Whether you’re in a relationship or not, finding the perfect restaurant around Valentine’s Day comes with plenty of added pressure. You don’t want anything too casual or too buttoned up, and you definitely want a great meal that won’t blow the budget. Making reservations becomes a chore as every candlelit nook in town is suddenly confined to prix fixe menus and tables are booked months in advance.
We say avoid the holiday altogether, and surprise your love interest with a mid-week date before the V-D crowds descend, or follow up a few days later when the popular spots have had a chance to mop up after all the mushiness. Whether you're looking for first-date fun or a spot to rekindle that fire, aim for liaisons where you can feel the spark all year 'round. Here's our list of the ten best date-night restaurants in town — in alphabetical order — with everything from seductive surroundings to killer cocktails.
10. Beatrice & Woodsley
38 South Broadway
If you like the idea of fairy tales come to life, the decor inside this iconic Broadway hot spot was inspired by a D.H. Lawrence poem and represents the tale of a lumberjack and his sweetheart. Gauzy curtains and aspen groves separate booths and tables, giving couples a sense of intimacy and solitude, broken only by the procession of perfect plates. As the menu states: “Everyone has to eat, some choose to dine.” You'll impress even the most cynical date if you choose to dine here.
701 Grant Street
After all the snow and ice we’ve been surrounded by lately, there’s nothing better than a bowl of soup to warm the soul — and to heat up a date. A pair of bar seats with brimming bowls side by side could lead to a Lady and the Tramp moment, so choose your noodle wisely. This cozy joint's lobster ramen is the way to our heart.
8. D Bar Denver
494 East 19th Avenue
Head to D Bar for dessert or a dose of chocolate, or indulge in a full dinner of playful platings with names both naughty and nice (order the D Bar dates to accompany your Sausage Fest). Creative cocktails and classic comfort food will set the mood before you give in to your sweet tooth, whether in the form of a shared pastry or a tantalizing dessertini.
7. Domo Japanese Country Food Restaurant
1365 Osage Street
Take a stroll through the zen garden on Domo’s back patio before settling into the rustic, charming dining room for traditional Japanese country fare. Shareable bites of unusual offerings will spark conversation and closeness, but if your idea of a good time is more hand-to-hand than hand in hand, check out the martial-arts classes in the dojo next door for some grappling tips.
6. Ellyngton's at the Brown Palace
321 17th Street
If you want to spoil your sweetie or celebrate a milestone anniversary, Ellyngton’s champagne brunch and high tea are the very definition of lavish in one of Denver’s most iconic hotels. You'll feel like royalty during the morning meal, which comes with four tier options leading up to the sumptuous Dom Perignon brunch. Make it a weekend for a romantic staycation splurge in your own city.
2030 West 30th Avenue
The magic formula for the perfect romantic evening? Patio heaters, killer sunset views and international small plates to share. Linger’s world-fusion cuisine just never seems to get tired, spanning the globe from Africa through Europe and into the Far East. Choosing this LoHi dazzler will let your date know you're all in for fun and adventure. And for bonus points, take a few steps outside the door for creamy dessert at Little Man Ice Cream.
4. Nocturne Jazz and Supper Club
1330 27th Street
Hidden behind the sultry veil of RiNo, through an unassuming warehouse entrance, Nocturne offers both large and small bites coupled with live jazz to enhance the mood. With seasonal five-course tasting menus inspired by iconic jazz albums, Nocturne's menu is full of sensory overload in all the right ways. Ask for a table on the mezzanine for an intimate tête à tête, or sit stage-side to get in the full swing.
3. Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
1215 20th Street
Ophelia’s pairs craveable cocktails with music and dancing in a space that offered erotic entertainment for decades before being transformed into its current sexy setting. With raw oysters and other small bites to nosh on, this is one spot where food is an aphrodisiac. The vintage adult-movie posters and peep-show theme might be a little forward for a first date, but there will be no mistaking your message if you choose a rendezvous here.
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2615 Larimer Street
Everyone loves sushi, so what better way to cut through the awkward first-date convo than with a conveyor belt that delivers just what you need at just the right time? The newest endeavor from restaurateur Jeff Osaka (whose twelve was always a couples' favorite in the neighborhood), this RiNo hotspot with pop-art-covered walls offers rolls and nigiri on small plates priced by color-coded plates. You might have a magic moment as you and your date reach for the same plate.
1. Vesta Dipping Grill
1822 Blake Street
If you’re like us and have a love affair with sauces, Vesta will easily steal your heart – and tantalize your palate, with a variety of flavors from around the world. Named for the Roman goddess of the hearth, Vesta offers warm, cozy ambience where you can while away the evening over a full meal or keep it casual with drinks at the bar. As generations of fondue-lovers know, dipping is an interactive experience perfect for two.