The 14 Sexiest Restaurants for a Romantic Date Night in NYC
Whether for Valentine’s Day, engagements, or a special occasion, these spots help set the mood.
While we might consider ourselves the main character of our own rom-coms for most hours of the day, when it comes to romantic spots for dining out, it’s the restaurants that are the true stars.
In NYC, there’s no shortage of stellar restaurants and bars that can inspire spontaneous romance (or lust), but for special occasions like Valentine’s Day, engagements, or a date night with potential fiancé material, we recommend booking a reservation at a place with just the right ambiance and food to enjoy while sitting across from your date and overthinking your improbable future wedding together.
Spots within the Golden Age Hospitality portfolio (Acme, Le Crocodile, Bar Blondeau) from industry veteran Jon Neidich all offer a touch of glamour. But with its deep red color scheme and rich ambiance, The Nines brings it up a notch thanks to live music covering funk and jazz to soul and classic rock. At this newly opened piano bar and supper club in NoHo inspired by old-school European hotel lobby bars, executive chef Nicole Gajadhar (The Loyal, Nix, Saxon & Parole) serves a decadent menu filled with items like Smoked Salmon & Blini, Uni with lemon butter, Pain Grillé au Fromage, and the signature 9’s Club Sandwich with bacon jam and kewpie mayo. Custom cocktails from beverage director Ashley Santoro (owner of Leisir Wine, Standard Hotels International) are served in fancy glassware and include classics along with options like the self-titled The Nines with reposado tequila, mezcal, passion fruit, and yuzu.
In addition to running his namesake Tribeca restaurant, Restaurant Marc Forgione, Marc Forgione debuted as the new chef and owner of Peasant—a wood-fired Italian spot and popular neighborhood gem on Elizabeth Street known for its rustic food and charm—right before the start of COVID-19. He initially ran a pizza pop-up early on in the pandemic and the full menu currently includes staples like tableside Bucatini Carbonara, Rotisserie Lamb Ragu, and a Family Style Pig Roast. Forgione’s latest update to the decades-old Nolita restaurant is the recent addition of Peasant Wine Bar, a candle-lit space accessed through a hefty barn door in what was previously their wine cellar now serving lesser-known Italian grape varietals along with hearth-cooked dishes.
Tiny's and the Bar Upstairs
This Tribeca restaurant from owner Matt Abramcyk (also of nearby Yves and Smith & Mills) is spread out across three cozy floors in a pink townhouse originally built in 1810, and also features a fireplace and some of the original marble, brick, and stone. At Tiny’s, go for chef Alejandro Bonilla’s (Root & Bone, Navy Restaurant) New American cuisine with Italian and French influences in dishes like Housemade Meatballs, Roasted Chicken, and Pan Seared Sea Scallops. If in the mood for lighter bites and drinks, snag one of five seats at the recently launched Martini & Oyster bar on the ground floor for fresh seafood, Tuna Tartare Crostini, and cocktails like the Black Truffle Martini with black truffle blue cheese stuffed olives.
A romantic time out at Aldama begins even before entering its doors, thanks to the gorgeous views of the Williamsburg Bridge on its picturesque Brooklyn street. The contemporary Mexican restaurant is helmed by partner/cocktail expert Christopher Reyes (Cosme, Employees Only) and chef Gerardo Alcaraz (Black Ant, Martín Berasategui in San Sebastián, Spain), and focuses on street food of Central Mexico in addition to offering regional specialties like Pescado Zarandeado and Carne Cecina. The space is separated into small sections with plenty of intimate seating and features an overall modern approach that’s evident from design touches and plateware, to the food and cocktails.
Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito fell in love in the 2010s while working together at restaurants and their union eventually led to both marriage and collaborating on projects as a chef duo before opening this smash-hit homage to Italian American fare together in 2017. In addition to items like the signature pinwheel (and very dreamy) Lasagna for Two, the restaurant is also known for its checkerboard Carrara and dark Bardiglio marble tile floor and sleek interior design, as well as a romantic outdoor dining setup with a deep red exterior. Even five years after opening, the West Village eatery continues to be one of the most popular reservations in town. And check out the the recent debut of their first cookbook, Italian American.
Gage & Tollner
After an initial 13-month delay due to COVID-19, Gage & Tollner in Downtown Brooklyn made its highly anticipated debut last April. The legendary oyster and chop house’s origins date back to 1879, and its revival is brought to you by veteran restaurateurs Sohui Kim and Ben Schneider (the wife-and-husband duo behind The Good Fork and Insa), and St. John Frizell (Fort Defiance). Inside a space that stuns with Gilded Age glory, use an evening here as a reason to get dressed up for a night out and prepare for some prime people-watching of your fellow diners within the intimate dining room—all the while enjoying a menu of Seafood Platters, Steaks, and much more. And check out the restaurant’s recently opened tropical-themed bar upstairs, Sunken Harbor Club, which contains no windows to the outside world to transport visitors to the ocean floor.
