Valentine’s Day is the Super Bowl of date nights and in honor of the big night, we’ve searched the state for the most charming, classy and just plain romantic restaurants. The selections below are places where enchanting atmospheres merge with equally as inspiring cuisine. Whether you’re looking for white tablecloths and candlelight or a more modern romantic feel, there is something on this list you and — perhaps more importantly — your significant other will enjoy on Valentine’s Day or any night.
This popular South Norwalk dining spot has a rustic urban design with a dark walnut wood floor, exposed brick and antique wood surfaces, augmented by white chairs through the dining room. The warm mood lighting is cast by way of a dramatic industrial-inspired chandelier made of pipe fittings and bare bulbs, and the globally inspired menu features seasonably appropriate ingredients.
Chef and co-owner Matt Storch says his current favorites from the menu include seared foie gras and the seared tuna. He adds that the restaurant’s signature dishes include “whatever fresh pasta we are making that week. [We] always have the most beautiful seafood in house and some of the most gorgeous meat in the area from the Thursday burger to the Bistecca alla Fiorentina for two.”
The combination of cuisine and ambiance creates the perfect match in more ways than one. “We see a lot of match.com folks in the house,” Storch says. “Over the 17 years we’ve been in business we have lost count on how many people return for anniversaries of first dates with their kids in tow. The atmosphere is amazing; it’s sexy and calm but not too quiet and fussy.”
For Valentine’s Day, Match will be offering its regular menu, plus plenty of indulgent specials, details to be announced.
98 Washington St., Norwalk
Maybe getting out into the quaint countryside is not exactly your thing. Maybe you or your partner prefer that kind of old-fashioned night out in the city. Catch a show at the Bushnell or the Infinity, or visit an art gallery, and then finish up with a meal surrounded by an air of glamour. For charming and elegant dining in the capital region, you can’t do much better than ON20. Located on the 20th floor of one of Hartford’s tallest buildings (One State Street), the restaurant offers some of the best dining views in the state (within a city, of course). A recent video posted to Instagram shows that, even in a lightning storm, few have quite the view like the diners in ON20, as lightning bolts streak across the sky and the storm rolls through south of Hartford.
The menu is full of extravagant and beautiful items like octopus with chorizo, duck and venison. According to Nathaly Caceres, ON20’s restaurant manager, there will also be Valentine’s Day specials. Check the website for details.
400 Columbus Blvd., Hartford
Bernard’s and Sarah’s Wine Bar
Bernard’s is a classic French-style country inn with pastel colors, Bernaud china and Garnier Thiebaut linens that occupies an 1875 Victorian house on the outskirts of downtown Ridgefield. Its second floor is known as Sarah’s Wine Bar and has a more rustic feel with wooden tables and rotating artwork. The spot is owned by husband-and-wife team Sarah and Bernard Bouissou. “Bernard grew up in the south of France and house-makes everything on the menu from the pâtés, charcuterie to the hand-pressed ravioli,” says Sarah Bouissou. For her part, she runs the dining room, making guests feel welcome when she stops by each table to say hello. There is a pianist who plays downstairs on Friday and Saturday nights and for Sunday brunch. Upstairs there is live music every Wednesday through Saturday and a special Jazz Masters Series on the last Sunday of the month. For Valentine’s Day, the restaurant is offering a prix fixe four-course menu — normally the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays but will remain open for the holiday. The prix fixe menu will be available throughout Valentine’s week and the restaurant will host a special Valentine’s Cabaret night on Sunday, Feb. 12.
20 West Lane, Ridgefield
Saybrook Point Inn and Spa, Old Saybrook
Situated where the Connecticut River flows out into Long Island Sound, this spot checks off several boxes on the romance sheet. The water views are, of course, exquisite. (And make sure to be there at sunset.) Homey fireplaces, including a large stone fireplace that is the focal point of the dining room, provide the warmth and comfort couples crave.
The American cuisine features, unsurprisingly, boatloads of local seafood, including an overflowing raw bar, as well as plenty of land-based proteins, such as burgers, chicken, veal and lamb. The desserts are made fresh.
