Valentine's Day is just around the corner, but knowing what restaurants are best for romantic occasions is a useful skill year-round. Read on for our top picks in 15 cities around the country.
The sophisticated dining room within Buckhead’s tony St. Regis Hotel serves a stunning seasonal American menu from chef Christopher Grossman either à la carte or in a multicourse tasting menu, frequently complemented by an amuse-bouche, bread service and other delectable bites. A welcome break from the post-industrial vibe of many new ATL restaurants, the swank yet modern setting stands apart with vaulted ceilings and artwork by Picasso, Chagall and van Gogh, and the gorgeous desserts and bonbons complements of pastry chef Christian Castillo are equally museum-worthy.
88 West Paces Ferry Rd. NW; 404-600-6471
Austin: Justine's Brasserie
Known as much for raucous parties and shows as for intimate candlelit dinners, this hip French brasserie is the perfect place to nestle in for a sensory-appealing French meal with a special someone. As the night goes on, the dining room gets fired up with conversation and the volume of the vinyl played might swell, but the red-silk-swathed winter tent is perfect for a quieter setting over oysters and champagne. Afterward, head outside for a photo shoot in the mirror-lined Infinity Room or sit for a keepsake tintype photo in Lumiere Tintype's mobile studio, located in Justine's backyard.
4710 E. Fifth St.; 512-385-2900
French is the language — and food — of love. Chef Chris Coombs' Back Bay restaurant is unabashedly romantic, set slightly aside of the neighborhood's busier blocks. Ask for seat no. 61, known by staff as the "Alice in Wonderland table," with its wingback chairs, romantic feel and tucked-off location to the side of the main dining area. (It's been a popular spot for proposals.) New pastry chef Shaun Velez (an alum of Boulud's Daniel) has actually introduced an "off-menu" dessert: a sugar sphere used as a way to present engagement rings.
371 Commonwealth Ave.; 617-517-5915
Chicago: Bavette's Bar & Boeuf
From the flickering candlelight and the cozy booths, to the shareable seafood platters and the champagne cocktails, Bavette’s really checks off all the essentials for the quintessential romantic night on the town. The modern French bistro tastefully toes the line between swank classic and contemporary hot spot, with a couples-pleasing menu filled with bone marrow, steak frites and roast chicken.
218 W. Kinzie St.; 312-624-8154
The highly anticipated Downtown restaurant from acclaimed chef Bruno Davaillon finds him at the top of his game delivering sophisticated French classics and multicourse meals to ecstatic diners who've been waiting for his triumphant return to the Dallas scene. The gorgeously outfitted dining room (and spectacular gold-brick exterior) have a modern, surprisingly casual sensibility.
400 S. Record St.; 972-698-4250
It’s one of the hottest spots in town right now, smack in the midst of all the action at Union Station. Yet somehow Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch’s Spanish-Portuguese gastroteka feels like an escape. It’s partly the compact size of the dining room, at only 50 seats. It’s partly the fact that some of those seats are mostly out of view on the mezzanine. It’s partly that they’re all surrounded by a mural, based on 17th-century Dutch landscapes, that lend a pastoral glow to the whole affair. And of course it’s largely the food itself, tapas being the original small plates for sharing. By the time you get to dessert, you’ll be regarding the place as your own private hideaway.
1701 Wynkoop St. #125; 303-534-1970
Houston: One Fifth Romance Languages
This Montrose locale from Chris Shepherd is in its second phase of a five-year concept that changes food and decor each year. The current iteration intertwines Spanish, French and Italian flavors in a dimly lit setting with a soft palette and draped ceiling.
1658 Westheimer Rd.; 713-955-1024
Los Angeles: Faith & Flower
There's something really sexy about this hot spot. Maybe it's the chandeliers, the funky art, the big velvet booths or fantastic wine list and cocktails: The ambiance is truly there in spades. But the modern American fare is not an afterthought, from the ceviche and oysters from the raw bar to the bacon-wrapped tenderloin, grilled rib-eye with bone-marrow bordelaise and wonderful and whimsical desserts. Get the absinthe table service at the end for a nightcap.
705 W. Ninth St.; 213-239-0642
Miami: Le Sirenuse
Evocative of the La Dolce Vita era, this chic Italian hot spot at the recently remodeled Surf Club hotel in Surfside is done up with soaring ceilings, arched windows, marble floors and an alfresco champagne bar overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The date-ready digs nicely complement the classic European menu of handmade pastas, farm-to-table fare, bubbly focused cocktails and Italian aperitivos.
9101 Collins Ave.; (786-482-2280
New York: Ferris
Cozy up with your date at this subterranean nook underneath the MADE Hotel, where natural wood accents and soft lighting set the intimate scene. The eclectic menu of contemporary American plates is perfect for sharing, with bites ranging from a chicharrones and chicken liver mousse “chips and dip” to beets with black sesame tahini and shaved coconut.
44 West 29th Street; 212-213-4420
Philadelphia: The Good King Tavern
This lively corner bar is a reliable go-to for Queen Village families, wine lovers and Francophiles alike. But the charming atmosphere and cozy booths make it an excellent date night pick as well. On winter Sundays, chef Nich Bazik amps up the hygge factor with a shareable raclette board, a cast-iron pan filled with gooey cheese to scoop up along with Jambon de Bayonne, mustard and cornichons.
614 S. 7th St., 215-625-3700
San Diego: Solare
Reserve this restaurant’s private wine room if you can, but the rest of the space is equally intimate. With mood-setting ambiance and elegant Italian fare by executive chef Accursio Lota, this Point Loma restaurant is a popular choice for dates.
820 Roosevelt Rd.; 619-270-9670
San Francisco: Villon
San Francisco isn’t Miami or Los Angeles when it comes to snazzy and glamorous dining spaces. But sometimes we do want that nightclub vibe for a date night. Enter Villon on the ground floor of Mid-Market’s San Francisco Proper Hotel. The posh, arty salon is Sexy with a capital “S.” Chef Jason Franey’s globally inspired New American cooking and the playful cocktails by Bon Vivants (Trick Dog) match the atmosphere. Make time for a drink at the even swankier rooftop bar, Charmaine’s.
1100 Market St.; 628-895-2040
The main level of this corner hot spot in Greenwood is a place to be seen. But the tucked-away second floor is secluded, quiet and dim enough for romance. If the ambiance up there doesn’t get you going, the oven-roasted oysters or fennel-braised wild boar shoulder sure will.
8421 Greenwood Ave. N; 206-457-5656
Washington, DC: Tiger Fork
Dark, intimate and broody, the decor of this Blagden Alley ode to Hong Kong street food seems steeped in mystery and adventure. Plus, there’s a special menu of cocktails infused with ancient holistic remedies for things like fatigue and anxiety, which could stave off any first-date jitters. For longtime couples, the clandestine feel of the place makes you want to plan a trip away together.
922 N St. NW; 202-733-1152