America’s 20 Most Romantic Restaurants (Slideshow)

Good luck getting a reservation at any of these on Valentine’s Day

20) Ristorante Massimo, Portsmouth, NH

In a quaint brick building in historic seaside Portsmouth, Ristorante Massimo offers warm and intimate seating among artwork and stone walls.  Upscale without stiff formality, the accommodating staff and owner Massimo greeting patrons form a welcoming experience.  Putting their own stamp on Italian dishes, diners might choose entrees such as pan-roasted halibut over fennel and grilled scallion puree, or Gnocconi alla Loichle, cracked-pepper dumplings with beef tenderloin.  The new upstairs bar is a great place for pre-dinner drinks and small plates.

19) Plume, Washington, DC

The gracious Jefferson Hotel houses Plume, offering diners old world ambience in a plush, nook-filled setting — complete with a fireplace — and inventive cuisine. The restaurant’s seasonal menu takes its inspiration, in part, from the produce in the kitchen gardens at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home in nearby Charlottesville, Virginia.  The pavé of striped bass with marinated beets, carrot emulsion and Bordelaise sauce is just one creative meal example; that might be topped off with a praline parfait dessert with pineapple and date chutney and caramel vanilla foam.

18) Alta, New York, NY

Full of rustic decor and a stone, wood-burning fireplace, a strong romantic vibe resides at popular (yet under-the-radar) date-night spot Alta. A large array of Mediterranean-influenced tapas-style dishes has something for everyone; a must for many diners is the fried goat cheese with lavender-infused honey. Scallop ceviche with saffron grapefruit marinade is another inventive choice; even the Brussels sprouts get high marks with their accompanying crème fraiche and pistachios. Though there is an extensive wine list, you can never go wrong with the sangria.

17) Casa Tua, Miami, Fla.

Al fresco dining is romantic indeed at Casa Tua. At this elegant but not stuffy eatery, attached to a Mediterranean-style villa, outdoor tables are nestled in an alluring garden where numerous lanterns hang from trees. Inside, the 20-seat chef’s table gives diners a view into the kitchen, where dishes such as tuna tartare antipasti and entrées of black truffle pasta or orecchiette with clams, shrimp and broccolini are skillfully created.

16) Everest, Chicago, Ill.

A hushed, immaculately-decorated interior - elite service without pretention - this is fine dining with a retro feel. Located 40 floors up at the top of Chicago's circa-1893 Stock Exchange building, diners at Everest are privileged to an impressive view of the city. As proprietor of this AAA's Five-Diamond Award recipient, French chef Joho creates plates to please all palates, offering a seven course tasting menu (with a vegetarian option); a starter, perhaps, of cold-pressed lobster and potato terrine might be followed by a filet of wild sturgeon wrapped in prosciutto and a pear soufflé dessert. A massive wine list is available.

15) French Laundry, Yountville, Calif.

Chef Thomas Keller’s world-renowned Napa establishment is so noted for a reason - the impeccable food, wine and atmosphere.  Within this rustic venue surrounded by gardens, two nine-course menus are created each day.  The first is a chef's tasting menu including the restaurant's signature "Oysters and Pearls " first course (sabayon of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar), followed by items such as Alaskan king crab with radishes and citrus.  The other menu is a vegetable tasting with dishes like French pumpkin agnolotti with toasted hazelnuts. 

14) 2941 Restaurant, Falls Church, VA

Its woodsy location, waterfalls, and koi ponds outside make the first impact at 2941 Restaurant; inside, soaring ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of those ponds and falls make a picturesque romantic setting.  Fancy and yet relaxed, its patrons say; just right to enjoy the popular steak tartare starter with basil-mint aioli, then entrées like steamed sea bass with sushi rice and scallion–finger lime salad.  Desserts are listed under "Never Say Never", tempting you to items like the Caramélia Entremet, a salted caramel brownie with chocolate mousse.

13) White Barn Inn, Kennebunkport, ME

The White Barn Inn is an upscale New England retreat with a AAA Five Diamond rating; its restaurant is housed in a restored 1820s barn with a huge picture window looking into nature.  The four-course prix fixe menu, new each week, is meticulously presented.  Given the coastal Maine location, the spotlight is on seafood, with recent selections including pauppiette of Maine sole with lobster raviolo, as well as almond-crusted halibut.  However, other choices such as quail or beef tenderloin can also be had; all are good following inventive appetizers like the pomegranate Martini sorbet.

12) Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, Las Vegas, NV

This glossy restaurant located inside the Wynn has an elegant interior which is an inviting spot to enjoy the Mediterranean seafood menu.  But for maximum romantic impact, request outdoor cabana seating for the most intimate dining experience: tables overlook a reflecting pond dotted with silver gazing balls.  As for the food: though the desert may not normally be a seafood oasis, when fresh fish is flown in daily from Italy, it is.  An appetizer of hand-made ribbon pasta with porcini mushrooms may be followed with scorpion fish, mussels, fennel and tomato in a white wine-saffron sauce.

11) Fleur de Lys, San Francisco, Calif.

