Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if you’re in New York City, you know that dining out is a competition sport as well as a private pastime. If you want to impress that special someone with a great dinner out-or need to convince your special someone that the corner burger bar is not acceptable courtship fare-start taking notes. Here’s the best that New York City has to offer for a romantic dinner.
Masa – 10 Columbus Circle
Might as well start with the cream of the crop. Selected by New York magazine itself as the best romantic dinner to be had, Masa does Japanese food in a manner only slightly less expensive than a trip to Japan itself, but if you’re looking to make an impression, you can’t go wrong with the ambience, the performance, the location or the food. If you’ve got an international palate and a thick wallet, here’s your option.
21 Club – 21 West 52nd St
An ample serving of history and fame accompany the classic American cuisine here. Boasting a bar and a sophisticated cocktail room in addition to a celebrated restaurant, this place has so many A-list celebrity patrons that they devote a section of the Web site to the list. Why, Humphrey Bogart proposed to Lauren Bacall at this very location, and if it’s romantic enough for them, it’s romantic enough for you. (Table 30, if you’re wondering.)
Serendipity 3 – 225 East 60th St
On the other hand, maybe all this ostentation isn’t for you and you’d rather kick back and enjoy yourself. Serendipity 3’s famously fun atmosphere is just right for a date where romance is more about kicking back than putting on the dog. You’ll love the legendary ice cream confections and the good old-fashioned grub. Be warned, while the place itself isn’t particularly hoity-toity, its well-deserved reputation is quite high, and thus reservations are definitely required well in advance. Very, very well in advance.
Danube – 30 Hudson St
Taking the top spot for décor in the Zagat Survey of New York City restaurants, this refined Austrian spot brings Old World charm to Tribeca. Opulence and extravagance abound, cementing Danube’s reputation as an excellent spot for a truly special occasion. Be sure to sample from a carefully handpicked wine list.
The Riverdale Garden – 4576 Manhattan College Parkway
Not every couple is from Manhattan, but the Bronx has treats of its own. Carefully tucked away in a beautiful neighborhood, it’s easy to miss this place from the outside, but once through the door, you’ll find a quaint dining room with a charming wood-burning stove and low lighting, or a flower garden for al fresco dining on the terrace when it warms up. You won’t feel like you’re in the city, but rather out for a getaway.
Café LULUc – 214 Smith Street
A sweet little French-inspired establishment in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, shiny decorations combine with inexpensive dinerlike food for a fun dining experience that brings a big-spender feel to an unpretentious neighborhood.
The River Café – 1 Water St
Dine in the shadow of the mighty Brooklyn Bridge, feasting upon, as the name of both street and establishment might suggest, some of the city’s most respected seafood dishes. A popular Valentine’s spot, reservations will be a must.
As you can see, in New York, romance can come with a price. Don’t forget that love is about opening your heart, not your wallet. With that in mind, a favorite suggestion of mine for the cheapskate wanting the most bang for their buck:
Trailer Park Lounge & Grill – 271 West 23rd St
Because if you’ve found someone you can share tater tots and Moon Pies with and feel like you’ve had a six-course dinner in Paris, you’ve found someone special. A big hit for anyone who likes the theme restaurant feel, the décor will keep you smiling and talking (if not gawking) throughout. And if you time things right, there’s an Elvis impersonator. If it gets more romantic than that, let me know.