As a holiday, February 14 was originally intended to commemorate the beheading of a man variously dubbed the patron saint of epileptics, lovers, beekeepers, travelers and young people; it's now become an excuse to separate people from their money and release a flood of chalky chocolates into the marketplace. But if you insist on doing something nice for someone — whether it be friend (with or without benefits) or foe — here are ten ideas that will put you in the mood for food and drink:
Chef Zorba's2626 East 12th Avenue
What to do if you want to take your sweetie out for something yummy but you spent all your money on weed and rent — or you hooked up at last call Thursday night and are trying not to be a jerk but don't even have a single egg in the kitchen to scramble for your overnight guest? Stop by this Congress Park mainstay for its VD special: a stack of three red velvet pancakes stuffed with white chocolate cream cheese and topped with pink and white sprinkles. At just $7.95, it won't break the bank, even if you're paying for your paramour. The breakfast-and-lunch joint is serving the short stack all day, and — for those of you who would rather gnaw off your own arm than go out on February 14 — it will even be available for the rest of February.
Chick-Fil-A4090 River Point Parkway, Sheridan
Our favorite antidote to a fussy prix fixe meal served in a restaurant so dim you have to use your phone to illuminate the menu while a supercilious waiter tries to upsell you on a foie gras supplement is the infamous chicken chain's Valentine's Date Night. For $30, you and your partner in crime will get two meals that include an entree, side, beverage and dessert. The cost of dinner also includes table service, a keepsake photo and a gift. We have so many questions: Does a chicken sandwich, no matter how tasty, merit the use of a French culinary term? Will you be expected to tip Madyson, the high-school-aged cashier who's feeling especially surly about waiting tables since she's missing out on her date with Tyler? Can you sneak an airplane bottle of vodka into your iced tea undetected (there's no mood lighting in fast food, after all)? Will anyone else be in on the joke? Reserve your table (required!) on Eventbrite (seatings are every half-hour from 5 to 7 p.m.) and find out for yourself.
Dos Luces Brewery1236 South Broadway
Sweets for your sweet, brews for bae and worms for weirdos; at Denver's only pre-Columbian brewery, you'll see all sorts on February 14. Yes, a beer and chocolate pairing doesn't sound that adventurous, but when the beers include cranberry tepache (brewed with blue corn and cinnamon) and cherry-lime chicha and the chocolates are booze-infused — including a mezcal bonbon, complete with worm — there are sure to be adventurous diners and drinkers as well as starry-eyed lovers in the house. Purchase your ticket ($30 per pair) on the Dos Luces website, then show up any time between 5 and 10 p.m. for four pairings courtesy of the brewery and Denver's own Cultura Craft Chocolate. Details on the event and the pairings are up on the taproom's Facebook page.
Goed Zuur2801 Welton Street
Sweet and bitter are the words most commonly used to evoke the pangs and pains of love, but what about the other flavors — sour, salty and savory? At this beer bar's Rosés are Red dinner, you're sure to experience all of them (preferably in your meal and its accompanying drinks, not in your date's — or your own! — behavior). The 7 p.m. supper promises five courses paired with pink-inspired drinks, including three sour beers, a cocktail and a glass of bubbly (not champagne, but pétillant naturel, often called pet-nat, an older and more unusual method of producing sparkling wine). And while the menu hasn't been finalized, the kitchen assures us there will be plenty of cheese and chocolate, plus vegetable, seafood and pork courses. To make your reservation for the $75 dinner, visit Eventbrite, where you'll be required to put down a $20 deposit before dining.
Little Man Ice Cream Factory4411 West Colfax Avenue
Want to get in on some sweet swinging action this Valentine's Day? Skip the sex club and head to this massive ice cream production facility, where jazz from Mile High Wildflowers, dance lessons from Swingin' Denver and scoops from the factory floor combine to make the perfect sundae (otherwise known as the Sweetheart Swing Dance). Show up for free dance moves (ice cream is extra) from 7 to 9:30 p.m., and don't worry if your footwork is sub-standard instead of seasoned: There will be a dance lesson during the band break for the ungainly among you.
