Spoil your sweetheart (or sass your ex) with Valentine’s treats from around Iowa City and Cedar Rapids

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 123 E Market St, Iowa City on Monday, Oct 14, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

No matter your relationship status or feelings surrounding Valentine’s Day, it’s a convenient excuse to indulge in a fancy meal, cocktail, dessert, or all three. Spend Tuesday, Feb. 14 in good spirits — and out of the waiting area — by supporting local IC/CR businesses, planning ahead and getting straight to the good stuff.

Paint the Town Red

The Webster in Iowa City’s Northside Neighborhood features an open kitchen. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

OK, so you’re planning to eat out on Valentine’s Day night with that (or those) special person(s) — hear me out for a moment. There are many wonderful places to treat yourself to a nice dinner in Eastern Iowa, and many will inevitably be very busy. Wherever you end up, be sure to be extra patient with restaurant workers; you don’t want to be responsible for making the day of love feel like another amateur night for bar staff this close to St. Pat’s. Remember to RSVP as soon as you can if you have your heart set on going out on the 14th.

A basic charcuterie board from Brix Cheese Shop & Wine Bar — Zak Neumann/Little Village

If you’re wanting to be out, but in a relaxed environment, I suggest heading to Iowa City’s Northside, and making your way to Brix Cheese & Wine Bar. If you’re able to snag a seat at the bar, take your time perusing Brix’s lengthy list of wines, cheeses and meats. Chat up Brix’s friendly and knowledgeable staff and see what they recommend (if they’re not too swamped). Brix’s February cheese of the month is a chocolate goat cheese, which pairs well with Love Red, one of their red blends from northern California.

Cocoa Cardonna is Brix’s February 2023 cheese special. — Sid Peterson/Little Village

Noodle Around at Home

IMHO, there are two excellent ways to eat your way through Valentine’s Day at home. The first starts with picking out the recipe, making yourself a list and heading out to your favorite grocery. You’ll find me walking over to New Pi for some last-minute ingredients and to pick up a piece (or two) of their scrumptious carrot cake for dessert — and possibly taking my time in the wine section, too, debating which bottle of red to splurge on.

Ramen Belly is a neighborhood eatery about a mile off of N Dubuque Street. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

You may be thinking, Cooking an elaborate meal on a Tuesday night? No thank you! Fair enough! If you’re spending the 14th in IC, the good folks at Saigon’s Corner and Ramen Belly can hook you up with exceptional take-out. You can’t go wrong with either of these two — it just depends if you’re feeling pho or ramen. Personally, I’ll go out of my way to swing over to the Peninsula neighborhood off North Dubuque Street just to indulge in Ramen Belly’s house ramen (miso & pork broth). The dish is warm, nourishing and perfect in every way. In addition to the tasty broth and noodles, you’ll find a soft boiled egg, scallions, corn, baby bok choy, bean sprouts and bamboo shoots. Yum!

If you’re more up north and in the mood for Italian takeout, I’d recommend Lincoln Wine Bar, situated on Mount Vernon’s main street. It’s a bit of a drive from IC and CR, but worth it! Order one of their specialty woodfired pizzas to share. All pies are handcrafted, using their old-fashioned Neapolitan pizza oven.

Lincoln Wine Bar, 125 1st St W, Mt Vernon — Frankie Schneckloth/Little Village

Share Ur Truth

If you haven’t eaten, received or given one of Deluxe Cakes and Pastries’ iconic Valentine’s Day conversation cookies, do you even know the meaning of love? This is your sign to preorder one of their conversation heart boxes this February.

This cute little shop in Iowa City’s Longfellow neighborhood drops a full Valentine’s Day menu each year, including cookies that can do the flirting for you. Choose your rating (PG through XXX) and you could receive affectionate cookies, cringe-inducing cookies, blush-inducing cookies and even cookies with hell to pay: Last year, Deluxe offered break-up/hate boxes frosted with phrases like “ew” and “toxic.” If you have your own words in mind, Deluxe also lets you customize your conversation hearts.

Whatever the message, you’re not going to end up eating just one cookie.

A Funny Valentine’s Eve

Don’t spend the day before Valentine’s trolling Tinder or Craigslist for a pity date. Plants, laughs and quality time with your gal pals/more-than-pals are all much better for your health!

Emily Salmonson, owner of the Green House, poses for a portrait on Thursday, Sept. 15. 2022. She hopes to provide a cozy and comfortable atmosphere, slightly removed from the busy downtown area. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

If you haven’t yet been to The Green House, Iowa City’s new plant-themed cocktail lounge, Feb. 13 (or Galentine’s Day, as enshrined by Amy Poehler’s Parks and Recreation character) is the perfect opportunity. The woman-owned GH is hosting Gigglin’ Galentines, a comedy show featuring headliner Megan Gogerty (who has her own romantic backstory) and three other hilarious comics, Lily Obscure, Emi Bendler and Clara Reynan.

The beachy sci-fi lounge area in The Green House isn’t a bad place to snuggle up. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

Other treats from across the area…

The “I Love You Cherry Much” shake or sundae from Frydae’s, Marion

Pullman’s banana foster bread pudding (perfect for two!), Iowa City

Baklava from Vytyl, Cedar Rapids

Chocolate cheesecake from Kathy’s Pies, Cedar Rapids

Lemon-yuzu curd from The Webster, Iowa City

A monthly coffee subscription from Daydrink (a new roaster each month!), Iowa City

An assorted box of macarons from Valerie’s French Cooking, Iowa City

Beignets from Lightworks Cafe, Cedar Rapids

Any chocolate or candy from New Pi’s aesthetic Valentine’s Day section, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids

Chocolates from Sweetopia, a Marion-based artisan chocolate shop. — Frankie Schneckloth/Little Village

An on-tap extra-virgin olive oil or balsamic vinegar from Prairie Kitchen Store, Iowa City

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 316.