Personable chef Hubert Keller, who has won a Michelin Star, maintains this classic restaurant's fine menu as well as its intimate atmosphere.  The quiet, conversation-friendly dining room, flanked with a dramatic ceiling of swooping drapery and large central floral arrangement, is a welcoming setting for the nicely paced meals, served by friendly staff.  Jumbo Louisiana prawns with cream of artichoke and citrus salad is just one Keller creation; roasted venison with truffled baby bok choy is another innovative choice and might be followed with the amaretto soufflé.

10) La Provence, Lacombe, La.

This John Besh restaurant features rustic stucco-work, an antique French bar, and a beautiful country home fireplace, creating a warm atmosphere that invites romance.  After enjoying a bowl of the restaurant's signature quail gumbo, you'll be ready for a dish such as pan-seared redfish with red wine matelote sauce, and a dessert of dark chocolate clafoutis over brown butter hazelnut ice cream.

9) One if by Land, Two if by Sea, New York, NY

Even the name of this West Village restaurant is romantic-sounding.  Since 1972, this old carriage house’s fireplaces have crackled and exposed brick walls have sheltered countless couples dining extravagantly to the strains of the piano.  Chandeliers, intimate tables, and well-executed food like the signature dish, Beef Wellington, ensure that this classic spot will remain a romantic go-to.

8) The Marine Room, La Jolla, Calif.

The restaurant's self-proclaimed "elegant dining on the surf" is no exaggeration; you'll be so close to the water that you may feel you should have worn your swimsuit.  Since 1941 the view has been wowing diners, and the restaurant has been the recipient of AAA's Four Diamond Award.  The location isn't the only stellar factor here; seafood weighs heavily in the French-inspired cuisine, but other choices stand out as well, from the apropos Ocean Trilogy appetizer of lobster, sashimi and tuna tartare, to entrées of Skuna Bay salmon with cippolini and red walnuts, filet mignon, or organic tofu with vegetables, tomato confit, and miso.

7) River’s End Restaurant, Sonoma County, Calif.

Sunset views over the ocean don't hurt a restaurant's chances of being labeled "romantic," and for decades, River's End has been precisely that.  This seafood spot's location, where the Russian River enters the Pacific, is a striking spot for a memorable dinner.  The popular multi-layered beet salad with goat cheese, basil and macadamia nuts is a pleasing preamble to entrées like seared ahi tuna served on coconut jasmine rice.  

6) French Room, Dallas, TX

If you want to impress your date with opulence, the French Room makes dining out an art; it's won the AAA Five Diamond Award for 25 consecutive years.  The stately dining room with a soaring, frescoed ceiling feels a bit like stepping into the past - in a good way.  Your equally extravagant dinner might include an appetizer of Petrossian caviar, an entrée of pumpkin seed-dusted Chilean sea bass with butternut squash ravioli, and a rich chocolate financier for dessert. 

5) L'Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek, Sedona, Ariz.

Candlelight dining al fresco alongside a babbling creek lined with cottonwood and sycamore trees? Sounds romantic to us!  The contemporary American menu at L’Auberge is seasonal; the Dungeness crab crepe appetizer is a popular choice, as are interesting entrees like Scottish salmon with squash and candied quinoa or ricotta tortellini with roasted shallot cream. 

4) Little Palm Island Resort, Little Torch Key, Fla.

Starting with the boat ride to the island, this is a fully-immersive romantic experience, complete with swaying palm trees, Tiki torches, and sunsets.  Whether dining indoors, on the veranda, or at a private table right on the beach, guests are treated royally by the attentive staff.  The dinner menu changes nightly; an appetizer of coconut lobster bisque may be followed by entrees like yellow tail snapper with vegetable escabeche or sirloin steak with truffle chimichurri.

3) The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA

This world-class establishment is an ideal spot for a luxurious rendezvous.  Your table in the ornate dining room will be crowned with its own rose-colored silk lampshade, creating a sense of intimacy.  The restaurant’s French-inspired menu changes daily, ranging from risotto with white truffles to Antarctic sea bass with lemon vodka sauce; vegetarian entrées, such as forest mushroom consommé with black garlic custard, are also available.  The 14,000 bottle wine cellar means the perfect accompaniment for every dish. 

2) Tree Room at Sundance Resort, Sundance, UT

The recipient of Utah's ‘Best of State’ award for fine dining, the Tree Room gets not only the food just right but creates a relaxed, woodsy ambience.  Native American art, high ceilings, and yes, a huge tree in the dining room create the setting for intimate tables.  The well-reviewed Tree Room pepper steak with mango chutney is a staple here, as are the unique flavors found in other items like the scallop starter with avocado caramel and hearts of palm.

1) The Little Door, Los Angeles, Calif.

"Charming" is a word often used to describe this super-romantic spot, the most romantic restaurant in America.  Entering the little door to the storybook garden makes diners feel as if they've discovered their own special spot; indoors, eating by the fireplace is an inviting option.  Outside or in, candlelight and greenery abound.  Pistachio-covered scallops with lemon sauce and specials like farro risotto with baby kale keep the menu interesting; a French Moroccan prix fixe menu is available on Sundays.