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Top Romantic Restaurants

 

What is it about the coupling of food and romance? From the aphrodisiac qualities of oysters to the intoxicating effects of a good bottle of wine (both literally and metaphorically) to the subtle sensuousness of chocolate mousse, food occupies center stage when it comes to matters of the heart. Of course, where you dine can contribute nearly as much passion as the food itself—which is why we’ve scoured several of America’s major cities to discover where the locals go to cook up that extra special night.

From Manhattan to O’ahu, here’s our top choices for your out-of-town weekend encounter, those evenings when it’s time for over-the-top romance, whether you’re planning to propose, trying to impress, or just hoping to bring a sense of the magical into the mundane.

 

One if by Land, Two if by Sea

17 Barrow Street
212.255.8649

With more than 20,000 restaurants reviewed by Zagats, New York City offers a dizzying array of dining choices. But hands down, residents and visitors alike proclaim that the most romantic restaurant in the city is One if by Land, Two if by Sea on Barrow Street in Greenwich Village. In fact, one Zagats reviewer calls it the "ultimate romantic night out."

The converted 18th-century carriage house that once belonged to Aaron Burr today serves chef Gary Volkov's American seasonal cuisine in the mood-setting surrounds of four fireplaces and luxuriant outdoor gardens. Patrons dine in the atmospheric embrace of live piano music, flickering candles, and dimmed chandeliers. And the prix-fixe menus, including the seven-course chef's tasting menu paired with wines, satisfies the senses and simplifies the decision-making. This dining option is truly a can't-miss experience.

 

Fleur de Lys Restaurant

777 Sutter Street
415.673.7779

In the City by the Bay, where nearly every street and vista boasts something sumptuous, it's hard to pin down one particular brick-and-mortar spot to recommend for your out-of-town romantic escapade—but we've done it.

Fleur de Lys, one of the oldest restaurants at the top of all of San Francisco's best restaurant lists, provides a sensuous dining experience that one diner called "a feast for the senses." The restaurant provides separate waiters for every task, from wine to water to food—there's even one for your mid-course beck and call. These little touches make diners feel like royalty, and imbue the experience with a touch of über-sophistication.

Considering San Francisco's infamous damp, cold nights, ask for the private room with the marble fireplace—it truly makes for a plush evening. But don't despair if you don't get it; Fleur de Lys' interior "tented" room provides glamour along with romance. The menu's three- to five-course prix-fixe feasts bring dishes that are so beautiful you may feel guilty cutting into them. Plus, the staff is happy to do the wine/food pairing for each course, allowing you to focus on each other instead of the expansive wine list.

 

Alizé at the Palms

4321 W Flamingo Road
702.951.7000

While the all-you-can-eat buffet does rule Las Vegas, gourmands know that this modern-era Sin City also has some of the country's most exquisite restaurants, and spectacular chefs who run them. As such, finding a dining venue for your trip should be a breeze, but we recommend that you cap off your romantic interlude in Vegas with a night at Alizé atop The Palms.

Alizé offers a dining experience meant to be savored as guests indulge in sweeping, panoramic views of the twinkling lights of the city visible through three walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. The cuisine is French (of course) and features such sensuous selections as foie-gras terrine with a huckleberry gelée, traditional escargots in garlic herb butter (if you both order this, the garlic won't be a problem), and pan-seared Muscovy duck breast. And, of course, the perfect dessert to start you on a night of love: a choice between chocolate and Grand Marnier soufflée.

 

La Mer at Halekulani

2199 Kalia Road, Waikiki
808-923-2311

When we asked our resident expert to pick the most romantic restaurant on O'ahu, she backed off in mock horror. "I would never want to be known as having chosen just one restaurant as the most romantic restaurant on O'ahu," she said. Instead, she settled on three. So we took those, queried the restaurant reviewer for the Honolulu Advertiser, and discovered La Mer at the Halekulani in Waikiki.

Why is it the most romantic on this most romantic of islands? For starters, how about open-air dining under the stars with breathtaking views of the Pacific and Diamond Head. Toss in fine classic French cuisine that showcases fresh, local ingredients paired with luxury imported cuts. And finish up with the island's only five-star, AAA rating, received each of the past 15 years, which doesn’t expressly confirm its romantic allure, but does prove that its service and quality are top-notch.

A prix-fixe menu offers selections of various entrees and appetizers. But we suggest you opt for chef Yves Garnier's tasting menu, available only for couples.

 

Riversong Lodge, Lake Creek, AK

Run by husband and wife team Carl and Kirsten Dixon, this upscale log-cabin lodge on the banks of the Yentna River offers world-class fly fishing, gourmet cuisine, and the weird thrill of knowing a moose might be right outside your summer-by-the-lake-style cabin.

At $715 per person, minimum, a stay here doesn't come cheap, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck. First, you swoop in by float-plane, and settle into a handsome room. Then seasoned guides boat you to remote fishing holes where you can test your fly rods against the local bears for massive king salmon, feisty arctic grayling, or whatever else is running. After each long day on the water, feast on hearty dishes such as Reindeer Ragout, before snuggling in for the night.

 

Tu Tu' Tun Lodge, Gold Beach, OR

All 20 of the rusti-swank wood and stone rooms of this bucolic hidectix overlook the Rogue River, and some come with fireplaces and springwater soaking tubs—the perfect ambiance for getting soulful with your soulmate.

