Take a dive into Cincinnati’s romantic food scene

By Mo Juenger, Managing Editor

College is a time of love, romance and horrible minimum wage jobs, which makes an amorous yet affordable Valentine’s Day a tricky thing to manage. If you’re trying to plan the perfect date without breaking the bank, check out these lovely local spots. 

Shaan Indian Cuisine

With a private, romantic ambiance, this Hyde Park restaurant is the perfect place for a long-term couple on a budget. Prices per person range from $10-$20, depending on appetizers and drinks. 

Excellent for both in-person and takeout dining, this quaint strip mall eatery will shock your taste buds with some of the best curry in Cincinnati. 

Shaan is perfect for the young Catholic couple who will not be consummating their love post-dinner, because you will eat so much you couldn’t possibly have sex. 

Taqueria los Cuñados

For the active couple, why not end your Valentine’s evening with a refreshing walk or jog to Hyde Park Plaza? Only a mile from campus by Wasson Way, Taqueria los Cuñados is hands-down the best food truck in the gas station parking lot behind Texas Roadhouse. Its prices are unbeatable, clocking in at around $5-$10 per person for an absolutely monstrous amount of food. Their charming outdoor seating area — also located in the gas station parking lot — permits a beautiful view of Madison Avenue traffic and provides easy access to after-dinner Icees. 

Neko Sushi

Upperclassmen and alumni may remember this hidden gem as Dancing Roll Sushi, Oakley’s hottest underground, half-price sushi spot before it burned down in 2019. Well, it’s back and better than ever with a new, full-price menu and genuine gourmet rolls. 

Neko is on the pricier side, by student standards, with plates costing $15-$30 a head. Its fun, busy atmosphere makes it ideal for newer couples not quite ready for an ultra-private dinner. The open floor plan permits for people-watching and reduces awkward tension. Additionally, if you’re going there with a straight man, you’ll get to dare him to eat a whole bunch of wasabi and then watch him struggle to hold back tears after he realizes he can’t handle the spice as well as he thought.

Forno Osteria + Bar

For the culinary connoisseurs, as well as the trust fund kids, Forno is an actually amazing restaurant worth its high ticket price. Its Valentine’s prix fixe menu is $55 per person, with an additional $15 for wine pairings. 

This seven course meal — complete with appetizers and dessert — is the best value gourmet meal a college student can reasonably afford. While the fixed menu may not be ideal for vegans or vegetarians, meat-lovers will adore such carnivorous courses as: lobster nero soup, braised beef short rib and tagliatelle with smoked salmon. 

Your dorm, apartment or house

If you want a meal that impresses but lack the funds for any of the above, try cooking your partner a delicious, homemade dinner! A good grocery trip for these meals should cost around $15-$20 total and you’ll have leftover supplies for another meal that week. 

Make sure your date night dinner has at least three courses for this special occasion. I’d suggest starting off with a wintry homemade butternut squash soup, moving on to a beef or seitan pasta dish and finishing it off with chocolate-covered strawberries and sorbet. Light a candle, buy a bottle of cheap red wine from Trader Joe’s and boom! You have a romantic (and meaningful) Valentine’s gift/dinner combo on a budget.