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Table for One? How to survive a solo Valentine’s Day in Philly

In this day and age, Valentine’s Day is pretty much impossible to avoid. Date-night listicles are everywhere. Romantic thinkpieces proliferate like rabbits. Google will run a special doodle and the President will tweet at his wife. The average American will shell out $142.31 for candy, flowers and other gifts, according to the National Retail Federation.

What if you’re just not that into the heart-infested blitz? Whether you’re happily, defiantly, decidedly single or are on the hunt for that special someone, there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself on this make-believe holiday. From tongue-in-cheek deals to cool counter seats, here are the best ways to spend Valentine’s Day on your own in Philly.

Irreverent specials

Several smart restaurateurs know not everyone has a beau, and are offering deals for single diners on V-Day weekend. 

  • Tuk Tuk Real: Head to this mashup Thai-Mexican South Street taqueria on Feb. 14 for a solitary meal and you’ll get served a free order of housemade chips and guacamole.
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  • Capofitto (above): The husband-and-wife team behind this Old City pizzeria decry “hellacious days of romantic menus,” and are dedicating Feb. 12-14 to St. Lucifer. Locally-made Saint Lucifer spice mix will be used in three specials, including a pizza and a spicy-caramel gelato. Order all three and you’ll get a free bottle of spice mix to take home.

Killer chef’s counters 

Dining alone is actually one of the best ways to enjoy a meal at a chef’s counter — you don’t have to feel bad about paying attention to what’s going on in the open kitchen, and it’s easy to build a good rapport with the folks actually making your food.

  • Petruce et al (below): A wide counter makes it possible to stay cool while taking in the blaze of two hearths at this Wash West newcomer, where just about everything is cooked over an open flame. (It doesn’t hurt that brother-chefs Justin and Jonathan Petruce are both extremely easy on the eyes.)
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  • Fitler Dining Room: Sit in front of the kitchen and you can expect extra doses of the already great served doled out at this American bistro in Fitler Square. There’s no hard liquor, but it’s worth treating yourself to selections from the stellar wine/beer/cider list.
  • Girard: Bring a few beers along and make entertainment out of watching chef Christian Mora work it behind the stoves of this Fishtown brasserie. A living wage for all workers means no tipping is required, so your server will know you really like them if you leave them a little dough.
  • Serpico: Peter Serpico’s restaurant is like a mini oasis of sleekness on a gritty block of South Street, and the wraparound counter at the center is like the cockpit. It’s a perfect perch for people watching, both during and after your meal.
  • a.kitchen: Satisfy yourself with a splurge on the the $60 multi-course tasting available at the the marble counter Rittenhouse, for which chef de cuisine Jon Nodler will select the best of his charcoal-grilled bites for a true American version of omakase.

Comfortable communal tables

If you don’t want to be put on the spot with a counter seat, but aren’t anxious to broadcast your loner status by sitting on your own, take a seat at a large, communal table at one of these casual dining rooms. Plus, you never know…someone you break bread next to could turn into a new friend. 

  • Pizzeria Vetri: It’s way too easy to scarf down an entire Neapolitan-style pie from the brick oven at Vetri’s Callowhill joint, so make sure you pre-game with an app or finish with some fior di latte soft serve. Or just go ahead and order two — pizza is great for breakfast, anyway.
  • Amada: You won’t have to worry about splitting the tiny tapas plates if you head out by yourself to Jose Garces’ Old City original, where communal tables line the front windows in both expansive dining rooms.
  • Fette Sau: Bigger is better in BBQ land, and there simply aren’t any small tables at Stephen Starr’s ‘cue house in Fishtown. Plus, it’s more fun to get down on ‘cue when you don’t have to worry about looking like a mess in front of your date.
  • Talula’s Garden (below): You’re basically bathed in cozy when you take a seat at the long table in front of the greenery-covered wall at Aimee Olexy’s country kitchen-esque spot on Washington Square, and the decked-out cheese boards make a nearly perfect meal for one.
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  • The Industry: At the very center of this hopping tavern near the east edge of South Philly is a long strip of high-top seats, where you can settle in for a night of great beer, grub and fun — the owners also run Good Dog Bar in Center City.

Cool solo bar stools 

It’s extremely freeing to go out drinking without a date or an entourage, especially if you hit the right bars. All of these spots provide a great place to either chat up the bartender or bury yourself in your phone — unencumbered by others, the decision is totally up to you.

  • The Olde Bar: Once you snag a stool at the long, mahogany bar inside Jose Garces’ revamp of the former Bookbinders in Old City, it’s tempting to just spend the whole night in its comforting grip. Prices are impressively affordable, too, considering the swanky surroundings, and there’s plenty of history to ponder to keep you occupied.
  • City Tap House Logan Square: Whether you decide to split your time between discussing the beers on the huge list with the knowledgeable bartender and checking into Untappd or just want to kick back with your favorite IPAs and watch the gigantic screen, the bar at this redo of the former Public House is a great hang for unaccompanied brew fiends.
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  • PHS Pop-Up Garden: For an early nip, head to the Feb. 14 grand opening of the winter edition of this popular pop-up, which is taking over the rotunda inside the Shops at Liberty Place. It’s open 9:30 a.m. through 7 p.m., and is sure to be buzzing throughout the day. (The Flower Show-themed pop-up runs daily through March 8.)
  • Charlie was a sinner: Though the bar isn’t all that big at this sexy Midtown Village den, the vibe is appropriately cheeky for solitary sipping, and bartenders strike that perfect balance between the extremes — they neither ignore you nor get in your face.
  • Juniper Commons: You can amuse yourself for hours pondering the hundreds of gin-and-tonic combos available at Kevin Sbraga’s Broad and South homage to the 1980s, but even more fun can be had watching the classic ‘80s flicks that play constantly on the TV.
  • Standard Tap: It’s “Big Wood Weekend” at this Northern Liberties mainstay (get it?), but whether or not you’re into barrel-aged and smoked beers, the multiple bars offer a super-chill environment where you can relax and have fun. Bonus: full menu through 1 a.m. means you don’t have to make a lonely trip to Wawa on your way home.

Pair-up possibilities 

If you’re on your own this V-Day but looking to meet someone, there’s one thing for certain: there are many others out there just like you. Here’s where to get an assist in connecting with Cupid’s arrow.

  • The Gaslight: Starting at 11 p.m. on February 14, this Old City hot spot is hosting an “Everybody Gets Lei’d Luau” with free flower necklaces for all. Toss back tropical Jello shots and sip cocktails out of a pineapple while mingling with people who love to do the same. Who doesn’t look sexy in a grass skirts or Hawaiian shirt?
  • McGillin’s Olde Ale House: Over the course of its 155-year history, it’s likely more couples have met at this Drury Street tavern than any other bar in history. In fact, there’s an entire book recounting all the couples who have met, become engaged and even gotten married there. In the back are a few more blank pages, waiting for you to fill them.
  • Square One Coffee: On Feb. 13, this Midtown Village cafe is hosting a free event called “The Art of the Flirt,” so if you want to step up your game ahead of the big day, RSVP here for some expert banter tips.All photos by Danya Henninger.
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