Mouthful - Don't go there

Reluctant suggestions for VD, Part One

If there's one night of the year I know with absolute certainty that I will not be dining in a restaurant, it's Valentine's Day. Stay home, people, I beg you. Roast a chicken. Play Twister. Read each other poems by Pablo Neruda. Bake a chocolate cake and lick the bowl clean.

A good chunk of you will blithely ignore me, of course. The National Restaurant Association reports that nearly one-third of all adults in the United States eat out on VD, making it the third most popular dining-out occasion on the calendar (behind birthdays and Mother's Day, respectively). It's mandatory in many relationships: "If you don't take me out for an unbelievably romantic meal, you don't love me." Double sigh. My prayers go out to restaurant workers everywhere on that night.

By now, I would hope, most of you realize that food and love are prickly bedfellows. Did you see that "Sex and the City" episode a few weeks back when Charlotte and Harry go out for a decadent, "romantic" seven-course meal and end up running to the toilet all night, eventually lying together on the bathroom floor holding hands? That ain't just fiction, folks. Rich food can kick your ass. Do you really want your digestive system cursing your name on your big night of passion? Don't get me wrong — I love an amorous meal out. My heart just blackens on Feb. 14, the day our society has force-fed us to be lovey-dovey.

All right already, you get my point. And you're still going out. Fine, you want my list for the most romantic spots in Atlanta? Here it is: These are the showstoppers and the quiet spots I'd take my paramour on a night when I knew the kitchen and servers would be on top of their game. You're probably familiar with most of them, but here they are, all bundled together for easy access as you try to snag a last minute reservation. Don't be bitter if they're already booked. Stick this column on your fridge and go some other night. Or book way ahead next year.

Aria (490 E. Paces Ferry Road, 404-233-7673, www.aria-atl.com)

Au Rendez-Vous (1328 Windsor Parkway, 404-303-1968); Babette's Cafe (573 N. Highland Ave., 404-523-9121, www.babettescafe.com)

Bacchanalia (1198 Howell Mill Road, 404-365 0410); Brasserie Le Coze (3393 Peachtree Road, 404-266-1440)

Dick & Harry's (1570 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell, 770-641-8757, www.dickandharrys.com)

Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton (3434 Peachtree Road, 404-237-2700); Floataway Cafe (1123 Zonolite Road, 404-892-1414)

The Food Studio (887 W. Marietta St., 404-815-6677, www.thefoodstudio.com)

Joël (3290 Northside Parkway, 404-233-3500, www.joelrestaurant.com)

Kyma (3085 Piedmont Road, 404-262-0702, www.buckheadrestaurants.com/kyma)

Nan Thai Fine Dining (1350 Spring St., 404-870-9933, www.nanfinedining.com)

Oscar's (3725 Main St., College Park, 404-766-9688, www.oscarsatl.com)

Seeger's (111 W. Paces Ferry Road, 404-846-9779, www.seegers.com)

Tiburon Grille (1190-B N. Highland Ave., 404-892-2393, www.tiburongrille.com)

Tierra (1425 Piedmont Ave., 404-874-5951, www.tierrarestaurant.com)

Woodfire Grill (1782 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-347-9055, www.woodfiregrill.com)

In next week's Mouthful, I'll throw out a few off-the-beaten-path Valentine's ideas for the adventurous and the desperate.

Where to Eat
Food Events