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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vexing Valentine's Dining

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:17 AM

If you plan to dine out on Valentine's Day this year, and you're reading this post realizing you haven't yet made a reservation it's probably time to start thinking up Plan B.

Get creative. Cook at home, host a party with some other couples and/or singles, pray for gentle weather and plan an evening picnic somewhere, order a pizza and trim it into a pepperoni-dotted valentine heart. . .anything that doesn't require what are now becoming very scarce restaurant reservations.

It can't hurt to call your favorite restaurant right now – right this second -- and you might get lucky. But some restaurants have already begun sending out advisories that they are booked to the gills for Saturday.

I field a lot of calls from friends -- and friends of friends -- for local restaurant recommendations, but I was surprised by how many people called over the weekend looking for Valentine's Day picks. Even last week it was getting pretty late in the game, as dining room seating charts everywhere were being revised to make more two-tops for Feb. 14.

The holiday serves as an annual stimulus package for the restaurant industry, regardless of the state of the economy, and restaurateurs are preparing for the welcome onslaught. As usual, many restaurants plan to make the most of it with "special menus" for Valentine's Day, with special pricing (higher than normal) and special selections (fewer than ever).

For many, the extraordinarily high demand for tables and manifestly mercantile nature of the holiday in general are enough to put them off dining out on Valentine's Day altogether. Personally, I hope our restaurateurs and their staff get what has to be a much-needed payday from the holiday this year, and my hope is that some diners will discover a new favorite restaurant on Saturday night to return to throughout the year.

But I also picked up some sage perspective recently from a friend who tends bar and has no doubt heard many of her regulars complaining over their pint glasses about vexing Valentine's Day plans. Her advice: "Just hug the person you love, tell them you love them and tell them you'll love them tomorrow too and every other day that isn't Valentine's Day."

That's my plan, plus maybe a heart-shaped pizza.

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