Dine Right

Keep it casual this Valentine's Day

All the pros know: Valentine's Day, with its preponderance of underwhelming fixed-price menus, is not the wisest occasion for fine-dining.

Skip the stereotypical plans and take an unexpected route: Dumplings, pastrami and ice cream sundaes will be your reward.

Ditch dinner for dim sum: Lao You Ju began serving dim sum (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily) late last year. Opt for an indulgent breakfast or lunch of chive-packed dumplings, lotus-leaf-wrapped sticky rice and some of the area's better xiao long bao. For dessert, try buttery, heart-shaped pastries filled with durian custard (because nothing says love like durian).

Plan a pastrami picnic: Spread a blanket on the living room floor and cover it with carryout from Bub City. Nearly the entire menu of the new River North barbecue and seafood joint is available to go; we were especially smitten with tender, thick-cut pastrami ($17). Pair it with coleslaw, shrimp cocktail and a summery wheat beer.

Save it for sweets: Instead of dinner, go out for drinks and dessert at Logan Square's Scofflaw. Your order: a bottle of Cava and a sophisticated ice cream sundae with toppings like Maraschino-infused hot fudge, smoked caramel and amaretto whipped cream ($50 for the pair).