Eating + Drinking

Cook Up Chemistry at NYC’s Most Underrated Romantic Restaurants

Sure, these restaurants deliver delicious dishes. But did you know they also serve up romance on the DL?

Canoodle inside and out of Raoul’s booths. / Photo Courtesy of Raoul’s

When it comes to romantic restaurants, New York has its share. Who wouldn’t want to cozy up at Le Coucou, Le Bernardin, even stalwart La Grenouille? But sometimes the occasion calls for a location that doesn’t feel like such a high-stakes lovefest. Here are our favorite picks for low-key romantic restaurants in NYC, where love is always in the air.

What could be more romantic than ducking into a basement sake bar and playing your favorite records for a couple of hours? Book your two-hour spot at Tokyo Record Bar and enjoy an array of Japanese nibbles and clever cocktails while you and a handful of other couples spin your time away. More romantic still: You enter (and leave) through Air’s Champagne Parlor. Who says you can’t have a parting glass of bubbles? 127 MacDougal Street (between West 3rd and 4th Streets), Greenwich Village

romantic restaurants in nyc
Tokyo Record Bar. / Photo by Noah Fecks

Prune doesn’t allow for much privacy, but its snugness adds to its sweetness. It doesn’t hurt that the lighting is superflattering, the cocktails are stiff, and the food is made with love. (Chef-owner Gabrielle Hamilton’s chef de cuisine is her wife, the exceptional Ashley Merriman.) Prune is useful as a first-date spot to weed out folks who take themselves too seriously, or as a third-date spot to get you in the zone. 54 East 1st Street (between First and Second Avenues), East Village

Who cares if the food at Maison Premiere is really all about the oysters? The New Orleans–meets–Paris–style Williamsburg bar is one of the city’s most seductive spots (think: antiqued mirrors, patina paint, and a secret garden). Besides, if you’re still hungry, you can always get a slice a few blocks away at Joe’s Pizza. 298 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg

romantic restaurants in nyc
A most epic seafood spread. / Photo courtesy of Maison Premiere

Vaucluse is Marea chef Michael White’s new Park Avenue stunner, serving decidedly grown-up Continental fare—foie gras, Dover sole, côte de veau—in a posh dining room that brings to mind a chic Art Deco hotel with its brass accents and sinuous curves. Dresses and suits recommended. Cocktails, too. 100 East 63rd Street (between Park and Lexington Avenues), Upper East Side

romantic restaurants in nyc
Perfect lighting for a perfect couple. / Photo courtesy of Vaucluse

If only every cocktail bar had lighting like Bar Goto’s, we’d all be in love by now. The Asian-accented favorite on the Lower East Side serves brilliantly crafted tipples and small bites that lure off-duty chefs—that is, when they can find a stool amid all the couples. Share an okonomi-yaki (savory pancake) with pork belly and bacon, and toast to how good you look with a Bamboo Tonic. 245 Eldridge Street (between East Houston and Stanton Streets), Lower East Side

Cosme isn’t romantic per se, but it sure is sexy: bustling, energetic, always bordering on a party. Mexico’s most famous chef, Enrique Olvera, still draws a crowd to his Flatiron restaurant, where the mezcal and tequila cocktails are almost as potent as the pricey, Michelin-starred food. Share as many starters as you can, like an uni tostada with bone marrow salsa and scallops with avocado aioli, then indulge in the duck carnitas for two. 35 East 21st Street (between Broadway and Park Avenue South), Flatiron

romantic restaurants in nyc
Octopus-filled flat overlay, courtesy of Cosme. / Photo courtesy of Signe Birck

Raoul’s has been around for eons, but its sexy glow hasn’t diminished. Opt for seats at the bar, where the affable bartenders are always part of the show with their smooth conversation and the limited-edition bar burger—served with classic au poivre sauce and topped with triple cream cheese, wilted watercress, and cornichons—is worth arriving before 6 o’clock for. (Goes great with a martini.) Or reserve a booth in the back dining room, where you can linger over steak frites and crème brûlée—two more classics that have never tasted better. 180 Prince Street (between Sullivan and Thompson Streets), SoHo

I Sodi feels like a clubby little secret, a place where stylish locals go to focus on the stripped-down Tuscan food (and their tablemates), not on the scene around them. A couple of seats at the bar, a selection from the extensive Negroni menu, and a slice of shared lasagna—with a side of spinach and roasted potatoes, of course—have started many a great romance. Just be sure to reserve ahead, or put your name down and go to the chef’s other restaurant, Via Carota, around the corner, for a starter Negroni. 105 Christopher Street (between Hudson and Bleecker Streets), Greenwich Village

romantic restaurants in nyc
I Sodi loves olive oil as much as its chefs will love you.

A romantic restaurant is just the start. Let us plan the perfect date night for you and your S.O.