Valentine's Day is around the corner in Toronto. Are you ready? Do you have game? Don't worry! You don't need it. Just pick the right restaurant and your (prospective) mate will think that you're pretty hot shit. And, hey, if you've left it to the last minute — not to worry. The list below includes a number of places that you're sure to get into, despite any putative lack of organization.
So! Before you bust out the Leonard Cohen and the leather thong, here are some Toronto restaurants where you might warm up your partner with wit, wisdom and whimsy.
SPECIAL MENUS (with limited reservations available)
Restaurants all over Toronto will offer special menus for Valentine's day, but if you're reading this now in the hopes of securing a reservation, the pickings are decidedly slimmer. As of "press" time, the restaurants below all had some availability remaining on the big day.
A brightly lit all-night diner could be the most romantic place in the world if you've really connected with someone, but the following are the types of places that do their best to foster an intimate vibe. For more conventional lists of this sort with the same old restaurants, Google "romantic restaurants Toronto."
- Ici Bistro
This tiny, high end bistro offers spot-on service and refined takes on French classics. You'll want to linger over your wine (the list is short but excellent) to soak up the atmosphere.
Quite possibly the best "rustic" Italian fare in the city, the room might get a little loud for hushed verbal foreplay, but the food should be enough to set the mood.
This Corktown bistro tends to fly under the radar, but the cosy room is the perfect staging area for an intimate night. Menu highlights include a pitch-perfect mac & cheese, scallops browed in bacon fat, and lovely steak frites.
Known for its Cuban brunch, Delux is anything but a one trick pony. Come evening, the French-influenced menu shines with juicy roast chicken, molasses glazed pork belly and fork-tender veal cheeks. The low lit room is meant to be enjoyed as a pair.
- La Palette
One of Toronto's classic French bistros, if the horse tenderloin doesn't get you in the mood, then the throwback interior will. Try the escargots.
- Lolita's Lust
I guess I just like small rooms and warm lighting. But what's not to like? Here you'll also find some great seafood and and local beef.
FOR BIG SPENDERS
For some, Valentine's Day is an occasion to go all out in an effort to impress his or her sexual partner. In 68% of such cases, the meal outperforms the subsequent tryst. But, hey, food!
- Jacobs & Co.
You could do worse than the city's best steakhouse when planning a romantic dinner. If there's one concern it's that after the dry-aged beef, the sex later that night might come in second as far as sensory experiences go.
It's a big money view, that's for sure. But the whole experience at Canoe, from the food to the service, gives off that sense of "special occasion." So don't skimp, this is a once a year type place for most of us.
Still one of the city's destination dining spots post-David Lee, you'll want to bank on luxuriating here for much of the evening. There's even a special Valentine's Day menu that'll run you $200 per person with a wine pairing.
- Sushi Kaji
The sushi is some of the best in the city, so do the tasting menu, look impressive, and get laid. Simple as 1, 2, 3 — if you've got the money.
- North 44
Mark McEwan built his empire off the back of his work at North 44, and the same attention to detail is still readily on display, even if the restaurant no longer generates the type of buzz that it did a decade ago.
- Via Allegro
A wine lover's paradise. Ditto for whisky connoisseurs. This is not the place to skimp on the drink — or the food, for that matter. The Italian-based menu may feel like it's from five years ago, but that doesn't matter a lick once you start eating.
NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED
OK, so you've left your Valentine's preparations to the last minute, and now it seems like there isn't a single restaurant in the city that'll take your money. Not so! Some of Toronto's best restaurants eschew the reservation system, so there's still a chance to save some face. My personal top pick? Head to the Black Hoof, put your name down, walk across the street to Cocktail Bar, order three Manhattans, head back across the street, get carnivorous.
While most of the below establishments would be considered bars, not only do they each offer food menus (to varying degrees), but they're every bit as intimate as the restaurants listed above. As an added bonus, you also don't need a reservation to get in.
- Midfield Wine Bar — Tapas-style menu, dimly lit, bubbles. 'Nuff said.
- Bellwoods Brewery — A bit boisterous, but if you like beer...
- Wallflower — Wonderfully intimate space with a small dinner menu. Good cocktails.
- The Yukon — Ditto!
- 416 Snack Bar — Fun, Toronto-themed menu in a small setting. Good drinks list.
- The Comrade — The slick, deco-ish interior is perfect of the just drinks crew.
- Riverside Public House — Avoid the high tables in the middle, and you're gold.
- Kitch — If you're alone tonight, go here. The female bartenders are hawt.
Do you have suggestions for Valentine's Day restaurants? Add them to the comments below.