A romantic meal out is one of many, and arguably one of the best, reasons to dine out, especially after almost two years of pandemic-related quarantines and maybe one too many pizza-and-streaming “date nights” on the couch. Luckily, New York City certainly isn’t lacking for menus and spaces to induce swoons, no matter what sort of cuisine and vibes reads as romantic to you.
Ahead, a dozen NYC restaurants fit for a memorable Valentine’s Day feast, as well as any amorous occasion, be it a date, anniversary, or even a proposal.
OIJI (East Village)
This modern Korean spot in the East Village serves creative small plates that are perfect for splitting with an S.O., though you might not want to share dishes like the rich lobster ramyun, filled with succulent lobster, uni butter, pickled ramps, and an optional dollop of caviar. OIJI’s chef-owners, both Seoul natives, met as roommates at the Culinary Institute of America, and have been turning out inspired, eclectic riffs on locally inspired Korean cuisine — think mushroom salad packed with a trio of funghi (maitake, shiitake, and wood ear) and Korean fried cauliflower with Greek yogurt and grapes — since opening OIJI in 2015. Make sure to save some room for the legendary honey butter chips a la mode, an artful play on texture with the perfect sweet-salty balance that’s always a great way to end the night.
Dining at the restaurant: The simple, intimate space is both cozy and minimalist, thanks to exposed brick, low lighting, and lots of dark wood, as well as partitions separating each table for social distancing. If you’re still most comfortable dining alfresco, OIJI’s outdoor tables are private rooms, each with heated lamps for maximum comfort, even mid-winter.
Takeout: OIJI does not offer takeout.
Portale Restaurant (Chelsea)
Decadent pastas paired with an excellent wine and cocktail selection is a winning recipe for an ultra-romantic meal. Especially at the namesake Chelsea restaurant of Alfred Portale, the James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author who made his name at Gotham Bar and Grill. The tricky part? Choosing between dishes such as agnolotti with ricotta, pancetta, chanterelle mushrooms, and spring onions or lumache in a truffled white bolognese sauce — and that’s just from the menu’s pasta section. Fans of the chef’s iconic Gotham seafood salad won’t want to miss the frutti di mare to start, filled with chilled lobster, scallop, octopus, and shrimp. Also be sure to try the breads, all made in house.
Dining at the restaurant: The sophisticated, spacious restaurant is elegant and polished yet not at all stuffy. Note that online reservations on OpenTable can only be made for indoor dining; outdoor tables are bookable via phone or directly on Portale’s site.
Takeout: During the pandemic, Portale Restaurant launched some unique at-home dining options, like meal kits and takeout. Pick up (via phone) and delivery (available online) is currently on offer.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea (West Village)
With a charming name, plucked from a historical poem about Paul Revere, One if by Land, Two if by Sea is a total classic for extremely romantic milestones of all kinds, evidenced by not-infrequent wedding proposals that happen here. Fittingly, the three- and seven- course tasting menus might remind you of a swanky black-tie wedding menu, with choices such as tuna tartare, beef Wellington, grilled octopus, and pan-seared halibut.
Dining at the restaurant: Housed in a historic carriage house tucked on a lovely, picturesque West Village street, it’s pretty hard to top the all-out amorous vibes of this special-occasion classic. Outdoor dining is available as well, on a custom-built deck constructed in summer 2020.
Takeout: While the space is certainly part of the romantic appeal of One if by Land, Two if by Sea, the restaurant does offer takeout by phone only.
Nobu Downtown (Tribeca)
While Nobu’s Fulton Street location is a downtown power lunch hotspot during the day, it feels decidedly special occasion-worthy at night. For a well-rounded sampling of the sushi-driven, Peruvian-inflected Japanese menu, complement the many stellar raw fish dishes with Nobu’s signature chicken wings, available with teriyaki, anticucho, or wasabi pepper sauce.
Dining at the restaurant: Soaring ceilings and dramatic lighting make the most of the converted stately office building, while the spacious layout and lots of room between most tables make for a sceney yet intimate feel. You’ll want to book a table in the lounge if a great date night ought to include a bit of a scene and some great people watching, or opt for the posh dining room for a more intimate feel.
