14. Mark's American Cuisine
Located in a renovated 1920s Church, Mark's is gorgeous in a way unlike any other place you might find yourself dining. The church balcony has become The Loft, a semi-private dining area with a great view of the rest of the establishment. Chef Mark's truffles are legendary, and his passion for his ingredients are abundantly clear. You may also want to check out the three-course prix fixe lunch during the week.
(image via Mark's American Cuisine)
13. White Barn Inn Restaurant
The restaurant at the White Barn Inn is a warm, rustic oasis from the Kennebunkport cold located inside two restored barns. Within, you'll find a four-course prix fixe meal that's earned the restaurant five diamonds from AAA and five stars from Forbes. Of course, you can also stay at the inn, though the dining experience gets top billing. And if you'd like a more active date, Chef Bissonette offers private cooking classes.
(image via The White Barn Inn)
12. Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro
If you just don't have time in your schedule to venture to the Alps, consider Cloud Nine, an Alpine Bistro in a former ski patrol hut in Aspen, Colorado. Chef Fishbacher is Austrian, and his cuisine and sensibility feel right at home here in the mountains as fondue and reclette warm skiers for lunch. Meanwhile, the champagne sets visitors dancing après-ski. The "snowcat dinners" are extra-special. Enjoy Glühwein, mulled cider, or cocoa as you ride a snowcat up to the bistro for a four-course meal looking out over the Maroon Bells.
(image via Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro)
11. Pier W
Located on Lake Erie, Pier W has been a Cleveland-area fixture for 50 years. While Pier W is definitely an upscale setting, it's also very affordable for what you get, perhaps because they source their seafood directly from the fishers who catch it, often serving it the same day it's caught. Of course, food alone doesn't make a restaurant romantic, which is why Pier W juts out over the lake, offering a truly stunning view of Lake Erie while a piano plays in the background on the weekends.
(image via Pier W)
Everest sits atop the Chicago Stock Exchange, offering three- and four-course prix fixe menus, as well as gorgeous views of the city from its 40th-floor windows. Chef Joho proudly wears his Alsatian heritage on his sleeve—and on the wine menu which offers one of the largest selections of Alsace wines in the world. The restaurant also has an impressive collection of sculptures and art to add to the ambience.
(image via Everest)
New York City
Zenkichi is a self-described "modern Japanese brasserie" with Tokyo-style small-plate cuisine. Here the eight-course Omakase Tasting Menu takes center stage, though it's far from the only offering. Zenkichi also excels at ambience. Once your server has greeted you, you're left alone until you summon them, leaving you in peace to enjoy your meal and your company in the curtain-ensconced mahogany booth.
8. The Dining Room at Little Palm Island Resort
Little Torch Key, Florida
You know you're in for an experience when you have to take a boat out to a restaurant. Everyone from Zagat to Travel + Leisure have raved about not only the French and pan-Latin fare, but the decor of The Dining Room, which combines tasteful design sense with a willingness to let the incredible surroundings speak for themselves. You don't have to stay at the resort to eat here, but by the time the meal is done, you just may want to book a room.
(image via Little Palm Island Resort & Spa)
7. Salvatore's Cucina Italiana
San Diego, California
Rafaella Morelli was born and raised in Rome, and since founding Salvatore's in 1987, she's been bringing authentic Italian cuisine to the people of San Diego. The restaurant champions "hospitality over pretension," and talks about the "purity and simplicity" of Italian food. Within that simplicity exists a delicate balance of flavors and textures. The space is also a traditionally Italian, white-tablecloth atmosphere that's romantic in its own right.
(image via salvatores_sd)
6. The Standard at the Smith House
The Smith House is the last of the grand old townhouses in downtown Nashville. From the fireplace to the soft leather seating, the old-school comfort that envelops you here makes this an experience to remember. The seafood and steakhouse fare fits right in with the richness of the surroundings to create a night you won't soon forget.
(image via The Standard Nashville)
5. V. Mertz
V. Mertz is located in the historic Old Market Passageway and is a longstanding part of Omaha dining culture. The rustic setting definitely holds charm and ambience for romance. Of course, some dim lighting isn't all it takes to make a place romantic, so it's a good thing that the locally-sourced, contemporary-American menu and the wines they pair with it are all incredible.
(image via V. Mertz)
This farm-to-table New American restaurant sits on the Chattahoochee River in Vinings. The food and the aesthetics are perfectly designed to complement each other. Canoe's garden is a wonderful locale for a walk, whether you're on a romantic stroll or just recovering from eating too much. The wine selection is so inspired that it's highlighted in its own separate, sommelier-operated wine shop.
(image via Canoe Restaurant)
This dinner-only, upscale Seattle spot is famous for the food and for the view of Lake Union. Run out of a mid-century modern home, Canlis offers three- and four-course prix fixe dinners, as well as a tasting menu. Full-length windows let a ton of natural light in and, of course, make it that much easier to take in the romantic scenery.
(image via Canlis)
If you're a fan of al fresco dining, you can't get much more perfect than this. Located in L'Auberge de Sedona resort, Cress offers gorgeously-plated meals crafted from chef-selected local ingredients. Of course, the big draw is the setting—Cress doesn't just offer outdoor dining, its tables sit underneath a canopy of trees right on the banks of Oak Creek, rolling by as you enjoy your meal. If you want extra privacy, you can go for the Creekside Reserve table, and, if you don't feel like parting ways, you have a resort right here in which to stay.
(image via L'Auberge de Sedona)
1. Wherever You Make the Magic Happen
If you're someone who probably shouldn't be eating out—like a starving college student—there's no reason not to make the evening special. Pack up some cutlery, tablecloths, and romantic music, and go to a fast food place as dressed up as possible. Or pack a nice dinner and go to a park. It's not about flashing cash, it's about spending time together. You can do that anywhere.