VOL. 42 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 9, 2018
Nashville's most romantic restaurants for 2018
By Hollie Deese
Nashville has a restaurant for every mood. If you're looking for romance on Valentine’s Day or any night of the week, you can’t miss with these.
Restaurants new to the list are designated with an *.
360 Wine Bar Bistro
6000 Highway 100, 615 353-5604, www.360bistro.com
Eleven years in business and it’s still all about great food and wine at West Meade’s 360. The menu is always evolving, but never straying too far from what works, handily led by Joe Townsend (Merchants, Moto, F. Scott’s) in his second stint in the kitchen after working back of house years ago. The bistro vibe provides the right kind of intimate atmosphere for couples who still want to communicate over the lamb sugo, tagliatelle, roasted red peppers, ricotta-salata, basil or prosciutto-wrapped salmon, butternut rice grits and arugula chestnut pesto.
The 404 Kitchen
Recently relocated to 507 12th Ave. S., 615 251-1404, www.the404nashville.com
With a menu driven by Chef Matt Bolus (Watermark, Flyte) – and nods from the James Beard Awards from which it received a 2014 nomination as Best New Restaurant, this is still one of the more intimate tables in town teeming with intimate tables. Valentine’s Day features the regular menu or a special five-course tasting menu ($90 per person) that includes a lobster risotto with tarragon, chives and orange agrumato and prime rib with sweet potato pomme robouchon, charred cipollini onions and Perigord black truffle.
5th & Taylor
1411 5th Ave. N., 615 242-4747, www.5thandtaylor.com
Chef Daniel Lindley has created a feeling of love through food for the city’s discerning crowd. An enclosed patio space features a diamond-shaped, infinity-edged fountain and matching exterior bar. For extra romance and privacy, try and score one of the elevated dining rooms. Start with the wood-fired oysters with garlic butter and pig ear before moving on to the snapper with roasted root vegetables and mushroom broth. End the evening with something sweet, perhaps the boozy brownie with George Dickel and Imperial Stout.
1210 McGavock St., 615 988-9700, www.adelesnashville.com
A delicious nod to chef Jonathan Waxman’s mother, Adele, the restaurant is all warmth and hominess despite the building’s humble beginnings as a garage. Once inside, there’s a large fireplace for grilling just like Waxman had growing up, which sets the tone for intimate conversation over drinks and dinner. On Valentine’s Day, indulge in an elevated version of the regular menu or a special, four-course prix fixe menu that includes oysters with rose granita, oven-roasted bone marrow with lemon, and garlic on toasted bread and a pork chop with fig, braised fennel, Swiss chard and pickled mustard.
132 46th Ave., N., 615 942-0866, www.answerrestaurant.com
The Sylvan Park restaurant from partners and co-owners Chris Raucci, executive chef, and Victoria Rothberg, general manager, who met working together at Ted’s Montana Grill. At answer, the chefs offer a comfortable setting where the aim is for guests to be able to connect with one another while still enjoying the food. The seasonal menu is globally inspired, with classic dishes taking on a tinge of innovation like bucatini with lamb and pork ragu, pine nut, bread crumbs, pecorino and herbs or duck with braised cabbage, orange, turnip, turmeric, pierogi, caraway and ale jus.
Antonio’s of Nashville
7097 Old Harding Pike, 615 646-9166, www.antoniosofnashville.com
After more than two decades in business, any restaurant reaches icon status, and that’s exactly what this Old World Italian restaurant on Old Harding Pike in Bellevue has done. While filled with delicious standards, there are a few tasty surprises on the menu, too, like salmon sautéed in butter with red onions flamed with vodka, simmered in San Marzano tomatoes, a touch of cream and fresh basil, tossed with linguine pasta and parmesan cheese. The osso buco alla Milanese veal shank is as iconic as the restaurant, braised with aromatic vegetables, wine, fresh rosemary, tomatoes, served with grilled polenta alla parmigiana and veggies.
