Just when the dust was starting to settle from New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day suddenly creeps in, in the not-so-distant future. February 14th is less than a month away. That means many prime tables and time slots have already been snatched up. Not to fret. New York’s got an endless selection of romantic and affordable restaurants with tables for two. Whether you’re looking to seal the deal, hopelessly romantic or something casual, there’s a restaurant that fits the part…
“We just started dating”
359 Bleecker St. (btwn. 10th St. & Charles St.)
at August is romantic any night of the week, never mind on Valentine’s
Day. It’s also a great spot for “new relationships” or the
Valentine-phobic because it’s the kind of place that doesn’t look like
you’re trying too hard. Ooh, then there’s the wood oven factor in
winter or snag a table in the heated atrium. The best part is how
affordable and excellent the Mediterranean cooking is. The kitchen’s
forte is small plates, so share the tarte flambe, sheep ricotta and
lemon gnocchi, topped with grilled radicchio,
butternut squash, guanciale and parmesan. For V-day, there’s also
lamb chops for two and they’ll even be taking reservations. Finish
with the profiteroles with warm chocolate and vanilla
anglaise or the pear-parsnip cake with pear cream
and Amareno cherries.
Seal The Deal
Peasant/Peasant Wine Bar
194 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10012
might just be the most effortlessly romantic restaurant in the city.
It’s got it all — an open fire kitchen, brick walls, candle light, and
terrific Tuscan cooking. The man behind this Nolita gem is owner
Franke De Carlo. If you’re the kind who needs a reservation, snag a
table in the upstairs dining room (near the kitchen.) Personally, I
prefer the subterranean wine bar filled with drippy candles, long wood
tables and lots of great wine. You might want to start with the
oven-roasted sardines, mozzarella di buffala, and the pizza bianca. My
favorite entrees are the whole orata and the porchetta arrosto.
There’s a wonderful Italian wine list with lots of great bottles to
choose from. You’ll nearly feel transported to Italy. At least, for
98 Rivington St., at Ludlow St.
First and foremost, V-day phobes get panicky at the mere mention of a prix fixe dinner, roses, in-your-face romantic gestures. You’ll find none of those at this Italian wine bar on the Lower East Side. Second: Other than New Year’s Eve, it’s the only other night they’re taking reservations. Lastly, two words — great wine and small plates, which also happen to be the formula for a successful V-day. The floor-to-ceiling windows and prices are also a bonus. (Not a dish on the menu is over $20.) There’s the extensive selection of wines available by the glass. Order a few small plates to share, such as the grilled calamari, ricotta & tomato bruschette, fritto misto and truffled egg toast. For dessert, I love the chocolate budino topped with whipped cream.
All About Privacy/ Under the Radar
77 N 6th St. (btwn. Berry St. & Wythe Ave.)
James Bond was seducing a woman on Valentine’s Day, he might take her to a
place that looks like Zenkichi. Maybe it’s the lanterns, pebble-paved floors, or bamboo. No, I think it’s the premium on privacy at this Japanese brasserie in Williamsburg. At Zenkichi, couples can hide out gets their own booth, call button
and server. If you love sake, you’re going to like it here. There’s
a wonderful list of rare sakes to go with the traditional Japanese
menu. Try the oysters grilled in red miso sauce, salmon roe served in
a lime, scallop tempura wrapped in a shiso leaf. To finish, there’s an
unusual and unexpectedly addictive frozen chocolate and black sesame
Last-Minute Dinner or Suddenly-Not-So-Single
457 Clinton Street
Brooklyn, New York 11231
you can’t make reservations, no one else can either. That means it’s
fair game on V-day. So if you forgot to make a reservation or suddenly
found yourself not-so-single, this little Italian spot in Carroll
Gardens is gold. There’s an earnest charm to the room, decorated with
tin ceiling, brick walls and cozy vibe. Start
with the fennel, celery root and parsley salad and a sampling of
crostinis (I love the ricotta & aged provolone). I also love the
pine nut & raisin specked meatballs, house-Made Gnocchi Marinara,
and the Sweet Sausage over Pine
Nut Polenta. For dessert, try the red wine-soaked prunes
Un-Valentine’s Day Dining
2848 31st St.(nr. Newtown Ave.) Astoria
Like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day can seem contrived. Yes, dreaded. Sometimes, we need to celebrate with a sense of humor, a wink, or just do something entirely different. Welcome to Zlata Praha, a charming Czech and Slovak restaurant in Queens. Think Prague in winter — dark wood paneling, Xmas lights, and drawings of Czech landscapes along the walls. When in Rome, eat pierogis, herring, stuffed cabbage, and goulash. Or try the Farmer’s Platter for Two. $24.95 gets you a combination of soft sausage, meatloaf and traditional sausage, served with sauerkraut and potato. And drink lots of beer. To finish, there’s dumplings filled with fruit and topped with sweet cheese and melted butter.
