Valentine’s Dinner in Houston on a Budget: Creative Ideas for 2024 — Updated

Heart-shaped pizzas at Trash Panda are only $15 each for Valentine's Day 2024

Let’s be frank: it’s easy to find an expensive Valentine’s Day dinner. Just look up any restaurant you consider “nice” and it’s probably offering something special for that evening or the weekend before (Valentine’s Day is on a Wednesday this year). 

To many people, being romantic means dining at a fancy restaurant. However, that’s not something accessible to everyone who wants to go out. That’s where creativity comes in handy, and this year, many Houston restaurant owners have done a remarkable job. I was surprised. In many cases, these “budget meals” are more enticing than the traditional, pricey “steak and lobster” options. 

Other options are not branded for Valentine’s Day, but could still be a lot of fun. Lunar New Year doesn’t end until February 24, with some restaurants hosting celebratory dragon dances and special meals on Valentine’s Day, and the annual Eat Drink HTX deals at casual eateries start the day after Valentine’s

Assuming your significant other has a sense of fun and doesn’t use expenditures as a way to measure how much you love them, you’ll likely also be charmed by a dining option in this article. I’ve broken it out into price per couple with a cap of $124, including 20% gratuity and tax. Beverage prices can vary wildly depending on type and how many, so I’m leaving that part up to you. 

No matter what you decide to do, happy Valentine’s Day, and remember, it’s not about what you spend. It’s about the value received. 

Special Valentine’s Dinners from $100 to $124 Per Couple

Eloise Nichols Grill & Liquors
Eloise Nichols Grill & Liquors. Photo by Alex Montoya.

Eloise Nichols Grill & Liquors, 2400 Mid Lane: This River Oaks eatery is offering a three-course Valentine’s meal with a few different dish choices each for only $40 per person. (After tax and 20% tip, that comes out to $103.92 per couple.) For appetizers, guests can enjoy Brussels sprouts or a cheese board before moving into entrées such as Trout Almondine with toasted almond risotto, asparagus and lemon butter sauce or a 7-ounce filet with mushroom wine sauce, asparagus and mashed potatoes. For dessert, share either the key lime pie or chocolate cake. Since Valentine’s Day also falls on Wine Down Wednesday, bottles of wine are conveniently half-price. 

Houston restaurant Ouisie's Table in River Oaks
Houston restaurant Ouisie’s Table in River Oaks. Courtesy photo.

Ouisie’s Table, 3939 San Felipe: If you’re willing to wait until after “amateur night” (what some industry folks jokingly call a major dining holiday — especially Valentine’s Day), you can enjoy a three-course, prix fixe couple’s menu for $90 plus tax and gratuity at this beautiful Southern restaurant. Start with dishes such as breaded calamari strips or Fresh Pomegranate & Pear Salad before moving on to main courses such as Panko Crusted Chicken Cordon Blue with Mustard Cream Sauce or 7 Spices Grilled Pork Rib Eye with Blood Orange Glaze. For dessert, enjoy Napoleon cake or tiramisu. View the full menu and make reservations online

Heart-shaped churros at URBE
Heart-shaped churros at URBE. Photo by Paula Murphy.

URBE, 1101 Uptown Park: Chef Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught’s “street foods of Mexico” restaurant is offering a special three-course dinner for two most of Valentine’s week. It’s available February 9 through 10 and 12 through 14. The first-course choices include blue corn tostadas de atún (ahi tuna) with cucumber, avocado, fresh mango, pickled onions, chipotle aioli, mango-habanero salsa and ginger-sesame vinaigrette, and sopecitos de pecho de res — small masa cakes with brisket, refried beans, salsa costeña and queso fresco. Some of the entrée selections are the catch of the day with mole amarillo, potatoes and roasted vegetables and Camarones al Chipotle with chipotle adobo shrimp, creamy rice, corn and poblano. For dessert, couples will get heart-shaped churros to share. 

The cost is $85 per couple plus tax and gratuity, which will total around $109.01 before beverages. However, you can add cocktail pairings for $30 per person, which include Besitos en la Playa with tequila, Malibu, coconut milk and lime, and Keepin it Spicy with Ghost Blanco Spicy Tequila, gin, passion fruit, prickly pear and lime. Those celebrating Galentine’s Day on February 13 will find half-price margaritas and pitchers all day. Go online for reservations

Valentine’s Experiences for $75 to $99 Per Couple

Tres leches cake at Candente
Tres leches cake at Candente. Photo by Alex Montoya.

Candente, 4306 Yoakum: Celebrate Valentine’s Day Tex-Mex-style for only $75 for two plus tax and tip with The Lovebird Special. Candente will start couples off with its White Chocolate Raspberry Margaritas (available only for the month February). Then, dive into a shareable meal of a small queso, a large combo fajita platter and a slice of tres leches cake. The couple’s meal is available from Saturday, February 10 through Saturday, February 17. 