3 City Ave., 615 329-2377, www.eatavo.com
Diners celebrate a love of fresh fare at the city’s first plant-based restaurant which has been drawing fans as much for its ambiance as for its vegan fare since it opened in 2015. No processed ingredients in sight, and with nothing heated at more than 118 degrees, food has been elevated to an art with plates about as pretty as they come, including the pad thai with kelp, daikon and zucchini noodles tossed in homemade spicy almond sauce – light, fresh, cold and delicious. Drinks are just as adventurous, including housemade draft kombucha and the signature margarita made with fresh avocado, resposado, cilantro, fresh lime, agave and homemade orange dust.
Barcelona Wine Bar
1200 Villa Place #110, 615 327-0600, www.barcelonawinebar.com
One of seven across the country, the menu is handily taken care of by chef Andy Hayes (Hermitage Hotel, Moto), a Jackson native who uses his experience growing up on his grandmother’s blueberry farm to drive his sustainable menu of fresh ingredients. Order a variety of tapas to share, experiencing the steamed mussels with arugula, spiced beef empanadas with red pepper sauce or scallops a la Plancha with blood orange and fennel. The restaurant also has one of the largest Spanish wine lists in the United States, with an extensive collection from Spain and South America including more than 40 by the glass.
434 Houston St., 615 490-8434, www.bastionnashville.com
With just 24 seats, this WeHo restaurant continues to be one of the hottest tables in town, thanks to Chef Josh Habinger. Previously of the acclaimed Catbird Seat, Habinger gets to live out his culinary dreams here, and diners get to reap all the rewards. Parties larger than six can’t be accommodated, so it is great for intimate dinner dates. Dinner consists of evolving five-course a la carte menu items for parties up to four, while parties of four or five get a prix fix, large format dinner called the feast.
218 3rd Ave. N, 615 891-2380, www.blackrabbittn.com
Printers Alley is having a moment (which neighborhood isn’t?) – but Black Rabbit fits right into the reinvigorated working-class neighborhood that has the city’s sexiest gathering for small bites and drinks. Nashville native Trey Cioccia heads up the kitchen, while jazz and live piano music enhance the ambience. A wood-fired grill and oven is the centerpiece not only looks good, but yields delicious items like breads baked over a live fire.
Butcher & Bee
902 Main St., 615 226-3322, www.butcherandbee.com
Sandwiches have become sexy at the East Nashville outpost of the Charleston original. The menu is always changing by Chef Bryan Lee Weaver based on what’s fresh that day. Add a few of the small plates into the mix for the ultimate sharing experience, maybe the mushroom toast with sourdough, roasted garlic and pecorino, or the tiger-style Brussels with green curry, lime, fresh herbs and crunchy onions. Increase the romance quotient by tucking into one of the intimate spaces with a couple of glasses of prosecco or even one of the custom cocktails. End the night with a sweet treat, like the spiced dark chocolate pot de crème with meringue, cocoa nib and cayenne chile.
1416 Fourth Ave. N., 615 454-3634, www.butchertownhall.com
Open seven days a week, and the wood-fired Tex-Mex fare is a little something different, adding a touch of spice to the Germantown neighborhood. The result is an homage to Chef Terry Raley’s Texas Hill Country roots, and the historic Czech and German butcher shop culture that once filled Germantown. Start with the oak-roasted marrow bones with rough chopped chimichurri and farm bread, then progress to the pan-seared veal with creamy almond, roasted Romanesco, guajillo and braised white beans.
1910 Belcourt Ave., 615 577-2262, www.cabananashville.com
Get caught up in the energy of the crowd, or sink into a cabana for some quality one-on-one time at this Hillsboro Village staple from Randy Rayburn and gang that has been bringing Southern comfort cuisine to the area for years. The semi-private cabanas are the way to go for a romantic evening but a reservation is needed ahead of time if you want to guarantee one – a $250 spending limit is in place for cabana reservations. Once there, indulge in some buttermilk fried chicken with whipped potatoes or grilled salmon with butternut squash risotto, roasted cauliflower and toast almond gremolata.
