Dining Picks

Still deciding where to celebrate Valentine's Day? Check out a few of our top picks

Still deciding where to celebrate Valentine's Day? Check out a few of our top picks

Austin Photo Set: News_dupuy_where to eat dec 2012_the carillon2
The Carillon Courtesy of The Carillon Restaurant Courtesy of The Carillon Restaurant
Austin Photo Set: News_dupuy_where to eat dec 2012_the carillon
The Carillon Courtesy of The Carillon Restaurant
Austin Photo Set: dupuy_where to eat valentines_feb 2013_contigo
Contigo Courtesy of Contigo
Austin Photo Set: News_dupuy_where to eat dec 2012_the carillon2
Austin Photo Set: News_dupuy_where to eat dec 2012_the carillon
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Dupuy_where to eat march_march 2012_trio
Austin Photo Set: dupuy_where to eat valentines_feb 2013_contigo

It’s less than a week until Valentine’s Day and if you’re any bit of a last-minute planner, your window for securing a romantic reservation for you and your honey is quickly narrowing. And when it comes to Valentine’s dining, not all restaurant experience are created equal. There are a lot of choices to wade through, and at this point, you really can’t dither about narrowing something down. 

Here are a few top spots that will no doubt deliver on your expectations for a romantic, or otherwise, enjoyable Valentine’s Day celebration. 

For Celebrating Valentine’s all week: The Carillon

Well, not all week. But certainly on into the weekend. And with stately seven-course menu Executive Chef Josh Watkins has prepared, it may be wise to make it a weekend occasion. (Especially if you opt for the carefully selected wine pairings.)

If anything, this is definitely a time to indulge in everything from poached oysters with caviar and fennel-dusted duck breast with vanilla pudding, tarragon syrup and heirloom carrots, to bacon-poached lamb and New York strip with cauliflower, cacao nibs and fish caramel. Finish the evening with a dark chocolate terrine with raspberry purée in a rather creative presentation including pistachio custard, grapefruit sorbet, Campari gelée, yogurt panna cotta and ginger shortbread.

The dinner menu is set at $85, with an additional $65 for wine pairings. Reservations strongly recommended. 

For pulling out all the stops: Congress

If you want to pull out all the stops, without a doubt, the place to go is Congress. If not for the elegant atmosphere, the white glove service, or the intimate seating arrangement, then certainly for the food, which is consistently as enchanting and deliberately crafted as the surroundings.

Executive Chef and Partner David Bull has taken this special occasion to reveal some of his new menu items, including Mayflower oysters with hominy, chorizo, kumquat and coriander blossoms; or savory Korean barbecued quail with white kimchi, Asian pear and red chile paste. (They usually always have a great music list playing in the background, too. Anything from Sinatra to U2 to Neil Young.)

Special Valentine’s menu extended through Friday and Saturday. Reservations strongly suggested. 

For a "come one, come all" Valentine’s: Contigo

One of my favorite spots for unconventionality, Contigo celebrates the day of St. Valentine with an invitation to couples, non-couples, friends, family and whomever to come out and meet new people.

Tables will be arranged to include mixed parties of reservations in hopes of sparking new friendships. Executive Chef Andrew Wiseheart’s $35 three-course dinner will be served family-style for all at the table to share.

Menu items include fried calamari salad, roasted beets with baby carrots and fennel salad; roasted quail with fingerling potatoes and shallots; grilled escarole with strawberries, pickled blueberries and tarragon verde with crispy garlic; and Champagne sabayon and berries with ginger tuile.

Reservations required. 

For oysters and champagne: Clark’s 

What’s great about Clark’s is its laid-back neighborhood feel. So when you dine here, whether it’s for a mid-week outing, a weekend date or even Valentine’s Day, you don’t have to worry about feeling shoved into a stuffy atmosphere. Which is great when you’re particularly in the mood for a simple platter of fresh oysters and a bottle of champagne — the perfect Valentine’s pairing.

Not all V-day celebrations have to culminate in a full evening of prix fixe dinners. And there’s nothing wrong with going home having had a few pearls of briny goodness and a slight Champagne buzz that won’t leave you feeling over-full.

Reservations recommended. 

For making a night of it: Trio 

You can’t beat the unbelievable attention to detail you witness when at a Four Seasons establishment, and that service-oriented attitude extends itself all the way to the Four Seasons Austin's first rate restaurant, Trio. It doesn’t hurt that coupled with the excellent service is a sensational seasonal (and responsibly sourced) menu from Chef Grant MacDonald and one of the best wine lists in town, from Advanced Sommelier Mark Sayre. 

The special five-course menu ($95) for Valentine’s kicks off with house-smoked trout with a black-eyed pea blini, crema and smoked caviar, followed by a choice of the duck tart or seared scallops. A Valentine’s Salad of greens, beets, raspberries and goat cheese will cleanse the palate before the fourth course of either a special seafood “Lobster Boll” of grouper, gulf shrimp, cauliflower and wilted greens or a prime beef filet with potato purée, Brussels sprouts and wild mushroom ragout.

Dessert gives an option between champagne and strawberries or a sinful chocolate and caramel concoction. It doesn't hurt that you could easily make a night of it by booking a cozy room upstairs for a stay — assuming there some still available.

Reservations strongly recommended.