We all know Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14. Although it is typically viewed as a holiday celebrating love with special meals often shared in particular places, along with the giving of cards, candy, flowers and other gifts between couples, it has origins deeply rooted in fifth century Rome, when it served as a tribute to Saint Valentine, a Catholic bishop.
Further investigation reveals similar celebrations held during the same season date back some 800 years prior to the establishment of Valentine’s Day. Roman Pagan celebrations held during the season commemorated a young man’s “right of passage” and paid homage to the god Lupercus. The celebration featured a lottery that allowed young men to draw the names of an individual who would be his sexual companion during the remaining year.
As time passed and in an effort to do away with the pagan festival, the pope of the day ordered a change to the lottery. In the newly refined Catholic version, both men and women were allowed to draw a ticket from the box. The point of the revised game: to emulate the ways of a random saint (whose name they had pulled from the box) during the rest of the year. Sounds like fun, huh?
Needless to say, many of the young Roman men and women were not too pleased with the rule changes.
Over the years the traditions continued to evolve, with the first true Valentine card reportedly being sent in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Skipping forward to upcoming Valentine’s Day 2022, most of us tend to stick to flowers and/or candy, a card and a special meal. In a large city like Charlotte there are a multitude of fine dining establishments to choose from, so we’ve picked a few that are particularly popular with the LGBTQ community.
The Queen City’s selection of destinations for dining and imbibing is a wide and eclectic variety of hole-in-the-wall grab ’n gos, intimate and cozies and palatial palaces serving just about every kind of cuisine you can imagine.
Of course, since we’re now in the second year of a pandemic that has entirely changed the way we interact with the world around us, restaurant behavior, etiquette and the number of patrons allowed in an establishment isn’t what it once was. In fact, some restaurants that survived the economic crunch have switched over almost exclusively to take out.
And why not? Less expense for employees, less cost for general overhead.
Fortunately for us, though, there are plenty of chefs, business owners and patrons out there who still enjoy the artistry and experience of dining out, which leaves us with a variety of places to choose from for your special Valentine’s Day experience. Keep in mind: limited space, lots of people, best to plan ahead with reservations as soon as possible.
The Wine Vault
9009 JM Keynes Dr. #1
This is an excellent choice for starting off your evening with a craft beer or fine glass of wine. The Wine Vault has been around for over 30 years and has stood the test of time as a reliable and tasteful destination for casual drinkers and beer and wine enthusiasts. Located in the University area with a plethora of restaurants in walking distance, The Wine Vault offers an opportunity for guests to enjoy socializing in a cozy and comfortable environment. They boast live music on weekends, weekly wine tastings and monthly wine-related events in an environment that offers a true sense of community. Their website boasts you’ll notice it the moment you walk through the door.
1710 Kenilworth Ave.
Located in Kenilworth Commons, Dolce Osteria is a popular destination for authentic regional Italian dishes and boasts pasta made in house by an expert mentioned in multiple five-star reviews known as Rita.
Italian food is considered by many to be among the most romantic cuisine of all – making it the perfect food to share with someone you love. There’s plenty to love at Dolce: Rita’s variety of pastas include Bolognese, Amatriciana, Sorrento and Carbonarra along with a number of others.
But wait, there’s more! Carpaccio, Pollo Marsala, Gnocchi, Lasagna, Linguine with Clams, Prociutto with Fresh Mozzarella, Tagliatelle Di Mare and Vitello Al Limone. The menu boasts a seemingly never-ending list of appetizers, salads entrees and desserts and more five star reviews than you can shake a stick at!
Take all of this Sicilian goodness and serve it up in an intimate and inviting environment and you’ve got an eatery many Charlotteans call the best Italian in Charlotte.
1218-A E. 36th St.
The Artisan’s Palate in the city’s North Davisdon Community (NoDa) is a mix of multiple things: restaurant, art gallery and gathering space. They offer a distinctive list of unique cocktails, wine and shareable plates in a friendly and welcoming environment reflective of NODA culture with a focus on art and the artists who create the work. If you’re looking for a Valentine adventure that steeps you in food, spirits and creative culture, this just might be the destination for you.
Regrettably, after the first decade of 21st century growth, NoDa has seen many galleries close and few, if any, open to take the place of those lost.
Artisan’s Palate is dedicated to keeping the creative spirit of NoDa alive and thriving. The space boasts a gallery populated by works from local artists, who are featured monthly.
Visitors to Artisan are introduced to multiple sensory consuming experiences, created by Chef and Owner Christa Csoka that will assuage your senses through food, beverage, art, music and more, with each wrap-around presentation based on the type of collection presented.
Artisan’s Palate is a highly anticipated experience for patrons, which includes locally grown coffees and unique cocktails beside a delightful menu with such inviting edibles as a Smoked Salmon Board, Shrimp and Grits, Pulled Chicken Sliders, Mussels in White Wine, Grilled Octopus, Red Wine Braised Short Ribs and Shrimp Artichoke Salad.
224 W. Tenth St.
If you’re in the mood for a cosmopolitan Valentine experience full of character and history, a visit to Poplar Tapas is definitely a go-to destination for you and your significant other. Located in the Historic Morrison House in center-city Charlotte’s Fourth Ward neighborhood, Poplar Tapas Restaurant & Bar offers Peruvian-inspired tapas, wine and spirits. Fourth Ward is Charlotte’s oldest inner city neighborhood, and very walkable. On the down side, parking in the area is a major challenge. If you’re close to a light rail station and feeling adventuresome, you might want to take the train to Seventh Street and hoof it a few blocks. On the way, enjoy some amazing architecture before a dining experience that offers such delectables as Farfalle con Salchicha, Bocados de Carne, Tacos de Puerco, Manchego Stuffed Figs wrapped in Prosciutto with Basil Aiolo and Shrimp Cerviche.
300 East Boulevard
One of Charlotte’s longtime standbys and always a popular go-to for the LGBTQ Community, 300 East opened in Dilworth (the light rail goes there, too) in 1986 when the neighborhood was the city’s most populous gayborhood. Lots of LGBTQ folks still enjoy all the beauty and amenities of Dilworth and nearby Southend and the restaurant, which is housed in a sizable turn of the 20th century two-story bungalow that’s extra inviting and brimming over with character. Another excellent destination for a romantic evening, 300 East boasts a full bar and a menu that includes baked Marinated Vermont Goat Cheese, Sweet Potato Ravioli, Seared Ahi Tuna, Bronzed Sesame Salmon, Pan Seared Springer Mountain Farms Airline Breast and Filet Mignon.