America is bursting with great restaurants these days, but for an anniversary, date night, or "I'm sorry I took a little too long to delete Tinder and you maybe just found it on my phone three months in" apology dinner, you need to break out the nuclear option -- an explosively romantic restaurant. Here we honor the best of the bunch, showcasing spots all over America that provide the perfect backdrop for love, and also super-Instagrammable appetizers. @canlisrestaurant with bae <3!
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While you might not consider farms romantic, the views, wines, cocktails, and farm-to-table fare at Quiessence will change your mind. The leafy tranquility transports you from Phoenix to an instant vacation mentality, and most of the ingredients come straight from the farm itself (well, you didn't think they went to another farm, did you?). To put your intimacy on steroids, reserve the brick-oven table, where you and your special friend can enjoy a private, customized eight-course meal plus wine and cocktail recs, all guided by a member of the Quiessence team.
It should be illegal to take your significant other to any restaurant that doesn't have a stellar view of the city and surrounding natural beauty. Luckily, Flagstaff House is a law-abiding sort, with candlelit outdoor terraces for warmer weather dining, and top-to-bottom picture windows for when you need to be awe-inspired and insulated. Once you pick your jaws up off the ground, get lost in a wine list that's raked in Wine Spectator's Grand Award every year since 1983, then browse the menu of steak and seafood dishes, as well as a pared down dessert lineup coupled with artisan cheeses (when did cheese become the new cake?).
This institution offers fine dining without the stuffiness, courtesy of exec chef, owner, and James Beard Award-winner Tim McKee. The main event's the polished, chandelier-lit dining room, though there's also a lounge with a fireplace for a more low-key evening. If picking only one entrée is a torment, stick with the chef's tasting menu that will take you on a culinary tour from red pepper seared halibut to langoustine pasta with saffron. Wrap up the night with lemon curd cake, hibiscus sorbet, and the sure-to-get-you-action question, "Did you know the hibiscus is the national flower of Haiti?"
This speakeasy-style restaurant and bar brings a hint of Dutch influence to southern charm. Large crystal chandeliers bring an atmospheric glow to the interior, but if you can, you must dine al fresco on their large patio, surrounded by twinkling lights and the sweet scent of flowers and herbs. Holland House's dinner and cocktail menu is sure to impress (pro tip: no matter what, get a side of their fried brussels sprouts, even if your date still doesn't realize brussels sprouts are cool now). And if you're doing romance on the cheap, catch the happy hour menu for $5 cocktails so beautiful you almost don’t want to drink them, alongside similarly priced bites.
Whether you're huddled together near the fireplace beneath the twinkle of a vintage chandelier or enjoying the night air on the cobblestone patio that you accessed via a secluded alleyway (HOT), RM is up to the task of impressing a first date, or that special someone who's still with you despite the many ways you've disappointed them. Why? It's in the name. Champagne is the most romantic of libations, and few places do it better (In France, RM denotes farmers who bottle their own product). You'd better believe there are plenty of bivalves on hand as well, along with plenty of their sea creature friends, and buttery steak frites, who are everyone's friend except pescatarians. Whatever you do, don't skip the double digit roster of mignardises (that's French for "adorable bite sized desserts you'll devour like popcorn").
Perched alongside the shoreline with ocean ogling for every table (one enormous wall opens onto tranquil sunset views of Waikiki Beach and the city skyline), this Diamond Head restaurant blends French cuisine with locally sourced ingredients. Wait staff prepare dishes like flambé table-side, the over 200 bottles of wine were chosen by a Master Sommelier, and you can unwind as a live harpist or Grammy-winning slack key guitar player strums softly in the background. Finish your meal with a Grand Marnier soufflé, and then fix your hair (those ocean breezes wreak havoc).
Romance takes many different forms, but for the hot mess variety there are few better places than Justine's. This French restaurant's rep for debauchery partly comes from its off-the-beaten-path location (what happens there stays there), effortlessly cool décor, and staff that seem like they've already got one foot in party mode. Every table is a dimly lit one, vintage vinyl plays from behind the bar, and there's any anything-goes approach to live music and events that makes figurative sparks as likely to fly as literal ones.
Housed inside an architectural beauty that also boasts an amazing, unusual view, this half-century-old landmark is one of the few genuine fine-dining experiences in Seattle. The dinner-only menu includes their famed salad, which you can dig into while a live pianist plays in the background, and one of five sommeliers pairs your food with a bottle from their massive award-winning cellar (grabbing accolades seventeen consecutive times from Wine Spectator). Once you've swooned through a three- or four-course meal, savor a dish or six off their classic dessert menu laden with soufflés and crème brûlées. Sadly for your date, you will not be sleepless afterwards.
This tucked-away spot has been a local favorite for 20 years, housed in a historic church dating back to 1897 whose original structure and stained-glass windows will transport you to the side-streets of Northern Italy (on a Sunday). The best seat in the house: a wine alcove that was the church's original altar. Cozy up at this table for two and enjoy top-notch service by the career waitstaff. Classic dishes like veal Saltimbocca and handcrafted ricotta dumplings are mainstays for a reason, but hear out the lengthy list of specials before making any decisions. And before you dive into the meal, place your two-person order for the soufflé. Trust... er, Faith.
The flagship of Linton Hopkins (a James Beard winner) and his wife Gina (a sommelier) offers the most reliably romantic experience if you’re out on Peachtree with a sexy somebody you’d really like to f…eed! Pretty much everything is made from scratch, with ingredients sourced from local farms (Gina and Linton have board positions on almost every major food organization in town and even helped start a farmers market -- on Peachtree). The food menu, which starts with Siberian caviar and moves from a la carte entrees to chef’s tasting menu samplings, is fancy as hell, and the wine menu is nine pages long and travels the world via grapevine. Oh, and there are pastries like chocolate chip cookie dough streusel with bitter cocoa that'll have you traveling to the gym.
