Valentine’s Day is barreling towards us, and as much as you might want to take that opportunity to really feel the weight of loneliness, it’s also a wonderful excuse to go out to eat. So grab your partner, your best friend or your mirror, and enjoy what your favourite city has to offer!
Montréal Plaza, in Montreal
Plaza St-Hubert has been the cornerstone of Montreal kitsch for decades but these days, gentrification oblige, the old staples we’ve come to rely on (a.k.a. wigs and prom dresses) are carrying on alongside decidedly more fashionable establishments. One of these (relatively) new Plaza dwellers is Montréal Plaza, a friendly and festive restaurant that brings to mind a Martha Stewart photoshoot celebrating casual elegance. The wine list is endless, and you’ll need some solid self-restraint not to order every dish in sight. We’d start with oysters and cocktails, then order the tasting menu. It’s likely to raise the bar for subsequent date nights.
Ten Foot Henry, in Calgary
Ten Foot Henry is named after a 1930s comic strip character, Henry, which was actually built into a 10-foot travelling statue (seriously, Google it). That kooky tidbit does a good job setting the tone for the place – it stands out from the crowd. The menu’s main stars are vegetables, with a supporting cast of pasta, fish and meat, mostly in the form of sharing plates. It’s comfort food made from simple yet expertly chosen ingredients by people who seriously know their way around a kitchen, probably wizards we think. You’ll find yourself enfolded in a warm embrace of hanging plants, wooden beams and genuinely helpful service – and the affordable prices are pretty cool, too. We’d have a Valentine’s Day date with the restaurant itself if we could.
Alice, in Ottawa
Alice is a fine dining restaurant that lives inside a converted house and its small attendant greenhouse. You’ll find it on a residential street in Little Italy and, be warned, you won’t want to leave. Upon entering the premises, you’ll quickly notice a wall-sized glass cabinet, filled with solemnly lit jars of fermenting ingredients (which should prove popular with your kombucha-brewing partner, you’re welcome). The dining area is modestly sized and designed with nature in mind – both in terms of ambiance and environmental responsibility. The menu focuses on plain ingredients prepared in unexpected ways. Go for the eight-course tasting menu, and do try the chef’s renowned cocktails, we hear they’re a must.
Sous Sol, in Winnipeg
Candlelight, a hidden entrance, a website that plays a MIDI version of Africa by Toto – not sure if we even need to keep going! Millennials will be thrilled to learn that the restaurant cannot be reached via phone, and even more relevant to the readers of this post is the existence of a Valentine’s Day sharing menu! There’s a sizeable selection of cocktails and the local beer list is generous, too. It’s French classics made to perfection, served in mismatched antiques in a romantic atmosphere, by people who have managed to create a superior dining experience without taking themselves too seriously. Hurry boy, she's waiting there for you.
Kin Kao, in Vancouver
Kin Kao is a compact restaurant on Commercial Drive that serves some of the best Thai food in town. Diminutive in size, the pared down layout and furniture gives the place an air of spaciousness, and the food is definitely grand. Composed of a fairly large number of traditional dishes, the menu is a balanced pairing of authentic Thai dishes and seasonal, local ingredients. The owners are also big fans of local craft beer, which manifests itself in a changing list of carefully selected brews. This is without question the most laidback and affordable place on this list, but it absolutely measures up in terms of charm and deliciousness. Raise your pint to food, beer and staying on budget.
Lastly, don’t forget to call ahead and ask about reservations! You don’t want to be lining up outside in the cold on the day of love, hoping some couple breaks up over complimentary bread so that a table becomes available. Happy Valentine’s day!