Food & Drink

There’s still time (maybe) to book a perfect Valentine’s meal

Dine at Empress Tavern and then watch “Sixteen Candles” upstairs at the Crest on Valentine’s Day.
Dine at Empress Tavern and then watch “Sixteen Candles” upstairs at the Crest on Valentine’s Day.

People who truly care about Valentine’s Day made their plans before the clock struck 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1. The rest of you are unmotivated or simply don’t love enough.

But we’re here to guide, not judge. So we have rounded up remaining dining – and entertainment and lodging – options for Feb. 14 and the Long Weekend of Love, or what single people call Presidents Day weekend.

When you both deserve the best

All those new, hip restaurants with concrete floors, brick walls and severe chairs – they might serve delicious food, but they don’t know a thing about romance. The perfect Valentine’s dinner starts not with a cocktail and amuse-bouche, but with non-cement-based flooring and plush and/or gauzy fabrics.

Ella Dining Room & Bar, the downtown Sacramento restaurant known for its airiness and white curtains, and Dawson’s Steakhouse, the Hyatt Regency restaurant with wood paneling and actual carpet, are bringing the romance decor- and menu-wise on Valentine’s Day. Each is offering a special prix fixe dinner.

For $125 per person, Dawson’s diners can nosh on winter vegetable fondue, charred lobster tail and dry-aged duck breast. Ella’s $135 special menu includes cauliflower and Maine lobster vichyssoise and slow-roasted New York strip steak. Ella’s dinner includes a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut and Dawson’s a split of sparkling wine.

There were more tables still available at Dawson’s, earlier this week, than at Ella, where it’s “slim pickings” regarding reservations, Ella general manager Anthony Glenn said. But there could be cancellations – reservation holders have until Tuesday, Feb. 9, to cancel. It’s best to call the restaurant, than to try to book online, he said. Same goes for Dawson’s.


Ella: 1131 K St., Sacramento; 916-443-3772; www.elladiningroom Dawson’s: 1209 L St., Sacramento; 916-321-3600;

When you deserve the best, but must pay your mortgage

Hawks, the Granite Bay fine-dining restaurant that outdoes most Sacramento restaurants in tasteful, romantic elegance, is offering a four-course Valentine’s Day brunch, for $50 per person, that includes warm beignets and lobster eggs Benedict.


5530 Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay; 916-791-6200;

Dinner and a show

Start Valentine’s festivities early on Saturday, Feb. 13, with the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” event at Sacramento’s Colonial Theatre. Sacramento Horror Film Festival maestro Tim Meunier and his Amber’s Sweets theatrical troupe have perfected their “shadowcast” performances, during which the actors perform along with the 1975 cult movie musical.

Before the 10 p.m. event, head to the Oak Park Brewing Co. on Broadway, a low-key, stylish spot that serves creative, modestly priced dishes (most entrees run below $20) along with its house-brewed beers. Just down Broadway is Arthur Henry’s Supper Club & Ruby Room, where grill-your-own steaks, with salads and garlic bread, run $16 to $34, and where the velveteen wallpaper matches Magenta’s hair and the lighting is darker than Dr. Frank N Furter’s mascara.

Speaking of redheads, Roseville native Molly Ringwald became a star in the 1984 John Hughes film “Sixteen Candles,” screening at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at Sacramento’s Crest Theatre. Tickets can be purchased separately or as part of a $125 prix fixe Valentine’s dinner at Empress Tavern, the subterranean restaurant below the Crest.

Fans of rotisserie meats and the Brat Pack can enjoy Empress chef Michael Thiemann’s dreamboat menu that includes truffled cauliflower soup, duck-confit salad, onion-roasted short ribs and complimentary sparkling wine before feasting on the sight of sensitive B.M.O.C. Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) on a big screen.

Call the Empress at 916-662-7694 for dinner reservations. There are two seatings. People planning to see “Candles” should book within the first window, from 5 to 5:45 p.m., and in the earlier part of that, Empress service manager Chloe Henry said. But a 5:45 reservation still likely would work, she said, because “our kitchen is so fast.”

Diners who choose the 7- to 7:45 p.m. window instead will get tickets to see either the Feb. 19 or Feb. 25 Crest screenings of the Oscar-nominated animated shorts or Feb. 21 showing of Pixar’s “Inside Out,” up for best animated feature at the Feb. 28 Academy Awards.


“Rocky Horror”: Colonial Theatre, 3522 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento; Oak Park Brewing Co.: 3514 Broadway, Sacramento; 916-660-2723; Arthur Henry’s: 3406 Broadway, Sacramento; 916-737-5110; Empress Tavern: 1013 K St. (lower level), Sacramento; 916-662-7694;

90 percent love, 10 percent ABV

Yolo Brewing Co. in West Sacramento has brewed a special, pink-tinged “Valentale Ale.” It’s a Belgian tripel with raspberry purée added for secondary fermentation. The fruit adds sugar content to the 10-percent beer, but also acidity, Yolo Brewing founder Michael Costello said, “so it has balance.” Treat your main squeeze or primary bro to a 10-ounce serving for $5.50.


1520 Terminal St., West Sacramento; 916-379-7585;

Stay a while

Valentine’s Day falling on a Sunday before a holiday provides the perfect opportunity to avoid driving by dining and staying at the same hotel. But attempts to find such conveniences downtown were scuttled by full bookings and constitutionally concerned teenagers. As the Hyatt’s director of sales Brenda Kirian explained, most rooms at her hotel, and a few others, have been booked by participants in the YMCA Model Legislature and Court event happening that weekend at the Sacramento Convention Center.

So, like a lot of people seeking clarity and answers, we headed toward the river – to Scott’s Seafood, which is offering a reservation-only limited menu (including an ahi poke butter lettuce-wraps appetizer, for $20, and a spiced yogurt tilapia entree, for $22) on Feb. 14. As of late last week, there were still a few spots left.

I have never eaten at Scott’s, but I have had drinks at the bar, which, because of its view of the Sacramento River, always has felt like a getaway spot. Those who want to further that feeling can stay over at the Westin hotel that houses the restaurant. As of last week, the hotel still had rooms available for Valentine’s night. They start at $189 and increase to $239 with a river view.


Scott’s: 4800 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento; 916-379-5959; Westin: 916-443-8400;