And don’t forget the adjacent luxury inns and spas, including the newest lodging addition — Tall Tales — a six-room boutique beach house next door to the elegant Three Stories. It’s everything you need to escape on a romantic weekend. For Valentine’s, there will be a special prix fixe menu with entrées made for two, as well as champagne specials and overnight packages.
2 Bridge St., Old Saybrook
Inn at Woodstock Hill
Want some “quiet” time together with that special someone? Then the Inn at Woodstock Hill, tucked away in the Quiet Corner, is the place to go. This quintessentially romantic 200-year-old inn features four dining areas with fireplaces, two of which have pocket doors that can be shuttered for when you need some alone time. Outside there are gardens, a gazebo, patio and rolling hills. Inside, elegant place settings include linen tablecloths and napkins, polished silverware and stemmed glassware.
As for the food, the artichoke bottoms appetizer come in a pair, lobster bisque and New England seafood chowder will warm you up, and entrées include duck and rack of lamb. For dessert, indulge in the Lovin’ Spoonful chocolate cake and chocolate truffle mousse cake. And, yes, there will be a special Valentine’s Day menu.
Have a stay in one of the 21 well-appointed guest rooms, each with a private bath and other amenities, including some with gas fireplaces and four-poster beds. A Valentine’s package includes dinner, wine and an overnight guest room.
Need more convincing? Several marriage proposals have taken place here, further evidence that couples treasure the Inn at Woodstock Hill as a place to celebrate their intimate and milestone moments.
94 Plaine Hill Road, Woodstock
Bee & Thistle Inn
Connecticut has never been left wanting for old Colonial houses converted into restaurants and inns that maintain their once-upon-a-time charm. Down in Old Lyme, away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, is the Bee and Thistle, a prime example of that old New England charm. Built in 1756, the house was opened up to the public as a restaurant in 1930. The dining rooms have fireplaces, and there is a sophisticated cocktail menu. The back of the inn looks out over the marshlands of the Lieutenant River, and is just up the road from the Florence Griswold Museum. The Bee and Thistle also has an inn and spa, so you can create a full weekend getaway. Old Lyme is nestled in the artistically minded lower Connecticut River Valley, so there is plenty of entertainment in Old Lyme and the surrounding towns.
100 Lyme St., Old Lyme
This restaurant has one of the most showstopping dining spaces in the state. Located on the 24th floor, there are panoramic views of the Connecticut countryside, and sunsets are spectacular. The interior space is dominated by a striking giant globe that gives off a Frank Sinatra, Rat Pack-esque charm. Nightly performances by VUE 24’s longtime jazz pianist Jack Madry add to the atmosphere. The menu features continental cuisine with a modern flair, including Châteaubriand for two and roasted salmon along with a selection of nearly 200 wines from some of the most renowned winemakers and regions in the world, including Opus One, Caymus and Nickel & Nickel, as well as signature cocktails expertly prepared by chief mixologist Stave Artitage. VUE 24’s signature dishes include veal Oscar served with king crab, shaved asparagus and sauce béarnaise, trout grenobloise pan-seared with lemon, brown butter, capers and parsley and duck à l’Orange with confit, and orange gastrique.
On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, VUE 24 will offer a $65 couple’s selection with a choice of appetizers, including pan-seared sea scallops with truffle-scented risotto or salt-roasted beets with winter citrus and red watercress salad. Entrée options will consist of shallot butter-basted veal chop
or lemon thyme-seared Pacific halibut.
A dessert selection by pastry chef Franck Iglesias will complete the experience. VUE’s Sunday brunch will also offer a romantic daytime experience with a variety of specials and a dessert buffet.
