Celebrate Valentine’s in Sumptuous Fashion

07 Feb 2022

Cupid’s season can envelop a bouquet of outings

By Elizabeth Sugg

A Valentine’s date doesn’t have to be fancy or over-the-top glam to rate five stars. And at Valentine’s it’s fun to incorporate friends and family into the celebration in addition to that special evening with your spouse or significant other. 

Thinking of Valentine’s as a “season” began when our kids were in middle and high school. By then they had grown to enjoy the fanfare of a meal at a nice restaurant, and they began to suggest where “we” should all go to and celebrate. My husband and I relished this because it meant a developing family tradition they were pioneering, a night on the town together that they helped plan. Engaged on Valentine’s Day over 30 years ago, my husband is particularly good about marking it, so we might catch a one-on-one meal together at a favorite lunch spot or do something more low-key like pizza and a movie together in addition to the family night. So, I have begun to approach the beginning of February as sort of a series of fun happenings leading up to Valentine’s, and it is in that spirit that these highlighted restaurants are suggested.  

Look at our calendar for several events organized around Valentine’s Day – our community has so much to offer – and let those figure into your plans. From sushi to a perfectly grilled steak, shrimp and grits to the last luscious bite of a shared chocolate dessert, the restaurants across the Sandhills have the range for you to enjoy the Valentine’s season. 

Appetizers at The Leadmine followed by Wolcott’s or Scott’s Table

This is an outing we have enjoyed twice in our family in downtown Southern Pines – drinks and appetizers at The Leadmine Whiskey Bar + Kitchen followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant.

The Leadmine

132 W Pennsylvania Ave, Southern Pines


From a Gimlet or Vodka Sour to an array of whiskey and bourbon drinks, The Leadmine is a cozy cocktail bar with some delicious eats. When our daughter turned 21, we began our evening celebration there for the festive experience of being at a bar that has some real creativity going. This is a delightful spot to savor a drink as well as to dive into their menu of shareable items made with an eclectic Asian flair. 


160 W Pennsylvania Ave, Southern Pines


One of the best things about Wolcott’s is that you can make a reservation, and although I have suggested drinks and apps at The Leadmine, the Neo-continental restaurant begun by Scott Wolcott has a newly renovated bar area that is open from 11:30 am to 9 pm Wednesday to Saturday where you can pop in and enjoy top shelf liquors, fine wines and interesting beers on tap. Go have a friendly lunch over lobster rolls with good friends or get on the email list for their wine dinners, the well-prepared classics promise a delectable meal whenever you go. 

Scott’s Table

311 SE Broad Street, Southern Pines


Chef Scott and Karen Margolis operate this Southern Pines gem in a pas de deux from the kitchen to the front of the house. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, locally Scott is well-known for his crabcakes which won him the Best of Moore County honors in 2021. The couple enjoy being a part of celebrations so a Valentine’s evening at Scott’s Table will be special. Their regular menu features a grilled pork chop with a fig/balsamic sauce that is noteworthy as are his tasso-laced shrimp and grits.


140 E New Hampshire, Southern Pines


Ashley Van Camp has pioneered some saucy romance through the years with Ashten’s flirty, fun-to-read Valentine’s menus. A new adventure the restaurant is experimenting with highlights a four-course tasting menu on Fridays and Saturdays, and on Sunday nights a tasting menu that is more family-style. Our family went for a fancier four-course meal over Thanksgiving and had a grand time sampling a range of soup, salad, seafood and meat courses. On a Sunday night a good friend and I caught a 5:30pm seating before a movie at Sunrise, and I am still savoring the short rib over mashed potatoes with a wintry succotash on the side. Both fun evenings, and you can make a reservation!

The Romantic Allure Italian Fine Dining

Villaggio Ristorante & Bar

65 Magnolia Road, Pinehurst 


In Pinehurst, the historic 1896 Magnolia Inn had its dining reimagined by Ron and Julie Milton when they purchased the 10-room inn in 2020 and created the fine dining Italian restaurant Villaggio Ristorante & Bar. Recently sold to Pinehurst Resort, the ristorante will continue to serve the antipasti, risotto, pasta and range of entrees its local audience has come to appreciate. From chicken piccata to short ribs over mushroom risotto, the well-appointed dining room has the romantic allure of a very fine night on the town. The tiramisu is definitely one to share!

Italian On-the-go


3781 US Hwy 1, Vass


Valenti’s in Vass has been a savior to me the last few years. Sometimes when family is coming in at RDU, I will order my go-to, the Pasta Milano with grilled chicken that features a light creamy mushroom marsala sauce, and it’s an easy pick-up on the drive home. This family-owned restaurant has been feeding folks in northern Moore since 1996, and they will be opening a second location on Main Street in Sanford soon.  

The Lure of Prime Beef

Two steak restaurants a couple of blocks apart both offer wonderful dining experiences in their own unique ways. 


672 SW Broad St, Southern Pines


Beefeaters is simply part of the landscape in Southern Pines. Opened in 1994, almost 30 years later it is still winning the “Best Steak” in Moore County every year since 1999. Owned by Tammy Waterbury who worked for the original owners, it is a family-run, friendly steakhouse with a great bar that serves well-priced Prime Rib, ribeyes and other beef cuts along with a don’t-miss salmon. A perfect spot for a family Valentine’s celebration or to meet up with a special group of friends.

Southern Prime Steakhouse

270 SW Broad St., Southern Pines


A favorite spot inside this more upscale steakhouse is the wine cellar, and it tends to be where we try to get a table. With its high ceilings and bounty of vintages, the atmosphere is low-lit and intimate. The last time we ate there a good friend from England was visiting my husband and me, and we knew he would appreciate both the service and the food. Start with a share plate, and while cuts of beef star here, I have enjoyed the ahi tuna more than once. This will be an evening to savor.

Versatility in the Moment

Elliott’s on Linden

905 Linden Rd, Pinehurst


Elliott’s until recently was always down the street from the house where we raised our children, so it has figured into many special occasions for our family. Here was our son’s 21st celebration! Many years ago, we had a 20-person family dinner in the more private art space, and Mark Elliott helped fashion a pre-set menu of something seafood, beef and vegetarian. Now it seems we really enjoy sitting up at the busy bar where the dinner service is still top notch. I appreciate that Elliott’s can be uptown when the mood strikes, or just that neighborly place with a tony atmosphere that you can go to when you want some company.

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