It seems perverse and a bit cruel to ask a perennially single and grumpy-about-it employee to write a roundup of romantic date spots, doesn't it? I mean, Jesus, talk about salting a wound. But the Mercury overlords have spoken, so I'll do my best: Here's a short list of spots you can take a date in order to ensure that they will probably put out later. Or, er... if you want to show your schmoopy-woopy that you really care, here are some places where cuisine and candlelight combine, where glances linger, and—oh, whatever.
3901 N Williams, 3402 SE Division, 3731 SE Hawthorne, pixpatisserie.com
It might seem a little obvious, but don't overlook Pix Patisserie for all your romance-related needs. Not only do bitches love chocolate (we do!), the three Pix locations also offer a variety of other desserts (including killer homemade ice cream), plus they have the most exhaustive selection of booze around (Belgian ales, fancy liqueurs, dessert wines, and on and on). PLUS! Pix really gets into the spirit of this Valentine's Day thing, and there are a crapload of contests and love-themed jollity going on until the V-Day apocalypse is finally over. Such as: a confession wall, where you can submit your anonymous secrets for all the world to read. A love letter contest, where contestants are challenged to pen an ode to chocolate—the winner will receive a $100 Pix gift certificate and a box of chocolates. And best of all, on Valentine's Day, one gift box will contain a diamond pendant necklace!
200 NE 28th, 238-3777
Tabla Mediterranean Bistro on NE 28th recently brought back their prix fixe menu, which has long been one of the better date deals around. A mere $24 will get you a choice of an appetizer, a pasta dish, and an entrée—that's pretty damn cheap, particularly considering that Tabla's bright open kitchen, well-heeled staff, and sleek dining room all seem to cater to the higher end of the income spectrum. The menu, too, is fine-tuned and a bit spendy, featuring homemade pastas and a rotating lineup of meticulously prepared regional dishes. But at $24, even the riffraff can afford a little romance, and if you've got money to burn, you'll find appropriate libational accompaniment on a well-chosen list of Spanish, Italian, and French wines. (If you don't have money to burn, Chin Yen is right up the street.)
5008 SE Hawthorne, 232-6333
The very date-oriented Sapphire Hotel wants you to come in and eat and drink and make merry, and then they want you to go home and do it. I mean, they don't come right out and say so explicitly, but they sure don't hesitate to let you know that the bar is housed in a former brothel, and why else would they tell us that? Froofy cocktails and a fusion-y menu combine with moody red décor and flickering candles to create an aphrodisiac environment in which damn near everyone becomes better looking and exponentially more interesting. Anyone who takes a date to the Sapphire and doesn't get a piece later might want to take a real hard look in the mirror.
Lovely Hula Hands
4057 N Mississippi, 445-9910
Don't take just any date to Lovely Hula Hands—it's a little spendy, so if you're dating someone who'd be just as happy eating at the Macaroni Grill, you might as well skip it. If, though, you've landed yourself a discriminating date who appreciates the finer things, taking them to Hula Hands will reflect well on you. The menu rotates seasonally, and while the kitchen certainly adheres to the local/sustainable ethos, you won't find any elaborately concocted towers of food here. The food is expertly prepared but unfussy, and the ambiance is similarly elegant without being uptight.
10 SE 7th, 736-3276
My last visit to the Farm was a while ago, but it was one of those Perfect Dates, where good food and good company coincided, where you both end up pleasantly full and pleasantly drunk, but not so much of either that you don't want to have sex afterward. There's no denying that the cozy little farmhouse off of E Burnside just oozes ambiance—and everybody looks good in that lighting. With a vegetarian-oriented menu that also encompasses fish, it's a great spot for couples with different dietary preferences: Vegetarians won't feel like they're stuck with a token pasta dish, and carnivores will still be able to sink their incisors into a big slab of protein, albeit of the water-dwelling sort. The Farm has something of a reputation for lackadaisical service, so if you're the controlling, date-perfectionist type, best go elsewhere—but if you can relax into the pace of the place, you're in for a treat. Well-executed dishes made with fresh, local ingredients (homemade butternut squash ravioli; a fantastically addictive "three-cheese" ball; simple, sensible, well-portioned seafood dishes) and inventive house cocktails (a Bloody Mary with beet juice?) are worth the wait for a table.