Foxwoods Resort and Casino
350 Trolley Line Blvd., Mashantucket
This restaurant and resort cottage complex in Morris occupies the grounds of an old farm. Located in what is one of the most beautiful parts of the state, Winvian Farm boasts scenic views of the forests and fields that surround the converted farm. According to Winvian Farm’s Rebecca Harnish, tables are “small and intimate near the fire with no more than 3-4 tables per room,” surrounded by antique Colonial farm decor. Winvian boasts a farm-to-table menu from chef Chris Eddy, featuring food grown in Winvian Farm’s own garden, along with a prix fixe four-course menu, specially made for Valentine’s Day. Among the other selling points of Winvian Farm is the wine cellar, featuring wines from some 13 countries. Winvian also has an inn with rooms and cottages to spend the night.
With the cozy, firelit rooms and the beautiful surroundings to wake up to, Winvian would impress any date. In 2015, Condé Nast named Winvian Farm as one of the Top 100 hotels and resorts in the world.
155 Alain White Road, Morris
Le Petit Café
If you’re looking for a cozy setting for a romantic meal, this celebrated French bistro on the Branford Green is perfect. With a small dining room decorated in an understated, French-countryside style, you and your date won’t be overwhelmed by the setting or an enormous crowd. Instead, the intimate seating will allow you to focus on each other.
Of course, you’ll also want to focus on the impeccable and picturesque food from acclaimed chef Roy Ip. Each evening’s four-course, prix fixe menu is a celebration of flavor and elegance that will delight the senses. Well-reviewed appetizers include scallops ceviche, tuna tartare and shrimp with soba noodles. The rack of lamb and prime New York strip steak are sought-after entrées, while the flourless chocolate cake and hazelnut chocolate fondant are made-from-scratch desserts that are perfectly shareable.
Although it was not finalized as of this writing, Ip will offer a special Valentine’s Day menu. In the familiar four-course format, there will be a choice of appetizers, a salad, entrées and desserts, all for around $80-$85.
Word to the wise: Be sure to book a table well in advance, as this eatery long ago shed its “hidden gem” reputation.
225 Montowese St., Branford
Schoolhouse at Cannondale
This quaint little restaurant in the Cannondale section of Wilton is situated in an old schoolhouse, and has a seating capacity of only 36, so you know it’s intimate. According to Rebecca Thorpe, director of events at the Schoolhouse,
“we provide each guest with a personalized menu that congratulates them on an anniversary or other important milestone.” Romantic shareables like oysters and lobster are sure to be featured, Thorpe says. The Schoolhouse takes special care to create an unintrusive atmosphere by avoiding booking parties of more than four during their busy nights, and training the waitstaff to be attentive without being disruptive.
Menu highlights include the chocolate soufflé, with its ever-changing complementary ingredients. Few dishes out there are more romantic than an indulgent chocolate dessert. Sitting in a converted schoolhouse, nestled in a lovely village (perhaps coated with some snow), eating a menu that’s personalized for you and yours? Hard to beat.
34 Cannon Road, Wilton
Union League Cafe
Long considered one of Connecticut’s premiere French restaurants, Union League casts its romantic spell with a combination of factors, says Jean Pierre Vuillermet, owner and executive chef. “We think it’s an alchemy of equally important ingredients: a dining room of uncommon charm — high ceilings, dark wood, marble pillars, perfect lighting and a low-burning fireplace — award-winning, beautifully prepared cuisine and a superb, varied and fairly priced wine list.” Vuillermet adds that the spell is completed by “non-intrusive but attentive service. A special sense of privacy and intimacy amidst the lively brasserie atmosphere, and a talented team committed to ensuring that our guests feel that they’ve shared a truly memorable and special experience.”
The restaurant’s longstanding signature dish is the confit de canard (boneless duck leg confit, crispy potato galette, Granny Smith apple and walnuts, watercress salad), but new favorites include the salade d’Epinard et roquefort (baby spinach salad, smoked bacon, honey roasted pears, savory nougatine of pecan and Roquefort cheese).
For Valentine’s Day, the restaurant is planning a prix fixe menu and wine pairings, a Valentine cocktail, special holiday dessert and a pastry chef-prepared chocolate gift.
1032 Chapel St., New Haven