In restaurants across Juneau, couples enjoying a Valentine's Day meal Friday night may be treated to special menus, boxes of chocolates, and roses, depending on where they go. The holiday is one of the busiest days of the year for local restaurants, however, so for those planning an elegant night out, local restaurateurs have one piece of advice: make reservations now.
At Di Sopra (upstairs at the Fiddlehead), Valentine's Day "is one of the best days of the year" according to owner Kirk Stagg.
"I strongly recommend making reservations," he said.
The restaurant's chef creates a menu specifically with Valentine's Day in mind, Stagg said. Appetizers include oysters on the half shell, which are believed by many to be a potent aphrodisiac. Assuming the fog doesn't roll in and keep the planes from landing, Di Sopra's entree selections will include Escolar, a fish flown in fresh from Hawaii, which will be baked in a sauce of tomatoes, roasted garlic, olives, capers and white wine.
Ben Bohen is a local chef and food writer.
To accompany dinner, those who choose Di Sopra this Friday will be able to select from an extensive wine list, which recently earned the restaurant the prestigious Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine, Stagg said. Di Sopra is currently the only restaurant in Juneau to have achieved this distinction.
In addition to offering its special menu for the occasion, the staff at Di Sopra will set the mood for romance with soft music, candlelight and rose petals scattered on each table. Customers often add their own unique flourishes to the evening, also.
"One year, a man proposed to his girlfriend by putting an engagement ring in her glass of wine - she just barely avoided choking on the diamond, but she did accept the proposal," Stagg said.
The Back Room at The Silverbow will also be serving a special Valentines meal.
"Since our room is painted red and candle lit, it is really perfect for Valentine's Day," said owner Jill Ramiel. "Valentines day is one of our most successful days of the year."
The restaurant was full to capacity last year, and Ramiel expects an equally large crowd this time around. The Back Room will be offering guests a four course prix fixe menu for $39 per person, which includes tax, but not gratuity. This menu includes an appetizer, choice of soup or salad, entree and dessert. One glass of champagne per guest and flowers for dates are also included in the set price, she said.
Ramiel says that the restaurant's Valentine's menu is designed for couples. The appetizer of Italian style antipasti including salami, fresh mozzarella cheese and marinated mushrooms is meant to be shared. A "Surf and Turf for Two," featuring blackened halibut and a grilled 12-ounce top sirloin steak, is made for couples who can't resist trying ther other's orders when dining out. she said.
This year's "special once-a-year dessert" choice is a trio of chocolate mousses made with dark, white and milk chocolates that will be served alongside a strawberry Trifle. Ramiel notes that these desserts are paired so that dates can appreciate the contrasting flavors by trading.
At the Gold Room at the Baranof, Valentine's day is "a guaranteed full house" according to manager Steve Hamilton, and making is reservations "required." The Gold Room will be serving its standard dinner menu, featuring fine steaks and seafood from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday night. A prime rib special will be featured for $19.95.
Anne Rappe at the Hangar on the Wharf says that reservations for Valentine's Day dinner are recommended. The restaurant will be serving its regular dinner menu including seafood, pasta, salads and burgers from 5 to 10 p.m., and will be giving out roses to female diners to add a bit of romance to the evening. For those looking for a way to continue their nights out after dinner, the local band Automatic Daddy will be performing in the bar area of the Hangar beginning at 9:30 p.m.
At The Breakwater Inn this Valentine's Day, each couple will receive a box of chocolates. The Breakwater will be serving its full dinner menu, which highlights local seafood and choice cuts of beef, plus specials, according to manager Cindy Ducote.
"The restaurant is usually very busy on Valentine's Day," Ducote said, suggesting that interested diners "absolutely" make reservations.
The Breakwater is also an option for late-night dining as it will continue serving its bar menu in the lounge until midnight.
Many other local restaurants are serving special Valentines meals - call your favorite restaurant for details, and make sure to do it in advance.
Ben Bohen is a local chef and food writer.