Unromantic Restaurants for Valentine's Day

Photo by smulligannn

We understand that some of you might want to go out on Valentine's Day, in order to really express your feelings for your beloved or your homies or your lapdog or whoever your Valentine is this year. But we beseech you, don't go to a restaurant where reservations are required or only a prix fixe menu is available that night. The restaurant owners at those establishments will love you for paying the inflated prices, but the servers and cooks are sneering at you -- they know they're putting out substandard food. Instead, go somewhere entirely non-romantic. It's cheaper, more delicious, and low-pressure. Here are our top picks for Valentine's Day!

J & J
This San Gabriel Valley hole-in-the-wall has the best commercially available xiao long bao in the county, and I won't hear different. Their pan-fried dumplings are delectable too -- well, just about everything on the menu is. The bright lights and the inelegant way you're bound to eat the xlb and Shanghai noodles are sure to make for an entirely unsexy, but very delicious, night. (Sometimes they're cash only, so come prepared.)

Santouka
Is this our favorite counter-service restaurant in a grocery store? As far as we can recall, yes. The food court remains open to ramen slurpers after the store closes, so it feels a bit lonely, but the warming soup -- always a contender in the city's best-ramen wars -- helps with that. And maybe you can sneak into the produce section and make out after you've cleared your tray.

Tender Greens
There's always a line for salads and ethically-raised meats (and mashed potatoes -- Tender Greens is the rare restaurant that makes them as good as homemade) at every TGs location, but ... the better to stare into each others' eyes as you shuffle along? And if you order one of the less-indulgent salads, you won't be too full for a little of the ol' wink-wink nudge-nudge after dinner.

Manna Korean BBQ (or BCD Tofu House)
Korean food is so gosh-darn delectable that we couldn't choose just one subcategory. Either go to the screaming bacchanal of meats and flashing lights that is Manna (it's one of those all you can eat joints, so we're promising quantity over quality here, but it still tastes good), or hit up BCD after-hours for a million tiny plates of delicious items, including a whole fried fish. Feed each other fish cheeks and fall in love all over again.

Ruen Pair
It's spicy and it's up all night! That's enough reason to hit up this strip-mall classic on Valentine's Day, but it also has some of the best Thai food in town (and we all know that's saying something). Try the morning glory, the greens with crispy pork, and one of the soups. (Cash only.)

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About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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