With deep red walls and red brocade chandeliers, cloistered alcoves outfitted with cushy sofas and sweeping fringe curtains, and an orchid on every plate, Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge seems designed to seal the deal. The sexy late-night lounge serves booze-spiked bubble teas and a menu of luxurious small plates created by chef Radhika Desai, former sous chef at Vermilion: Sweet Heat Shrimp was five juicy grilled crustaceans glazed with a tangy sauce of garlic, curry, and honey; the Between Green salad was an ample portion of mixed greens spiked with avocado, mushrooms, candied cashews, and caramelized onions. Baturas, a house specialty, are a twist on the Punjabi classic, the crispy fried bread stuffed with spicy ground beef, scallions, and shiitakes. At $18 the lobster trifecta—a trio of bisque, lobster spring rolls, and lobster cakes—is the most expensive thing on the menu. Items added since my last visit include a tuna flatbread with scallions, truffle oil, and fresh wasabi and goat cheese tarts with roasted garlic, crushed hazelnuts, and chives. On Valentine’s Day a seven-course prix fixe menu with a vegetarian option includes a bottle of organic wine, a half bottle of rosé champagne, and Teuscher chocolates; it’s $80 per person. —Martha Bayne
This Mayfair pie joint has been open since 1940, and though it’s been dressed up periodically, it has a vibe stuck somewhere in late-70s New Jersey. Distressed copper tables, red vinyl booths, chandeliers cut like Superman’s ice fortress, and a colossal mirror painted with the Chicago skyline all contribute to the sense that the place ought to be swamped with mooks wearing pinkie rings. Instead the tables at Marie’s Pizzeria and Liquors are filled with old folks and families, and what brings them in is the superb crispy thin-crust Chicago-style pizza, which has a near perfect grease-to-cheese ratio and is sauced with a sharp gravy. The adjoining space is a well-stocked liquor store with more than 800 wines; you can uncork one at your table for a $2 fee. For the Valentine’s season, from February 11 to February 16, Marie’s will offer heart-shaped pizzas, and there are a few other events planned. (“We like Valentine’s Day around here,” says owner Nadine Karavidas.) On Wednesday, February 13, there’s “Love You to Pizzas,” a tasting of more than 30 wines with a dinner and dessert buffet and live music ($25, $30 at the door). On Thursdays the restaurant hosts its jazz-and-martini night, with martinis on special for $4.50; the Jeannie Tanner Trio performs on Valentine’s Day. Live music continues throughout the weekend. —Mike Sula
David Richards doesn’t stand on ceremony. No maitre d’ or hostess greets you when you walk in the door of his cozy Fullerton Avenue storefront, Sweets & Savories. Servers wear jeans and duck under the bar to rustle up drinks; bottles of wine are grabbed off a rack by the door. But the refined, French-inflected food has more than enough power to carry the show. The menu changes frequently, but the star of the a la carte section remains the famed foie gras burger, a $20 fistful of Kobe beef topped with truffled mayonnaise and a thick slab of illegal paté. On my last visit the tasting menu—now offered nightly at five courses for $60, eight for $75—started off with a refreshing tomato-saffron fondant evocative of a spoon-friendly Bloody Mary. Pan-roasted blue-nosed grouper over rosemary-potato hash was outstanding, as was the piping hot duo of juicy duck breast and complex rabbit sausage—served with a seductively smoky white bean cassoulet—that followed. “Sweets” included a deliciously diapery Camembert with a fig-and-almond cookie, a mango sorbet, and a one-two punch of chocolate ice cream and warm molten chocolate cake. The wine list offers a range of reasonably priced options, including a 2004 Avalon cabernet sauvignon that somehow manages to be both complicated and mellow. Sunday brunch is $19 for a cocktail, appetizer, and main dish; on Mondays Sweets & Savories is BYO with no corkage fee and a $10 discount on the tasting menus. For Valentine’s Day Richards is offering a four-course meal for $50; selections will include beef tenderloin and a chocolate souffle cake, and guests can preorder flowers from Edgewater’s Blue Hydrangea to be delivered to their sweeties at the table. —Martha Bayne
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