Misfit Snack Bar3401 East Colfax Avenue (inside Middleman)
The food-service window to your left when you enter Middleman is tiny, but it's turning out huge flavors thanks to chef Bo Porytko (formerly of the late, lamented Rebel Restaurant). This February 14, Porytko is partnering with @hamburgeisha, a roving pop-up that, despite its name, serves up neither hamburgers nor traditional Japanese entertainment. But it does sling dumplings and tacos, so we'll forgive the misleading moniker in deference to the pair's Baolentine's Day effort, which includes bites like the namesake bao (filled with a beef patty, American cheese and kewpie mayo), savory funnel cake (sweet potato, sesame and chile glaze), veggie dumplings (ginger, miso, egg and kimchi) and housemade mochi. The bar's doors open at 4 p.m., and the dim sum should start coming off the stove shortly thereafter; visit Misfit and Hamburgeisha's Instagrams for details and a peek at the menu.
Mister Tuna3033 Brighton Boulevard
It's not as if we took Troy Guard's now-shuttered RiNo restaurant for granted; the food drew raves, but it also bore the burden of impossible traffic and never-ending construction during its three-year run on Brighton Boulevard. But on Valentine's Day (and on Saturday, February 15), you can hook up with the one that got away one last time — but we're deleting its number from your phone after that, swear to God. The four-course, $65 menu includes some of the the spot's most popular dishes, such as Vietnamese-style kampachi and grilled ono with macadamia nuts, pineapple and burnt miso butter, plus enough swanky supplements — truffles, caviar, foie gras and A5 wagyu — to easily triple the price of your meal. For that one last wistful tryst, call the restaurant or make a reservation on OpenTable.
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State 38 Distilling400 Corporate Circle, Golden
While it's nice to get flowers and candy delivered to your office, it's not exactly practical: Do you lug the top-heavy arrangement home over the weekend, thereby putting both your sanity and car in danger as you attempt to navigate rush-hour traffic with a vase of water on your passenger seat? Or do you leave it at the office, depriving yourself of enjoying the arrangement before you return to a wilted, droopy bouquet on Monday morning? How do you keep your cube neighbor from filching your Russell Stover sweets? And what if your sweetie is a dude who gets all huffy about receiving "girly" gifts? (Hint: DTMFA.) Flip the script and get something more portable, practical and piquant: whiskey. This Golden outfit is offering WhiskeyGrams (and Vodka-, Gin- and AbsintheGrams) this year; the object of your affection will receive an email to stop by the distillery to pick up their bottle and enjoy a free tasting. To order ($45 for bourbon, $55 for Scotch and $16 to $25 for other spirits), email State38WhiskeyGram@gmail.com — but if your beau really is that guy who rolls his eyes at the thought of flowers, do yourself a favor: Ditch him and keep the whiskey for yourself.
Station 26 Brewing Co.7045 East 38th Avenue
This Park Hill brewery is betting that couples will be battling for restaurant reservations on Friday night and so has decided to host a game show for platonic partners and beer geeks that evening: the Brewlywed's [sic] Game. Between 5 and 6 p.m. enter your and a friend's name in a drawing to compete, and if chosen, your knowledge of their profession, preferences, predilections and personality will be put to the test over a pint; details are up on the brewery's Facebook page. And if you don't get selected? Spend the evening buying each other rounds, and your night will be just as satisfying without the pressures of competition or high-stakes dating.
White Pie1702 Humboldt Street
If your heart has been stomped on and squished, left battered and bloody, has shriveled up to approximately the size and hardness of a walnut — or, hell, if you just hate the color pink with the heat of a thousand suns — consider White Pie's Anti-Valentine's Day dinner. Starting at 5 p.m., the City Park pizzeria is offering a menu that will speak to the depths of your deep, dark soul; notable dishes include Broken Heart Burrata with blood oranges, Black Pie (crème fraiche, mozz, bacon and an egg atop an inky crust) and a trio of desserts whose cynical names belie their sweet insides (I Hate You So Mousse, Black Hole Profiterole and All I Need Is Whiskey...Bread Pudding). As always, White Pie is a walk-in joint, so don't bother trying to make a reservation, lest your heart be broken anew.
Want to spend Valentine's Day in a more traditional way? What's your favorite romantic restaurant? Post a comment or email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.