We Love Food

Our 100 favorite dishes in Houston.

Where to dine this Valentine's Day.

By Lauren Marmaduke

There are few activities capable of stimulating simultaneously the senses of touch, taste, smell and sight like a well-prepared meal. Okay, we can think of one other. And yet food, especially chocolate, sometimes ranks even higher. And if you just went by the noises overheard at a five-star restaurant — heavy-lidded wows, slow-moaned oh-my-Gods, spontaneous four-letter expletives, and wild exclamations of approval — it might be hard to differentiate between the two. Not to mention, if you're hoping for a hot and heavy Valentine's evening, a sumptuous dinner is fantastic foreplay. Just remember that crowds are likely — even on February 11 and 12 — so always play it safe and make a reservation.

No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil
Katharine Shilcutt
No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil
No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe
Allison McPhail
No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe

Backstreet Cafe

1103 S. Shepherd, 713-521-2239

Romance blooms year-round amid Backstreet Cafe's lovely al fresco patios and fireside seating, so it's only natural that Valentine's Day be stretched into an all-out four-day affair. From February 10 to 13, lovers can enjoy a complimentary appetizer (goat cheese dip with toast, miniature smoked corn crab cakes and bacon-wrapped quail) and three-course prix fixe menu ($95 per person), or celebrate on February 14 with live music by Bob Chadwick and a special four-course feast ($65 per person).

Bistro Alex — ­Hotel Sorella

800 Sorella Ct., 713-827-3545

Those with the hots for New American fare will surely swoon over Chef Roland Soza's decadent Valentine's Day menu. Special entrées include a cast-iron seared prime rib eye with a Maytag blue cheese Lyonnaise potato and coffee ganache ($34), an Angus filet of beef with truffle mushroom butter in a port reduction ($32), and a surf and turf featuring a butter and champagne-poached lobster tail, grilled filet, and caviar butter ($60).

Boardwalk FantaSea

Kemah Boardwalk

What's better than a romantic Valentine's Day dinner? A romantic Valentine's Day dinner on a freakin' boat, that's what. On February 11, 12 and 14, couples can drink, dine and dance aboard the FantaSea, a 117-foot yacht docked at Kemah Boardwalk. The two-and-a-half-hour tour features beautiful views of Clear Lake, Kemah and Galveston Bay, and includes dinner with a choice of appetizer or soup, salad, espresso-crusted prime rib or lobster-stuffed sea bass, and chocolate genoise cake. Boarding begins at 6 p.m., and departure is at 7 p.m. For reservations, visit $79.99 per person.

Capitol at St. Germain

705 Main, 713-492-2454

On February 14, the new downtown dining and entertainment venue, once a turn-of-the-century supper club, will host a four-course musically inspired meal for two. The score includes a "prelude" of appetizers like shrimp scampi, beef carpaccio and crispy Gulf blue crab "bomb," a choice of butternut squash soup or pear and arugula salad, followed by a trio of entrée options including seared sea scallops with white truffle oil, and culminating in an "overture" of Chef Kevin Bryant's handcrafted desserts. $59-$79 per person.

CRAVE Cupcakes

Multiple locations

Procrastinators rejoice! On February 14, both Kirby and Uptown Park CRAVE locations will offer a clever grab-n-go Valentine's Day package consisting of four cupcakes — red velvet, vanilla, dark chocolate and strawberry on chocolate — and an "I CRAVE U" greeting card for curbside pickup from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. You literally don't even have to get out of the car. $20.

Fratelli's Italian Restaurant

10989 Northwest Fwy., 713-957-1150

Chef Teresa Tadeo Whitman will showcase the foods she loves most — shrimp, cheese and chocolate — in a five-course prix fixe menu available from 5 to 10 p.m. on Valentine's Day. Highlights include gamberetti amore (deep-fried jumbo shrimp coated with aioli sauce), tortellini al forno (handmade tortellini pasta, chopped walnuts and creamy tomato sauce), and medaglioni di manzo (beef tenderloin medallions with baby portabella mushrooms and a red wine reduction sauce), with a chocolate torte or tiramisu for dessert. $49 per person.

Majestic Metro

911 Preston, 713-224-7226

The Majestic Metro, originally opened as a silent-movie house in 1926, will open its doors to the public for an 8:30 p.m. Valentine's Day screening of Breakfast at Tiffany's thanks to a partnership between Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow and the Houston Downtown Management District. The $10 ticket price includes movie, dessert and champagne cocktails provided by Georgia's Farm to Market Downtown.

Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar

1985 Welch, 713-533-0200

Lovebirds flock to Mockingbird for a three-course prix fixe menu with starters like sweet corn and crab soufflé, entrée selections that include Dijon-encrusted rack of lamb and Muscovy duck breast with Hudson Valley foie gras, and a choice of warm bittersweet chocolate torte, crème brûlée, Godiva white chocolate cheesecake or Granny Smith apple bread pudding for dessert. $65 per person/$95 with sommelier's wine pairing.

Ninfa's on Navigation

2704 Navigation Blvd., 713-228-1175

Ninfa's three-course prix fixe dinner for two — complete with a "Sinful" margarita — is sure to satisfy laid-back, casual types with upscale cuisine in a relaxed environment. The meal features a pink peppercorn vinaigrette field green salad, filet mignon and jumbo shrimp with chipotle hollandaise, and dark chocolate mousse and Grand Marnier-soaked strawberries. ¿Que bueno, no? $59 per couple/$69 with a bottle of sparkling wine.

Nardino Ristorante

14800 Westheimer, Suite D, 281-496-1022

On February 14 from 4 to 10 p.m., the much-praised west Houston Italian eatery will serve a hearty helping of Italian-style amore with live music and a three-course prix fix menu featuring a choice of appetizer, cheese-stuffed manicotti with Mornay sauce or herb-roasted chicken breast with steamed broccoli and Forrest rice, and tiramisu or Italian chocolate cake for dessert. $35 per person/$65 with wine pairing.

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Thanks for the 2012 dining guide!