Last Updated on September 17, 2019 by Top Brunch Spots Staff
You made it through the anxiety inducing first date and was swept away in the glorious honeymoon stage. Congratulations! So how do you keep the romance going? Brunch in NYC is always a safe bet, but if you really want to turn on the romance, make a reservation at the most romantic restaurants in NYC. Dine with a view at the Rainbow Room or expand your culinary horizons at La Grenouille. Just make sure to keep the night going with a nightcap at the most romantic bars in the city.
Most romantic restaurants in NYC
One if by Land, Two if by Sea
Since 1973, this 1767 carriage house once owned by former vice president Aaron Burr has been serving candlelit seclusion long before Broadway’s Hamilton musical arrived. Dinners range from a $95 vegetarian six-course chef’s tasting to a seven-course version that features boneless rack of lamb, beef wellington, and lemon tarts. It routinely makes lists of the most romantic restaurants not just in the city but in the world. And the private garden will make any dining couple feel like nobody else is in the room where it happens.
More fantastical set piece than history-bound throwback. Like Torrisi and Parm, their earlier projects together, it’s a hyped-up spin on a vanishing form, a restaurant where, bread sticks to bowties, everything looks, tastes and feels like much more of itself. Under brass chandeliers, on navy walls, hangs brash modern art on old-school Italianate themes, curated, like the food here, by a downtown tastemaker (Julian Schnabel’s son Vito). The waiters, a seasoned crew plucked from powerhouse dining rooms all throughout the city, have the smooth steps and cool banter of celluloid pros. But Zac Posen designed their wide-lapelled burgundy tuxes. Pro tip: head to the more sedate VIP inner sanctum.
The River Café
Many people consider the River Café to be the best restaurant in Brooklyn, and it is probably the most expensive. The romantic waterside eatery, which could easily skate by on its gorgeous views of downtown Manhattan, has spawned a long roster of great chefs, including Charlie Palmer (Aureole), David Burke (davidburke & donatella) and Rick Moonen (RM, Oceana). Current chef Brad Steelman lives up to his predecessors with two exquisite prix-fixe menus: three courses (you choose) or six courses (he chooses). Stellar dishes include fresh oysters with lemon pepper granita, rack of lamb or lobster specials. For dessert, few can resist the chocolate marquise Brooklyn Bridge, shaped like its sparkling namesake.
Guided through a noirish, concealed entrance through a mirrored maze of bamboo forest, you arrive at a private booth shielded by tatami shades. An eight-course seasonal omakase runs $75, with an optional $50 sake pairing. The homemade desserts include grapefruit agar gelee and frozen black sesame mousse.
The historic 1934 lounge atop 30 Rock has served breathtaking skyline views to storied families–the Astors, Kennedys, and Roosevelts–alongside old-world-meets-modern American fare from its perch 65 stories high. Dress to the nines (jackets are required) for dinner and dancing to a live band, or upgrade your weekend with a decadent Sunday Brunch. Reservations are accepted up to six weeks in advance.
The Central Park Boathouse
The Loeb Central Park Boathouse is the pricier option here, although its crab cakes are more crab than cake. The sculptural salads and fresh fish and foul are sumptuous. But just outside, and just as scenic and lakeside, is the Express Café, where you can watch the Central Park Model Yacht Club fleet while noshing on $6.50 wraps, $5.50 burgers, or $3.50 hot dogs.
All you need to know about this low-key Greenwich Village basement restaurant is that it’s where Barack Obama took his wife, Michelle, on their first date night as president and first lady, in May 2009. Why are you still reading? Like you can do better than Barack?
Not all romance is one-on-one. Some of the best spots in the city–like Patricia’s, a Bronx beacon of hospitality–offers a chance to fall in love with the city as well, or even just the neighborhood. The hot antipasti include huge stuffed mushrooms, baked clams, luscious fried shrimp and eggplant rolled around ricotta cheese. The linguine arrabbiata has a spicy sauce with chunks of tender tomato. As for dessert, watch out: The chocolate-polenta cake might cause you, quite involuntarily, to turn to the next table and blurt, “What are rents like around here?” Don’t forget to order espresso—it comes with a self-serve bottle of anisette.
Despite its far-flung locale near the end of the R train, Tanoreen has been a cult hit since it opened in 1998. Palestinian-born Rawia Bishara, who runs the restaurant with her daughter Jumana, prowls the dining room nightly, a maternal hostess generously handing out hugs, handshakes, and big party platters lavishly garnished in tomatoes, parsley and za’atar dust. Her cooking—Middle Eastern soul food, you might call it—is based on tradition but not enslaved by it. While many dishes are just like what her mother made, plenty of others chart their own course. Attention to detail distinguishes all of them. Tanoreen is a haven for the romance of love at first bite.
Upper East Side
The intimate, split-level townhouse possesses an ambience that gourmet-minded vegetarians crave but rarely encounter. Best is the food itself—fresh, creative and considerate (a separate gluten-free menu keeps celiacs sated). Delectable dishes include the seitan piccata, crisp medallions in a light bath of lemon butter and capers, and the saffron-flavored paella, studded with seitan sausage and seasonal veggies. Service is knowledgeable and attentive, and the desserts—one layers chocolate and peanut butter mousse inside a dark chocolate shell—impossibly rich.
The best power lunch is sometimes an intimate afternoon tea for two with your special someone. The lavishly renovated Rotunda at the Pierre Hotel—a stone’s throw from Tiffany’s and Bergdorf’s, just saying —offers perrine pink meringues and miniature strawberry shortcake, or heartier lobster tartine and a vintage Oscar Haimo’s MacArthur cocktail made with an in-house 1940s recipe.
