Photo courtesy of Cassandra Klepac

February in Austin can be a fickle month to plan a date – we’re just in the midst of winter and feeling the effects of fake spring (with the allergies to match). Is it cold enough to wear a sweater? Is your connection with bae warm enough for a fancy dinner?

No matter the weather, there’s no better way to spend your Valentine’s Day than with your significant other in the heart of Texas. We’ve got your picks for extravagant date nights, laid back at-home dinners, and anti-V-Day fun.

Snap Kitchen takeout
For an easy Valentine’s Day dinner for two, look no further than any of the nine local Snap Kitchen locations in Austin. Their V-Day Bundle includes starter salads, lemon-roasted salmon, parmesan roasted broccoli, and brownie batter chia seed pudding. The meal deal will be available from February 9-14 and can be ordered online ($19.99) at snapkitchen.com or picked up in-person at any location.

Blue Starlite Drive-in’s Valentine’s at the Drive-In
A classic date night with an Austin twist: Blue Starlite’s 13th annual Valentine's at the Drive-in Nights are back from January 20 through February 14. This year’s romantic line-up includes The Princess Bride and The Notebook, while new additions include Twilight, The Bodyguard, The Wedding Singer, and more. Blue Starlite’s Ultimate Valentine's Day package for two comes with two popcorns, two movie theater candles, Valentines candy and a rose, and the Mueller location has drive-in donuts from its own food truck. The theater chain is navigating a recent theft at the downtown location, so check bluestarlitedrivein.com closer to the date to verify showtimes as they may change.

Truluck’s TRU love Valentine’s Day specials
If you’re interested in celebrating the holiday early, Truluck offers guests the “ocean’s finest sustainably sourced seafood” at two unique locations in Austin. Both will have a seasonal chocolate strawberry cake dessert and TRU love cocktail for all of February, with a special king crab ravioli from February 10-14. Reservations are not required but are highly recommended; reserve on OpenTable.

The Melting Pot's Valentine's and Galentine's events
Austin’s destination restaurant for love, romance, and friendship has a variety of options for the week of February 14. Every Wednesday, it offers a Best Fondue Friends Forever (BFFF) menu, complete with cheese and chocolate fondue ($32 per person). On Thursday, it offers four-course Thursdate dinners for two featuring a rose petal and candle-covered table for couples ($52 per person). On Valentine’s Day from 2-11 pm, they will provide lovebirds a five-course fondue experience that includes charcuterie, a decadent chocolate fondue, and more for $79 per person. Reservations encouraged at meltingpot.com.

Devil May Care’s “My Bloody Valentine!”
Austin’s favorite underground lounge is providing guests with an anti-Valentine’s day atmosphere this year, if you prefer to reject the overly sickly sweet sentiments of the holiday. Galentines can spend the night dancing and enjoying their choice of Mediterranean cuisine with specially prepared dishes such as cured beet salmon, and build-your-own gyro-style grilled lamb legs. Devil May Care is also whipping up a specialty cocktail, “Real Short Skirt,” topped with a house-made heart-shaped bitter lollipop. Reserve starting January 27 at devilmaycareatx.com.

Honey Moon Spirit Lounge
Honey Moon Spirit Lounge’s Valentine’s Day menu is just the right choice for couples looking for a luxe date night. Featuring caviar service, a grand seafood tower, East Coast oysters and more, these high-end offerings are certain to enchant guests and provide a sumptuous evening experience. Reserve on OpenTable.

L’Oca d’Oro's "Valentine's Mash Up Vol. VI"
1970's hits from corporate-backed pop and indie rock backgrounds will play head-to-head at L’Oca d’Oro’s sixth annual Love v. Hate dinner, this time focusing on ABBA and Big Star. Guests are encouraged to dress in their best 70s attire to enjoy a self-described “Italian-ish” menu of multi-course shareable dishes based on lyrics by both groups. The two groups’ music will be heard throughout the restaurant with their music videos played in the dining room. Tickets ($100 per person) and an optional beverage pairing ($60) available at locadoroaustin.com.

