Romance, really, should be a year-long ritual, and not just an obligatory pressure cooker on Valentine's Day -- which is why we've compiled a cheat sheet of the ten most romantic restaurants in Denver for any night of the week. And on March 29, when our Best of Denver® 2012 issue hits the pavement, we'll announce the most romantic restaurant of all. In the meantime, take note: These date-night spots are listed in no particular order. Briarwood Inn 1630 Eighth Street, Golden
While it's absolutely true that the menu hasn't been updated since you were a teenager sniffing whippets, the Briarwood continues to deliver one of the most elegant dining experiences in the city, thanks to polished, pampering service, tables draped in starched white tablecloths illuminated by soft light, and tried-and-true European cuisine that, while antiquated, is beautifully prepared by a kitchen staff that still believes in old-world decadence.
Barolo Grill 3030 East Sixth Avenue
Now that owner Blair Taylor has completely remodeled Barolo Grill, it's a stunning restaurant that's simultaneously sexy and sophisticated, making it an excellent date spot for newly hinged couples and those of you who've been married much longer than you care to admit. And then there's the lovely fireplace that warms a table for two, a terrific wine list, an unfaltering staff and a chef who's firing on all four cylinders.
Bistro Vendome 1420 Larimer Street
This bewitching French bistro, whose kitchen is commanded by a passionate chef whose food is just as lusty as she is, guarantees an intimate tete-a-tete. Linger over a bottle of bubbly, sneak smooches across the table, and then, to make things interesting, pick a fight to see who gets the last butter-soaked snail. Make up while sharing the chocolate-and-butterscotch tart freckled with fleur de sel.
Beatrice & Woodsley 38 South Broadway
Trumpeting some of the most memorable decor we've ever seen in a Mile High City restaurant, Beatrice & Woodsley is, quite simply, an elaborate fairy tale that unfolds in an enchanted forest. Here you'll slide into curved booths that glow under the flicker of lanterns, which give the room, bedecked in light wood, a sentimental softness. As a bonus, the conversation-piece bathrooms easily accommodate...oh, wait, this is a restaurant.
Steakhouse 10 3517 South Elati Street
If the sizzle of tender steaks and scarlet juices at Steakhouse 10 doesn't turn up your testosterone, the seductive nude photos, which dominate the upstairs lounge, undoubtedly will. And the dimly lit downstairs dining room, embellished with black-leather banquettes and booths, is nearly as seductive. You could easily settle in for the night...or until the cows come home.
Vesta Dipping Grill 1822 Blake Street
After all these years, Vesta Dipping Grill is still a gorgeous goddess. The sultry union of modern chic and weathered rustic interior creates a spark that fuels its romance. Adding to the kindle is an ever-evolving menu of shareable plates, delicious main dishes and dipping sauces complemented by a noteworthy wine list and alluring cocktails that are all too easy to have a mad crush on.
Black Crown Piano Lounge 1446 South Broadway
If you're lustful for the quintessential romantic date place, the Black Crown Piano Lounge delivers it in abundance. The jaw-gaping quarters, strewn with magnificent antiques and chandeliers, is bolstered by talented -- some remarkably so -- pianists who croon better than Frank. Beautifully comfortable sofas and oversize chairs furnish the two-tiered space, which also has a kitchen that turns out everything from a cheese plate to basil-crusted lamb and beef Wellington.
Before you pack your bags and jet off for Paris, indulge in dinner at Z Cuisine or À Côté, the French restaurant's next-door bar. Both sanctuaries strike a romantic mood from the get-go, an ideal appetizer for dinner, which is so good that it makes the real world practically disappear into your cassoulet or charcuterie plate. But be forewarned: Tables are at a premium, and reservations aren't accepted.
Mizuna 225 East Seventh Avenue
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Unpretentiously opulent, Mizuna bathes in the glow of buttercup-stained walls, which cast a serene glimmer over the white-clothed tables that seat the city's movers, shakers and starry-eyed romance makers. Everything here -- from the unassailable service to the wine syllabus to the lobster macaroni and cheese, which in and of itself has made guests fall deeply in love -- feels like an aphrodisiac.
Fruition 1313 East Sixth Avenue
True, the tables at tiny Fruition are precariously close to one another, but this is the kind of restaurant where it's easy to ignore everything else that's going on around you and instead focus entirely on what's on your plate and the deep, heavy sighs of your date. Fruition effortlessly melds understated romance with chef Alex Seidel's food poetry, the combination of which makes for an undeniably dreamy dinner.