Friday, April 12, 2024


Plenty of restaurants and other businesses break out a special menu or sale to take advantage of Valentines Day, when there’s an expectation that romantic partners – no matter how jaded or cynical – will mark the day in some way that generates revenue. People looking for everything from eyeglasses to hats will find stuff to buy tied in some way to the day, as well as entertainment possibilities and a daunting number of prix fixe meals, special cocktails and red-bedecked dining areas.

If that’s what you’re looking for, some good starting places are these assortments of options in Harvard Square and Kendall Square.

But what’s gathered here are less obvious Valentines Day options. Some may be on those Harvard and Kendall square lists, but not all are, and they may not be the kind of things you’d seek out automatically when you think of this often icky-sweet holiday.


021214i-XylemLet’s just get the commerce out of the way first – as you may have to, if you need an item to present to your partner when you meet for dinner, a drink or a show. African Gift Items, 54 JFK St., Harvard Square, wants you to think of it when you think of love. It’s holding a Valentines weekend sale that takes 15 percent off its love ring and lovers, double knot and triple knot carvings (as well as everything else in the store). Call (617) 354-2055 or click here. Xylem, the stylish Kendall Square gift shop, is closing an hour later Thursday and Friday to give the busy and the procrastinators another chance not to screw this up. The 287 Third St. shop is open until 8 p.m. to sell you Valentines jewelry, chocolate, cards and gifts. Call (617) 494-9953 or click here. And don’t miss the Goorin Bros. Hat Shop’s unique sale below in the day’s entertainment listings.


021214i-Area-FourIt’s hard to believe anyone’s put more thought into a Valentines meal than Area Four, the Kendall Square specialist in pizza and small plates. Managers say they’re transforming the place “into a haven for the cold and broken-hearted this Valentines Day,” serving special food, showing movies about shattered romance and even decorating for the occasion, including breakup poems on the menus and black roses on the family-style tables. The menu: Arrabbiata “Angry” Pizza, with spicy peppers and broken-yolk farm eggs; Jerked Chicken and Irate Rice, with chicken rubbed with blazing hot jerk spices that managers say are “almost painful, but it hurts so good”; and Skewered Lamb Neck with Garlic Beans and Greens, so you can “skewer your evil ex in spirit with some awesome offal paired with pungent garlic beans and greens.” For dessert there’s candy hearts with mean messages and “voodoo gingerbread cookies” for you to bite to bits, and the screenings planned include “(500) Days of Summer,” “Blue Valentine” and “War of the Roses.” It’s all there for you from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Area Four, 500 Technology Square, Kendall Square. Call (617) 758-4444 or click here.

021214i-BellyBelly Wine Bar also has a movie screening on Valentines Day: the original cult flick and anti-monogamy and vanilla sex celebration of bad sci-fi, transvestites and free love “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Singing and dancing along is encouraged. Call (617) 494-0968 or click here.


Local healthy fast-food chain Clover shows its usual creativity in concocting a special sandwich for the pseudo-holiday. Having mastered the Brussels sprouts sandwich, the food lab has taken inspiration from the winner of a sandwich-design contest last year at the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology, a Hungarian who grew up eating pickled, canned beets. The sandwich includes twice-fried Winter Moon Roots beets, caraway cream cheese spread, a paprika-cabbage-dill slaw and candied walnuts and is paired with a very strong magenta beer brewed by Berkshire Brewing called Raspberry Strong Ale for a $9 combo meal. It’s available from noon to 10 p.m. at the 7 Holyoke St., Harvard Square, and 5 Cambridge Center, Kendall Square, locations. You can pre-order here. The chain’s website is here.

021214i-Shake-ShackBigger chains also have some creative ideas. There’s a new Shake Shack at 92 Winthrop St., Harvard Square, selling a frozen custard flavor called Cupid’s Passion (passion fruit pineapple) this month on Fridays only, and on Valentines Day employees are handing out “Shack Valentines” to customers good for a free single cup or cone of frozen custard, redeemable on a next visit. Call (617) 758-8495 or click here. Qdoba Mexican Grill, 1290 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, is offering a “Queso for a Kiss,” meaning buyers of a queso entrée can get another entrée for free when they kiss the person with them. Call (617) 871-1136 or click here.