Uchi & Uchiko’s 10+ course omakase tasting menus
Austin’s non-traditional, elevated Japanese restaurant duo are offering in-person and to-go options for their 10+ course omakase dining menus from 4-11 pm. Both restaurants will have optional beverage pairings. Menu highlights from Uchi’s menu include its lobster chawanmushi (steamed custard, trout roe and radish) and pavlova (smoked white chocolate, pomegranate and chili crisp). Uchi will provide its Valentine's Day dinner in person ($300) or to-go ($225). Highlights from Uchiko’s menu include grilled oyster (vadouvan curry and caramelized apples) and duck (smoked beef jus and fennel), and can also be provided in person or to-go ($350 for either).

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Texas rises through the ranks of most innovative states, says new report


The Lone Star State has again taken a step up on an annual report that ranks the most and least innovative states in the country — this time cracking the top 15.

Texas ranked No. 15 in personal finance site WalletHub's 2023’s Most and Least Innovative States ranking. It's a steady improvement for the state, which ranked No. 16 in 2022 and No. 17 in 2021.

The report analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia and how each performed across 22 key metrics, including population of STEM professionals, venture capital investment activity, number of technology companies, patents per capita, and more. The data was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Science Foundation, National Center for Education Statistics, United States Patent and Trademark Office, and other records.

Here's how Texas performed at a glance:

  • No. 18 – for share of STEM professionals
  • No. 16 – for projected STEM job demand by 2030
  • No. 25 – for eighth grade math and science performance
  • No. 21 – for share of science and engineering graduates aged 25 or older
  • No. 13 – for share of technology companies
  • No. 31 – for R&D spending per capita
  • No. 18 – venture capital funding per capita

For the 11th year, Texas won Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cup, the governor's office announced earlier this year. The award, which Texas has won 19 times since its inception in 1978, recognizes the nation’s top-performing state for job-creating business relocations and expansions.

"Texas truly is America’s economic engine, and we stand apart as a model for the nation. When choosing where to relocate or expand their businesses, more and more innovative industry leaders find themselves at home in our state," Governor Greg Abbott says in a news release about the award.

"I congratulate the exceptional economic development teams at the local, regional, and state level who have worked so diligently to attract and retain these growing businesses and the jobs they create in diverse communities across this great state," he continues.

The most innovative states included the District of Columbia, which ranked at No. 1, followed by Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, and California, respectively. The least innovative state was identified as Mississippi, followed by Louisiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Arkansas, respectively.

Source: WalletHub

Access to quality education is a significant contributor to each state's innovation economy, the experts say in the report.

"Investing in education, particularly K-12 but also at the University level, it is no accident that innovative ecosystems develop in states with strong education systems and research universities," says David L. Deeds, professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. "These institutions build strong capable modern workforces that attract capital, and jobs and create innovations. The benefits do not happen overnight, in fact, they take years if not decades, but consider what The UC’s or the University of Texas at Austin have meant for the development of premier innovative ecosystems."

Austin's meat palace Fogo de Chao expands its menu with new plant-based options

Vegan News

Well, here's a twist: Fogo de Chão, the churrascuria-style restaurant concept from Brazil known for its dedication to meat, is expanding its menu in an unprecedented new direction: They're adding tofu.

Effective immediately, the restaurant will offer new plant-based and nutrient-dense dishes, alongside an enhanced Bar Fogo beverage list that has new non-alcoholic craft cocktails made with low-proof spirits (less than 0.5 percent alcohol).

Fogo CEO Barry McGowan says in a release that they're responding to demand from their younger, more health-conscious customers.

"Our young and dynamic guests consider themselves food explorers who seek new culinary discoveries with each visit,” McGowan says. “For nearly 45 years we’ve had nutrient-dense and plant-forward dining options for every occasion and dietary tribe throughour Market Table. With the rollout of our new dining choices and clean cocktails, we continue to offer our guests the variety and discoveries they crave while doing it in a wholesome and flavorful way.”

