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New York’s Most Romantic Restaurants, According to 14 Chefs

Oxomoco chef Matt Conroy can’t get enough of Le Coucou. Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times/Redux

Valentine’s Day is just over a week away and already, everyone’s been bombarded with news of specials and prix fixe menus. But some restaurants are romantic year-round, whether it’s February 14 or September 26. And who better to ask, Grub thought, about intimate restaurants with great food than local chefs and food folks? (After all, food is quite possibly the sixth love language.) Here are their recommendations for where to take your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day in New York City.

Matt Conroy
Chef de cuisine, Oxomoco
Le Coucou is a restaurant I find to be truly romantic. Enjoying French food and having a nice bottle of wine in that dining room is just beautiful. They have everything I want for a special night out. It’s both fancy and comfortable at the same time. Plus, it’s where my wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, so it’s a special restaurant to us.”

Get quiet and cozy at Long Island Bar. Photo: Melissa Hom

Victoria Blamey
Chef
“I have to say my favorite spot, that I happen to go to a lot with my boyfriend, is Long Island Bar in Brooklyn Heights. I think either the corner bar seats are so intimate or the old-school booths with these cute vintage lamps that almost make you forget there’s anyone else around you. And I have to admit that their negroni is one of the best; add on fried cheese curds and that’s a perfect date night.”

Aaron Crowder
Chef-partner, Cervo’s
“The most romantic thing about King is that you don’t have to think about King while you’re there. The food, the wine, and the service are all so simply subtle, allowing you to spend all your time focusing on your company. Bandol, yes please. Carta di musica covered in bottarga, my favorite. The pasta! Steak with any type of perfectly braised beans sitting in a pool of really good olive oil, you can’t go wrong. All of this made for you and your love by the extremely thoughtful and charming women of King in New York City, the most romantic city in the world.”

Adrienne Cheatham
Top Chef, season 15 runner-up
Mountain Bird is a small Japanese-French brasserie that’s tucked away on a quiet street in East Harlem. All parts of the bird appear on the menu in different uses, highlighting technique and a no-waste philosophy. The restaurant is intimate, cozy, and well thought-out. There’s a little fireplace near the back, but even if you don’t get a seat there, the atmosphere always makes you want to pull your seat closer to the person you’re eating with. And it’s run by a husband-and-wife team (talk about romance).”

Kia Damon
Head chef, Lalito
Suki is small Japanese curry spot on East 7th Street that seats no more than six people. There isn’t much around to distract you, so you can really lean on and focus on your date. I’ve only been there twice but I’m already so in love. I see the pork katsu in my dreams at night. It’s cute for little dates when you’re getting the night started and breaking the ice. It’s also great for a solo date. As someone who has ‘Myself’ tattooed in a heart on my arm, I am definitely a fan of a solo date.”

If your date loves to eat, take them to Flushing. Photo: An Rong Xu

Eli Sussman
Co-founder, Samesa
“Since Flushing feels out of the way for most people, it feels special to head to New World Mall Flushing and try lots of different dishes together. It’s also cheap, so trying lots of items from multiple kiosks is great for dish inspiration, and then talking about the variation of spice and different regional cuisines is a special way to spend the afternoon before catching a movie.”

Alex Stupak
Chef-owner, Empellon
“When I was living in Boston and I met the girl (Lauren Resler) that I would one day marry, and one of the first and most sexy memories I have about her is that the girl can crush a lot of oysters. A lot, as in she is good for 4 dozen by herself. It might sound strange, but in my upbringing, oysters were always kind of looked at as a macho thing for “the guys” to consume so when I first encountered this I was a smitten kitten. When Lauren and I moved to NYC together knowing nothing of this city, some of the first places we ate together were iconic, easy to research, and discover. To this day, a meal at the Grand Central Oyster Bar for us is about a memory of one of our very first dates as well as the journey we have taken together.”