If you can tear yourselves ctix from your room, hike the local trails, paddle one of the lodge's sea kayaks, go fly fishing (guides available), navigate the Rogue's, er, roguish rapids, slip into the heated swimming pool, or play horseshoes in the apple orchard. At night, cuddle up around the massive fireplace in the main lodge, and feast on salmon and other staples of Northwest cuisine.

 

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, CA

This is the splurge to go for after you've memorized the Kama Sutra and perfected your tantrist vocabulary—if your mojo ain't workin' during a stay at this stunning celebration of organic architecture perched over the wave-spanked coastline of Big Sur, then it may be time to move on.

All 30 rooms have king-size beds, fireplaces, indoor spa tubs, and ocean or mountain views. You can hike through the redwood and oak forest on the 98-acre ranch, limber up in a yoga class, take a dip in one of the inn's two pools, or indulge in a spa treatment or two. In the award-winning restaurant, you'll find decadent dishes like Butternut Squash Ravioli with Chestnuts and Big Sur Chanterelle Mushrooms, and Roast Venison Loin with Sweet Potato Risotto and Huckleberry Jam.

 

Little Palm Island, Little Torch Key, FL

This chi-chi gem in the Florida Keys is only accessible by boat or seaplane—a sure bet for the ultra-private tryst. Once you're on the island, make your way to one of 30 thatch-roofed luxury bungalows, handsomely appointed with British colonial furnishings, a gossamer-draped king-size bed, and a whirlpool tub made for two (some bungalows also have outdoor jacuzzis). The rooms have no TVs, telephones, or buzzing alarm clocks to interrupt the blissful hours you spend lounging on your ocean-view veranda or lathering up in your private outdoor shower.

Outside the sanctuary of your bungalow, pamper yourselves with a massage at the world-class spa, enjoy snorkeling or diving among pristine coral reefs, or go deep-sea fishing, sailing, or sea kayaking. Once you've worked up an appetite, dine on dishes like jumbo lump crab cakes with melted leeks, truffled asparagus, tomato salad, and saffron-chive buerre blanc.

 

Aurora Ice Hotel, Chena Hot Springs Resort, AK

A (literally) freezing hotel room may not sound like the perfect environment for a sexy escapade, but think of it this way: what better excuse to cuddle close all night long?

This unique structure, constructed entirely of ice and snow, features six themed bedrooms (also made of the frozen stuff). One looks like a miniature igloo, and another contains a bed shaped like a giant polar bear lying on his back (you sleep on his belly). Yes, even the beds here are ice sculptures, packed with a "mattress" of snow, and then lined with reindeer hides and 20-degree sleeping bags for added comfort. Many of the chilly furnishings, which are illuminated from within, cast an ethereal, wintery glow. For the price of your stay in the ice edifice, you're also given a complementary room in the Chena Hot Springs Resort's "normal" hotel—just in case you chicken out in the middle of the night.

During the day, take a dip in the 104-degree springs, go cross-country skiing, hiking, or snowmobiling, or—on the winter days when there isn't much sunlight to speak of—check out nature's most spectacular light show: the Aurora Borealis. One warning: The ice hotel just opened December 31, 2003, and it remains to be seen how it will weather next summer's days of 24-hour sunshine. But with 14,000 feet of tubing pumping hockey-rink coolant through the structure, resort representatives are hopeful that the hotel has a long life ahead of it.

 

Château du Sureau, Oakhurst, CA

She'll play out all her princess fantasies at this posh estate hotel located 45 minutes from the south gate of Yosemite National Park. Surrounded by verdant landscaped gardens and breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada, the Château is the ultimate in romantic indulgence. Stay in one of the hotel's ten rooms (with names like Lavender, Rosehip, Elderberry and Thyme), each furnished in elegant provincial French style, with fireplaces and views of the surrounding mountains and forests. The hotel also boasts a five-star restaurant, Erna's Elderberry House, presided-over by renowned chef James Overbaugh.

To satisfy your adventure jones, let the Château's concierge set up an active outing like horseback riding, mountain biking, or Merced River rafting. Or take an adrenaline-filled day-trip from the fairy-tale estate for legendary climbs like the breathtaking 5.7 Via Aqua route from lower Yosemite Falls (the tallest waterfall in America). If you really want to burn off the previous night's decadent dinner, try a hike up the demanding Cables Route on Yosemite's Half Dome.

 

Papoose Creek Lodge, Cameron, MT

Nestled in Montana's Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Papoose Creek Lodge pampers romantic adventurers with rustic luxury. Stay in one of the five lodge rooms or three reclaimed-lumber cabins surrounded by aspens, with shaded paths leading to the meandering creek and adjacent outdoor hot tub. Sunken whirlpool tubs and stone fireplaces grace many of the smartly appointed rooms, and most are wrapped by private decks.

Get your fly-fishing fix on the Madison River, then try a guided horseback ride or set out to paddle on nearby Quake Lake. Hikers can get their adventure fix on the eight-mile Papoose Creek Trail, which starts behind the stables and runs through canyons and meadows to the azure Crater Lakes. After the day's excursions, enjoy a cocktail at the main lodge before tucking into a candlelight dinner of smoked-trout chowder, carmelized goat cheese salad, and gnocchetti with lemon-scented shrimp—served (if you like) on your room's balcony.