A Very Casual V-Day
242 Mott St. (btwn. Prince & Houston Sts.)
Soho spot always seems packed for good reason — great French Moroccan
cooking. If you don’t mind tight quarters, it’s great option for a
relaxed, subtly romantic night. Start with the couscous, a tower of
semolina with peppers, raisins, and pine nuts, hummus, eggplant, and
Merguez sausage. I also like the al Hachi Parmentier – think a French
Shepherd’s Pie. For dessert, there’s two excellent options — the
caramelized banana tarte and the orange blossom waffle, drenched in
syrup and laden with ruby red berries.
Alice’s Tea Cup
102 W. 73rd St (btwn. Amsterdam & Columbus Aves.)
Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, so you can celebrate at brunch and stay in for dinner. Girls are suckers for this UWS cafe-cum-teahouse. There’s tea-infused granola, poached eggs and lox with buttermilk biscuits and hollandaise sauce. If you want to make it a one-meal day, the $25 Afternoon Tea might just hold you over til Sunday morning. It’s all of the tea (or coffee) you want, along with granola, potato chicken hash or roasted asparagus and pears, and a homemade crepe. The best thing they’ve got going is a warm crepe with peanut butter and earl grey lavender honey. Trust us.
BYOB V-Day for Wine Collectors
253 W 11th St. (btwn. 4th St. & Waverly Pl.)
If you’ve been dying to open that really great bottle of wine you’ve been saving, open it at Tartine in the West Village. What it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in consistently delicious French fare. Tartine delivers on timeless French classics, the likes of croque monsieur, steak au poivre, and French onion soup. There’s also a wonderful list of desserts. My favorites are the dark & white chocolate mousse and the French dacquoise — a combination of chocolate ganache, praline buttercream, meringue, hazelnuts and almonds. Having said that, Milk & Cookies is just a winter stroll away and women are suckers for warm, fresh-baked cookies, especially when you can design your own flavors.
Wine Tasting Dinner/ Wine By the Shot
21-02 30th Ave.
Wine by the shot is a great segue into a romantic dinner. And this Italian trattoria is a great addition to the New York dining scene. For Manhattan residents, it’s a great escape from the city. After a shot or two, dive into the grilled calamari and charred green beans with lemon and a thin crust pizza. While lamb shank doesn’t sound romantic, this one tastes romantic. But only if you share. Seal the deal with the Baby Jesus cake with sticky dates and soaked in caramel sauce.
Hot & Spicy Evening
244 E. 13th St. (btwn. 2nd & 3rd Aves.)
something sexy about hot, spicy food. Especially Thai. If
you’re in the mood, this East Village restaurant makes some of the
hottest dishes in the city and excellent curry dishes. To start, share
the roast pork labb salad made with dried chili, scallions and red
onions. Then, you might consider a bowl of noodles, such as the Chaa Chaa
noodles, topped with napa cabbage and peanut vinaigrette. Cool down
with their mango and coconut sticky rice.