The Market Table is their famed salad bar, which has sated many a vegetarian diner or else those just not up for the whole skewered meat thing that is a trademark of Fogo and other churrascuria-style places.

Two new plant-based innovations will join Fogo's existing Vegetarian and Pescatarian dishes such as the Cauliflower Steak, and will be available on the main dining menu available for lunch, brunch, and dinner as an alternative to the Full Churrasco Experience, as follows:

  • Seared Tofu with Miso Black Bean Pasta - Chimichurri-marinated tofu served atop black bean pasta sautéed with green onion, Napa cabbage, pickled onions and carrot ginger-miso dressing. Vegan and gluten-free.
  • Roasted Power Vegetable Bowl - Roasted eggplant, marinated mushrooms, roasted zucchini, asparagus, and baby peppers served with chimichurri spinach rice. Vegan and gluten-free.

togo power bowlRoasted Power Vegetable Bowl at Fogo de Chao.Photo courtesy of Fogo de Chao

They're also rolling out new dishes on the Market Table which for the past 45 years has showcased nutrient-dense and flavorful choices including seasonal salads, micro greens, natural and plant-based proteins, imported charcuterie, and more.

New items on the Market Table are as follows:

  • Spring Hummus - Fresh hummus blended with herbs, roasted garlic and citrus, topped with radish, fresh mint, edamame, and olive oil.
  • Baby Kale & Mango Salad - Fresh baby kale, Napa cabbage, red radish and mango, tossed in a lime honey dressing.
  • Miso Black Bean Pasta - Gluten-free black bean pasta tossed with green onion, Napa cabbage, pickled onions and carrot ginger-miso dressing.
  • Apple Manchego Salad - Granny Smith apples and Manchego cheese tossed with honey, cracked pepper and black mission figs.
  • Power Greens - A seasonal mix of vitamin-rich greens, fresh herbs and micro-shoots

The Bar
The Bar Fogo menu now features five new cocktails, including three made with Clean Co’s non-alcoholic spirits with less than 0.5% alcohol, as follows:

  • Yellowbird - Desolas Mezcal, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Cointreau, La Marca Prosecco
  • Espresso Martini - Diplomatico Reserva Rum, Caffe Borghetti and Licor 43
  • Clean Cosmo - CleanCo V (Vodka) Apple, Cranberry, Fresh Lemon
  • CleanR Sour - CleanCo R (Rum), Passionfruit, Pineapple, Aquafaba, Bitters
  • Clean Cucumber Martini - CleanCo V (Vodka) Apple, Cucumber, Basil, Lemon Twist

Founded in southern Brazil in 1979, Fogo has seven other locations across Texas: Addison, Uptown Dallas, Plano, Friendswood, Houston, San Antonio, and The Woodlands.

City of Austin spikes weekend parking rates at Zilker Park

pay to play

Starting May 1, one of Austin's most popular parks will be increasing parking prices and start charging for parking in lots that were previously free.

At Zilker Park, the parking lots that currently charge $5 for parking will be increased to $7 from May 1 through Labor Day.

The parking lot off of Stratford Road, just north of the Zilker Botanical Garden, and the South Barton Springs Pool parking lot, near Azie Morton Road, will start charging $7 on the weekends and holidays.

Both of these parking lots were havens for visitors and residents alike, as they were free to park. Park visitors like P.K. Luangsingotha liked that parking was free at the lot off Stratford. Luangsingotha said he is not happy that he will have to start paying to park.

"I believe people should be out enjoying the parks, the sunlight, et. cetera, and not have to [pay]. I mean, the City is already making so much money as it [is]. Now trying to tax people more on parking — I think it’s kind of unfair. Just my opinion," Luangsingotha said.

Hailey Adams, an Austin resident, also enjoys coming to Zilker and the free parking near Stratford with her dog. Come May, Adams may adjust the activities she participates in at Zilker due to the cost of parking.

“I definitely want more of a [full-day] activity, versus sometimes [coming] for 30 minutes," Adams said.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department said it hopes charging at the parking lots will help with traffic issues.


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.