You know the clichés: long-stemmed roses, soft lighting, strolling violinists.
Well, forget all that. Real romantic restaurants have cut the fluff. Instead, they’ve focused on what’s really important: great food and wine, excellent service, and an authentic ambience.
We think it’s pretty simple: a great romantic restaurant should make you feel the way a great romantic partner does—appreciated, special, and like you’re the only person in the room. From cozy mountaintop huts to candlelit seaside enclaves, here’s where to find America’s most romantic restaurants. For that great partner, though, you’re on your own.
Sure, ocean sunsets are a romantic cliché, but that doesn’t make them any less dramatic. And sunset views from every table out over the Pacific Ocean and Russian River bathe the River’s End in romance. The wine (heavy on area vintages, of course) and food only add to the experience. Share the succulent Dungeness crab—fresh off the Sonoma Coast fishing boats—and don’t miss the made-for-two crème brûlée with bourbon-soaked vanilla beans and chocolate ganache.
The Beach House
Start with the restaurant’s signature coconut mai tai as you settle in to a “sunset table” on the outdoor lanai overlooking Kauai’s Poipu Beach. Watch whales playing in the surf, or simply focus on the flavorful Pacific Rim cuisine in front of you—macadamia buttered mahimahi, fresh ceviche served in a coconut shell, and the molten chocolate “desire,” a decadent flourless chocolate mocha tart.
Simon Pearce Restaurant
Glassmaker Simon Pearce’s restaurant, housed in a restored mill overlooking the falls of Vermont’s Ottauquechee River and its covered bridge, is a food destination worth its out-of-the-way address. The exposed-brick and blond wood terrace dining room—hanging over the falls—is open and airy in the summer and fully glass-encased during winter. Ask for “table #5,” an intimate two-seat table set directly over the rushing river.
When comfort food is the key to a romantic evening, this French farmhouse–style restaurant—modeled after a Provence auberge—is where to go. Dishes like “grand-mère’s” rabbit stew and Louisiana shrimp with butternut squash risotto served in cast-iron skillets feel right at home in the restaurant’s intimate wood-and-stucco setting.
Eiffel Tower Restaurant
As cheesy as a replica Eiffel Tower might seem—especially in Sin City—this is no Vegas buffet. Ride the glass elevator to the 11th floor, high above the buzzing Strip, where you can watch the Bellagio’s water-fountain light show from floor-to-ceiling windows. Choose from an extensive French menu—from blue cheese soufflé to herbed crêpes and creamy foie gras—all paired with the restaurant’s wide variety of wines.
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro
Set at 10,900 feet, this Aspen bistro serves up 40-mile views of the surrounding peaks, along with an Alps-like menu of raclette, venison ragout, and strudels. Open only on Thursday nights during ski season (December–April), this snug, former ski patrol hut serves dinner to guests arriving via a starlit snowcat ride up the mountain in the Aspen Highlands. Choose from spiced cider, mulled wine, or hot cocoa to keep you warm during the half-hour trip.
The setting may be a 19th-century stone-walled citrus-packing house, but the experience at this rustic SoCal restaurant (in the T+L award-winning San Ysidro Ranch) is thoroughly modern. Find your table laid with fresh, local sunflowers; then share a Belgian chocolate pot de crème under the stars on the ocean-view deck, with its wood-burning fireplace and heated stone flooring.
The mashup of chic, modern Everest and Chicago’s circa-1893 stock exchange building creates a spark that fuels its romance. Adding to the flame is a rich menu complemented by some 1,600 bottles of wine. The views don’t hurt, either, with the Sears Tower and its imposing neighbors just beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows.
While a 12-acre organic farm minutes from downtown Phoenix may sound like a mirage, Quiessence, set in a historic farmhouse at the back of the sprawling property, is enchantingly real. Walk along a crooked flagstone path, behind a walled garden, to your table under light-strung trellises on the patio. A daily-evolving menu dictated by local produce, house-made pastas, and a well-edited domestic wine and cheese menu round out the experience.
The River Café
Ignore all the marriage proposals taking place around you: the real romance here is the iconic New York City view, looking out to the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty. But unlike some view-focused restaurants, the American menu lives up to its iconic surroundings (and has a Michelin star to prove it), featuring stone crabs from Florida, chicken from the Pennsylvania Amish, beef from Nebraska, and foie gras from the Hudson Valley.