Sharon and I decided to collaborate on this post. Enjoy!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a holiday where consuming chocolate is the national norm, and for an occasion that is marked with an indulgent feast. And though I realize that Valentine’s Day has been escalating in its commercial nature over the past two decades (and one that that Mack and I embraced wholeheartedly last year), a gander at one too many pre-fixe restaurant menus sent me over the edge this time around.
Of course, restaurants shouldn’t be blamed for feeding a consumer-driven hunger for extravagance, excess, and unbridled expense on February 14. No doubt, some meals, and the ultimate experience of spending time with your sweetheart could be worth every penny. Also, some restaurants do offer embellishments – providing a rose to the lady, employing a musician to set the ambiance, offering a treat at meal’s end – but could it really be worth the heightened price tag? How much more are patrons charged on Valentine’s Day, compared with any other day? With Mack’s penchant for statistics and graphs, we set to find out.
Coming up with the data was harder than we thought! Finding the set price of the Valentine’s Day menu was easy, but finding something to compare it to was not. We decided to generate a comparable figure using the closest dishes we could find on the regular menu. Definitely not scientific, but fairly representative.
We started by finding as many restaurants with Valentine’s Day menus as we could, and then narrowed it down to those which also had regular menus online. We ended up with 12 restaurants:
The average Valentine’s Day menu price was $71.08 per person, with prices ranging from $35 per person at The Dish to $160 per person at Red Ox Inn. The average regular menu price was surprisingly similar at $69.65 per person. On average, Valentine’s Day menus featured 4 courses.
So what’s the best deal? By far, Madison’s Grill. Their 6 course Valentine’s Day menu is just $85 per person – the regular menu would cost roughly $116 per person. Of course, we’re not sure about portion sizes, but based on our recent Farmers’ Market Dinner experience, we expect they will not be small. The worst deal? Hardware Grill – you pay $31 more for the Valentine’s Day menu than you would on a regular day.
I wouldn’t cite any of this data in an academic paper, and the numbers don’t take into account ambiance, food quality, freedom of choice and service, but it was fun to generate just the same. I was surprised to discover that the Valentine’s Day menus aren’t that much more expensive after all!
So numbers aside, after scrutinizing more than a dozen pre-fixe menus, I can tell you that considering the menu options only, both Mack and I agree that Hardware Grill wins, hands down. We were salivating as we read through each course (butternut squash-mascarpone tortelloni with truffle butter cream sauce and fresh chanterelles? Porcini crusted sea bass, lobster-truffled potato crêpes, white corn-arugula & gulf prawns? Where do we sign up?).
While I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend any one restaurant (personal choice being that last intangible), based on our experience, Madison’s Grill and The Dish would top our list. If you’re looking for innovative, creative food that celebrates local producers, there would be no better choice than Blair Lebsack’s dining room in the Union Bank Inn. However, if you desire something more casual and comforting, The Dish is a great choice with its consistent kitchen and friendly service.
You could, of course, avoid restaurants altogether and cook that special someone a tasty meal at home! Because as Sharon pointed out, Valentine’s Day is about spending time with your sweetheart, not spending lots of money. If you do go the restaurant route, keep in mind that there are more to choose from than the dozen we mentioned here.
We hope you enjoyed this light-hearted look at “Black Sunday” (a la Eater) in Edmonton, and we wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day!