As promised, here is my annual Last Minute Valentine's Day Meal Guide, a cross section of some of the many dining options in the county, to prevent any unnecessary Friday night freak-outs. Just remember, where appropriate, to make that reservation sooner rather than later — I can't do that part for you.
Budget Betty ($0 to $40 per person)
Make a progressive meal of it at SOCO. Granola Babies will hand out free ST Patisserie Chocolat truffle vouchers from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday to the first 50 people who visit and mention the free truffle. Try an $18 to-go cheese and prosciutto plate from Surfas, if you want to have a picnic in the common area, or a Shuckin' Love dinner-for-two special at Shuck Oyster Bar that includes six oysters, a seafood stew, garden salad and two glasses of sparkling wine.
Prefer designer waffles? The Iron Press will feature the Aphrodisiac, a fried oyster po' boy on a Sriracha-infused waffle, and Fifty Shades of Velvet — a red velvet waffle served with blood orange and strawberry compote and vanilla ice cream. Pueblo also has added special weekend items to its menu, like the El Chuletón grilled rib eye for two and the Cazuelita de Queso goat cheese. Information: southcoastcollection.com.
Match.com and Starbucks are partnering for a special event for singles and couples. From 2 p.m. to close on Friday, enjoy a Starbucks Date, coffee and treat pairings for $5. Options include a Caffé Verona Coffee Press for Two and a Double Chocolate Chunk Brownie; a Tall Flat White and a Chocolate Croissant; and a Grande Raspberry Mocha or Grande White Chocolate Mocha and a Heart Cookie. Starbucks locations also will set up photo props for selfies and in-store playlists selected by employees. Information: starbucks.com.
(Protip: The following day, stop by any Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf location for a buy-one-get-one deal on beverages.)
If home delivery is more your speed, locally based zpizza will offer heart-shaped pizzas all weekend. Order at zpizza.com or in any area location.
Pop by the fast-casual U.S. Taco Co., 150 5th St., Huntington Beach, for its weekend special. The $20 Love Triangle deal, designed to be shared, includes a taco for two, with a double portion of marinated steak and a double portion of Maine lobster. Best part: The deal also includes a red-velvet shake. No reservations. Information: ustacos.com.
Nello Cucina at South Coast Plaza is planning a three-course, $35-per-person meal for Valentine's Day, beginning with a lobster ravioli antipasto, then a grilled lamb chop and stuffed shrimp with scallops, and finishing with a heart-shaped chocolate mousse and fresh berries. Information: (714) 540-3365.
Fancy Pants ($40 to $90 per person)
SOCIAL Costa Mesa, 512 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, has planned a four-course prix-fixe Valentine's dinner for $65 per person. Add $30 for a wine pairing or $35 for a craft cocktail pairing. The first course includes a choice beet and burrata salad or crema de ajo. For the second course, enjoy a caramelized onion tart or a tasting of winter vegetables. For a main, choose halibut or osso buco. For dessert, try a salted caramel custard, flourless chocolate cake with sweet mascarpone, or a seasonal sorbet. Information: socialcostamesa.com.
If you prefer a more classic meal, Morton's, 1641 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, will offer its popular steak and lobster special for $55 per person from Friday through Monday. Reservations: (714) 444-4834.
Savannah Steak & Chop House, 32441 Golden Lantern, Laguna Niguel, is upping the steak stakes with a special menu, a complimentary rose for each woman, discounted bottled Champagne, craft cocktails, and live music from Le Grand Barr, as well as a "parlor game" — every guest who orders the $79 four-course prix-fixe Valentine menu from Friday through Sunday will be entered to win a diamond heart necklace valued at more than $2,400. The necklace will be on view in the restaurant foyer. Information: (949) 493-7107 or savannahchophouse.net.
AnQi by Crustacean at South Coast Plaza has planned a luxe five-course meal for $89 per person, available Friday through Saturday. Begin with a Shot of Aphrodite's Kiss, followed by selections including Vietnamese steak tartare, crispy lobster dumplings, misoyaki butterfish and much more. Reservations: (714) 557-5679.
Get dinner with a view at the Beachcomber at Crystal Cove, 15 Crystal Cove, Newport Coast. Enjoy a $90-per-person, four-course meal that includes a choice of salmon cornet or sweet-potato gnocchi; pea soup or beet salad; surf and turf, Chilean sea bass, pancetta-wrapped chicken or lamb chops; and a chocolate cake. Information: thebeachcombercafe.com.
Lagniappe for later: Prefer gumbo to giant chocolate hearts? SOCIAL Costa Mesa also will celebrate Mardi Gras through Fat Tuesday (Feb. 17) with a special menu that includes masa fried frog legs and themed cocktails, like the Last Day of Sin. Enjoy live jazz on Feb. 17. Information: socialcostamesa.com.
On thin (mint) ice (cream): For those who don't want to keep a tempting box of Girl Scout cookies at home but still want the taste, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar will bring back its Thin Mint Milk Shake from Feb. 16 to March 25. Each shake will cost $4.95, and $1 of the proceeds from each will benefit a local Girl Scout troop. Information and locations: lazydogrestaurants.com.