Date Nights Hit Different at These Romantic Restaurants in NYC

Hint hint, Valentine’s Day is around the corner.

The Nines piano bar and supper club in NoHo
The Nines piano bar and supper club in NoHo | Photo courtesy of The Nines
The Nines piano bar and supper club in NoHo | Photo courtesy of The Nines

No matter what stage of a relationship (or situationship) you find yourself in, it’s almost that time of year to figure out where to wine and dine that special someone in your life. It’s not always easy to find that just-right spot for canoodling under sultry candlelight or cuddling on the same side of the booth (hey, we’re not judging). With a docket filled with the most romantic restaurants in NYC including intimate wine bars, beloved Italian trattorias, and a classic steakhouse, we’re here to help you sort through the fray. Just consider this your guide to a lovey-dovey Valentine’s Day.

Raf's in NoHo
Raf's in NoHo | Photo courtesy of Raf's

Romantic restaurants in Manhattan

Lower East Side
Real New Yorkers know that Chinatown is an unmatched date night destination. Amid the dim sum palaces, porcelain purveyors, jewelry shops, and well-stocked markets is a recent newcomer to the neighborhood, Tolo. At the helm of the dark and sultry restaurant/wine bar is chef Ron Yan (Parcelle). On his menu, customers will find plates that mix traditional Chinese recipes with newer culinary influences from NYC’s Chinatown. Highlights include Little Rice Noodles with XO Sauce, Seaweed “Shake Shake” Fries, and the Sweet & Sour Crispy Fish. There’s also ample opportunity to impress your date with your vino knowledge as Tolo’s wine selection encompasses more than 300 bottles.

At C as in Charlie, romance isn’t fancy. Melding the culinary traditions of Korea and the American South, this laidback eatery tucked away on a quiet block of NoHo quickly became a city favorite after opening last fall. The convivial ambiance draws on the concept of Southern hospitality and the Korean concept of Jeong or the feeling of connection to those around you. From the helpful staff to the complimentary shot of sake at the beginning of every meal, the warm feeling of community will set you and your date at ease. The menu is built of robust, shareable small plates like Toast Roll (shrimp, sweet chili, citrus onion) and Seoul’sbury Steak (gruyere grits, galbi jus).

Meatpacking District
Miami-based hospitality group Noble 33 brought a sleek and sultry touch to the Meatpacking District with its East Coast debut, the gorgeous Meduza Mediterrania restaurant. Expect a modern-day approach to romance that forgoes hole-in-the-wall vibes for a spacious dining room and candlelit hues for light peeking through the roof from a towering fashion billboard on Hudson Street. Signature starters like Blue Fin & Caviar, Spicy Hamachi, and Wagyu Carpaccio are especially great ways to kick-start your special night out.

Since this Italian and French bakery and restaurant opened last year, Raf’s has been abuzz with favorable reviews, celebrity sightings, and plenty of date nights. Once home to the iconic Parisi Bakery, which first opened in 1903, Raf’s utilizes the original bread ovens for a selection of daily fresh baked breads (served with unsalted French butter and Sicilian olive oil). Spark some romance over pastries and egg-centric dishes in the morning, shareable light bites and to-go sandwiches in the afternoon, or a selection of pastas plus wood-fired entrees in the evening.

East Village
An extensive wine program and a rotating menu of European-inspired plates set the scene for a memorable date night at Claud in the East Village. Snag a two-top in the intimate dining room or at the chef’s counter, or—during warmer weather—cuddle up at a table in the backyard patio. Best laid plan: Peruse bottles of red, white, and bubbles from the on-site cellar and share bites such as the Red Shrimp doused in olive oil and garlic or the Dover Sole for two.

West Village
This smash-hit homage to Italian American cuisine from married duo Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli has cemented its icon status since opening in 2017. Among the many offerings, evenings out with your plus one are made better with an order of the eye-catching Our Lasagna For Two (and its crispy-edged top). If that’s not tickling your fancy, the Whole Roasted Lobster for Two is definitely a suitably romantic alternative. To wrap up the evening, slowly sip on one of the after-dinner wines or cocktails like the Root Beer Amaro (sarsaparilla, gentian spices).