Los Angeles, CA
Cliff's Edge is that he can drink so much beer; this is also Norm's Edge. Cheers was great! Anyway, Cliff's Edge is also the perfect date spot for fairies and humans alike, with lush greenery, winding branches, and dim evening lights. The appetizer menu offers up fresh, sometimes fruity dishes, the entrees span from seafood to steak to duck to pork, and the dessert menu presents sweets so light and airy, you can pretend you're not even eating dessert. But you are eating dessert. For sure.
A twisted-vine enclosed patio, a bar area lit aglow by flickering lanterns, and a cozy dining room made inviting by a fireplace sets the scene for a heavy dose of bow chicka wow wow in Dupont Circle. Couples can opt for a casual evening of Mediterranean small plates or a full-on tasting menu experience. Both menus are backed by creative cocktails and a wine list that would impress even the most discerning (read: unwilling to be impressed) oenophile. Rounding out the romance is a helping of history -- before a brief shutdown in 2010, the Iron Gate space operated continuously as a restaurant for 87 years.
Las Vegas, NV
To ensure super-wholesome love in a city known for sin, reserve a table on the patio alongside the Lake of Dreams, a man-made body of water that somehow manages to combine Las Vegas indulgence with modest charm. The view includes a 40ft waterfall, a pine-topped mountain and regular shows that range from two orbs dancing delicately on the water to a giant frog singing Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks (at least you’ll figure out quickly if your date has a sense of humor). The food itself is serious business, with seasonal ocean-to-table selections including a fresh catch flown in directly from Hawaii (so, no layover in... the middle of the ocean).
New Orleans, LA
How does a person even begin to suss out the crème de la crème of romance and seafood in New Orleans? Simple -- go to Gautreau's, sit down, and glory in your excellent taste alongside your excellent-tasting dinner. While Gautreau's nets in dishes like persillade-crusted halibut and sauteed cobia, it has more than a few plates for the landlubber in the relationship to enjoy. How does a Black Angus filet or beet ricotta gnocchi sound? And to top it all off, the classic dining room has muted lighting that will show your date what a real catch looks like. Yes, that halibut will be well-lit.
New York City, NY
Situated on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental, Asiate's lush, pink-accented dining room offers a stunning panorama of New York, starting with Central Park directly below -- if your typical move is hole-in-the-wall, consider this change-up the very top of the wall, where you can't even tell there are holes below. As for the food, sufficed to say there's a caviar flight that frequently mentions the title Tsar, because nothing says "quality" like a ruling class that was dethroned because it ate very well while others did not!
This 40-seat den of intimacy feels like you're eating in someone's really nice apartment, except all the strangers eating near you. Who invited them? Anyway, the phenomenal menu is centered around French cuisine; the restaurant actually brings in chefs from Michelin-starred French restaurants a few times a year to keep the staff up to date on trends and techniques. Since you can't spell cuisine without wine (sort of, almost), it's a good thing Pied won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2013. And, yeah, it's in a boutique hotel if things go really well.
Bacco makes it a mission to keep up with new dishes from the old country, all while sourcing ingredients from both Italy and local growers alike -- thereby providing both Old World romance, and totally New World conversation fodder about local growers. Under the wooden beams that shade the outdoor patio, dig into their one of their phenomenal pasta plates -- at least one dish of their Strozzapreti for sure -- and relax knowing their highly professional staff will explain various Italian terminology to you in a way that doesn't completely undermine your appearance of being a competent adult.
Dali is the kind of restaurant that takes date night, melts it, and artfully arranges it to hang over a tree. With its bright, creative décor, low lights, hanging greenery, and crazy good small plates, this tapas restaurant knows how to shake things up and look good doing it. They've added a late night menu serving plates from 11pm to 12:30am, meaning you can change up your usual dining-out plans without resorting to bar food. Throw back good Spanish wine while enjoying the lively ambiance of a scene that's conducive to both first dates and 10th anniversary dinners alike. Seriously, look at that couple over there: it's Future You Guys.
Depoe Bay, Oregon
Break away from Portland and hit this beautiful fine dining spot with stunning views of the bay, run by husband-wife team Justin and Stormee Willis, and named after their son. Beck has an AAA Three Diamond rating (the restaurant, not the son), and focuses on locally foraged ingredients for a fresh and creative menu that touts plates like pork belly confit with miso ice cream and sea beans. The restaurant is a part of Whale Cove Inn, so you can stay the night and appreciate the full beauty of the Oregon coast while pondering the knowledge that even in the sea, there are beans.
There’s a reason everyone likes to take their engagement photos here (but let's walk before we run... it's just dinner!). This Mediterranean eatery’s outdoor space offers beautiful views of the Schuylkill River, and by the time the sun goes down, the glow from the restaurant and Boathouse Row on the water will add to the ambiance in only the right ways. There are several indoor and outdoor seating options to choose from, like the gazebo overlooking Boathouse Row, or under sparkly chandeliers indoors. Water Works is also situated by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, so the setting alone boasts enough of those date-night vibes for a memorable evening even before any food is served. On that note, expect no-luxury-left-behind indulgence on par with the decor, and seasonal specials.
San Francisco, CA
There are fine dining establishments, there are great date night plans, and then there are restaurants like Foreign Cinema that offer a little of both. Seriously, dinner and a movie in the same damn place? With a daily changing Medi-Cali menu, foreign films (and indie films, which are kind of like foreign films) projected on the courtyard wall, and oysters galore, there's not much else to say about this place. Except if you can't snag a hard-to-get reservation, walk-in tables are absolutely an option.