There are as many ways to enjoy Valentine's Day, without breaking either tickers or bank accounts, as there are enraptured revelers ready to celebrate.
So, it’s time to start looking for destinations that suit you and your likely expenses for the festivities of 2019, which, in many ways, are being shaped by more than love: the gyrations of the markets, the state of the union and a general chill in the air.
"Price is what you pay," said that incurable romantic, Warren Buffett. "Value is what you get."
The goal here is value – a fair return.
In the mystery, magic and Ed Sheeran of it all, there’s ample room to wander, even when your appetite says uncork Krug and your finances veer toward the snap of a Diet Coke stay-tab.
Here are some questions and situations, possible answers and likely resolutions, to be found at tables in Nassau and Suffolk. While some occasionally cross the line into $$$ territory, they'll almost ensure that Feb. 14 and the days around it come up roses.
Noble Kitchen & Cocktails
23andMe says we're part Visigoth, part pastaterian. Which way to Rome? March on Oceanside, specifically to Noble Kitchen & Cocktails, where some of Long Island’s best pastas from chef Pierluigi Sacchetti are now being served. Cacio e pepe, with just enough Pecorino Romano and pepper; and maccheroni al ferretto; Calabrian fusilli with spicy ‘nduja sausage and caciocavallo cheese, cost less than investing in cheapflights.com. Restaurant info: Noble Kitchen & Cocktails, 3112 Lawson Blvd., Oceanside, 516-600-9500, $$, noblekitchenandcocktails.com
Virgola Oysters & Italian Wine Bar
"One kiss is all it takes..." Right? Maybe for Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa. But, to be sure, share a seafood platter and some salmon roe at Virgola Oysters & Italian Wine Bar in Patchogue. Restaurant info: Virgola Oysters & Italian Wine Bar, 5 Village Green, Patchogue, 631-714-5000, $$-$$$, virgolausa.com
Naples Street Food
What's with "Bird Box"? Is there a spot where we could eat blindfolded and really be happy? They don’t supply blindfolds, but close your eyes and take a quick trip south of Rome to land one of the few tables at Naples Street Food in Franklin Square. You’ll find superior pizzas, red and white; zeppelin-size calzones; and addictive panozzi, the sandwiches they must serve along those tight pathways to paradise. Restaurant info: Naples Street Food, 970 Hempstead Tpke., Franklin Square, 516-673-4630, $-$$, naplesstreetfoodmenu.com
Does every good steak on Long Island steer us to declare bankruptcy? Majors Steakhouse in East Meadow is brought to you by the owners of Bryant & Cooper in Roslyn. It’s their moderately priced bastion of beef. There’s a juicy rib-eye steak for less than $20. The less-expensive prime rib sandwich and cheeseburger are tempting, too. Off the Block Kitchen & Meats in Sayville, restaurant and butcher, slices through other joints with steak au poivre, skirt steak and eggs, and staying beefy. a beef Bourguignonne potpie. Restaurant info: Majors Steakhouse, 284 E. Meadow Ave., East Meadow, 516-794-6600, $$, pollrestaurants.com; Off the Block Kitchen & Meats, 501 Montauk Hwy., Sayville, 631-573-6655, $$, offtheblockmeats.com
Grey Horse Tavern
"I heard her say over my shoulder / 'We'll meet again someday on the avenue...' / Tangled up in blue." The reverie of rekindling. "Tangled Up in Blue" took 10 years to live and two years to write, Dylan said. Grey Horse Tavern in Bayport suggests a bit of where you’ve been and where you’re going, along with country style and tempura oysters, a hint of nostalgia and stuffed clams with smoked bacon. Have a meal of appetizers – or, if sufficiently carried away, splurge. Restaurant info: Grey Horse Tavern, 291 Bayport Ave., Bayport, 631-472-1868, $$-$$$, greyhorsetavern.com
"Because the night belongs to lovers," we're set. But what about the morning? Springsteen and Smith would enjoy waking up to Hatch in Huntington Village, for its beat, sense of expectation, and terrific breakfasts. The motto is “peace, love & bacon.” Benedicts, pancakes, sandwiches, satisfaction for less than $20. Very popular, with a wait the norm. But you’re not surrounded by 10,000 Maniacs. Restaurant info: Hatch, 286 Main St., Huntington, 631-424-0780, $-$$, hatchbrunch.com
We love a good brew. Any place that's hopping with more? Head with your bar-partner and gastropub-devotee to The Brixton in Babylon, where the food, the drink, and the price are in harmony. Heat things up with Sriracha deviled eggs, calm down with the duck Scotch egg; share chicken banh mi sliders and chicken and biscuits. And, for balance, there are those oysters with a lemongrass-fueled mignonette and steamed pork buns. Restaurant info: The Brixton, 111 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-587-2000, $$, thebrixtonbabylon.com