One of the oldest Spanish restaurants in Manhattan, many a love story has come through El Quijote’s doors since it first opened in 1930. While the 2021 grand reopening updated the design with intimate leather booths and tufted bar stools, the interior has retained its original sultry charm thanks to frosted glass and dark wood accenting a room washed in red. Spanish dishes like Pan con Tomate, Croquetas de Jamon, and Patatas Bravas are perfect for sharing with your sweetheart and they all pair wonderfully with glasses from the Spanish-centric wine list or cocktails like the Quijote G+T (pear, aloe, celery).

Located off the cobblestones of Bond Street, this rustic Italian date-night destination got its start in 1994 as an antique shop before transforming into a restaurant where diners can experience a seasonal menu of dishes like Ricotta (roasted eggplant, pine nuts, smoked salt) and Pulpo (seared octopus, roasted butternut squash, guindillas relish). A meal paired with unexpected and adventurous wine pairings, with help from the sommelier, and guests are in for an unforgettable night. It’s no surprise that the italian destination has spawned sister spots like the casual eatery and specialty goods market il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, as well as il Buco Al Mare in Amagansett.

C as in Charlie in NoHo
C as in Charlie in NoHo | Photo by Tim Dongho Yun

With its deep red color scheme, glamorous ambiance, and live music, The Nines brings date nights up a notch. At the piano bar and supper club, executive chef Nicole Gajadhar (The Loyal, Nix, Saxon & Parole) serves a decadent menu filled with items like the 9’s Seafood Plateau (crab, caviar-dressed oysters, lobster, uni, tuna, shrimp), Foie Gras (cherry jam, brioche), and Wagyu Beef Tartare (crispy potato, black garlic, dijon). Custom cocktails are served in swanky glassware and include specialties like the self-titled The Nines (reposado tequila, mezcal, passion fruit, yuzu).

Upper East Side
This sister bar to ROKC from cocktail expert Shigefumi “Shige” Kabashima opened in late 2019 and features a menu inspired by the cuisine of 19th century Japanese port towns, which combined Western and Chinese influences. Food offerings include Oysters, a Mussel + Beer + Cotton Candy dish, and specialty ramens topped with sea urchin and salmon caviar or pork belly. Similar to its sibling cocktail destination, NR specializes in picture-worthy drinks served in ornate vessels (although those arriving in a simple nick and nora glass are just as good, too). With decor like antique lamps and ceilings with exposed wooden beams, the alluring dining room effortlessly sets the mood for date night.

Financial District
New York City has no shortage of places where you can kick back with a drink and elevated views, but this cocktail lounge perched on the 64th floor of a Financial District skyscraper soars in its own stratosphere. Owned and operated by chef James Kent and industry veteran Jeff Katz, Overstory is the loftiest of their 70 Pine Street portfolio—with Crown Shy on the ground floor, and SAGA on the 63rd. In addition to superb cocktails like the Big Bang (whisky, honeydew, nori, buckwheat soda), the 360-degree birds-eye views of the city and beyond are sure to wow you and your date.

Chef and restaurateur Marc Forgione’s wood-fired gem on Elizabeth Street debuted in 2020, joining a portfolio that includes Forgione’s namesake Tribeca restaurant, Restaurant Marc Forgione, and One Fifth in Greenwich Village. Known for its rustic food and aesthetic, the Peasant features cozy Italian staples like tableside Bucatini Carbonara, Smoked Linguine, and Veal Porterhouse. Keep your romantic evening going with a stop by Forgione’s Peasant Wine Bar, a candle-lit space in the restaurant’s former wine cellar (located on the lower level with its own entrance) that serves lesser-known Italian wines.

This Tribeca restaurant from owner Matt Abramcyk is spread out across three cozy floors in a pink townhouse built in 1810. At Tiny’s, chef Alejandro Bonilla (Root & Bone, Navy Restaurant) dishes New American cuisine with Italian and French influences like Housemade Meatballs, Roasted Chicken, and Pan-Seared Sea Scallops. 

