Cheers: Valentine’s Day takes over the dining scene

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday this year, which means the love-centric holiday is consuming the entire weekend. Restaurants of all types will cash in on this, with specials, extended hours and fun ideas.

Mabel Gray in Hazel Park and Chartreuse Kitchen and Bar in Detroit, for example, aren’t usually open on Sundays, but it would be beyond strange for such hip spots to be closed on this holiday. Chef James Rigato tells us he’s hosting a wine dinner at Mabel Gray (23825 John R), and it’s all booked up. Chartreuse Kitchen (15 E. Kirby) still has tables open.

Those aiming for romantic over hip could consider Cafe Cortina, 30715 W. 10 Mile in Farmington Hills, which was recently named as one of the country’s most romantic restaurants. House Beautiful magazine chose the Italian favorite for its list because it was an apple orchard in a past life and it has many fireplaces.

Reservation website and app OpenTable also piped up on the topic and named Iridescence at the top of MotorCity Casino Hotel (2901 Grand River, Detroit) one of the most romantic restaurants in the country. With its floor-to-ceiling windows and picture-worthy plating, it’s a great choice. OpenTable also gave a nod to the English Inn in Eaton Rapids just south of Lansing.

220 Merrill in Birmingham is lighting the candles and rolling out the red decor for the weekend. Chef Frank Olbrantz and beverage director Lance Sigler are offering a fixed-price feast featuring a new cocktail titled Be MI Valentine, crafted with Michigan-made Valentine White Blossom vodka.

The three-course repast starts with a romaine wedge salad, followed by an eight-ounce, bone-in file with lobster tail medallions and Tiger prawn, along with a twice-baked potato and grilled asparagus. Share the heart-shaped raspberry white chocolate cheesecake for dessert. The all-inclusive meal, $220, is offered Friday through Sunday.

If your special someone is a beer fan, consider the Belgian Beer Festival at Ashley’s in Westland, continuing for its sixth year. Billing itself as the largest Belgian beer festival in the United States, the European-style beers will be flowing Thursday through Feb. 21. This Sunday’s events include a feature of sour beers and fruit lambics 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and a Belgian dinner for two. Ashley’s is at 7525 N. Wayne. Check out for full festival details.

Dumped at the last minute? One of downtown’s newest craft cocktail lounges, Standby, 225 Gratiot, will host “Bitter Valentine” starting at 5 p.m. Sunday. The expert bartenders have developed a one-night-only cocktail menu featuring sweet and bitter drinks. Standby chef Brendon Edwards teams up with chocolatier Alex Clark of Bon Bon Bon and Matt Tulpa of the Salt & Saffron pop-up to add some unique items to the restaurant’s regular menu. Reservations not accepted.

Go medieval

Finally — because nothing says “I love you” like being okay with eating sliders and chicken rings on Valentine’s Day —– White Castle is again offering reservations from 3-9 p.m. Sunday. Call (248) 477-1450 ext. 10 between 7 a.m.-3 p.m. by Friday to make your reservation at any area White Castle with an indoor dining area.