Courting with Calories

By Valerie Vinyard

Let’s face it: Valentine’s Day is one of the craziest days to visit a restaurant.

Like New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day, Valentine’s ranks as a night to avoid dining out among veteran diners. However, it is a special day, and special days should be celebrated.

So, we’re going to offer up five restaurants—no matter the day—serve up a healthy dose of romance. Even if you choose not to brave February 14, these spots always offer an aura of love.

Café Poca Cosa,
110 E. Pennington Street

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Tuesdays through Saturdays

Information: 622-6400 or
cafepocacosatucson.com

If you ever have read a travel story about Tucson, Café Poca Cosa is sure to be mentioned. The Mexican restaurant is helmed by Executive Chef Susana Davila, the sunnily effusive and often-present owner.

Davila, a former model, has been focused on providing impeccable service and unforgettable food to the masses for decades. If you have visitors to Tucson, this is the place to take them.

Newbies who visit are enthralled by the twice-daily-changing menu of Mexican dishes, which are presented by savvy, efficient servers.

However, don’t expect tacos or combination dishes on this menu: On these menus, you won’t find popular Sonoran dishes, such as enchiladas, burritos or tacos. Instead, you’ll discover a variety of savory, complex dishes to include moles, such as the ever-popular Pollo en Mole Negro, and vegetarian-friendly sweet green corn tamales with a variety of fruit or vegetable toppings.

Each meal comes with a leafy green salad with fruit or veggies; rice and charro beans served family style; corn tortillas; and an incredible roasted salsa with chips. In other words, a feast.

The best thing to order is the Plato Poca Cosa, which is the chef’s choice of three smaller portions of the day’s entrees with all the accouterments. If more than one person orders the Plato, everyone will receive three different items. This means there’s more to share.

Le Rendez-Vous,
3844 E. Fort Lowell Road, 323-7373

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 5 p.m. to close
Tuesdays through Sundays

Information: rendezvoustucson.com

In a way, it’s not fair. The French always get kudos for being romantic.

But hey, when the shoe fits … Le Rendez-vous is the essence of romance. Whether it’s dining on escargot (which whether or not you like snails, anything with copious amounts of garlic and butter has to be delicious) or choosing a safer, but equally delicious meal of Chateaubriand or beef wellington, Le Rendez-Vous is an exquisite location for delectable French food.

The service is solid, the food is fantastic and the experience is memorable. Go—even if you’re single.

PY Steakhouse,
Casino del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m.
Tuesdays to Thursdays;
4 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Information: 324-9350 or
casinodelsol.com/dining

Casino del Sol is a prime location for people who love to gamble, watch sports, check out live entertainment and enjoy a great meal.

The greatest of the great meals at Casino del Sol is PY Steakhouse.

Executive chef and cookbook author Ryan Clark, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who has cooked at several high-end restaurants, will offer a hands-on “Valentine’s Day Secrets” cooking class at 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 11, called Valentine’s Day Secrets with Flying Aprons Tucson (call 261-1996 to reserve a spot). The class will teach people dishes they can learn to cook with each other and eat.

If classes aren’t your thing, a visit to PY Steakhouse is still a romantic endeavor.

“It’s a special occasion dining experience,” Clark says of his steakhouse. “PY is a romantic dining room. We have an extensive wine list of hundreds of bottles, and it’s a place to make memories.”

On Valentines’ Day, there’s a four-course prix fixe menu for $99, which includes long-stemmed chocolate-dipped strawberries, a rose and a glass of champagne. Reservations are a must.

Even if you don’t make the class or Valentine’s Day, PY Steakhouse is a memorable—and romantic—experience.

Plus, Casino del Sol just finished constructing another 150-room hotel on its property, so there’s no excuse not to book a room after a memorable dinner.

Café a la Cart, 150 N. Main Avenue

Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays

Information: 628-8533 or
cafealacarttucson.com

This downtown gem is located across the way from the Tucson Museum of Art’s courtyard, and it’s a must visit—whether you enjoy art or not. Located in the 1865 Stevens House, Café a la Cart is a fast-casual restaurant for breakfast and lunch, which means you order at the counter and they drop off your food at the table, but the service is friendly and accommodating. The ginger-almond chicken salad croissant is a longtime favorite, and there are at least eight more sandwiches, two burgers and eight salads on the menu. Lemonade lovers will love the ever-changing flavor of the day.

If you decide to visit for dinner, there’s table service, and the entrees are stepped up from the usual sandwiches, soup and salads. Try the short rib with the roasted potatoes or the herb-crusted salmon with charred tomato vinaigrette and goat-cheese mashed potatoes.

For entertainment, the Little House of Funk with Connie Brannock performs at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays.

Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the café’s award-winning desserts. A large display case in the restaurant shows the various desserts of the day, which can range from the Chocolate Bomb—chocolate ganache, chocolate mousse and chocolate cake—to the triple berry cake and other tarts and cheesecakes. For those with a tiny sweet tooth, smaller sweets include housemade cookies.

Flying V Bar and Grill,
7000 N. Resort Drive

Hours: 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Sundays through Thursdays;
5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Information: 615-5495 or
loewshotels.com

Think cozy ski lodge with a roaring fireplace. Located on the grounds of Loews Ventana Canyon in Northeast Tucson, the Flying V is the resort’s flagship restaurant.

The views will not include snowy ski runs but rather stunning views of the adjoining award-winning golf course or the Santa Catalina mountains.

Impeccable service pairs with well-thought-out Southwestern fare to make this a destination restaurant. You’d be remiss not to order the tableside guacamole, where a “guacamoliere” prepares your favorite rendition of the popular appetizer.

Other Southwestern dishes dominate the menu, and a full bar—with an impressive array of tequilas—will complement anything you might order.

The best part? Book a room and you won’t need to drive home for the night.

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