This Mediterranean restaurant in Bed-Stuy is a neighborhood favorite and a sister spot to eateries like Cervo’s and The Fly. Within Hart’s small and intimate space (the dining room seats about 30), enjoy popular dishes from chef Nick Perkins (Diner, Reynard) like the Clam Toast with Pancetta, Stracciatella with Bottarga and Pizza Bianca, Braised Chicken Thighs with Butter Beans, and Grass-fed Lamb Burger with Marinated Anchovies. Pair everything with natural wine, and on the way out, grab some tinned seafood like sardines, cod liver, and sockeye salmon from their newly launched line of products named Minnow.
This rustic Italian destination located on the cobblestones of Bond Street originally opened as an antique store in 1994 but quickly transitioned to a restaurant after the success of owner Donna Lennard’s meals with her regulars. Since then, the date-night classic has also spawned additional sister spots like the casual eatery and specialty goods market il Buco Alimentari & Vineria next door, along with il Buco Al Mare in Amagansett lead by chef Justin Smillie. At the original il Buco, experience a seasonal menu with signature dishes like the Zuppa with Spanish beans, Croquetas with house-cured salt cod fritters, Risotto with gorgonzola cremificato, and Umbrian Porchetta Panino with slow-roasted Fossil Farm heritage pork. Add on special Olive Oil Tasting to complement it all.
Jack & Charlie’s no. 118
At Jack & Charlie’s no. 118, executive chef/partner, Ed Cotton (No. 9 Park in Boston, Daniel, David Burke Townhouse) brings over two decades of industry experience to his recently opened New American restaurant paying tribute to supper clubs, speakeasies, and icons of NYC’s culinary past. Within the railroad layout that features a teal palette, its walls are adorned with pictures and cozy design details that bring an extra warmth to the place (especially if near the fireplace), and the eatery has four different areas: The Bar Room, Turner Room, Astor Room, and Oyster Room. But no matter where you’re seated—from freshly baked popovers and Housemade Pastas to a Duck Meatloaf or Slow-Roasted Prime Rib—expect an intimate night out with your honey.
This highly acclaimed Brooklyn restaurant is from the same team behind nearby Chez Ma Tante and Golden Age Hospitality, and holds its place as one of NYC’s best brasseries and romantic spots in Williamsburg. At Le Crocodile, chefs Jake Leiber and Aidan O’Neal serve French fare inspired by their favorite haunts in both Paris and NYC, and offer a culinary experience in a gorgeous dining room that distinguishes it as one of the area’s must-try culinary destinations that feels grown up, fancy, and sophisticated in a neighborhood crowded with basic food spots. The duo also helms Bar Blondeau, a French-style bar located just a few floors up within the Wythe Hotel.
This sister bar to ROKC from cocktail expert Shige Kabashima opened in late 2019 and features a menu inspired by the cuisine of 19th century Japanese port towns. Similar to its sibling cocktail destination, NR offers expertly crafted drinks served within ornate vessels (but those arriving in a simple nick and nora glass are just as good, too). Food offerings include Oysters, a Mussel + Beer + Cotton Candy dish, and specialty ramens like Sea Urchin & Salmon Caviar or the Kyoto topped with pork belly. With decor like antique-style lamps and wooden beam ceilings, the alluring dining room easily sets the mood for date night.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea
This West Village restaurant located inside a land-marked carriage house built in 1767 stands as one of the city’s top spots for romance. Alongside candlelit tables, a private garden, and brick fireplaces, the dinner-only eatery has seen no shortage of engagements and lovey-dovey moments within its walls since opening in 1973. When it comes to the menu, the eatery’s name of One if By Land, Two if By Sea might suggest a seafood-centric menu, but don’t be fooled—the moniker comes from an old poem about Paul Revere, and there’s plenty of variety within their New American fare with dishes like Italian Milk Burrata, Beef Wellington, Fusilli Calabrese Pasta, and Lamb Shank.
This award-winning restaurant located under the Brooklyn Bridge offers postcard-worthy views of the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty, and is synonymous with date nights, weddings, and any special occasion where the magic of NYC’s panorama can dial up the romance factor. At The River Cafe, dine on New American cuisine at the fine-dining establishment with dishes like Scallop Ceviche, Roasted Rabbit, Crispy Duck Breast, and Butter Poached Lobster, along with classic cocktails and a renowned wine program. Take note, the dress code for gentlemen includes jackets and a collared shirt for the dining room.
When you spot the luxurious shades of deep green on the block of Bleecker St. between West 10th and Christopher, you know you’ll have arrived at Saint Theo’s. This Italian-inspired stunner from Kyle Hotchkiss Carone's Grand Tour Hospitality (American Bar), Robert Goldman, and executive chef Ashley Rath (The Grill, Santina, Dirty French) opened last summer and serves a menu highlighting flavors of Venice and the Italian coast. While feasting on Housemade Pasta and Seafood, scope out a dedicated section of Venetian Cicchetti as snacks to enjoy with your first round of drinks while soaking in the sumptuous 110-seat space featuring Murano glass sconces, Venice Biennale posters, and mirror tiles to scope out fellow stylish diners. The restaurant also recently just debuted their next-door watering hole, Venice Bar, which seats 20 guests and features aperitivo cocktails and small bites.