Picking the right restaurant for Valentine’s Day can pose a challenge. On one hand, it has be romantic enough for her but cool enough for you. You don’t want to be in some pink-hued monstrosity seated next to cloyingly happy couples. Affordability also plays a major role although it’s really more about quality than anything. If you’re going to shell out a bunch of cash, the food, cocktails and ambiance better be worth it (even if your sweetheart is priceless).
It’s become so difficult to secure a reservation at the prime spots come the big day, that it’s almost better to stay in and craft a home-cooked meal. But never fear. We’ve found five new restaurants, some still under the radar, that strike the right balance between romantic whimsy and the it factor.
Le Turtle, New York City
This hip Lower East Side establishment opened to much fanfare in December 2015. The French eats at Le Turtle comes courtesy of Greg Proechel, formerly of Blanca, and include veggie-heavy options such as broccoli rabe with fennel. Admire the exposed white brick walls and marble tables under pendant lights as you sip a bespoke cocktail or a glass of Bordeaux.
Nomad PDX, Portland
While not a standing restaurant in the traditional sense, Nomad PDX has become the hottest food destination in Portland in the past six months. This supper-club like spot, located inside Shift Drinks downtown, offers farm-to-table seasonal fare across 15 to 20 delectable courses in an intimate but airy setting. Dishes change regularly but expect locally raised pork and fresh fish as well as produce like chanterelle mushrooms and cabbage. Have a dietary restriction? No worries. Let chef Ryan Fox know in advance and he’ll adapt his dishes for your party. Don’t forget to bring two bottles of wine to the table. The BYOB fee is only $25 per bottle or settle for the $55 beverage pairing option.
Townhouse Detroit, Detroit
Detroit is fast becoming a food destination to reckon with thanks to restaurants like Townhouse Detroit. This expansive, greenhouse-chic venue, the sister outpost to Townhouse Birmingham, features white tufted sofas flanked by wooden tables. Entrees run the gamut from walleye and maple-cured elk to build-your-own burgers and salads. But the true star is the extensive drink list, aka “libation library,” replete with foreign and domestic whiskeys and rye and pisc0-infused cocktails. Opt for a whisky flight post-dinner and sigh with contentment.
Ticonderoga Club, Atlanta
Atlanta is one of our fave American cities and with good reason. There’s a passion for food and drink here that rivals top-tier destinations. Enter Ticonderoga Club, an Old Fourth Ward bar-cum-restaurant, sure to please all parties. While more of a drinking parlor than a restaurant, the food menu doesn’t disappoint. Think inventive American fare like dry-aged duck and the waist-expanding Chuck Wagon, the latter showcasing course after course of filling meats and desserts. But the cocktails are the standout. Bourbon, rye and sherry feature prominently—there’s even sherry offered by the bottle—and the compact wine and beer lists are well thought out.
Since Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend this year, it’s no wonder many of us our taking our significant others out of town. London is just a quick flight away and while the holiday is not quite as popular there as it is stateside, you’ll still want to treat your girl to something more than a walk around Piccadilly Circus. Osteria, at the bustling Barbican Centre, is the latest restaurant to open. The official launch date is February 11 (although it has been welcoming diners during its soft opening) so there’s still time to score a reservation at this seasonal Italian restaurant by chef Anthony Demetre (Arbutus). Local art dots the wall and the space is open and inviting. It’s the perfect place for pre-theatre dining before heading to Wonder.land (Damon Albarn of Blur wrote the score) at the National Theatre.
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