Restaurants for Romance

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Here’s five interesting (and off the beaten track) spots perfect for romancing your sweetie. 

Aïoli Bodega Española
Located in the heart of midtown Sacramento, Aïoli features lusty Spanish cuisine with a focus on tapas. Tables are swathed in burlap and brown butcher paper, wine glasses are suspended whimsically above a gorgeous copper-topped bar, and the old-world service is wonderfully gracious. You’ll love the intimate ambiance and intriguing variety of small plates.
Try: The albondigas todo ajo (meat balls and garbanzo beans in a garlic paprika sauce)
1800 L Street, Sacramento, (916) 447-9440; www.midtowngrid.com/directory/view/entry/50

Formoli’s Bistro
Squeezed into a long narrow space with red wine-colored walls, warm earthy tile floors and lots of funky artwork, Formoli’s is a friendly and unpretentious neighborhood establishment that makes you feel like family. If you’re a Food Channel aficionado, you’ll enjoy the restaurant’s completely open kitchen, which invites you to observe energetic meal preparation as you flirt with your date.
Try: The warm Medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese and pancetta
3260 J Street; Sacramento, (916) 448-5699

Tucos Wine Market and Café
Tiny Tucos restaurant is a romantic hidden dining gem in Davis. Its busy, cramped kitchen plates up unique, globally-inspired dishes that feature thoughtfully-sourced artisanal products and ripe local produce. The restaurant is also worth visiting just for its wine list – you’ll enjoy the eclectic daily wine flights, and there’s also a number of bottles available to purchase and take home.
Try: The free-range chicken tacos with bacon and collard greens
130 G Street, Davis, (530) 757-6600; http://daviswiki.org/Tucos_Wine_Market_and_Cafe

Bamiyan Afghan Restaurant
Seeking exotic fare on Valentine’s Day? Head to Bamiyan, where you can snuggle up on pillows with your sweetie at one of the restaurant’s low tables (call ahead to reserve) and feast on the kitchen’s delightful Afghan specialties. You’ll admire the beautiful rugs adorning the walls, and the haunting music in the background will make you feel as if you’re dining on another continent.
Try: The mantoo, plump steamed dumplings smothered with tangy yogurt and a garlic-mint sauce.
7622 Greenback Lane, Citrus Heights, (916) 725-6009; www.afghancuisine.com

Lounge on 20
Indulge in some creative, hand-crafted cocktails and people-watching at Lounge on 20, one of the hippest spots in midtown Sacramento. Sleek and urban, this is a great place to visit if you want to get dressed to the nines and experience a clubby, festive night on the town. It may be loud, but it’s undeniably entertaining. 
Try: The fried mac ‘n cheese
1050 20th Street, Suite 100 (MARRS building, 20th and K); Sacramento, (916) 443-6620; www.loungeon20.com