Oxford restaurants, students plan for Valentine’s Day

Posted on Feb 14 2018 - 9:47am by Ally Langston

Restaurants in the Oxford area are deciding whether or not to feature a special Valentine’s Day menu today as students figure out what plan best fits their budget.

Dining at restaurants on the Oxford Square can come at a high price point, and the newer restaurants in the area have prepared special one-of-a-kind Valentine’s Day menus to attract more customers for the holiday.

Manager of the three-month-old restaurant Stella, Megan Christian, has prepared a fixed four-course menu for Wednesday at $70 per person. It will feature veal “kisses,” lobster bisque and pan-seared lemon sole that are not normally on their original dinner menu.

Christian’s husband, Johnny Kirk, is the executive chef at Stella and was nominated for a James Beard Award.

“He reads chemistry books for fun. He’s like obsessed with food,” Christian said. “Our house is piled with chemistry and food books. He really enjoys creating new menus and, you know, special events like this are a good time to do it.”

Since this is Stella’s first Valentine’s Day, Christian and Kirk do not know what to expect, but this past New Year’s Eve was packed at the restaurant. Stella will be taking reservations as normal.

Saint Leo, a 2017 James Beard Foundation “Best New Restaurant” semifinalist, will be featuring a steak, fish, pasta and dessert special on their Valentine’s Day menu. Most of their menu consists of $20 or more priced dishes.

One of the first Saint Leo employees, Joseph Stinchcomb, will work as a bartender and server on the holiday. He said he plans to create a themed drink for Valentine’s Day.

“Valentine’s is a special occasion,” Stinchcomb said. “It gives us the chance to offer something better than the norm, something a little different.”

The restaurant has been open for 18 months, and has been growing rapidly in popularity, according to Stinchcomb. Saint Leo will not be taking reservations and is on a first-come, first-serve basis for the holiday. They are preparing mostly for two-top tables.

Most of the older restaurants in Oxford are not having a featured menu for the holiday after they did not experiencing a large difference in the amount of customers in previous years.

Jinsei has decided not to include a Valentine’s menu or feature their half off wings special that they normally offer every Wednesday. However, the restaurant will be releasing a new drink menu next week that will be available to order off of for the holiday.

Jinsei is taking reservations only for the inside dining area, but the sushi bar, regular bar and outdoor patio is first-come, first-serve. The menu pricing is student friendly, with dishes ranging from $5-$15.
General Manager of Bouré, Jason Ross, treats the holiday like any other day of the week.

“We did a special menu one year and there was not a big turnout,” Ross said. “The people that came in wanted to order off the [regular] menu, and we ended up wasting a lot of stuff. People for Valentine’s Day go to City Grocery or somewhere that’s really nice. They’re not coming here to get a burger.”

Bouré never has accepted reservations and is not changing their policy for Valentine’s Day. Their dinner menu ranges from $19 to $32 plates.

General Manager of City Grocery, Jim Weems, said he thinks that the restaurant may decide to feature a Valentine’s dessert, but will not make a themed menu since they offer daily lunch and dinner specials. The restaurant will be taking reservations and offers $28-$40 entrees.

“When you’re dealing with Valentine’s day, typically you’re looking at tables for two, so, you know, trying to do a specific menu maybe with paired wines and all that, it just doesn’t work,” Weems said.

He said he does not think Valentine’s Day will be busy because the colder weather tends to make business slower, but he thinks once the holiday passes, the spring will bring in better crowds.

McEwen’s and Bacchus are planning to make a featured entrée for Valentine’s Day, but have not finalized the details yet.

A student couple, Eleanor Mitchell and Merrick Lane, have decided to go out to dinner to celebrate the romantic holiday together.

“As long as we spend it together, we’ll be happy,” Lane said. “Obviously I want to make the day special, so we’ll probably go out to eat somewhere, wherever we can get in on the Square.” 

This article was submitted to The Daily Mississippian from an advanced reporting class.