Takeout: Prefer to savor Nobu’s top-notch sashimi from the comfort of your couch? No problem. The restaurant offers takeout orders by phone and delivery via third-party apps.
River Cafe (Dumbo)
There’s nothing like a stellar view along with a delicious dinner to really induce some serious swoons, and River Cafe’s vistas of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge are utter magic. The MICHELIN-starred standout Brooklyn restaurant, which opened in 1977, serves up a prix fixe menu of fanciful new American dishes that change seasonally, such as sauteed duck foie gras, scallop ceviche, porcini-stuffed roasted rabbit, and venison with chestnut spaetzle and roasted root vegetables, alongside an extensive wine list. For a really special milestone, you can even add caviar service to the mix.
Dining at the restaurant: The romantic feel starts before you’ve even made it to your table for those unparalleled river, bridge, and skyline views inside the restaurant. The experience begins by strolling through River Cafe’s beautiful, twinkle light-lit garden entrance. Once inside, the formal dress code, requiring jackets for men and proper footwear for all, plus fresh flowers and frequent live piano music fully underscore the special occasion-worthy atmosphere.
Takeout: River Cafe does not offer takeout.
AlBadawi (Brooklyn Heights)
If sampling new dishes and cuisines all over the city together sounds like an ideal date night, consider AlBadawi. The Palestinian restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, opened in 2021, is a collaboration between the teams at Yemen Cafe, a beloved Brooklyn institution, and Ayat, an acclaimed fast-casual spot in Bay Ridge. Ultra-flavorful dishes include maklouba, a chicken dish filled with eggplant, cauliflower, and potatoes, and mansaf, a tender, tangy lamb stew in fermented yogurt sauce served over buttery rice and topped with slivered almonds. The family-style portions are designed for sharing and are so generous that you’ll probably have some leftovers to take home, too.
Dining at the restaurant: There’s a bustling, lively feel to this bright, large space on a cute stretch of Atlantic Avenue, which is kitted out in lush greenery and profusions of faux flowers. It’s definitely not the usual dim, candle-lit, formal date-night feel, so it’s a great alternative for couples looking for a memorable way to explore dishes and flavors that are harder to find in NYC.
Takeout: You can also feast on AlBadawi’s extensive mezzes and hearty mains in your pajamas if you’d prefer, by ordering pickup or delivery via third-party apps.
Indian Table (Cobble Hill)
While you’ll find excellent renditions of familiar favorites like chicken tikka masala at this Cobble Hill neighborhood gem, the real standouts are creative Goan dishes. Executive chef Eric McCarthy, who hails from the southern Indian area, cooked at acclaimed NYC Indian restaurants Tamarind, Tulsi, and Brick Lane Curry House before taking over the kitchen at Indian Table in 2021. The broad menu includes Goan fare such as goat vindaloo, Mangalorean fish, and shrimp curry that nods to the Indian state’s coastal location and centuries as a Portuguese colony. Plus, McCarthy’s inventive tweaks on tradition like tulsi paneer (rich cubed cheese in a basil-cranberry-roasted garlic sauce instead of the typical creamy spinach) or the popular bacon-studded naan.
Dining at the restaurant: Don’t let the partially subterranean storefront space deter you: Inside, Indian Table feels cozy yet spacious, sporting soothing dark blue walls, exposed beams, warm lighting, and lots of colorful patterned tiling.
Takeout: Maybe you want dinner and a movie this date night? You’re in luck: Indian Table accepts takeout orders by phone and delivery orders via third-party apps.
When it comes to innately amorous ingredients, it’s hard to beat the oyster’s appeal. At Littleneck, you can slurp down a dozen fresh West Coast briny bivalves with a seafood-loving soulmate, along with classics such as a Maine lobster roll, New England clam chowder, or fish and chips. Plus, there are tons of brothy, flavorful dishes perfect for chilly winter nights, like fisherman’s stew, pork and clams pozole, P.E.I. mussels in coconut curry broth, or the namesake clams bathed in an herbed white wine broth.
Dining at the restaurant: This intimate, snug Gowanus neighborhood spot has a subtle nautical vibe and a decidedly lowkey feel and crowd — you can dress up or down as desired, so long as you’re wearing something that won’t get destroyed by a splash of soup or cocktail sauce.
