For some reason, just about everyone thinks they should go to a super-romantic restaurant on Valentine's Day. We have it in our head that an overpriced prix fixe menu chased with an overpriced bottle of wine and a refrigerated chocolate dessert is the right way to go on this holiday, but, in fact, the exact opposite is true: stay away from restaurants, and make a home-cooked meal instead.
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There's far more romance in a home-cooked meal than there is at a fancy restaurant, and reservations at the truly great restaurants are almost impossible to score, so most people end up opting for their second or third choice.
There's a reason why so many Valentine's Day menus are prix fixe: It's a way for the kitchen to churn out a high volume of the exact same dishes (because everyone is forced to order basically the same thing), and it's also a great way to jack up the price. If you're forced to pay $75 for three courses (and who can resist a supplementary $30 wine pairing?), you may end up forking over a lot more money than if you just ordered one appetizer, two entrÃ©es, one dessert and one reasonably priced bottle of wine. But restaurants also know that you'll be more willing to part with more cash, for the simple reason that it's Valentine's Day.
So here's what you do: Make a couple of nice steaks together (or anything, really, as long as it's not a ham sandwich), get the kids out of the house, put a tablecloth on the kitchen table, dim the lights, light some candles, turn on some Al Green, open that nice bottle of wine you've been saving, indulge in some truffles from one of America's top chocolate shops and enjoy your meal in the peace and quiet of your very own home. It'll be a quieter and more romantic experience than trying to get a harried waiter's attention in a packed Italian restaurant, and the food will probably taste better anyway. Wait until another time to visit the best special occasion restaurants in America.