Cupid, draw back your bow

A&E vilifies traditional Valentine Day date plans

by Grant Tillery

Dates can range from the dynamic to the disastrous. Maybe it’s just latent social anxiety, but dates that involve sitting down over coffee or a meal seem trite and forced. Requisite questions get asked, and conversation feels interrogative instead of organic.

That’s not to say that good dates can’t happen that way —they can. It’s just the chance that you really connect diminishes when sitting in silence watching a movie or having a stare-down over espresso. Here are some suggestions after a lifetime of trial, error and more error.


If you must do dinner

Dinner dates don’t inevitably spell doom, especially if you’ve been with your date for a long time. Though there are many options around campus for a cheap date, head elsewhere to shake things up.

If your date is adventurous and finds romantic settings overrated, head to On’s Kitchen in St. Paul. Though the ambiance is dive-y, the traditional Thai spices are seductive — and deliver a post-meal high similar to the result of a good workout. Start with the perfectly pungent papaya salad (caution: Order it mild. On’s food packs heat), then split one of On’s whole catfish or tilapia offerings.

There’s a lot to be said for romantic settings, though. To set the mood, snag one of the draped booths at Tea House or one of the alcoves at Eli’s East. Both are walking distance from campus, with dim atmospheres designed for canoodling. If you’re also considering prices, these options are kind to your wallet.  

If you’ve got money to blow, hit up Bar La Grassa. One of Chef Isaac Becker’s winning trifecta of restaurants, it serves Italian food that’s both trendy and authentic. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with Twin Cities’ high rollers as you share a plate of sumptuous soft eggs and lobster bruschetta. Though $18 is steep for a starter, it’s decadent, with the lobster’s freshness serving as the ideal foil for the ethereally creamy eggs.

For those in less committed relationships, staying near campus is a better option. If you’re ready to take things to the next level, dial up the romance at the Loring Pasta Bar. If you want your fling to remain casual, why not bond over burritos at Chipotle?


If dinner’s not your thing

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a balmy 20 degrees or so. There’s no better way to celebrate the heat wave than with a cup of hot chocolate from Dogwood Coffee Bar and a late-night walk around Lake of the Isles. You can keep your sweetie warm while moving your body and marveling at the magnificent architecture of the early-20th-century mansions surrounding the lake.

Minneapolis has no shortage of live music. If you’re ambitious and your date digs indie rock, try to procure tickets to the sold-out Arctic Monkeys show at First Avenue. Or you could jump next door to the 7th Street Entry to catch Spanish dance band Delorean (who recently survived a kidnapping in Mexico City). Head over to North Loop cocktail bar Parlour afterward for some of the town’s best and strongest drinks (including the Ango Flip, finished off with a raw egg) as well as innovative bar snacks.

Bowling is a no-fail date idea. Its competitive nature is perfect grounds for flirting, and you can enjoy cheap drinks and pizza while you’re at it. If you want to see a show after a set of strikes, then head to Bryant Lake Bowl. For a more traditional bowling experience, Seward’s Memory Lanes or Elsie’s in Northeast will fit the bill.


If you’re single and looking to hook up

Go to Blarney. It’s no different than any other Friday night for you, and there will be a room full of people in your shoes. If you stop looking for love and let the night take its course, you just might wake up on the 15th next to the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.