By HADLEY BARNDOLLAR, Staff Writer
It’s that time of year again, folks. Your special someone is waiting to hear where you’re taking them for Valentine’s Day dinner. So before you start sweating, or contemplating why you’re partaking in this day, take a minute to check out these local options. A spot for everyone’s budget, these destinations each have their own personality and color. Depending on your desired menu, you can’t go wrong with the following 6 restaurants. Love is in the air, and so is the smell of your romantic dinner.
6. Bella’s- Durham$$ ($11-30)
Bella’s Casual Dining, located in the Mill Road Plaza in Durham, is a great option for lovers who don’t have a car. With walkability from any spot on campus, Bella’s offers classic versions of favorite dishes at a very reasonable price. Appetizers include nachos topped with steak tips ($13.99), loaded potato skins ($9.99), calamari with homemade chipotle aioli sauce ($10.99) and many more. For main dishes, specialty sandwiches are all $9.99. As for burgers, Bella’s offers many choices, but the winner might be The Bella Burger, a ½ pound patty topped with cheddar cheese, BBQ pulled pork, coleslaw and diced pickles ($12.99). Dinner platters range from fish tacos to scallops to creamy Alfredo pasta. Top off the meal with chocolate peanut butter pie ($6.99) or turtle cheesecake ($6.99). For a local meal that won’t break the bank, Bella’s is a winning choice.
5. Friendly Toast- Portsmouth $$ ($11-30)
Located on Congress Street in Portsmouth, The Friendly Toast is an American eatery decorated with colorful and unique wall hangings, serving breakfast all day and open late night. Offering the perfect combination of favorite breakfast food and dinner eats, The Friendly Toast is bound to have something for everyone. All pancakes can also be made gluten-free. Pancake flavors include pumpkin, coconut, banana and chocolate chip. Waffle choices decorate the menu as well, including their Caribbean Waffle, made with pecans inside and caramelized bananas on top. If all day breakfast isn’t your thing, then the dinner options are just as good. For those of you searching for restaurants that serve avocado, the avocado burger is topped with fresh avocado, bacon and balsamic glaze. Classic sandwiches and burritos also cover the menu. If you chose The Friendly Toast, you’ll be sure to have a unique, fun date.
3. Flatbread Company- Portsmouth $$ ($11-30)
Truly a community atmosphere, Flatbread Company in Portsmouth radiates warmth and good food. A rustic setting, Flatbread sports local ingredients. If you pick this restaurant, you’re going for their famous flatbreads so let’s skip the rest of the menu so you can pick your pizza. Their dough is made fresh daily from organically grown wheat. Specialty flatbreads include cheese and herb (small- $9.75, large- $14.50), homemade sausage (small- $12.50, large- $19.50), Punctuated Equilibrium (kalamata olives, fresh rosemary, goat cheese and much more; small- $12.25, large- $19.25) and lastly taco pizza with beef, tomatoes, mozzarella, organic herbs, lettuce and sour cream (small- $13.25, large- $19.75). And that’s only to name a few. For desserts, the big winner is Barbara’s Homemade Brownie Sundae for $6.25.
4. Popovers -Portsmouth $$ ($11-30)
Located on the opposite side of Congress Street in Portsmouth is a ‘can’t miss’ cafe spot. Did I mention they serve alcoholic beverages, as well? Popovers mission statement is “embracing the European philosophy of fresh, seasonal food; outstanding coffees and wines; exceptional pastries and desserts; and, of course, a relaxing ambiance in which to enjoy your entire experience.” You’ll feel like you’re cozied up in a Parisian cafe on the square. Dimly lit and warm inside, Popovers is sure to please that Valentine’s Day sweet tooth. For a more intimate setting, Popovers can be a main destination or an after-dinner dessert/drinks spot. While their desserts consist of cheesecakes, chocolates and cakes of all kinds, their dinner menu is sure to impress as well. Paninis and sandwiches are all under $10, while they also offer unique salads such as the pear and gorgonzola salad (small- $6.99, large- $11.79). Popovers also offers small plates selections such as pan seared crab cakes ($13.49), vegetable and swiss quiche ($8.99) and lobster salad stuffed mini popovers (market price). Order one of Popovers signature espressos or coffees to pair with your meal. Essentially, Popovers is the perfect spot to weather a cold Valentine’s Day with your special someone.
2. Surf- Portsmouth $$$ ($31-60)
For more refined seafood lovers, Surf Restaurant sits right on the water in Portsmouth. Called “exquisite seafood, imaginative cooking,” Surf takes your favorite dishes and puts a sophisticated spin on them. The restaurant has a full bar and very chic, comfortable seating. As for the menu, Surf has a popular raw bar, with oysters, clams, shrimp and their well-known king crab and avocado cocktail ($18). For main courses, Surf specialties are sure to not disappoint; these include Portuguese Seafood Stew ($29), shrimp vindaloo ($26), fried seafood dinners ($29) or portabella stuffed flounder ($22). Surf also offers small dinner plates including pan sautéed sea scallops ($15), sticky rice and shrimp rolls ($10), lobster corn dogs ($12), parmesan-fried calamari ($10) and buffalo fried oysters ($12). For seafood lovers, Surf is the destination for Valentine’s Day.
1. Cava- Portsmouth $$$ ($31-60)
Cava, a wine and tapas bar on Commercial Alley in Portsmouth, is for those of you looking to spoil your significant other with a specialty meal in quite the romantic setting. Cava will be running a Valentine’s Day Aphrodisiac Menu Friday the 13th through Sunday the 15th. This menu will touch upon the senses and show a landscape of flavors and textures. $65 per person, the menu offers several courses. It includes yellow fin tuna cruda, day boat scallop and saffron, mushrooms with ricotta, cherries with beef flat iron and spices, and whipped cream and chocolate with mascarpone, raspberry and hazelnut. Cava encourages making reservations as soon as possible for Valentine’s Day weekend, as the spots are filling up. Tucked back in a quaint alley, this lavish and ornate restaurant will create an intimate night to remember.