What makes a restaurant truly romantic? Softly lit nooks and pages of Barolo may be catnip to Cupid, but if the food is forgettable, his aim isn't the only thing that's going to be off.
In expanding our list of America's most romantic restaurants -- from mountaintop huts to metropolitan marvels -- we doubled down on the best new restaurants that not only offer seductive settings and intimate service, but also feature inventive, mouthwatering cuisine presided over by a host of renowned chefs.
Take rock-star restaurateur José Andrés's latest endeavor, the glass-and-wood-enshrouded Mi Casa, set against the turquoise waters of Puerto Rico's Dorado Beach. While the swaying-palm sound track and sand-between-your-toes vibe may draw you in, it's the spicy lobster asopao and rum-soaked coquito (served in a coconut shell from the beach mere steps from your table) that make for an unforgettable date.
With our list of America's best new restaurants for romance, even on the off chance your date is a dud, you can be sure your taste buds are hitting a homer.
See More of America's Best New Romantic Restaurants et to a sound track of swaying palms and tumbling waves, Puerto Rican comfort-food classics get Andrés's experimental touch in a glass-and-wood Caribbean perch at the ultra-luxe Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach. Lobster is the star in the updated asopao, a hearty stew flavored with red peppers and cilantro; the lechón asado (suckling pig) brightens with the addition of caramelized mango. But it's the rum-soaked coquito that really seals the deal with tiny spherified balls of fruit and juice presented in a coconut shell that was picked earlier that morning from the shore just beyond your window. ritzcarlton.com Photo: Ritz-Carlton Reserve
See More of America's Best New Romantic Restaurants With its four separate dining spaces, the revamped and reopened Jeffrey’s offers the perfect backdrop for all manner of dates. Prefer to keep it classic? Steer your beloved to the art-filled Chamberlain Room, dotted with sterling-silver champagne buckets and voluminous floral arrangements. In search of liquid courage? Sidle up to the sycamore-paneled bar, where tuxedo-donning bartenders will mix you a handcrafted cocktail to wash down your lobster and caviar blinis. Better yet, slide into a green velvet banquette and wait for the gilded martini cart to pass you by, or snuggle up by the crackling fireplace. Photo: Casey Dunn
See More of America's Best New Romantic Restaurants Veterans of Herbsaint and Cochon procure some of the tastiest oysters in the country--the humble bivalve a known aphrodisiac--and serve them up raw or fried with a classic mignonette, a fitting prelude to an assortment of piscine delicacies (Gulf Coast shrimp, locally caught catfish) grilled over a custom-built hearth. But what really sets Pêche apart from other seafood joints: farm-fresh sides that accompany each dish, including citrus-and-butter bean purée and pickled mushrooms with chiles--another stimulating ingredient. pecherestaurant.com Photo: Chris Granger
See More of America's Best New Romantic Restaurants Located in a historic brick building in Pioneer Square, James Beard Award–winning chef Matt Dillon’s Bar Sajor radiates the kind of pitch-perfect nonchalance—floor-to-ceiling windows, wood-burning fireplace—you might expect from a neighborhood bistro in Barcelona or Marseilles. On any given day in the soaring whitewashed space, seemingly happenstance details might include a crisp bottle of rosé peeking out of a farmhouse sink or a sprig of herbs hung to dry on brass hooks against the kitchen’s beadboard walls. A masterful Basque-inspired chuletón de buey rib eye is served à deux, perfect for sharing with a Spanish cider from the predominantly European wine list. barsajor.com Photo: Dylan + Jeni
See More of America's Best New Romantic Restaurants In the soaring former Dar Maghreb space, Acabar oozes a lush, otherworldly exoticism belying its West Hollywood address. Interiors laden with intricate carved-wood friezes and traditional Moroccan Zellige tile work are lit by twinkling Moorish lanterns. A glowing fire pit strewn with rose petals sits at the center of an atrium open to the sky—ideal for moon-gazing over chef Octavio Becerra’s decadent Vadouvan-spiced scallops and a rosewater-infused Juliet & Romeo cocktail. acabar-la.com Photo: Jessica Sample
See More of America's Best New Romantic Restaurants Husband-and-wife team—and Daniel Boulud alumni—Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez uprooted their illustrious Manhattan careers to move to Maine, bringing their love of central Italian fare to a 20-seat sprite of a spot nestled in the city’s charming Old Port neighborhood. Known for its narrow cobblestoned streets and waterfront locale, the enchanting ’hood is a fittingly Euro-evocative backdrop for Piccolo’s masterfully pared-down country menu (think house-made ricotta and pork sausage with creamy polenta reminiscent of Abruzzi) and an exclusively Italian wine list boasting hard-to-find indigenous varietals like Refosco and Erbaluce. piccolomaine.com Photo: Knack Factory/Zack Bowen
See More of America's Best New Romantic Restaurants James Beard Award–winning chef Michael Schwartz’s new Design District haunt nods to the classic club feel of 1920s Old Florida dining: pecky cypress-wood interiors, crystal chandeliers, white cloth–draped tables set with bone china, and aqua-hued banquettes presided over by handsome mounted deer heads. That retro classicism extends to the menu as well, comprising familiar indulgences like rich duck roulade and frog’s legs with brioche croutons. The most romantic table in the house? No. 18, a tucked-away two top where you can glimpse the gleaming kitchen, with its shimmering bronze hearth and fragrant wood-burning grill. thecypressroom.com Photo: Fred Love
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