Looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank? Rule numero uno: Avoid the day of, when prices tend to be higher and crowds can get out of control, especially this year with it falling on Saturday. On an off night, you’ll likely enjoy lower prices and a more intimate evening. Here are a few suggestions.
A GLASS OF WINE AND THOU
Midtown’s Revolution Wines is a cool urban winery that oozes warmth, with a cozy bistro/tasting room and a thoughtful menu of small plates (starting at $4) and large plates, most a modest $9 to $12. A special Valentine’s dinner is on tap for Feb. 14, but you can save big bucks by instead going for the Friday-night special: $15 or $20 (price varies) for an entree and a glass of wine. Recent example: roasted Alaskan cod, fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts with a glass of chenin blanc. Other nights, you’re free to design your own dinner. The fun part is the sharing: Maybe split some decadent mac ’n’ cheese ($9) and a creatively concocted seasonal salad ($11), or get the charcuterie plate ($17). Pair it with a wine flight ($12 to $16) and you’re good to go. You’ll spend as little as $30 to $40 for two for tasty nibbles and wine in an unusual, fun—and yes, romantic— setting.
2831 S St.; (916) 444-7711; rwwinery.com
Feast on art and fine food at Crocker Art Museum, where locally renowned chef Matt Woolston (of Supper Club and Matteo’s Pizza fame) rules the roost. Most days, Crocker Cafe serves lunch only, but on Thursdays—the only night the museum is open—both happy hour (4 to 6 p.m.) and dinner are available in the sleekly modern Friedman Court on the ground floor. In honor of V-Day, Woolston is engineering a special “prom night” for Feb. 12, featuring appetizers, champagne, music and dancing. But on other Thursday nights, the menu offers a mix of comfort foods and more sophisticated fare, from duck confit corn chowder to spinach-chicken-mushroom lasagna and French dip sandwich, with prices ranging from $10 to $13. Selections change seasonally, but one knockout staple is the quarter-pound cheeseburger ($9), served with potato chips. Split that with your date, add a couple of glasses of wine ($5.50 each), and the tab is just $20. Even with museum admission ($10 each), you’ll walk away only $40 poorer—but culturally enriched, since your evening also involves a stroll through the museum.
216 O St.; (916) 808-1865; crockerartmuseum.org
You can’t get much more romantic than dining French. Roseville’s lovely La Provence, whose traditional country house and scenic gardens are reminiscent of the Mediterranean countryside, isn’t cheap: Entrees cost $21 to $36. But happy hour (4 to 7 p.m.) offers some fabulous choices for just $5, including spinach salad with crumbled goat cheese, dried cranberries and honey-raspberry vinaigrette, and pate de canard, a velvety duck liver pate with toast points and pickled red onion. Toss in a small plate to share—maybe some salmon sliders with kale slaw? ($12)—plus a few glasses of French wine (starting at $7), and the tab will run $35 to $40 for two. For a charming little cafe with surprisingly low prices, try East Sac’s Cafe Rolle, where chef/owner William Rolle can often be heard singing merrily while he works. Rolle’s delicacies, from duck pate to smoked salmon, are housemade, and all dinner entrees are only $16 and include a glass of wine. Now that’s a Dollar-Wise bargain.
La Provence Restaurant & Terrace: 110 Diamond Creek Place, Roseville; (916) 789-2002; laprovenceroseville.com
Cafe Rolle: 5357 H St.; (916) 455-9140; caferolle.com