10 Unexpectedly Romantic Restaurants in NYC

From a jazz club in Harlem to cozy Parisian vibes in FiDi
February 6, 2017
by Margaret Sutherlin

Inside Chumley's. Photo by Chumley's.

Valentine’s Day comes with big expectations for romantic candlelit dinners. While reservations are certain to fill up at top romantic spots, try one of these newcomers offering something unique from the usual picks.

The revived New York speakeasy that was once the hangout for literary greats like Steinbeck and Hemingway is as cozy and comfortable as it is sophisticated, with top-notch cocktails and a New American menu from chef Victoria Blamey. For Valentine’s Day, the West Village spot is offering a three-course prix fixe (there won’t be an à la carte menu that night) served in the old-school surrounds. Who knows, maybe you can score the corner table by the fireplace — the spot was once the favorite for infamous couple Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.

86 Bedford St.;  212-675-2081

The Fitzgerald's favorite table (left) at Chumley's. Photo by Chumley's. 

Inside Augustine. Photo by Augustine. 

Keith McNally’s new high-end spot in the historic Financial District Beekman Hotel is a showstopper with old-world chandeliers, intricate tile work, cafe tables and cozy booths. There’s no special menu planned for Valentine’s Day but with a sophisticated cocktail list and French classics like steak frites and foie gras the meal may feel like it's straight from the City of Light. For a sweet ending, order the dark chocolate terrine with candied pecans and ice cream.

5 Beekman St.; 212-375-0010

Bleeding Heart cocktail at Ladybird. Photo by Instagram. 

Ladybird Cafe
Gilded mirrors, shimmering chandeliers and plush emerald velvet seats — this snug Greenwich Village vegetarian cafe brings the romance with its charming decor. Ladybird’s team has planned a nine-course prix fixe tasting menu featuring the popular black trumpet mushroom risotto and the Chardonnay “fondue” made with cashews and coconut milk. Cap off the evening with the shocking pink cocktail called Bleeding Heart, made with blood orange, champagne and hibiscus.  

127 Macdougal St.; 212-475-2246

Minton's dining room. Photo by Minton's. 

Low lighting and jazz tunes set the mood for the Afro-Asian-American menu from chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson. The newly reopened Harlem supper club from Johnson (formerly next door at the now shuttered The Cecil) has a three-course prix fixe planned featuring fan favorites like the short rib toast and pickled okra, and braised pork shank with coconut stone-ground grits. Make sure to order the Harlem Love cocktail (brandy, amaretto and lime) to start.

206 West 118th St.; 212-243-2222

Chinese Tuxedo's dining room. Photo by Oleg March.

Chinese Tuxedo
The new Chinatown kitchen from Jeff Lam and Eddy Buckingham is a super-sexy pick with low lighting, sleek furnishings and plush leather booths, exposed concrete walls and lush palms around the two-level dining room. Take advantage of the lengthy wine and champagne list and try the steak for two or cozy up with a bowl of housemade noodles.

5 Doyers St.; 646-895-9301

For Valentine’s Day, chef Emily Yuen is offering her regular menu at this cozy Japanese newcomer as well as a four-course prix fixe, featuring creamy sea urchin tagliolini or filet mignon with a soy glaze. The classic strawberry shortcake gets a whimsical twist with chocolate sponge cake and fig balsamic strawberries. The name Bessou, which translated means "home away from home," has an inviting and relaxed vibe, a perfect cozy neighborhood spot for Valentine's Day.

5 Bleecker St.; 212-228-8502

Inside Little Frog. Photo by Paul Wagtouicz.

Little Frog
This Upper East Side neighborhood gem from Francois Latapie, Little Frog's ambiance is pure French country with vintage tiles, plush banquettes and rustic wood accents. The bistro is preparing a special prix fixe designed to be shared, with classics like duck flambé, wild mushroom stuffed branzino, rack of lamb and a Valentine’s-themed sundae with fresh berries and heart candy–inspired cookies.

322 East 86th St.; 347-537-5786

Inside Agern's dining room. Photo by Agern. 

Never mind Agern's location in the heart of Grand Central, Claus Meyer’s new venture is an elegant, upscale choice for V-Day. The Scandinavian surrounds focus on clean lines, light woods, minimal accents and modern pendant lights. The chic interiors complement the complex New Nordic fare. On Valentine’s Day, expect a prix fixe menu with items like Norwegian lobster and cod with caviar and potatoes. Dessert gets the Scandinavian touch too with malt- and beer-infused chocolate.

Grand Central Terminal, 89 E. 42nd St.; 646-568-4018

Society Cafe's dining room. Photo by Society Cafe. 

Society Cafe
This snug Greenwich Village farm-to-table spot in the Walker Hotel is plenty intimate with a fireplace, blue leather booths, cozy leather chairs and warm woods throughout. A New American six-course prix fixe for Valentine’s Day features dishes like roasted squab with currants and oysters with rose gelee. But first, begin with Albert Depompeis’ cocktail The Blues (smoky scotch, Velvet Falernum and housemade ginger syrup), which comes with crystallized flowers and orchids.  

52 W. 13th St.; 212-300-4525

Italienne's dining room. Photos by Ken Goodman.

Opened in November, Flatiron bistro Italienne is serving its French-Italian specialties like Castelrosso tortellini with honey and hazelnuts, and scallop crudo as part of a four-course prix fixe. The space itself is big but the mood is intimate thanks to rustic elements like exposed brick, limestone accents, warm woods and low lighting in the dining room. 

Must-order:  Cupid Flies Sideways cocktail made with cognac, creme de menthe, cherry bitters and Fernet Angelico

19 W. 24th St.; 212-600-5139

valentine's day
romantic restaurants