West Village
For dinner dates where dietary restrictions come into play, The Wesley has you covered. Patrons can enjoy their produce-driven, vegan, and gluten-free dishes within several themed dining spaces with names like the Red Room and Blonde Room. Share a few dishes or opt for your own entree like the Graffiti Eggplant (tandoori spice, sunflower seeds) or Gnocchi (shaved cauliflower, dukkah, tahini pesto). Catch a buzz with help from house cocktails like the Flight of the Concord (bourbon, sesame, concord grape) or explore the wine selection which spotlights organic, vegan, and women-led producers.

Layla in Williamsburg
Layla in Williamsburg | Photo courtesy of Layla

Romantic restaurants in Brooklyn

Williamsburg’s Layla is the kind of neighborhood spot where sharing a cozy dinner and (many) cocktails makes you feel like you’re a regular—even if you’re not. Choose from a high-top table, bar seating, or a backroom two-top before diving into coastal European tapas including Croquettes (mushroom, manchego), Crab Crostini (tomato fresco, yuzu kosho aioli), and Ravioli (spinach ricotta filling, creme fraiche). Patrons can count on skillfully crafted martinis and negronis, as well as house specialties like the Love Language (rye, whiskey, apple, lemon, pear liqueur). During warmer months, the back patio is a sublime spot for wooing your boo.

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 Pulpo Zarandeado and Pollo Coloradito. The space is separated into small sections with plenty of intimate seating, as well as spots to perch along the bar.

Downtown Brooklyn
This legendary oyster and chophouse, whose origins date back to 1879, closed its doors following Valentine’s Day dinner service in 2004, after over a century in business. Seventeen years later, industry veterans Sohui Kim and Ben Schneider (the wife-and-husband duo behind The Good Fork and Insa) and St. John Frizell (Fort Defiance) revived the historic haunt in 2021. Inside, where Gage & Tollner’s intimate dining room stuns with Gilded Age glory, enjoy a menu of seafood platters, steaks, and much more. Pair your meal with a martini or dessert from pastry chef Caroline Schiff. Afterwards, transport yourself to the ocean floor with a trip upstairs to the tropical-themed Sunken Harbor Club.

A neighborhood standby and sister eatery to Cervo’s and The Fly, Hart’s is a cozy Mediterranean go-to in Bed-Stuy. Within the 30-seat dining room, visitors can enjoy seasonal dishes from chef and owner Nick Perkins (Diner, Reynard) like Clam Toast with Pancetta, Pork Milanese with Celery and Anchovies, and Spanish Mackerel with Fried Sweet Potatoes and Vinegar. On the way out, grab some canned sardines, cod liver, and sockeye salmon from the restaurant’s own proprietary tinned seafood line, Minnow.

Williamsburg’s Le Crocodile holds an acclaimed place as one of the city’s top brasseries and romantic spots where chefs Jake Leiber and Aidan O’Neal serve French fare inspired by their favorite haunts in Paris and New York City. In the sophisticated dining room, canoodle over oysters and several paté options before moving onto larger dishes like Onion Soup with Gruyère, Burgundy Duck with Pear and Pancetta, and Steak Frites au Poivre. If reservations on Valentine’s Day prove tricky, the duo also helms Bar Blondeau—a French-style bar located just a few floors up within the Wythe Hotel.

Clinton Hill
Named after the Parisian “Square of Celebrations,” Place des Fetês emanates a laid-back energy that encourages easy conversation and a memorable evening. The seafood-heavy menu includes French, Spanish, and Portuguese-influenced main courses, and small plates are divided into three sections: Chilled, Cultured, and Vegetables. Choose from seasonal offerings like the Sardine Toast (smoked butter, kosho), Crispy Maitake Mushroom (black garlic fudge), and Grilled Swordfish (persimmon, tamarind). The restaurant pours wines from a rotating list highlighting natural varietals sourced from Spain, Peru, Chile, and Canada, in addition to a few beers, ciders, and cocktails.

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Izzy Baskette is the New York City Staff Writer for Thrillist. Talk to her at or find her on Instagram.
Tae Yoon is the Senior Editor of East, Local cities at Thrillist. He was born and raised in Queens, New York.