The history of Valentine's Day is less than lovely, since the date was originally intended to commemorate the beheading of a man variously considered the patron saint of epileptics, lovers, beekeepers, travelers and young people. These days, it's become an excuse to separate people from their money and release a flood of chalky chocolates into the marketplace.
If a traditional Valentine's celebration filled with roses and multi-course meals is your jam, Denver restaurants have you covered with a lineup of special dinners
— many available all weekend, since the holiday falls on a Monday this year.
But if you'd rather avoid one of the busiest times of the year at the city's finer dining establishments, you can still mark the day and treat a friend (with or without benefits) to a memorable meal.
Consider these options (no reservations needed):
Head out for late-night Korean fried chicken
Funny Plus is no-frills, but the playlist is all party.
A hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant next to H Mart, Funny Plus
, at 2779 South Parker Road in Aurora, is rarely crowded on Valentine's Day. I know that for a fact, because I've stopped in on February 14 for several years, happily noshing on a heaping plate of Korean fried chicken. Served with or without a sticky, sweet sauce (pro tip: Opt to get it on the side
), the fried chicken comes with a smattering of banchan, or small dishes that traditionally accompany Korean meals. Basically, you're getting a small feast for two (or one: This place is fun solo, too) for a hell of a deal — $20.99. Bonus points: Funny Plus has a pop-heavy playlist that adds to the party vibe, and it's open until 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and midnight on Sunday.
Eat tacos at a restaurant attached to a gas station
The tiny Garibaldi Mexican Bistro
may be attached to a Conoco gas station at 3298 South Broadway in Englewood, but the food it's serving is nothing like what you find sitting sadly in the case at 7-Eleven. This family-run spot is churning out some of the best Mexican eats in town, from tacos to enormous tlayudas (which are perfect for sharing). Plus, if you're bringing a date, you can quickly find out if they're adventurous or not (read: maybe a little judgy).
Skip the roses and deliver a dozen bagels
Nothing says romance like a bag full of carbs — and bagels taste a hell of a lot better than any bouquet. Our recommendation: Order ahead from one of the three Rosenberg's
locations — and spring for some lox, too.
Stay home, but let someone else do the cooking
Casa Crobu is cooking up some of the best Italian in Denver
— and then packaging it so that you can serve it at home. For Valentine's Day, it's added a special three-course menu for two that can be pre-ordered for pick-up on February 11 or 14; it includes a Caesar salad kit, fregola conragu di agnello e carciofi (a small, round toasted pasta with lamb ragu, artichoke and pecorino), chicken saltimbocca with roasted potatoes, panna cotta and a bottle of prosecco for $110. Skipping the dishes leaves plenty of opportunity for some post-meal canoodling.
Have a fish-and-chips car picnic
You know what's way better than a box of chocolates? A box (er — cardboard tray) of fried food. Yorkshire Fish & Chips
at 7572 Pecos Street is a low-key, counter-service spot that's specialized in fish and chips for over fifty years. While its fluorescent lighting may not exactly scream romance, you can take your grub to go and make like teenagers having date night in your car. Just be sure to grab extra napkins on your way out.
Make your own rice paper wraps
Make-your-own rice paper roll platter at Savory Vietnam.
You know that feeling when your hand casually brushes against someone else's when you both reach for the rice paper rolls at the same time? No? Well, you should. Rolling up a meal is a great way to bond over your lack of skills with the thin and sometimes unruly rice paper that you stuff with veggies, herbs and meats that arrive on giant platters. Our favorite spots for this experience: Savory Vietnam
, at 2200 West Alameda Avenue (which is closed on Mondays, so plan to celebrate early), and New Saigon
, at 630 South Federal Boulevard.
Split a huge Italian sandwich
Two-foot-long sandwiches are perfect for sharing.
Picture that famous Lady and the Tramp
scene, but substitute a loaded sandwich on fresh-baked bread. The sandwiches at Carmine Lonardo's
(7585 West Florida Avenue in Lakewood) are legendary, especially the one loaded with Italian sausage, which is made in-house, just as it has been since 1976. Be sure to hit this place early, though: Lonardo's has been known to sell out before closing time.
Feast on burgers by candlelight
Candlelight Tavern, that is. This dimly lit dive bar at 383 South Pearl Street is a low-key place to escape and enjoy some cold, cheap drinks over burgers served in a basket with a bag of Lay's on the side — which means you can totally crack a "you're all that and a bag of chips" joke in order to fill the Valentine's Day lameness quota.
Share a better-than-average app sampler
Forget chicken tenders and onion rings. Take yourself and that garlic lover in your life down to Gyros Town
at 2276 South Colorado Boulevard, and order a plate loaded with Syrian specialties that's big enough to split (but also good enough that you may not want to). The $12.99 plate comes loaded with hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, dolma, rice, super-garlickly Syrian green beans and an even more garlicky dip called toum.
Slurp a bowl of pho together
It's warm, comforting and cheap — and you can also figure out potential compatibility depending on where your dining companion's pho loyalty lies: Pho 95
(1401 South Federal Boulevard) or Pho Duy
(925 South Federal).