No matter how you spend your special day, I hope it’s full of love and good food. Happy Valentine’s Day from the Austin Food Lovers’ Companion!

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