It could seem like a huge Valentine’s Day coup to get a reservation at your favorite restaurant or a popular new venue, but proceed with care.
Here’s some insider information that people working in the restaurant business might be reluctant to share with you: The worst night of the year to eat out is Valentine’s Day. I saw these problems personally this holiday season having eaten out.
The main explanation is that you won’t be able to sample everything the restaurant has to offer. Many restaurants decide to present a prix-fixe menu instead of the establishment’s best-selling items because of the strong demand for reservations.
Not because it makes for a better meal, but because a prix-fixe menu reduces cost and complication. The problem: it can be unfamiliar to both the cooks and wait staff, inviting more opportunity for mistakes both in the kitchen and in terms of wine pairings and menu choices.
Contributing to the chaos, tables get shuffled around and squeezed in to accommodate an increased head count. You might end up in a subpar location (near the dishwasher) or seated at a wobbly, rented table, as has happened to me. More significantly, the arrangement alters the flow of service. An increased number of tables means more orders for waiters to manage, which spells trouble even for veteran teams. Add these factors to the pressure of making this night memorable for the moony-eyed couples, and blunders are bound to happen.
I find it much more romantic to stay in and instead treat my boyfriend and myself to a bottle of Champagne (or Barolo) and a simple but special cheese and charcuterie plate, something hands-off that keeps the cleanup to a minimum. (A mountain of dirty dishes can be quite the mood killer.) Typically, we make a Valentine’s Day dinner out of baguette, our favorite cheeses, charcuterie, and luxe accoutrements, like membrillo, cornichons, and marcona almonds. Pair with a couple glasses of wine and a sweet treat sourced from a favorite bakery or a choice assortment of chocolates, and you have the makings of an ideal meal to linger over.
Ultimately, the decision to dine out or stay in is up to you and what feels right to where you are in your relationship, but I wholeheartedly suggest choosing an intimate evening in and instead booking a prime reservation on a less-loaded night.