Jessica Yadegaran, The Contra Costa Times, February 12, 2013
Let us take a wild guess. You're not into prix fixe dinners, and the only thing you find less appealing than dropping $80 a person on a dinner you didn't choose is the unnecessary pressure of Valentine's Day.
Don't succumb. Several restaurants around the Bay Area are offering alternative dining and drinking options for singles, people looking for a group venue or anyone who wants a low-maintenance night out. From irreverent cocktail specials at Jasper's in San Francisco to family-friendly platters at Copita in Sausalito and an all-out dance party at Hot Tamales in San Jose, there truly is something for everyone.
Joanne Weir of Copita kept singles and families in mind when crafting the Valentine's Day menu at her Mexican restaurant. On the menu? Guisado ($25), large platters of braised meats, such as lamb barbacoa, camarones a la diabla (spicy shrimp) and carnitas with tostadas or tortillas, beans with house-made chorizo and rice with butternut squash and toasted pumpkin seeds -- all perfect for sharing.
"I thought it would be a nice way to invite everyone to celebrate the holiday, not just couples," says Weir, who has been happily married for three years but recalls with fondness how she celebrated the holiday as a single woman "going somewhere you could have fun and drink a margarita" with friends.
On Valentine's Day, the Copita cocktail of choice will be the Valentina ($10), a pale pink concoction made with poached quince agua fresca, vermouth, tequila and warm spices, such as clove and cinnamon. "It's comforting and sensuous," Weir says. "It's kind of a sexy drink."
Valentine's Day -- and anti-Valentine's Day -- cocktails are a tradition at Jasper's in San Francisco, where the annual love potion always carries an irreverent tone.
On Wednesday, the restaurant celebrates its second annual anti-Valentine's Day with Dancing with the Devil ($11), a fiery red cocktail made with hibiscus water, Milagro tequila, grassy 10 Cane Rum and a lime-tinged liqueur called Velvet Falernum.
"It's a tribute to rum, which is known as the 'kill devil' spirit," says Kevin Diedrich, the bar manager. "The redness from the hibiscus reminds us that love is not always syrupy sweet."
Sip it with equally irreverent snacks, including Sexy Piggy chili-chocolate dipped bacon ($7) or Toot Yer Horn truffle parmesan popcorn ($5) while enjoying a screening of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill." Or treat yourself to a dinner for one, dubbed menage a un ($35), which features grilled cheese smothered in tomato onion relish with a side of truffle fries and a bottle of bubbly for $35.
Hot Tamales in San Jose is embracing the third wheel with a special appetizer sampler, Eat Your Heart Out ($25). It includes three stuffed jalapenos and three chicken flautas with fried calamari, tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole. General manager Jonathan Cabrera is expecting a little roof-raising.
"This isn't going to be the typical romantic date spot," he says. "This is a party for groups of friends."
From 8 p.m. to midnight, the bar will flip on a red-light topped siren that alerts patrons to a new drink special while two DJs spin everything from hip-hop to Top 40s.
Between the Red Light specials and shots of Red Hot, a blend of cinnamon whiskey and Coke, it may feel more like New Year's Eve than Valentine's Day. Even the couples will be jealous.
Reach Jessica Yadegaran at [email protected] Follow her at Twitter.com/swirlgirl_jy. ___