Where would Indiana Jones look for an adventure? Petra Grill in Carle Place will give you a taste of it and even reference the “last crusade,” from the imagery to the small plates. Sample anything with eggplant; fried cauliflower; hummus with shawarma; flatbreads; beef and lamb baked with tahini sauce; falafel. Share the “grilled feast,” retire the whip and fedora. Restaurant info: Petra Grill, 373 Old Country Rd., Carle Place, 516-743-9045, $$, mypetragrill.com
Is there a hideaway that's exotic, bargain-priced, and doesn't take hostages? Seek Rice Thai, a tucked-away, modestly appointed, welcoming 16-seater in a near-anonymous setting in North Patchogue. Nibble on Siam roti, down tom yum and khao soi soups that will brace you for the rest of the winter, ignite your palate with green papaya and beef salads, pick a curry. And have enough cash to return all weekend. Restaurant info: Rice Thai, 585 Medford Ave., Suite 3, North Patchogue, 631-654-2888, $-$$, ricethaipatchogue.com
Where would Mrs. Maisel and Mr. Kominsky go to eat and laugh? A few choices. There are enough memories, high-decibel diners, and dim sum to go around at Fortune Wheel in Levittown. Just join the crowd, and be sure to share those steamed pork buns and fried dumplings. Old Fields in Greenlawn has been cooking since 1956. Try the raw bar, the onion soup, onion soup, buttermilk chicken and biscuit, roasted chicken, fish and chips. If you’re flush, they do plan a $69.95 four-course V-Day dinner. The Mineola Diner dates to 1948 and is worth a visit for the look alone. The time-capsule menu goes from breakfast specials to hot open sandwiches and triple-decker clubs. Restaurant info: Fortune Wheel, 3601 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown, 516-579-4700, $$-$$$; Old Fields, 81 Broadway, Greenlawn, 631-754-9868, $$-$$$, of1956.com; Mineola Diner, 138 Jericho Tpke., Mineola, 516-877-1370 $-$$ mineoladiner.com
Mara’s Southern Kitchen
"Louie Louie" is our anthem. We don't know what it means. But, me gotta go ... Sure, you can do takeout. Mara’s Southern Kitchen, formerly Mara’s Homemade, will satisfy with everything from Arkansas barbecue to Cajun specialties, southern fried chicken to Nashville hot chicken, po’boys to crawfish stuffed bread. But if they’re offering the crawfish boil, take a seat and get messy. El Matador in East Patchogue specializes in flavor-packed Mexican and Latin American small plates, empanadas to ceviche, arepitas with chorizo to fajitas. Restaurant info: Mara’s Southern Kitchen, 236 W. Jericho Tpke. (Muttontown Plaza), Syosset, $$, 516-682-9200, marassouthernkitchen.com; El Matador, 680 Rte. 112, East Patchogue, 631-569-5082, $-$$
We'll always have Paris ... But is there anything closer? Aperitif in Rockville Centre has the right je ne sais quoi, plus escargots, onion soup, beef Bourguignonne. But it crosses borders, too, for Baja fish tacos and a sirloin burger. Brasserie Cassis in Plainview and Bistro Cassis in Huntington deliver the essential mood and food: tricolor romance and classic dishes that might have appealed to Rick and Ilsa. Restaurant info: Aperitif, 242 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre, 516-594-3404, $$-$$$, aperitifbistro.com; Bistro Cassis, 55 Wall St., Huntington, 631-421-4122, restarinc.com; Brasserie Cassis, 387 S. Oyster Bay Rd., Plainview, 516-653-0090, $$-$$$, brasseriecassis.com
What's in un nome? Passione in Carle Place is a combo plate: Italianate bistro, enoteca, and pizzeria, and a relative of both Emilio’s in Commack and Fanatico in Plainview. In full, it’s Passione Della Cucina, the passion being for dishes such as the Mama Mia Meatball appetizer, stuffed artichoke oreganata, assorted Parmigianas, Margherita pizza, and red-sauced pastas. Amore for the confident. Restaurant info: Passione Della Cucina, 231 Old Country Rd., Carle Place, 516-741-4800, $$, passione-restaurant.com
Where can we find all the stars? Kendrick and SZA, doubtful. But there's spice and fire at Cheng Du in Franklin Square. Channel your inner Sichuan, Shanghai and Taiwan appetites. Restaurant info: Cheng Du, 947-949 Hempstead Tpke., Franklin Square, 516-358-1603, $$, chengduny.com
We've become ramen-iacs and love to slurp together. Where? Aptly named Slurp Ramen in Port Jefferson is a savory spot where you’ll be sharing pork soup with ramen, soup with a shot of citrusy yuzu, curry ramen, and/or a Hokkaido-style winter special of miso ramen soup. Add a half-dozen toppings. Restaurant info: Slurp Ramen, 109 W. Broadway, Port Jefferson, 631-509-1166, $$, slurpusa.com
It's our first date, can you make sure it's not our last? No. But the flavorful union of Chinese and Japanese at Lou Joe in Roslyn Heights can be very seductive. Restaurant info: Lou Joe, 255 Willis Ave., Roslyn Heights, 516-484-7456, $$-$$$, loujoeroslynheights.com