Not everyone’s heart goes pitter patter at the thought of Valentine’s Day. If you’re single and don’t want to dine at home on the Hallmark holiday, you’re going to run into overpriced prix fixe menus and crowded restaurants booked weeks in advance everywhere you turn.
But there are still many great options for dining solo with no reservations required. Dining out alone is one of my favorite past times — just me, a book, a nice meal and maybe some chitchat with the barkeep. So, head to one of these places and treat yourself, unencumbered from the anxiety that you’re going to run into that couple you know who actually doesn’t even like each other and are just faking it for a night.
Better Half. The crowd here is too cool to worry about something as silly as a greeting card holiday. The cocktail, wine and beer list have everything you’re looking for, and you can enjoy one of the city’s best burgers at a picnic table outside. Maybe you’ll even make a new friend. 406 Walsh St., 512-645-0786, betterhalfbar.com.
Cisco’s. Get a taste of history, avoid the fawning couples and overpriced prix fixe menus and celebrate with your first love — fajitas. 1511 E. Sixth St., 512-478-2420, ciscosaustin.com.
Fresa’s. Look, we’ve already said there is no reason to be sad. But if you want to drown your sorrows, in addition to a great margarita, this restaurant makes the best queso in town. Get a bowl. Get into it. 1703 South First St., 512-992-2946; 915 N. Lamar Blvd., 512-428-5077, fresaschicken.com.
Home Slice Pizza. Whether you’re sitting at the outside bar at the new(ish) North Loop location crushing a Soul Fashioned and working your way through a pepperoni pie all by yourself, or being slightly more restrained with a half order of the best turkey sub in town, Home Slice feels like a place where you can have fun all on your own. 1415 S. Congress Ave., 512-444-7437; 501 E. 53rd St., 512-707-7437, homeslicepizza.com.
Le Bleu. If you order a classic bánh mì , a vermicelli bowl and some porky spring rolls, not only will you have a fantastic Vietnamese meal served by a very friendly staff, but you’ll also have enough to take home for leftovers to accompany your inevitable solo Netflix session the next day. 9070 Research Blvd., 512-770-1100, lebleuatx.com.
Lucy’s Fried Chicken. Few things say comfort like fried chicken. And at Lucy’s, you can order it on nachos, a salad, a sandwich … however you want it. And guess what? If you get a basket of bird, you already know who’s getting the biggest piece. Also, pie. Pie is very comforting. Multiple locations, lucysfriedchicken.com.
Poke Poke. Pull up a seat at the counter and dig into a light, flavorful bowl of raw fish. It’s the next best thing to dining at the sushi counter somewhere fancy, and you can even order wine and sake. 3100 S. Congress Ave. 512-814-1032; 9911 Brodie Lane. 512-291-6126; 2320 Hancock Drive, 512-840-1942, poke-poke.com.
Quality Seafood Market. A dozen oysters, freezing mugs of beer and some witty banter from the bartender at this Austin institution will make you want to consider dining out solo more frequently. 5621 Airport Blvd. 512-452-3820, qualityseafoodmarket.com.
Salt & Time. An interesting wine list complements your nice steak dinner for one, and you can buy a steak at the butcher shop on your way out and go home and practice for next Valentine’s Day, when you’ll be cooking for your new love. If you want to. 1912 E. Seventh St., 512-524-1383, saltandtime.com.
Via 313. The four-piece Detroit-style pies are perfect-sized servings for one person. Snag a cocktail at the bar, check out a game on the television or just get lost in your gaze of that rivulet of bright red tomato sauce. Multiple locations. via313.com.