Tamy Rofe
Co-owner, Colonia Verde
“Arriving at Blue Ribbon Brasserie when they’re serving the late-night menu is just the best feeling. As parents of two kids, just getting there makes us feel like ‘we’ve still got it.’ Not just that, the bottle list is great and it is so reasonably priced! The food is really delicious and hits the spot. We also love the lack of décor and ‘Instagrammable’ design. It’s just pure and simple old-school New York and all of its grit.”

Marian and Hannah Cheng
Owners, Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings
Café Altro Paradiso is one of our standbys to celebrate a special occasion. The space is beautiful and elegant, but not fussy. The menu is constantly changing, but consistently delicious. We like to start off with the charcuterie plate that always has some delicious pickles and chunks of parmigiano, the sausage, and the fennel salad. If you like anchovies, you should definitely order the crostini. For mains, we always gravitate toward the pasta, whether it’s the rotating mushroom pasta, the cacio e pepe, or lemon pasta. The wine list is great, too.”

The coziest seats at Olmsted are at the bar. Photo: Nitzan Rubin

Fany Gerson
Chef, La Newyorkina and Dough Doughnuts
“In the city, I love to go to Txikito. My husband and I go as often as we can. It’s very welcoming, has amazing food, and it’s one of those places that invites you to stay there for a long time and linger over the meal, which is what I find romantic. The service is so warm, but not intrusive and I just love it. When in Brooklyn, I love to sit at the bar at Olmsted, particularly early on a weekday or for brunch on Fridays when it feels a bit less crowded. In both places, there is so much love that is put into every detail that you can almost miss it and that is very romantic indeed.”

Kyo Pang
Chef-owner, Kopitiam
“My all-time favorite romantic restaurant in the city would be La Lanterna Di Vittorio. The ambience, with its intimate, romantic garden seating, complete with lanterns and a fireplace, freshly-made pizza (still dreaming about that prosciutto pizza), and pesto lasagna, are all winning components to a magical date. Bonus is that the menu is quite wallet-friendly: I’ve rarely exceeded $30 there, which is quite rare for such a setting in the city!”

There’s not a bad seat at Frank’s, according to Liz Alpern. Photo: Gavin Thomas

Liz Alpern
Co-founder, Gefilteria and Queer Soup Night
“My partner and I shared one of our first meals at Frank, which adds to the particular allure of the place, but I think anyone would agree that this place is a romantic oasis among the bustling spots on Second Avenue. There’s no bad table in the house: wherever you sit, it’s dark, candlelit, and cozy. It never gets too loud, so romantic conversation flows easily. The appetizers are all perfect for sharing (very romantic), and personally, I think pasta is sexy.”

Camilla Ruth Marcus
Founder, west~bourne
“Sadly, two of our all-time favorite date spots, dell’anima and Torrisi, are now closed. So, we’ve recently adopted Bar Goto as our go-to hideaway when it’s just us. Their Far East Side cocktail, okonomiyaki, and chicken wings are unbelievable, and we love the unassuming and understated sexiness of the izakaya. You lose all track of time and where you are, which is exactly what we want when we get to be just the two of us. We honeymooned in Japan, though now that’s almost a decade ago, and so anything that brings us back to that trip always holds special meaning.”

Trigg Brown
Head chef, Win Son
“Jake [Leiber] and Aidan [O’Neal]’s restaurant, Chez Ma Tante, is perfect for me in many ways. My wife, Patty, and I go there whenever we can. The dining room is simple, with the old floor being the most interesting part in comparison to blank white walls with no decoration. It just always feels good, and it’s always humming. Then comes the food, and whether it’s a plate of aged cheddar cheese chunks or charcuterie, the stracciatella or the Caesar salad, it’s all perfectly seasoned and balanced. And that pork shoulder steak with the lentils is a top-five all-time favorite for me.”

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New York’s Most Romantic Restaurants, According to 14 Chefs