Valentine’s dinner in RVA (your way)

Feeling overwhelmed by Richmond’s Valentine’s Day dining options? Calm yourself! Here our food writer offers a curated list of some of the best spots to spend the big night — whether you’re looking to stay in, cuddle up, or go all out.

When Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday, you can pretty much get away with making your date night on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or the actual day. Hopefully this will alleviate some of the dining-out crowding that makes me want to throw my hands up and take my date to McDonald’s. However, just be on the safe side, I’ve pulled together a list of a few local options that will hopefully steer you away from the crowds and into something that’s just right for whatever kind of night you have planned.

At home

If you’re looking for a night in but don’t have the skills or desire to cook, I recommend the gourmet sandwiches from Olio (200 1/2 Main Street). I’ve had some of the best food in town from there. They’re also offering an easy-to-reheat entree pre-fixe entrée option, complete with a bottle of house white or red wine for $45 to $50. (If you’d like to eat-in at Olio’s space, then call 804-355-5182 by February 11 for a seating between 5pm until 9pm.)

For a very Richmond (and affordable) experience, get sushi and tots from Sticky Togogo and pick up a case of PBR on your way home. I don’t know what it is about that combination, but it is incredibly satisfying.

Cozy & Quiet

Zeus Gallery Cafe (201 N. Belmont Avenue) is a tiny, dark, chalkboard-menu-only spot in the Museum District with entrees in the $18 to $35 range. This would be the place to have some serious one-on-one time.

Request a table in the back area to the right of the bar, and you can have a tucked-away, romantic experience at Cous Cous (900 W. Franklin Street); it’s surprisingly cozy for a VCU hotspot. With dim lighting, jewel tones, Moorish designs, and Moroccan dishes to share, Cous Cous also boasts a tasty Sangria and creative cocktails.

A place well-loved by foodies and chefs, Cafe Rustica (414 E. Main Street) is aptly named with a bare-bones charm and out-of-the-way feel. Most dishes are under $20, but they will have a pre-fixe menu for Valentine’s Day, with several courses, in the $60 range.

Amour Wine Bistro (3129 W. Cary Street) in Carytown is another romantic hideaway. Their pre-fixe is a little pricier than most, but they’re dedicated to the careful art of wine and food pairing. Offering the four-course “Romantic Night in Paris” at various price levels, their menu jokingly cites disclaimers for certain food aphrodisiacs. Be sure to chat with owner Paul; his accent, knowledge, and genuineness will win you over.

Classic Night Out

If you plan to see a movie at Bowtie Cinemas on the Boulevard, Stronghill Dining Company (1200 N. Boulevard) across the street has a nice bar and small area of two-tops, as well as several couches for lounging in the front area. With specials until 7:30pm daily, you can have a beverage before your movie. Just don’t go see No Strings Attached if you just started dating your special someone. Trust me, that theoretical conversation won’t end well. (Note: they are closed on Mondays.)

Dinner and the ballet would be the more upscale version of the classic dinner-and-a-movie-date (though to kill two birds with one stone, you could just see Black Swan). Richmond Ballet performs Giselle, which, like most of the ballet classics, is about heartbreak. Shows are Friday through Sunday at 7pm (Sunday also offers 2pm performances) at Richmond’s CenterStage (600 E. Grace Street). Tickets are in the $17 to $127 range. For a mid-range view, you’ll probably pay $35 to $45. To make a whole day of it, the ballet is also offering a Sunday brunch for $37 at 12 noon in the neighboring Rhythm Hall before the 2pm matinee.

Dating an art lover? Even if you can’t tell a Pissaro from a Picasso, the VMFA (200 N. Boulevard) is free, wins you culture points, and Amuse Restaurant (pictured above) still has that shiny newness to it. The museum’s open until 9 on Thursdays and Fridays, so come for dinner, or just a cocktail in the lounge overlooking the sculpture garden, which is looking better and better everyday. They also offer a Sunday brunch from 11:30am to 2pm. For a more informal setting, Best Cafe downstairs is good for a low-key snack or coffee for those on a budget.

Europa (1409 E. Cary Street) has never disappointed me. I went on Valentine’s Day one year and even though they were understandably busy, I never felt rushed or my experience compromised. In the past, Europa has had a special Valentine’s menu, but you could also choose from their regular menu of entrees and tapas, so there’s lots of ways to customize your meal. Mondays are half-off tapas from 5pm to 6pm. Get the hanger steak entree if in doubt.

If none of these are up your alley, check out our list of Valentine’s Day dining specials happening around Richmond. And be sure to tune in later this week when Holly offers up a “sweet” alternative to the typical Valentine’s dinner out.

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Holly Gordon

Holly Gordon spends her days working with Richmond’s hearty nonprofit community and her nights singing in a community chorus. She loves her feminist book club, and is always distracted by shiny things.

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