Cultivating a romantic restaurant vibe comes down to three key ingredients, according to Michael Bruno, the visionary behind The Valley Rock Inn in Sloatsburg. First, you need a good wine list. “The wine should be so delicious that you can’t stop drinking it, but it shouldn’t be outrageous price-wise,” he says. Second, there needs to be cozy corners and working fireplaces. “Booths are a great option,” he says. “Somewhere private where you can play footsie. When was the last time you played footsie under the table at a restaurant?” And finally, the menu should be on the lighter side. Think seafood, vegetarian options, and oysters, he says.
The following nine restaurants check all those boxes. Some of them even include accommodations for staying the night or weekend, Bruno’s unofficial fourth criteria for making the most of an evening out.
Situated on 168 acres in the Catskills, the Deer Mountain Inn features six rooms built in the Arts and Crafts style of the early 20th century. The restaurant, which is open to the public and is helmed by chef Corwin Kave, has two working fireplaces. It’s the perfect spot for cozying up with the Inn’s signature hot chocolate made with green Chartreuse, Fernet-Branca, and Branca-Menta, or a glass of one of their more than 200 wine and champagne selections. The dinner menu is seasonal, but past menus have featured stunning crudos and luscious soups, and fresh seafood options such as diver scallops and Hudson Valley steelhead trout.
Nothing says romance like a flower cart displayed prominently in a pastel-hued dining room. (And yes, the blooms can be bought either by the stem or bouquet.) If you time it right, you may be able to nab the table directly in front of the fireplace (complete with a couch for side-by-side dining) at this Italian eatery housed in an old blacksmith shop. From there you can feast on squid ink soprese, wood fired pork ribs with agrodolce or, for lighter fare, an escarole salad that’s given the Caesar treatment with anchovy vinaigrette and grana padano. Complete the meal with the olive oil cake or chocolate budino, both perfect for sharing.
Housed in a building that dates back to 1890, Gaskins’ dining room is romance personified: think dark floors, mirrors, and natural diffused lighting. “I like to eat in restaurants that are very moody,” says chef and owner Nick Suarez, who prides himself on his veggie-focused menu (a standout are his roasted beets with endive, crème fraiche, fermented chilies, toasted pistachios, and mint) that changes weekly, if not daily. There’s also a killer burger on the menu, along with braised rabbit and homemade cavatelli, and, occasionally, a special spotlighting goat, which Suarez procures from nearby Darlin’ Doe Farm. End the meal on a sweet note with their homemade ice cream or black sesame chocolate cake.
Oysters, the original aphrodisiac, are the specialty of the house at this lovely bistro in downtown Rhinebeck. Try them raw or fried with spicy tobiko mayo, while sipping on a glass of pink sparkling rosé from Alsace at the lilac-hued, marble top bar. Nosh on the pan seared scallops with butternut squash risotto or the pork schnitzel with braised red cabbage while enjoying a street side view of the village. Dessert lovers will love their Kit Kat cake and, if you book a reservation on Valentine’s Day, you may opt for the crème brûlée in a heart-shaped ramekin.
This 50-seat dining room is housed in one of the four 17th and 19th century buildings that comprise the 42-room Hotel Kinsley. Terrazzo floors, sultry lighting, and plush velvet couches offer plenty of places to cozy up with your beloved while sipping the popular Kinsley Martini, which, in addition to the standard gin, vodka, vermouth prep, also includes olive oil. Grab a banquette table and order the sourdough miche with whipped ricotta and chilies, followed by their roasted local organic chicken.
The raw bar at this bistro is “a reason to live,” says chef Chris Vergara, of the restaurant which features tin-lined walls, a 19th century bar, and a second private dining room upstairs called The Wine Attic that’s adorned with bottles. Franco-centric favorites like steak frites, French onion soup, rainbow trout, and coq au vin are popular with regulars, as well as mousse au chocolate, crème brûlée, and profiteroles for dessert. While the wine list is stellar, step outside your comfort zone with a concoction from their “Absinthe Fountain”—if you dare.
The latest addition to Michael Bruno’s oasis, tucked away behind bustling Route 17, The Lodge offers three separate rooms to eat in quiet comfort: grab a banquette seat by the retro bar area, settle in by the fire in the main dining room, or enjoy appetizers and drinks overlooking the grounds and pool while you wait for a table. Start with the lamb albondigas or the Thai-style mussels before moving on to the miso black cod or the duck ragù. And don’t forget to order a side of fondant potatoes or lobster mac and cheese for sharing.
Often described as a restaurant that takes you back in time, thanks to its candlelit, impeccably set tables, soft music, and excellent service, Glenmere has been spacing out its two-top tables to create the illusion of a private dining room. Start with the cheese and charcuterie board, featuring provisions from local farms like Edgewick in Cornwall and 5 Spoke Creamery in Goshen, and save room for the Hudson Valley duck breast, which includes local, seasonal sauces and sides. To end the night, dive into their warm and gooey molten dark chocolate cake, topped with coffee streusel and mocha chip ice cream. (Their coconut and lime bombs are exquisite, too.)
“Troutbeck is romantic thanks to its timelessness,” says staffer Tarajia Morrell, of the former estate that dates to the 1700s. “It offers guests the feeling of being in a vintage home with many wonderful rooms, such as our library, living room, and bar, plus lots of spots to steal a smooch and fireplaces to warm up by.” In the dining room, which is currently open to in-house guests only, couples can sample Sea Kist oysters with apple mignonette, saffron tagliatelle with Jonah crab, and steelhead trout, which is responsibly farmed at Hudson Valley Fisheries. (In-room dining is also available.)