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Where to eat for Valentine’s Day without a reservation

10 restaurants to visit when love is in the air but you haven’t booked a table.

The lobster fra diavolo at The Daily Catch in the North End.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Honey, I forgot to make the reservations.

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and perhaps you thought you would actually cook a romantic dinner in the middle of the week but now see the foolishness of that idea. Or you believe that going out to eat on Valentine’s Day can be a rushed and overcrowded experience and you’d be better off waiting until another night, when restaurants really need your business — only to remember your loved one feels decidedly otherwise. Most likely, you didn’t realize it was already February, because time moves erratically: 2024, what even is that, and where are our flying cars?


Point being, if you’d like to squire a loved one to dinner at a restaurant tonight, but you haven’t planned ahead, you still have options aplenty. (Bear in mind, the tradeoff may be a bit of a wait for a table.) Here are a few to consider.

The Italian nachos served at Anchovies.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe


In the South End, Anchovies is old-school, an affordable neighborhood spot where everyone is welcome. The drinks are strong, the food is garlicky and ladled with marinara, and the Italian nachos are irresistible. It is a perfect spot to relax, wind down, and enjoy being together (drinking martinis). Open late, the dive bar/Italian restaurant keeps getting better as the night wears on.

433 Columbus Ave., South End, Boston, 617-266-5088.

A lobster roll at Belle Isle Seafood in Winthrop.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Belle Isle Seafood

Romance on the water, Winthrop-style. Which is to say, with airplanes flying overhead. Dream up your next vacation together while eating giant lobster rolls, fried seafood platters, and stuffed clams. Cash only; closes at 8 p.m., so you can zip over to Twist & Shake for ice cream afterward.

1 Main St., Winthrop, 617-567-1619, www.belleisleseafood.net

The calamari meatballs at The Daily Catch in the North End.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The Daily Catch

Open in the North End since 1973, the Daily Catch is the size of a shoebox, and the person cooking up Sicilian seafood specialties is located just a few feet from where you sit. The food is simple, consistent, and fresh: fried calamari, calamari meatballs, clams casino, squid ink pasta, lobster fra diavolo. The food is served in skillets; the wine comes with plastic cups to drink from. The restaurant is cash only, and you’ll probably have to wait in line. It’s worth it.


323 Hanover St., North End, Boston, 617-523-8567, www.thedailycatch.com

Fried calamari at The Daily Catch in the North End.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Fasika Cafe

It’s more romantic when you share, and Fasika Cafe is perfect for that. Order a combo for two and tuck into lentils, turmeric vegetables, collard greens, the buttery spiced raw beef dish kitfo, and other Ethiopian specialties on the tangy, springy flatbread injera. The wealth of vegetable dishes on the menu makes this an ideal date night for those who don’t eat meat. (Open until 8 p.m.; there’s another Fasika in Somerville with later hours.)

51 Roxbury St., Roxbury, 617-238-7979, www.fasikarestaurants.com

Highland Kitchen

A great place to be since 2007, when Marci Joy and Mark Romano opened their Somerville restaurant. Come for the ricotta and mozzarella fritters, Buffalo fried Brussels sprouts, cheeseburgers, catfish po’ boys, and coconut curried goat stew. Stay for the good vibes, well-made cocktails, and infallible jukebox.

150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131, www.highlandkitchen.com

The catfish po' boy at Highland Kitchen.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff


This cozy restaurant in Cambridge serves up specialties from Brazil. Its signature is moqueca, clay-pot seafood stew in various permutations. (Try the Bahia-style version made with red palm oil and coconut milk.) But the menu also offers salt cod, seafood pie, feijoada, desserts from truffle-esque brigadeiros to flan, caipirinhas, and more.


1008 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-354-3296, www.muquecarestaurant.com

A plate of oysters at Neptune Oyster.Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe/file

Neptune Oyster

There’s always a line at this North End favorite, so why not choose today to brave it? Order oysters, johnnycakes, lobster rolls (hot or cold? hot or cold?), cioppino — there’s even a special heart-shaped tuna-salmon crudo for Valentine’s week. Add a nice bottle of wine, if you like. It’s a classic celebration.

63 Salem St., North End, Boston, 617-742-3474, www.neptuneoyster.com

Birria tacos at Pátzcuaro Tacqueria & Bar.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Pátzcuaro Taqueria & Bar

This family-run Newton restaurant is named for chef-owner Avelina Saavedra’s hometown in Michoacán, Mexico; she grew up in her father’s taqueria there, making salsas by his side. The food is homey, the restaurant happy, and the welcome always warm. Order chips with salsa and guacamole, birria tacos with consomme, and a classic margarita, and you will be feeling the love.

398 Watertown St., Newton, 857-297-2079, www.patzcuaronewton.com

A wedge salad from Salt Society in Scituate.Kjeld Mahoney

Salt Society

Have sushi and sake by the sea at this popular Scituate spot. It’s an appropriate evening to share the Love Boat, a vessel stocked with the chef’s choice of sashimi, nigiri, and maki. Or explore the rest of the menu, which offers craft cocktails and dishes such as spaghetti squash cacio e pepe, a smashed patty burger, pan-seared halibut with saffron risotto, and Black Forest cake soaked in Luxardo cherry liqueur. (There’s a kids’ meal, too, if your chaperones are in tow.)


146 Front St., Scituate, 781-733-9030, www.saltsocietyma.com

Spring Shabu-Shabu

What could be more romantic than eyeing each other over bubbling pots of spicy pork bone or vegetarian mushroom broth while stirring in fishcakes, vegetables, noodles, and more from the all-you-can-eat buffet? (Seafood and meat platters are a la carte.) There are many wonderful places for hot pot in town, but most of them take reservations. Spring Shabu-Shabu is first come, first served; get there early if possible, as there is likely to be a line. It also has a sauce bar and matcha soft-serve. Stuff yourself silly, then leave smelling like garlic together.

304 Western Ave., Brighton, 617-202-5422, www.springshabu.com

Devra First can be reached at devra.first@globe.com. Follow her @devrafirst.