“Love Shack,” a juried art show featuring themes related to Valentines Day and love, gets an opening reception starting at 6 p.m. Friday with musicians Amy Kucharik, Sophia Belle, Steve Subrizi and Mike Hastings as a soundtrack to exploring the works of local, national and Canadian artists Anne Alexander, Bonnie Ashmore-Davis, Christoff Colon, Holly Czapski, Melissa Eder, Marissa Falco, Dante Guthrie, Natsuko Hattori, Len Haug, Lauren Leone, Julianne Martin, Shannon McDonald, Mary O’Malley, Cathleen Parra, Elisa Sweig, Bill Tarlin, Martha Wakefield, Mia Weiner and your mother’s a feminist. (The juror is Bill Kouwenhoven, international editor of Hotshoe magazine, who lives in Berlin and New York. Organizers say “Love Shack” is his first venture from photography into the broader field of contemporary art.) The show is at the Nave Gallery Annex, 53 Chester St., Davis Square, Somerville, which goes on showing the art through March 1. (If you can’t make it Friday, check out the exhibition from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday or 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday.) Call (617) 259-8386 or click here.

021214i-PetrarchThe Blue Heron Renaissance Choir performs Petrarch’s “Un petrarchino cantata,” described as “a musical valentine of madrigals” and “some of the most moving poetry ever committed to paper.” These poems are selected out of Francisco Petrarca’s cycle of 366 lyric poems called “The Canzoniere” written in lifelong obsessive honor of a young woman called Laura whom he spotted in church one day in 1327. (He didn’t stop thinking about Laura until he died in 1374!) “During the evening, you will hear some of the most expressive, beautifully crafted and emotionally powerful music of the 16th century,” along with dramatic readings by actor Joel Colodner, organizers say. This event is at 8 p.m. Saturday (there’s a performance in Boston on Valentines Day itself) at First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden St., Harvard Square, where tickets are free (for those under 18) to $50 (for reserved seating). Call (617) 960-7956 or click here.

“Casablanca” is surely one of the most romantic films ever made, which is why The Brattle Theatre – where it once played in repertory, with people coming dressed in costume, reciting dialogue at the screen and singing along like it was “Rocky Horror” – brings it back for Valentines Day weekend every year. It plays at at 4:15, 7 and 9:45 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Harvard Square, has a $25 ticket that comes with a gift bag, with other ticket costs ranging from $7 to $10. Call (617) 876-6838 or click here. The Goorin Bros. Hat Shop is joining in with an evening of gin cocktails provided by Berkshire Mountain Distillers and sultry jazz music inspired by what it calls “one of the best hat movies of all time.” Managers say that “whether you want to look like Bogey or Ingrid Bergman,” you can get 15 percent off by whispering “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid” to the sales clerk. The shop is at 43 Brattle St., Harvard Square. Call (617) 868-4287 or click here.

021214i-Curious-GeorgeTo kids, Valentines Day is about candy, glue sticks and wearing pink and red crayons down to a nub. The World’s Only Curious George Store has a Valentines Day Storytime and Curious George Visit that tells stories of love and friendship instead, including “Guess How Much I Love You” and “Bear in Love.” Kids can also make a valentine to give to Curious George when he appears, either at 10: 30 a.m. or noon. An RSVP is required at [email protected], with a parent or guardian’s name and the names and ages of the children attending required. You will get an email confirming your RSVP. The store is at 1 JFK St., Harvard Square. Call (617) 547- 4500 or click here.

021214i-Lana-FoxThe Harvard Book Store is holding “50 Shades of Hot: A Night of Erotica to Make You Blush” at 7 p.m. Friday with local authors Jon Papernick, Steve Almond, and Lana Fox. This free reading  gives a racy look at the work of Papernick, whose latest is the five-story collection, “XYXX,” Fox, who wrote “Confessions of a Kinky Divorcee,” and Almond, who crafted a battle cry for literary porn aficionados with his “Why I Write Smut: A Manifesto.” It takes place at Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square. Call (617) 661- 1515 or click here.