Roses are red, violets are blue, planning Valentine’s Day is a chore, so I’ve done (most of) the work for you.
If you’re like me, every year you wait until the last minute to make Valentine’s Day plans, only to end up calling every restaurant in a panic with hopes of finding an open table to placate your date. To avoid this stress, I’ve compiled this handy list with a little something for everyone.
Send a few of these ideas to your valentine and act like they’re your own. I promise I won’t tell.
For the romantic couple: Marta
The candlelit entrance immediately sets the mood for a romantic meal at this Butcher’s Hill gem offering Italian-American inspired cuisine. Despite being open just a few short months, husband and wife duo Matthew and Martha Oetting have managed to win over the hearts of Baltimoreans with their offering of “fine food and spirits” — which is no surprise given their decadeslong experience in hospitality. This year, they’re offering a special four course prix-fixe menu including lobster bisque, Chilean sea bass, and opera cake with optional wine pairings, so you can treat yourself and your valentine to something truly special.
A visit to “Baltimore’s most elevated dining experience,” the Bygone is one of the best places to begin a sophisticated date night in Charm City. Sitting atop the Four Seasons Hotel, you will enjoy a 1920s-era inspired cocktail menu with unparalleled 360 degree views of Baltimore’s skyline. While they are offering a delicious three course prix-fixe menu, you may (or may not) want to change up the scenery by traveling a few short blocks to Monarque where you can enjoy dinner and a show. Entertainment varies nightly, but the talent ranges from singers, dancers and drag queens to contortionists, artists and other burlesque-style entertainers.
If you’re more of a dinner and a movie couple, head to Station North for a meal at Foraged, whose chef and owner, Chris Amendola, was recently nominated by the James Beard Foundation for best mid-Atlantic chef. The ingredients change daily and are hyperlocal, resulting in flavors you won’t find anywhere else in the city. That is due in part to the fact that, when Chef Amendola is not in the kitchen curating delicious dishes, he is out in the wild foraging to feed you.
Once you’ve finished your meal, walk a few steps to Baltimore’s oldest theatre, The Charles, which is known for featuring independent films, reviving favorite classics for your viewing pleasure and live streaming shows from the Metropolitan Opera.
When it comes to Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter), my cuisine of choice is frequently Italian. While I certainly appreciate a white tablecloth moment, it’s really the hearty, comforting, feel good food that satisfies my cravings at the end of the night. And Prima Dopo fits that bill. Lively, vibrant, and delicious, the space offers several distinctly designed seating areas which allow you to move and set a different mood throughout the evening.
But before you call it quits, you can’t forget dessert. Enjoy a little something sweet to eat and take a roadtrip to Bmore Licks, which has locations in the Patterson Park and Federal Hill neighborhoods, to enjoy Baltimore’s best ice cream. For as much as I eat, I tend to be a creature of habit here, always getting at least a taste of their Cookie Monster ice cream made with blue vanilla ice cream, Oreos, baked chocolate chip cookies, and two types of chocolate chip cookie dough.
If a dinner date sounds just plain boring to you, tee off at the brand new Top Golf in South Baltimore’s ever evolving Warner Street Entertainment District. While golf on Valentine’s Day might sound a little frigid, they have over 90 climate-controlled hitting bays with televisions, a rooftop terrace with firepits, as well as a bar and restaurant. As with everything on Valentine’s Day, walk-ins are available, but reservations are highly recommended.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, you can head over to Gordon Ramsay Steak in the Horseshoe Casino, which is one of the only places in town to order roasted beef wellington — one of Chef Ramsay’s signature dishes — along with his sticky toffee pudding, which is served with a delectable brown butter ice cream that is playfully plated in the shape of a stick of butter.
It’s giving culture with a side of crab cakes. For a couple that appreciates art in all its forms, a Valentine’s Day date at The Baltimore Museum of Art followed by dinner at Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen will satisfy the heart, mind and soul. From Henri Matisse to Baltimore’s very own John Waters, you’ll certainly work up an appetite appreciating the collection that spans from the times of ancient Egypt to today. And the best part is, admission is free.
But these collections aren’t the only world-renowned art available at the BMA. Enter Chef John Shields’ crab cakes at Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen, a locally sourced, Chesapeake-inspired eatery overlooking the museum’s sculpture garden. Open for lunch, brunch and dinner, you can enjoy your Valentine’s Day here morning, noon, or night.
For the early bird couples, perhaps a morning workout and pastry binge will help reinvigorate the romance of Valentine’s Day. And what better way to start it than by sweating it out at yoga and enjoying a delicious breakfast date?
My recommendation? Start with a class at CorePower Yoga and then stop by Pitango Bakery + Cafe in Fells Point to enjoy a coffee and (at least) one of their cruffins — a muffin-shaped croissant filled with vanilla pastry cream — which are best enjoyed on long walks around the waterfront. Just don’t forget the napkins.
One of the most interesting things about Baltimore is the rich history of its restaurants and food scene, including Velleggia’s, which originally opened in 1937 under a different name, and is now owned and operated by the founder’s grandson, Brendon Hudson. Adding a modern twist to the family’s classic dishes, this Cross Street Market eatery provides an intimate vibe for your Valentine’s Day celebrations.
After you’ve twirled your night away enjoying a few of their pasta dishes, add a little magic to your evening by strolling just a few blocks to Illusions Bar & Theater. Here, you can watch former “America’s Got Talent” contestant Spencer Horsman perform a highly entertaining and intimate magic (and comedy) show on Friday and Saturday nights.
The easiest way to my heart is through my stomach, which is why I believe every date night should begin with dinner. Some of my favorite meals in Baltimore have taken place at Alma Cocina Latina, a restaurant that aims to provide a Venezuelan cultural experience through a journey of food, cocktails, decor and service. With so many delicious options on the menu — including their flavorful selection of arepas, red snapper ceviche and 24-hour brined chicken — you can’t help but leave feeling stuffed.
So, why not consider laughing the night (and some calories) away at the Hippodrome Theatre, where Chris Rock will be performing on Valentine’s Day weekend in preparation for his upcoming Netflix special and the very first live streamed event on their platform.
Chris Franzoni is a Baltimore native, resident, food fanatic, and “Eater-in-Chief” of @EatMoreBeMore, which he started seven years ago with 2 goals — eating his way through the city and shining a positive light on the Baltimore restaurant and hospitality scene.