Originally Published In Manayunk.com Magazine
Whether you're trying to impress someone new, celebrating with a spouse, or looking to just have a good time with a friend, it's time to start formulating a game plan for Valentine's Day now. We know, it may seem early, but we just want to help you get ahead of the game.
Large restaurants can be too rowdy and big names tend to bump up the prices for the special occasion, so we'll make this convenient for you: choose Manayunk for Valentine's Day. Plenty of restaurants. And they cover just about every kind of food you and, more importantly, your significant other crave. (If you don't have their favorites pegged at this point, ask them flat out. Better to be obvious than wrong). Better yet, if you're on a tighter budget, there's no shortage of BYOBs. Instead of grabbing a box of chocolate, sparkley jewelry, or that perfect tie, grab their favorite bottle and head to one of these Manayunk BYOBs.
Your dollar (or minimal credit card balance) will carry you far at Laxmi’s Indian Grille. The menu is loaded with heaping portions and reasonable pricing. And, since they're on this vegetarian kick (and encouraging you to follow), they’ll appreciate the not-few veg-friendly dishes—hearty samosas, chana masala (chickpeas sautéed with onions, tomatoes and herbs)—while you hover over the massive mixed tandoori platter (beautifully-grilled chicken, lamb and seafood), in awe, but unnoticed. In case you start to feel a little too full of yourself because of how well this is going, don’t ask for anything above mild spiciness. This is not the night to be a hero. 4425 Main Street; www.laxmisindiangrille.com
In a setting that’s been described as “nurturing” by none other than the always-cynical Philadelphia Weekly, chef and owner Moon Krapugthong aims for authenticity at her Chabaa Thai Bistro by enticing every sense. She doesn’t need to try that hard. As genuine as a person gets, her warmth seems to rub off on everything and –one she comes in touch with. Why is this worth noting? Because, when you think about it, a fraction of any given dining-out experience is spent actually eating. So, the more comfortable you feel during those lulls, the more relaxed their mood’s likely to be when exiting the restaurant. Plus, it’s all, at the very least, a good distraction from the constant slurping that’s required of a bowl of crispy-duck pad Thai, which is why you’re really there. 4371 Main Street; www.chabaathai.com
Just down the street, Chabaa’s sister restaurant, Yanako, Krapugthong’s take on traditional Japanese and sushi. Instead of reserving an out-of-the-way table, take the opposite tack and grab a couple of stools at the sushi bar. There, without being pretentious about it, spark up a dialogue with the chef and encourage him to make a couple suggestions, or even map out your entire meal, if he’s willing. Not only is he likely to take you to the prime cuts of his menu, like the much-loved Seven Seas Roll (tuna, yellowtail, cucumber and masago topped with avocado, tempura crunch and a spicy aioli), he may even lead you away from it. Your guest will adore the hyper-focused attention—even if they're not big on raw fish. 4255 Main Street; www.theyanako.com
If you’re the sort of couple that prefers finding each other at the end of the day over some choice takeout and a couple of cold beers, Han Dynasty would be a treat, while keeping you squarely in your comfort zone. In fact, it probably already is your choice takeout. Still, put in a little effort and actually go to the restaurant this one night. For the rest of you, the setting is relatively low-frills, but the food is far from generic. Don’t even call it Chinese, because no such food exists. It’s Szechuan, and meticulously-depicted at that. There’s no way around it here; you’re going to sweat. But, as long as you’re both doing it, you can laugh about it. You’ll be too consumed by the Dan Dan Noodles, the double-cooked fish and the eggplant in garlic sauce to care anyway. 4356 Main Street; handynasty.net
Jake’s and Cooper’s Wine Bar is not a BYOB. Obviously. But, as long as you’re eating in the dining room, you can bring your own for a $15 corkage fee. Which isn’t unreasonable if your favorite kind didn’t make it onto the wine list. If you choose to drink there, the wine list is loaded with obscure but affordable finds. And, it’s tailored to chef and owner Bruce Cooper's locally-driven menu, which is especially-conducive to sharing. Sure, the prime burger is screaming your name, but it’ll be much more romantic to graze fingers over the charcuterie board and the potato hazelnut gnocchi. 4365 Main Street; www.jakesrestaurant.com
While your stomach’s grumbling, make a reservation. You’re going to be plenty distracted over the next month, so having one less thing to worry about is a good thing. Every one of these restaurants is intimate (read: relatively small), which makes them perfectly-suited for Valentine’s Day—unless you stall on making that reservation until the week of.
Visit the Manayunk Development Corporation Contact page for full contact information.
Office: 4312 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127