Alt-Valentine’s Day is the Best Kind of Valentine’s Day

If you're serious about food, you already know better than to dine out on Valentine's Day.

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Happy Valentine’s Day From Ting Wong

This weekend coming up? It’s gonna be a disaster. With Valentine’s Day falling on a Tuesday this year, EVERYONE is going to be out this weekend, filling up every seat in every restaurant you care about, drinking too much wine, eating all the oysters (which is bullshit, by the way) and getting their lovey-dovey cooties all over everything.

Like drinking on St Patrick’s Day, dining out on Valentine’s Day is amateur hour, a sucker’s game, great for restaurateurs (who need all the help they can get), but not so awesome for the dedicated gastronaut. But don’t worry, we have a very simple solution for you that will work particularly well this year.

We call it Alt-Valentine’s Day.

There are two steps to this process. We’ll go through them one at a time:

First: You’re not making reservations on Valentine’s Day. You’re also not making reservations for the weekend before Valentine’s Day. No, what you’re going to do is make a reservation at one of those restaurants you can never get into (Laurel or Vetri or Zahav or wherever) on February 15th. Or 16th. Or if they’re open on Monday, even the 13th this year.

In this way you are going to, hopefully, somewhat avoid the madding crowds and the overwhelmed staff and the overworked kitchens and you’re going to show up on a day when the crew at any restaurant will be thrilled to see you. Because the 15th or 16th of February? Those are some of the slowest days of the entire year at restaurants, since everyone else in the city has already blown all their folding money and isn’t in any mood for another fancy dinner on a Wednesday night.

Second: This weekend? You’re not going anywhere near any restaurant with corny Valentine’s Day specials. You’re not going anywhere near the hot, hip, cool or romantic restaurants that everyone else is going to be clogging up with the wilted roses and over-choreographed wedding proposals. You’re going to spend Valentine’s weekend (which means starting tonight) hitting up some of the excellent little neighborhood restaurants we love — and that are probably going to be seriously hurting for business over the next couple of days.

For safety’s sake (and to make sure that you don’t accidentally get caught up in some mob scene at a place like The Good King or Bud & Marilyn’s where other anti-Valentine’s Day anti-celebrators might be congregating), the list we’ve come up with focuses almost entirely on the best of the Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, Korean and Puerto Rican restaurants scattered around the region — plus one really good place to get fried chicken because fried chicken is perfect for almost any holiday.

Our picks for avoiding the worst of the Valentine’s Day crowds:

Debreaux’s // Overbrook: Make sure that you call ahead and place your order at least 30 minutes in advance. And make sure fried chicken, in some way, shape or form, is part of the order. Keep in mind, the portions are big, but if sharing a plate of wings, mac ‘n’ cheese and corn bread isn’t romance, then, really, what the hell is?

Penang //Chinatown: This place is big, loud and brightly-lit. No one in their right mind is coming here for a romantic dinner. Which is precisely why my wife and I always used to come here for romantic dinners. It has a full bar, which is nice. And also, they serve the hands-down best roti I’ve had anywhere in America. Order two. Don’t try to share. That’s just a fight waiting to happen.

Indonesia Restaurant // South Philly: Hardena may be considered the city’s best, but if you want to spruce up your night with table service and white tablecloths, Indonesia is the better pick. Plus, eating meat off a stick is always a fun date-night activity.

Quetzally // Bella Vista: Bring a bottle of tequila, and when you get there, grab a bottle of grapefruit Jarritos from the fridge and ask for two cups, ice, and limes. Mix it and call it a Paloma — that’s your drink for the night. Pound ’em over excellent homemade chorizo tacos and Mexican fried rice.

El Rincon Criollo // Spring City: Sure, there are a few tables. And the service at the counter is as friendly as can be. But El Rincon is really the kind of place you want to hit for take-out mofongo, fried plantains and Cuban sandwiches to bring back home with you, to eat by the light of your own candles. Or better yet, in front of the TV while watching a marathon of John Hughes movies.

Kim’s BBQ // Olney: What’s more romantic than cooking together? If you’re looking for an excellent and interactive date-night, then Korean BBQ is the perfect option. And going to Kim’s is also ideal in this circumstance because it’s small, cozy, has those table-mounted grills where you cook your own meats and a super-friendly staff who will help you with the grilling if you start looking like you’re completely screwing it up. Also, they offer self-serve scoops of ice cream at the end of the meal, which is just adorable.

Ting Wong // Chinatown: I don’t care what you say. Every special day is better when celebrated with Chinese food. And Ting Wong offers some of the best street-level Chinese food in the entire city, served in a space with roasted ducks hanging in the window, by a staff who don’t care if it’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day or just another Saturday night. I have never had a bad meal here, and I’m willing to bet that you won’t either. And as a bonus, dinner will be cheap enough that, afterwards, you can go out into the night and spend all that cash you didn’t drop at Laurel or Double Knot on fake ninja swords, a giant ceramic elephant, a Hello Kitty ashtray or some other awesome trinket that will show your special someone just how much you care about them.

Happy Alt-Valentine’s Day everyone. We’ll see you all at Kim’s.