Reservations are overrated — why you should stay casual this Valentine’s Day

It’s not where you are but who you’re with

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 Most couples are not planning to go to an obscure Mexican restaurant or family-owned diner on Valentine’s Day, so you may have the whole place to yourselves.  

Rachel Crawford | Cavalier Daily

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and Charlottesville’s most popular date night spots are nearly booked. I am here to reassure you that if you don’t have a reservation yet, you’re okay. In fact, you are more than okay, and here’s why. 

Valentine’s Day is a chance for individuals to express their feelings to those they cherish through gifts, food, flowers and more. It’s a day devoted to celebrating love. Couples often want their celebrations to be personal, intimate and memorable, and they make their plans with these intentions in mind. 

Dinner plans tend to be first on the list. Couples pick a fancy restaurant, hoping to spend quality time with one another over a nice dinner. But what qualifies as a “nice dinner?” 

Is a nice dinner about the food or the company? Is it about the environment or the conversation? If two people really aspire to have a quality dinner date, I guarantee you that it will be much less special if you’re surrounded by other couples doing the exact same thing. 

This is why you shouldn’t go to a popular Charlottesville date night spot. The intimacy you share this Friday won’t be your own, but instead, it will be that of all the other mushy lovers in the room. Instead of going on a fancy dinner date, I have another option for you — go to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. 

Most couples are not planning to go to an obscure Mexican restaurant or family-owned diner on Valentine’s Day, so you may have the whole place to yourselves. Plus you can go on your own time with no rush. The environment will likely be more lowkey, meaning dinner can be as casual as you need it to be — especially if the terms of Friday night’s dinner are still vague. 

For example, if you’re looking for a casual Mexican-style restaurant to hide away at this Friday, El Puerto on Barracks Road is the perfect Mexican restaurant to do so. You can chat over chips and salsa while drinking Coronas or margaritas and watching soccer on TV. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. 

It’s unlikely that you’ll run into your friends this Friday at El Puerto, meaning you and your date will spend the night free of interruptions. El Puerto doesn’t offer the best Mexican food in Charlottesville, but their casual, less-crowded environment definitely offers a fun, personal experience. 

When looking for a new restaurant to try, I love to hop in the car and let Siri do the work. The farther the drive, the more fun the car ride. This is how I found Croby’s Urban Viddles. 

Croby’s is a hole-in-the-wall, family-run diner 15 minutes away from Grounds, open Tuesday through Saturday until 8 p.m. and Sunday until 12:30 p.m. They serve southern comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner with the goal that “you won’t leave hungry.” They also offer a wide selection of beer and wine from local breweries and vineyards.

My favorite dish at Croby’s is the Dippin’ Mac with an appetizer of fried green tomatoes. For $10, the Dippin’ Mac comes with a healthy serving of mac and cheese, baked beans, barbeque pulled pork and chicken, pimiento cheese sauce and flour tortilla chips, and it is sure to leave you with a full stomach. The fried green tomatoes are a $7 classic, served with red pepper peach sauce on the side. If you order this meal, I guarantee you and your date “won’t leave hungry.” 

Make this Valentine’s Day more special than the rest. Go somewhere random and try something new. Hop in the car and let Siri do the work. Don’t go to a fancy restaurant, but instead, celebrate the night eating fried okra or chips and salsa. Who wants to make reservations anyway?

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