Five ways to spoil your sweetheart this holiday

If you're celebrating Valentine's Day with a loved one, you're under all kinds of pressure to have the perfect gift, the perfect meal, the perfect plan. That's why so many wait until the last minute and end up mobbing grocery stores for generic boxes of chocolate and overpriced rose bouquets. This year, plan a casual itinerary that emphasizes local food and drink — one that gives you time to simply celebrate being together. Also, no one says you have to celebrate on Valentine's Day itself. With the holiday falling on a Tuesday this year, pick a night — weekend or weeknight — and use one of these guides as a starting point.

Fourth Street Hopping

The Downtown Fourth Street corridor has emerged as an entertainment district all on its own, offering you plenty of options for casual food, drink and games. Start with your choice of meals on South Fourth: tacos and tequila at El Camino Inn, burgers and poutine at Little Palace, hot dogs and beer at Dirty Franks, cauliflower tots and sandwiches at Hadley's or pizza and pepperoni chips at Mikey's. Stop for a few rounds of games at 16-Bit, then head north for duckpin bowling and shuffleboard at Pins Mechanical Co. Finish off the night with beers at the Wolf's Ridge or Elevator Brewing taproom.

Dinner, Mead and a Show

The northern end of the Short North sees continued growth with new restaurants and developments, and that area affords you several options within easy walking distance. Focus around Fifth Avenue and High Street, and start with tacos at Condado, pizza at Paulie Gee's or the seasonal farm-to-table goodness at the Table. Then meander over to Brothers Drake for mead flights and cocktails. Finish the evening with live music at Brothers Drake or a show at the Short North Stage.

Taproom Touring

Seek out off-the-beaten path taprooms like Sideswipe Brewing near Grandview, Actual Brewing near the airport, Ill Mannered in Powell or Four String's two dives — one in Grandview and one at the west side production facility (where you can get a tour!). Sip some suds and play video games, pinball or darts. Many of the taprooms host food trucks, so a creative dinner is easy to find. Make a game out of it and collect stamps in the Columbus Ale Trail book.

Ethnic Eating

You're not a traditional couple, so why would you go for a traditional meal? Challenge your palates by exploring one of the many ethnic cuisines represented across the city. Taste Somali sambusas and tender stewed goat at Hoyo's Kitchen. Order a shared platter of colorful and flavorful Ethiopian fare at Lalibela. Taste authentic Mexican dishes at La Plaza Tapatia (then go shopping for fresh pastries). Sit for Sunday dim sum at Sunflower Chinese Restaurant. Grab a seat at the counter for Momo Ghar and enjoy authentic Himalayan dumplings.

Coffee Cupping

Do you enjoy hanging around coffee shops? Schedule an afternoon date to sip espresso and explore a coffee shop or two. Try Colin's Coffee on the northwest side, find Brioso's new roastery on Long Street (across from the also-excellent Roosevelt Coffeehouse), hide away in Hemingway's Coffee Nook Downtown. Or take your coffee love to the next level by signing up for a Sunday cupping at One Line in the Short North. Held in the afternoons, the cuppings are only $5 a person, and will teach you to better appreciate and taste fresh coffees.