Valentine’s Day is the Super Bowl of dining out. For restaurants, it’s bigger than Mother’s Day and Easter rolled into one — and it’s only three short weeks away. That would seem ample time to score a primo seat in a cozy nook. But not in Maine’s foodiest city. Procrastinate at your peril.
As of mid-day Monday, romantic Portland spots like Emilitsa on Congress Street and Drifter’s Wife on Washington Avenue were down to their last tables available at sub-optimal hours (5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.). If you are a latecomer, but still want to stay lucky in love, don’t despair. Here are a few cozy nooks as yet unclaimed.
Maria’s Restaurant. This old school throwback just underwent a renovation, so the only thing stuck in time here now are the prices. On Valentine’s Day chef Tony Napolitano’s prix fixe dinner, including classic Italian appetizers like bruschetta and meatballs, frutti di mare entrees and ricotta cheese cake deserts will stoke the flames. This three-course meal will set you back a mere $39 per person. Entertainment by Rat Pack cover band The Crooners comes with the whole shebang. Call (207) 772-9232.
Blue Spoon. It’s on the corner, the service is great and it’s so snug you’ll have no choice but to get intimate. Chef David Iovino greets you from the open kitchen and then treats you to an American menu loaded with seared scallops, grilled ribeye and fisherman’s stew. Almost everything served at his Munjoy Hill fav is made with local ingredients and the Blue Spoon bistro burger is the best bite on the block. 89 Congress St., Call (207) 773-1116.
Tiqa on Commercial Street opens its arms wide this year to embrace the season. A complimentary rose for each couple, a special menu and energetic ambiance means all you have to do is show up. The contemporary chic restaurant anchoring the Courtyard Marriott hotel leads with pan-Mediterranean cuisine. Fresh from a trip to Israel, executive chef Bo Byrne has some new tricks up his chef’s coat. If things work out well, you can always get a room. Call (207) 808-8840.
A few blocks away, Solo Italiano on Commercial Street is home to champion pesto. It is also one of the larger restaurants in town. But that doesn’t mean it’s not intimate. Book a table by the windows in the back for stunning views of the U.S. Custom House. Then order a plate of silk handkerchief pasta in traditional Genovese basil pesto with a bottle of prosecco to keep the romance bubbling. Cap it off with Sicilian cannoli and gelato and toast to the sweet life. Call (207) 780-0227.
Petite Jacqueline has a glamorous French vibe, stunning lighting and international flare. To capitalize on Cupid’s big moment, the owners of the uptown Market Street bistro throw down VD eats and drink specials all week, from Feb. 10 to Feb. 14. Though the menu has not been released yet, think escargot, beef tartar, roasted chicken, mussels and more. Impress your lover by ordering the seafood “Eiffel” tower followed by a tray of sophisticated sweets. Call (207) 553-7044.