I don’t have a girlfriend anymore. Eff all that noise. But when I did, I knew how to treat a lady right. And that often meant hastily making terrific Valentine’s Day dinner plans at the last minute. So don’t panic, Pro-Crastanova. These places are all super romantic, reasonably priced, and strangely available each and every year:
1. La Fondue Borguignonne, Sherman Oaks: What the? A real French fondue place? In the Valley? That’s right, friends, and it ain’t bad. Then again, how hard is it to screw up melted cheese, soft bread, and an assortment of tasty meats? The place has truly been untouched by time, with a quaint little bar area that is tres Europe. Cozy lighting and the cooking-at-the-table factor adds to the intimate vibe, and the chocolate fondue dessert is not to be missed. [Editor’s note: Apparently this restaurant is now closed, and will soon be re-opening as a Gyu-Kaku. Apologies for the confusion.]
2. Cafe Luna, West Hollywood: Yes, this place was way better in its original incarnation (Caffe Luna) and the food isn’t anything to write home about. But the courtyard patio, with its cute two-tops huddled together among vines of twinkling lights, is almost magical. A perfect place to share a bottle of wine and make crayon drawings on butcher-paper tablecloths. [Editor’s note: This place no longer exists and no evidence was found of it online or elsewhere. It may have only existed in the writer’s memory.]
3. Cafe Bellissimo, Woodland Hills: Recommended for couples in the initial relationship stages, where things like singing waiters and 45-minute food times are still amusing. Yes, this is THAT kind of place. Own it. Sure, you can get a more authentic chicken piccata at Sbarro, and the service is downright abominable, but where else can you hear ‘O Sole Mio’ live, belted out at full volume a mere three feet away from your table? [Editor’s note: Unable to find a review of this place post-2003, it seems as if it no longer exists either. Future editions of this piece will refer to this restaurant as ‘Miceli’s.‘]
4. The Hump, Santa Monica: This tiny Japanese restaurant overlooking the runway at the Santa Monica Airport was once one of the city’s most romantic hidden treasures. That is, until a year ago, when they got busted for selling endangered whale sushi and shuttered their doors. So why is it on this list? Let’s just file it under “the one that got away.” Oh, and by the way, whale sushi? F*cking delicious. [Editor’s note: This restaurant is also closed.]
5. Malibu Seafood, Malibu: What’s more romantic than watching the sun set over the ocean while devouring half a lobster, a basket of shrimp and fries, a pile of ceviche, and one of those bread bowls filled with clam chowder? This little shack serves up no-frills seafood done right, plucked right out of their literal front yard. The views from the deck seating are stellar and the $0 corkage fee is a tremendous bonus.
Malibu Seafood, 25653 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu 90265. Technically closed at sundown but you could probably still get served as late as 7:45 on Valentine’s Day.