1. Lake Park Bistro
MONDAY, FEB. 14, 5-9 P.M. $75 PER PERSON. (3133 E. NEWBERRY BLVD., 414-962-6300)
If you’ve any doubts about romantic scene-setting, just enter this warm, refined-with-a-hint-of-rustic French spot. The most natural fit of the seating options is a table along the windows facing Lake Michigan, where between glowing candlelight, a glimpse of silvery moon, and the eyes of that special someone, your heart will undoubtedly go pitter-patter. In keeping with the theme, LPB is doing a three-course prix fixe menu. The meal lifts off with a choice of six appetizers (such as French onion soup and pan-seared foie gras on toasted brioche) and several main course options (trout in brown butter sauce, grilled bone-in ribeye), as well as a showstopping last course, like the praline-hazelnut St. Honoré cake or the raspberry mousse-centric Framboise Bombe.
2. Strange Town
MONDAY, FEB. 14, 6 AND 8 P.M. SEATINGS. $85 PER PERSON. (2101 N. PROSPECT AVE., 414-885-0404)
The year this intimate plant-based nest opened (2017), owner and chef Mia Le Tendre was brainstorming ideas to give their Valentine’s Day festivities more structure, and boom, she fell on the idea of using an album as a theme “to really dive into the senses,” she says. It became a yearly tradition of serving a V-Day menu inspired by music, with the dishes she concocts coming to her on walks, before falling asleep, etc. This year, the 10-course menu will correspond to tracks on British glam-rock band Roxy Music’s 1982 Avalon. An album for lovers, to be sure.
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3. Balzac Wine Bar
$5-$25. (1716 N. ARLINGTON PL., 414-755-0099)
There’s something about this cozy, low-lit small plates emporium that queues up the sensual sounds of Barry White – “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Baby” to be exact. The menu – which chef Zach Panoske, who cooked tapas-style at View MKE, keeps bright and robust – is designed for sharing. There’s a lot to settle into with a partner, beginning with the crispy fried brussels sprouts with jalapeno-infused maple syrup. Move on to the tuna tartare with cured egg yolk on a nori crisp, and sea scallops served atop a seafood bisque.
4. Third Coast Provisions
$9-$57. (724 N. MILWAUKEE ST., 414-323-7434)
This elegant seafood restaurant is one of the prettiest dining rooms in the city, a tony spot where you and your honey can decamp at a marble-topped table (or hey, even two snug seats at the bar), under lighting that is so kind to faces, and just flirt and eat. There’s no rush. For two nights (Feb. 11-12), Third Coast is running a modified à la carte featuring some loved-up classics. Start with a glass of prosecco and eat your way through the appetizers, including ahi tuna tartare crispy rice, lobster potholes and seared foie gras with house-made focaccia. Save room for the large plates, which include two stars – black cod with golden coconut curry, and lobster pot pie with black truffle butter. You also can’t go wrong with surf ’n’ turf, the combo of filet mignon and butter-poached lobster.
$6-$40. (741 N. MILWAUKEE ST., 414-225-0000)
This “sliver of a storefront,” as owner Brian Zarletti calls it, has proved a worthy backdrop for amorous eating for almost 18 years. It’s got everything – soft lighting, discreetly placed seating and service that’s attentive but not overbearing. And whoever decided that pasta was the food of love was spot-on. While the menu has an à la carte format, I suggest sharing several dishes, leading with the calamari ripieni (baby squid stuffed with crab, wilted tomato and breadcrumbs, braised in a white wine tomato sauce and served with char-grilled bread). For your next course, split a Caesar – the house-made croutons and anchovy-laced dressing elevate it – followed by the handmade four-cheese ravioli. And finally, sink into one of the classics of Italian cuisine, osso buco, whose duo of braised Strauss veal shanks served with handmade gnocchi is the perfect size for two.