One of my friends asked me if I could recommend some restaurants for him where he could take a girl he is interested in for Valentine’s Day and asked me to wait for him to make some reservations before doing a post on it. It’s now one week before the big day, so it’s time to make sure you have a reservation for that evening. I’ve listed a dozen options, somewhat in order, and I’ve picked restaurants with romantic atmospheres in addition to delicious food. I’m not considering extremely fancy restaurants like Per Se, but of course if you’re willing to spend that much money on Valentine’s Day dinner, you should go for it.
La Esquina - This is always an excellent choice for any occasion. I have my birthday dinner here every year and love everything about the place: the food, atmosphere, service, etc. It is a nice restaurant, but it’s not too fancy and definitely not stuffy. Also last month when I was there for my birthday, they had such a good DJ playing my favorite 90s music. The entrees are delicious, but I usually prefer to order a few small plates and share.
Pulqueria - If you can’t get a reservation at La Esquina, this is the next best thing. It has only been open for a few months but has a similar style, meaning it’s also in a basement with a great atmosphere and delicious food.
Acme - This is the newest restaurant on my list and has been very popular since it opened last month, particularly with the fashion crowd, so since Valentine’s Day falls during fashion week, it will be a tough reservation to get. However, with a chef from Noma in Copenhagen, one of the world’s best restaurants, you know that your date will love the food, so I recommend trying to get a table.
Bohemian - This is a tiny, secret Japanese restaurant with enough space for 25 people, and it feels like you’re in someone’s apartment. Get the tasting menu—each dish is fantastic, and it’s a great deal for $55.
Il Buco - This is a cozy Italian restaurant with incredible food and a menu that changes all the time.
Bacaro - If you haven’t noticed, I tend to like small, dark restaurants that are underground and serve delicious food. I used to think of this as the Italian version of La Esquina. It’s in a strange location in Chinatown (not much nearby), so you wouldn’t come across it while walking by. Besides the main dining area downstairs, there are small cave-like rooms for private parties. The menu changes each season, and prices are very reasonable.
Casa Mono - I love the atmosphere at this small restaurant, and I think tapas are a great idea for Valentine’s Day so that you and your date can try and share different things on the menu.
Miss Lily’s - I always have a great time at this restaurant; the atmosphere is so relaxed (especially the front room—the back room has a DJ playing fun music, so it depends what you’re in the mood for). The food is wonderful, and stepping into this restaurant almost makes you feel like you are in Jamaica. I should add that the hostesses and waitresses are gorgeous models.
Red Rooster - This Harlem restaurant has great energy and fun people watching (don’t let yourself get too distracted from your date). Marcus Samuelsson’s food is always excellent, and at this restaurant, it’s almost like eating a home cooked meal (except probably better than what your mom used to cook for you).
Blue Hill - This restaurant is really small, so I’m sure it will be tough to get a reservation for Feb. 14, but it’s worth trying. The food is amazing. And if it’s good enough for the Obamas on a date, it should be good enough for you and your valentine.
You get bonus points if you go to the Blue Hill Farm at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY (almost a one hour drive north from Manhattan).
Locanda Verde - This is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in nyc. The food is excellent, the atmosphere is casual yet energetic, and the service is great.
River Cafe - I don’t feel great about recommending this one without having dined here, but it seems like a very romantic spot for Valentine’s Day. I hear the food (although a bit pricey) is excellent, service is friendly, setting is cozy, and the view of Manhattan is spectacular.