Let's face it, Valentine's Day isn't generally a good time to save money on a dinner tab. Many restaurants, knowing the pressure that comes with the holiday, hike their prices to exorbitant levels, knowing they'll still have to turn people away.
(Maybe not as high much as Times Square restaurants did on New Year's Eve, but still...)
But if you're looking to impress that certain someone and don't have deep pockets, there are a few options still available to you. They may not be the most romantic locations your city has to offer, but if you play it right, you could win points for originality.
Shake Shack - Yes, Valentine's Day falls in the middle of winter, but that doesn't make a free milkshake any less appealing - especially when it's from Shake Shack (shak). The chain is offering a one-day-only deal where it will give your sweetheart a free shake when you buy one for yourself (presuming, of course, that the two of you come together).
Fogo de Chão - Fogo de Chão is a carnivore paradise - and this year, it's offering an incentive to lure meat and potatoes-loving guests on Valentine's Day. Couples who dine at the restaurant between Feb 12 and Feb. 14 will receive a Valentine's Dining Card, which can be redeemed for a complimentary lunch or dinner on their next visit.
Starbucks - Just started dating and it's a bit early to go all out for a Valentine's dinner? Impress him or her with a mid-morning or mid-afternoon Starbucks (sbux) date by ordering off of the secret Valentine's menu. This year, the company is offering a trio of frappuccino variations - Valentine Frappuccino (strawberries and crème with raspberry syrup pumps. It has vanilla bean in the middle and is topped with blackberry and whipped cream), Love Bean Frappuccino (vanilla bean frappuccino with raspberry syrup pumps, topped with raspberry-infused whipped cream and chocolate curls) and Java Berry Frappuccino (java chip frappuccino with raspberry syrup pumps, topped with raspberry-infused whipped cream and chocolate curls).
Qdoba - If you're feeling peckish when you're at the Mexican Grill, just give someone - or something - a peck. Qdoba is repeating its Qdoba for a Kiss promotion, where can get buy-one-get-one-free entrees in exchange for puckering up. Kiss your sweetie, kiss yourself or even kiss the person behind you in line (not recommended if you're with your sweetie) any time on Feb. 14 to take advantage of the offer.
White Castle - Treat your love to a romantic dinner at Harold and Kumar's favorite dining establishment this year. The chain is now taking reservations at select locations for dinners that include candlelight and table-side service. Service begins as early as 3pm, just in case you're dating someone who works the night shift.
Waffle House - Like White Castle, this Southern staple pulls out the white tablecloths and candles for this dinner service, now in its ninth year. And like the burger chain, it's becoming a more and more popular Valentine's destination. In addition to waffles, Waffle House is promising a craft-tailored menu for the evening. Reservations are strongly suggested.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts - Chocolates are passé these days. Show your special someone that you care with doughnuts. Krispy Kreme (kkd) has four specialty doughnuts available through Valentine's Day - the Luv Bug, Bee Mine, Sprinkle Heart and Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles. (The Sprinkle Heart, a heart-shaped doughnut dipped in white icing and topped with Valentine's Day sprinkles, is arguably the most romantic.)
Dairy Queen - Not everyone is in a relationship - and Dairy Queen doesn't want them to feel isolated on this couple-centric day. The chain has introduced the Singles Blizzard Treat - a heaping of its soft-serve ice cream blended with salted caramel truffles, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and peanut butter topping - for those who are on their own, happily or otherwise.