Takeout: Bring the New England coastal vibes to your pad by ordering a seafood spread for pickup or delivery, either via phone or third-party apps.
Bistro Eloise (Elmhurst)
This Elmhurst bistro oozes romance yet feels accessible and inviting, a rare balance to achieve. The varied French menu goes beyond familiar bistro fare, including recipes spanning Brittany to Toulouse to Burgundy. Don’t miss the French onion soup, properly crowned in a thick cheese crust, or the boeuf bourguignon, with slowly braised Angus grass-fed beef in a stew with carrots, pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon and served with mashed potatoes. If you’ve got room for dessert, the luscious crème brûlée, creamy inside beneath a crunchy shatter of burnished, caramelized sugar, is a crowd pleaser for good reason.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoors, Bistro Eloise’s comfortable banquette seating and small dark wood tables line the narrow, intimate space that’s simple and sweet. Partitions between tables lend privacy for a date (and added pandemic-dining peace of mind). For those more comfortable eating alfresco, there’s a spacious outdoor area that’s fully enclosed, covered, and heated; it’s also accessorized with twinkly string lighting and greenery that just might transport you out of wintery NYC for a few hours.
Takeout: Delivery and pickup orders can be placed via third-party apps, should you decide to curl up at home to indulge in some croque monsieur and crème brûlée.
Mario’s Restaurant (Arthur Avenue)
Perhaps a hearty Italian feast in a super old-school setting is your recipe for a romantic night out? Mario’s Restaurant — a James Beard Award-winning historic red-sauce joint in The Bronx’s Arthur Avenue-anchored Little Italy — is just the place. The fifth-generation family-run restaurant dates back to 1919 and is still helmed by the Migliucci clan. Popular picks on the menu include veal dishes such as pizzaiola (a tomato-mushroom sauce) and saltimbocca (served with spinach and prosciutto in a marsala wine sauce, generously blanketed in mozzarella) and classic apps like crispy fried calamari and antipasto platters.
Dining at the restaurant: Delightfully retro and more-is-more are the M.O. at Mario’s, which has throwback formal charm and kitschy touches like ornate columns and ’80s glass block detailing. The spacious restaurant is also filled with cozy banquette seating that’s ideal for getting comfortable while happily devouring a huge pile of pasta.
Takeout: Mario’s offers takeout and delivery by phone.
Dagon (Upper West Side)
Inventive Israeli dishes by chef-partner Ari Bokovza, who was previously at downtown favorite Claudette, are the name of the game at this attractive UWS restaurant. For indecisive orderers that would rather try a little bit of everything, the sharing-friendly menu will certainly appeal. Start off with a trio or half-dozen delicious mezze options such as chicken liver mousse with mustard seeds, date syrup, crispy shallot, and baharat; whipped eggplant with tahini and preserved lemon compote; or marinated beets with horseradish yogurt, chickpeas, and crispy beef tongue. Small plates include Lebanese mushroom dumplings called shishbarak or a Levantine spin on the classic Caesar salad dressed with tahini and tempura-fried anchovies.
Dining at the restaurant: Between the hip teal and celery color palette, vibrant patterned flooring, and handsome, mid-century modern wood and cream seating, Dagon is basically Instagram gold. The gorgeous open kitchen trimmed with hanging greenery lends a lovely, airy feel to the space, too.
Takeout: Order takeout via phone.
Amor Cubano (East Harlem)
Mojitos and lots of mojo sauce might be just the trick for celebrating a romantic occasion to remember. Amor Cubano is an East Harlem go-to for generous portions of the namesake cuisine’s hearty staples, whether fried (croquetas filled with ham, cheese, or chicken), pressed (an excellent Cubano sandwich), or braised (classics like ropa vieja, garlicky shredded skirt steak with tomatoes, onions, and peppers).
Dining at the restaurant: This East Harlem favorite aims to transport diners to 1950s Havana, thanks to projections of colorful classic cars and vibrant streetscapes, while exposed brick walls, simple decor, and a big bar make for a homey, unpretentious experience. There’s also often live music and dancing.
Takeout: Curl up with your S.O. and devour Amor Cubano’s croquetas in the privacy of your own home by placing an order through third-party apps.