Food Review: Full hearts, full tummies on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day, that annual reminder of our love or lack thereof, is about to grab us by the throats again. Here are a few restaurants where you can celebrate with your beloved—or with other loveless friends who have agreed to impersonate a harem of your sex slaves.

Murphy’s: I recently ate at this Virginia-Highland mainstay for the first time in many years and had a terrific experience. The restrained ambiance is just about perfect for a lovey-dovey meal. You get golden light and acoustics that don’t make you replace conversation with across-the-table texting.

Love can be confusing and sometimes difficult. But Chef Ian Winslade’s cooking is uncomplicated and clear in its flavors. A good example was my choice of Guinness-braised brisket over mashed potatoes, topped with some green beans. Horseradish gently spiked the flavors. Another option: a grilled salmon steak with winter-squash risotto and pickled-beet emulsion. Desserts are less impressive, but you can walk across the street to Paolo’s to immerse your face in the pure pleasure of super-creamy gelato. (997 Virginia Ave., 404-872-0904,

Madre + Mason:

I’ve dined three times at this new restaurant opened by Calavino Donati and Doria Roberts, a married couple who have recently moved Urban Cannibals in East Atlanta Village to Midtown. Donati earlier operated the much-missed Roman Lily.

Madre is a fusion of Latin and Southern flavors. For example, Donati’s turkey meatloaf (famous at Roman Lily) is a hearty portion seasoned with poblano peppers atop mashed potatoes, under a jalapeno gravy. Don’t worry. It’s not very spicy. My favorite starter is the slightly-sour fried tomatillos, served with a chipotle aioli. Killer dessert: a fat slice of pecan pie topped with caramel-drizzled vanilla ice cream. (560 Dutch Valley Rd., 404-748-1498,

The Luminary:

Nothing says love like French brasserie cuisine. Luminary is my favorite spot in the Krog Street Market. It’s kind of noisy, but not unbearably so. There’s a raw bar, so you can feast on oysters, famous as an aphrodisiac (and thus good for long-term couples who have lost sexual pizazz). The menu here is French-American, so you can start with pork rinds with ranch dressing or a walnut-lentil pate with candied garlic and toast. My favorite entrée is the classic, buttery steak-frites—a hanger steak with fries. I also like the crepe with braised lamb neck, lentils, and puréed carrots. (99 Krog St., 404-600-6199,

El Super Pan:

Want a fun, comparatively inexpensive meal? Head to Ponce City Market and check out Super Pan. My longtime favorite is the Cuban-inspired Medio Dia, a pressed sub-marine stuffed with adobo-roasted pork, chich arrones (crispy pork skin), clove-baked ham, Swiss cheese, chayote pickles, and pineapple-habanero mustard. It’s really like putting love in your mouth. (675 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-600-2465,

A few cautions: You should call for reservations before you show up at a restaurant. Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday this year, so brunch will be an option at some places. Some restaurants may have special Valentine’s Day menus.

Cliff Bostock, PhD, is a longtime Atlanta food critic and former psychotherapist who now practices life coaching for creative types; 404-518-4415.