Shabu-En, 9110 Bellaire: Although not specifically a Valentine’s meal, at this new, buffet-style house of shabu-shabu, or Japanese hot pot, you can make dinner exactly as you like it — and have as much as you want of it. Dinner for adults is $31.99 before tax and tip (so about $82.06 per couple before drinks), and there’s a vegetarian option for $23.99. The six cooking broth flavors are ichiban dashi, huo guo with Sichuan peppercorns, chili peppers and chili oil; tom yum, tonkotsu, shitake mushroom, beef-and-pork-based soondubu and light, soy-sauce based sukiyaki. The meat choices include Akaushi Wagyu, Certified Angus, chicken breast, pork belly, lamb leg, various seafood and vegan mock meats. A plethora of vegetables and seasonings are also on-hand for rounding out the meal. View the full menu online. 

Sonoma Wine Bar: For both Valentine’s Day from 2 to 10 p.m. and “Galentine’s Day” (February 13), all three locations in Katy, Upper Kirby and Garden Oaks are offering a special tasting flight of three wines and accompanying nibbles. The combinations are Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs Bubbly with Black Mission Fig & Chevre Cheese Crostini, 2018 Love & Squalor Pinot Noir with Mushroom & Baked Brie Crostini and 2019 Le Mistral G.S.M. Red Blend with Schnebelhorn Cheese, chorizo lberico and Castelvetrano olives. The cost is $35 per person, which, after tax and tip, comes to about $89.78 for a couple. Make reservations on the website

Valentine’s Experiences for $50 to $74 Per Couple

Citizens of Montrose, 907 Westheimer: Celebrate Valentine’s on the preceding Saturday over brunch and save some dough. This breakfast and coffee spot is hosting a bottomless mimosa brunch on February 10. The special featured flavor is the Strawberry Lemonade Love Mimosa for $19. There are two caveats: an entrée purchase is required to get a bottomless mimosa, and the drink deal is limited to one hour. To eat, consider the Cast Iron Baked Eggs with chorizo, two poached eggs, roasted red pepper, cannellini beans, spinach, toasted almonds and aioli for $17, or the Green Goddess Shakshuka, a real green machine of tomatillo, poblano, cannellini beans, kale, spinach, green goddess, feta, poached eggs, pumpkin seeds and za’atar pita chips for $15. Reservations are available online. With two entrées, two bottomless mimosas, 20% gratuity and tax, you’ll close out at about $74. 

coltivare valentine's to go meal
Chef Ryan Pera of Coltivare has put together a splendid Valentine’s meal to go. Photo by Micah Danae.

Coltivare, 3320 White Oak: Acclaimed chef and co-owner Ryan Pera has put together a take-home Valentine’s dinner that’s also a great value. The Amore Italiano Dinner for two is only $65 plus tax. (Please note: this special meal is not available for dine-in.) It includes everything you need for a romantic meal: Genovese-style focaccia with extra virgin olive oil, rosemary and salsa verde; local strawberry salad with arugula, frisée, sheep’s milk cheese, hazelnuts and vinaigrette, Coltivare’s salumi selection of prosciutto, n’duja, finocchiona and ricotta accompanied by giardiniera; a choice of either lasagna or braised duck leg with winter squash, dried plums, olives and duck jus, and a roasted strawberry croasta with cream to share for dessert. 

For beverages, increase the sexy with sparkling, white or red wine pairings for $30 or gin & tonics or old fashioneds for $11 each. Order online or call (832) 203-7890. You can also drop by the restaurant and pick up a dinner starting at 5 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. All dishes are packed cold with reheating instructions. 

Rotisserie chicken at Craft Pita
Rotisserie chicken is a Craft Pita specialty. Photo courtesy of Craft Pita.

Craft Pita, 1920 Fountain View and 5172 Buffalo Speedway: Depending on what entrée you select and whether you choose to dine in or take it to-go, this Mediterranean Valentine’s meal — which includes a bottle of Lebanese wine — could cost you as little as $43.30 and maxes out at $76.95 with a 20% tip. Craft Pita’s main dish choices are falafel for $40, a whole rotisserie chicken for $50 or beef kabob for $60. Rounding out the meal is fattoush salad, rice pilaf, hummus and pita. Pre-ordering starts on February 7.  

Good Vibes Coastal Kitchen, 1329 East Broadway, Pearland: Kids happen. Valentine’s Day happens. Sometimes the two converge in such a way that a family outing makes more sense than a date night. At this breezy eatery in Pearland, kids eat free on Valentine’s Day. There’s currently a chef’s feature of Guinness Cottage Pie that we hope sticks around through the cool season, and it’s impossible to ignore the Red Wine Burger with melted provolone, roasted tomato, bacon jam and roasted garlic aioli or the Loaded Lobster Potatoes. Each of those dishes is $16. With that in mind, we think two adults can share a snack, have an entrée each and add 20% gratuity and tax for about $73. (Again, drinks are not included in our estimate.)

Parrillada for Valentine’s Day at Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen
Parrillada for Valentine’s Day at Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen. Photo by Daniel Ruiz.

Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, 1140 Eldridge and 6401 Woodway: A hearty parrillada (Mexican barbecue) special for two is available at chef-owner Sylvia Casares’ longstanding restaurants. It also lets you celebrate Valentine’s on a flexible schedule, as the deal runs from February 9 through 14 for both lunch and dinner. The parrillada platter includes a half pound of chicken and beef fajitas, two grilled quail, four jumbo shrimp, rice, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortillas. While that may make it tough to save room for dessert, do your best, because a chocolate tres leches to share is coming at the end. The cost is $49.95, so even after tax and 20% gratuity, that still only sets you back $64.06! (Of course, you’re probably going to have margaritas, too, right? Right?) 

Valentine’s Dinners for $25 to $49

Coppa Osteria, 5210 Morningside: This promotion is especially useful as either a gift for a couple or for lovebirds who cannot go out on Valentine’s week. For $80, get four handmade chocolate truffles, a $50 gift card (valid at all restaurants operated by The Big Vibe Group — Coppa Osteria, Gratify, Graffiti Raw and Flora) and a bottle of wine from Bottaio Wine Shop, located inside of Coppa Osteria. Gift cards are available in larger amounts, too. Go online for your choice and to select a pickup time. 

Kenny & Ziggy mishmosh soup
Kenny & Ziggy’s mishmosh soup with golden noodles and a big matzo ball is downright healing. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen, 1743 Post Oak: Owner Ziggy Gruber has come up with a special $25-per-person, three-course meal that’s especially for showing some Valentine’s affection to “Bubby and Zadye” — grandma and grandpa in Yiddish. However, anyone who loves Kenny & Ziggy’s authentic deli food can enjoy it. It includes a bowl of soup, choice of “nosher-size” sandwich with five ounces of meat or green salad topped with a scoop of hearty deli counter salad and a choice of dessert. That opens up many possibilities, such as the crowd-favorite Mish Mosh soup with both a matzo ball and kreplach (triangle-shaped dumplings) followed by a Triple-Smoked Pastrami nosher (or maybe the green salad topped with smoked whitefish) and a slice of Boston Cream Cake. With so many choices, you’ll find a combination that’s exactly to your liking. 

Lotus Seafood: This staple with five locations in the Greater Houston area is known for spicy seafood and offering special date-night packs for Valentine’s Day both for dine-in and to-go. The Fully Loaded Loud Pack For 2 is just $30 and includes both a Loud Pack with 10 large, boiled, peeled shrimp sautéed in Cajun garlic butter on top of Shrimp & Crawfish Fried Rice with Crack Sauce, and a Fully Loaded Loud Pack, which also comes with corn, potato sausage and egg. The Fried Alfredo Bowl for two is $35 and the Crab Leg Box is $30. The latter comes with a colossal Crab Leg Cluster, corn, potato, sausage and egg atop a bed of Louisiana fried rice. Choose your spice level from mild to “spicy x5”. These Valentine’s meals will be served in heart-shaped boxes while supplies last. Visit your closest location, place orders to-go online or order via DoorDash or Uber Eats. Added 2/9/24, 8:35 a.m.

Valentine’s Dinners on a Budget of $24 or Less

This list is for the people who think they can do a little better than just a box of Russell Stover Chocolates, but not by much. (Honey, I’ve been there.) When you are on a budget, creativity is your best friend, and I know you can do better than a to-go meal from a fast-food joint. 

Tacos Doña Lena, 8788 Hammerly: Fresh off being named by Yelp for a second time as one of the Top 100 Places to Eat in the country, the acclaimed taquería is planning something special and fun for Valentine’s Day. It’s serving a heart-shaped gordita in a heart-shaped container. We don’t have the price yet, but the regular gorditas are $5, so it may be a few bucks more. The handmade masa delights are stuffed with refried beans, melted cheese and a choice of meat. Al pastor, barbacoa, chicharrón verde and tinga de pollo are just a few of the options, and there are three meatless selections, too: nopalitos, calabacitas (squash) and soy pastor. 

Heart-shaped pizzas at Trash Panda are only $15 each for Valentine's Day 2024
Heart-shaped pizzas at Trash Panda are only $15 each for Valentine’s Day 2024. Photo by Greg Perez.

Trash Panda, 4203 Edison: This breezy bar and eatery on the north side deserves kudos year-round for serving food until it closes at 2 a.m.; none of this “kitchen closes at midnight so now all you can do is drink” nonsense. For a trashy Valentine’s in the best way, stop by with your sweetie for a $15 heart-shaped pizza. It’s big enough for two, and the selections are cheese, pepperoni, chicken Alfredo, Margherita, birria and the Big Kuntry Pizza with Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage, bacon, pepperoni and red onion. Even if only one of you is in a pizza mood, the other could grab one of the best bargains around: the Trashy Meal Deal with a Trash Burger with a smashed patty, American cheese, Valentina-spiked Duke’s mayo, grilled onions and chopped pickles, a Lonestar draft beer and a shot for $10. Let’s be real: you can’t hardly exit a fast-food drive-through for that (and certainly not with a beer and a shot). 

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