This small German restaurant has a storied front bar, heaped in decorations that swing from “enchanted forest” to “late 90s music video.” Dripping lights, blossomed wreaths, and tendrils of flora everywhere. It’s like being inside a fairy’s flower crown. The portions are extremely generous; more sauerbraten, really, than anyone could (or perhaps should) eat. There are five different schnitzel offerings, but you can’t go wrong in ordering the simple Wiener schnitzel. In the end, the zeitgeist is more Epcot Center than Bavaria and like the theme park it’s a fun ride.
Milk and Roses
For a morning–or a morning after–when romance can’t wait until dinnertime, try the daily prix fixe brunch at this rustic-chic Greenpoint spot: $29 for an entree (including coconut and lime french toast, Amish fried chicken and pancakes, or baked brie in puff pastry with fennel salad) and unlimited mimosas.
Brittany-born owner Thierry Rochard’s prototypical Gallic café nestled on a picturesque corner in the West Village still draws lines after 18 years. The inevitable wait and tight space are worth enduring for the crisp, salty frites; the BYOB policy with no corkage fee adds to the bohemian allure. Staples like an earthy steak au poivre and cheesy, decadent croque-monsieur dominate the short menu, while others, like an entrée of “spicy chicken” smothered in a white wine sauce deviates from the Franco format.
Homemade Lebanese fare is served in an ornate taverna of intricately carved wood and bursts of fresh flowers. This is a spot for fifth-date romance, when you’re ready to stop fretting about the chemistry and just enjoy each other’s company. And chocolate balls served a la mode.
It is said that the French invented love. And Augustine from Keith McNally (Balthazar, Cherche Midi) is mighty French. Decorated with floral murals and chandeliers, it’s a rococo dream in the new Beekman Hotel restaurant. Enjoy the steak tartare or rotisserie chicken under the warm lights and weathered ceiling.
New York’s haute French dinosaurs (including Lutece, La Cote Basque and La Caravelle ) have basically gone extinct over the past few years. La Grenouille, which opened in 1962, is the last survivor, a window to when stuffy waiters and chateaubriand were considered the highest form of dining. It doesn’t get much snootier: jackets are required, cell phones and kids forbidden, and the electric red décor, full of mirrors and flowers and deco details, has the feel of a Mad Men power lunch. That said, La Grenouille endures for a reason: the execution, whether tender, fried sweetbreads, buttery Dover sole with a mustard sauce or five types of pillowy soufflé, remains near flawless.
White brick columns, vaulted ceilings and chandeliers dripping with lamps—Le Coucou is a dramatic and gorgeous showstopper from restaurateur Stephen Starr (Buddakan, Morimoto) and chef Daniel Rose. Share an intimate meal of celery-root remoulade, lobster américaine or rabbit cooked three ways over a tall candle set right in the middle of the table.
The lobster mashed potatoes here are a great microcosm for the vibe of this fine-dining spot in Astoria: fancy but laidback, courteous but cheeky, grand but a little goofy too. Mondays have $4.95 sangrias and mimosas, and Wednesdays offer half-off wines. Saturday nights offer a DJ spinning until the kitchen closes at 2am.
An upmarket shrine to the simple pleasures of the Italian coastline, the project is a gutsy gamble from a chef with bravado to burn. Marea features an enormous menu, daunting prices and almost maniacal optimism (is there another spot in town offering Petrossian special reserve caviar at $385 an ounce?).
The old-world charm of well-worn communal tables, dangling copper cookware and flickering lamps may help explain why a 23-year-old restaurant is still tough to get into on a Saturday night. Seasonal produce shapes the menu of executive chef Roger Martinez. You’ll have no trouble finding a wine to match your meal; Il Buco’s list is one of the city’s best.
This elegant wood-bedecked space is still Midtown’s answer to Downtown’s enduringly fashionable Indochine. Ladies who lunch get their protein from the grilled lemongrass chicken breast, placed atop cold noodles with a peanut dressing. For the men who adorn them, there’s grilled loin of pork, with mango-and-jicama salad in a passion-wasabi sauce. And they share, shamelessly, the plump grilled shrimp, served on an impressive stump of sugarcane. At night, the blue neon sign serves as a homing beacon for seekers of the rattan-laden, second-floor bar, an elegant salon reminiscent of a Wong Kar-wai film.
The dining room at Peasant, one of downtown’s most celebrated Italian restaurants, is equal parts rustic and urban chic. Cement floors and metal chairs give the place an unfinished edge, while the gaping brick-oven and lengthy wooden bar provide the telltale old-world notes. Dishes that emerge from the fire are particularly good. This includes gooey speck-wrapped bocconcini (mozzarella), which arrive at the table bubbly and molten. Choose the succulent proteins, like the fork-tender porchetta or gamey lamb with smooth polenta, over the disappointingly gummy gnocchi, dressed with an otherwise pleasant creamy rabbit ragù.
King’s Carriage House
Upper East Side
For days when afternoon tea is the perfect non-brunch break from breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the $25 service in the two-story European manor-style restaurant is a crowd-pleaser–minus the crowds. The three dining rooms serve as few as 12 or as much as 32. So even a full house feels intimate. Splurge an extra $10 for the champagne version.
Upper West Side
It’s time for some real talk: you’ve just scrolled through 31 romantic restaurants. Don’t play like you’re not all about the meet-up spot from You’ve Got Mail. Enjoy the hundreds of cakes and pastries, because there’s someone you’ve been forgetting to love enough lately: you.