4427 Murphy Road, 615 463-0133, www.caffenonna.com
The ambience is on point at this Sylvan Park stalwart, a culinary gift to the neighborhood from Chef Daniel Maggipinto that has been wowing diners for nearly 20 years with from-scratch pastas and sauces based on his grandmother’s recipes. As the neighborhood has grown and changed around him, this place has become a beacon and one of the foremost businesses in the area. From the beginning of the meal that could start with beautiful seafood caprese bruschetta with shrimp, scallops, crispy pancetta, sundried tomatoes and fresh herbs to the very end sipping Italian roast coffee with dessert, the experience is all about quality. The small space makes this the right place for special occasions, especially when sipping a Malbec with your dinner date.
The Capitol Grille
231 Sixth Ave. N, 615 345-7116, www.capitolgrillenashville.com
It’s a classic for a reason. On Valentine’s Day, enjoy a four-course menu that includes lobster bisque with bourbon, pork belly with cornbread puree, crispy baby kale and roasted persimmons and fennel pollen dusted scallops with potato pancake, sweet potato puree and candied fennel gremolata. To finish, how can you turn down the Chocolate Decadence Cake with raspberry crispy meringue and salted caramel.
The Catbird Seat
1711 Division Street, 615 810-8200, www.thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com
With just 22 seats, it doesn’t get more intimate than this in the bustling Gulch. The creation of Strategic Hospitality’s power restauranteur brothers Max and Benjamin Goldberg, the kitchen is enclosed by an intimate U-shaped counter and has seen a number of talented chefs at the helm. Currently, that distinction goes to Ryan Poli, who before flying to Music City did time at some Chicago standouts. Reservations at Catbird run on a 30-day rolling calendar, and the multi-course chef’s tasting menu ($115/person) is always changing, and the interaction with the chef is as much about the experience as the flavors.
Chauhan Ale and Masala House
123 12th Ave. N., 615 242-8426, www.chauhannashville.com
Another Chicago chef, Maneet Chauhan, brings her strong flavors to Nashville, and fans are loving every bite. Couples can feel relaxed but still like they are on a special date night out thanks to the upscale décor, professional staff and buzzy ambiance. Start with mussels in a spicy coconut curry with grilled lime and artisan grilled bread or the totally indulgent tandoori chicken with makhani sauce, Kenny’s cheese curds and masala fries then split the indulgent seafood ciappino with seafood mix, coconut garam masala broth and freshly steamed basmati rice.
1222 Fourth Ave. N., 615 736-5838, www.cityhousenashville.com
One of Germantown’s pioneering restaurants is still one of the best, thanks to the seemingly never-ending delicious magic from Chef Tandy Wilson and his capable crew. The weekly Sunday supper has become one of the most reliable dining events around, and a perfect date night. With a new menu posted each week, recent options have included liver on toast with peach mostarda and ham and belly with ricotta, parmesan, red onion and oregano. It’s loud for sure, but that’s part of its charm. So, over a couple of glasses of wine, embrace the smells coming from the wood-fired oven while the hustle and bustle of the always-buzzing room fades away.
609 Lafayette St., 615 324-1010, www.citywinery.com/nashville
City Winery has become a go-to place to have a sophisticated date downtown, thanks to ample seating, buzzy energy, extensive wine list and incredible food. The music venue and restaurant hybrid has wine on tap and food that pairs perfectly. Nashville’s first fully operational winery, it produces and serves house wines from grape varieties sourced from vineyards around the world. For Valentine’s Day, celebrate for three days (Feb. 13-15) with specialty dishes created by Executive Chef Garrett Pittler, including tuna tartare with avocado, duck egg, gochujang sesame mayo and potato chips and a donut trio of Krispy Kruller, Champagne and Pop Rocks and Kimi Strawberry.
Commerce Street Grille
Renaissance Nashville Hotel, 611 Commerce St., 615 493-4050
Hotel restaurants are true competitors in the food scene, including this Marriott outpost with regional menu that features dishes such as Lynchburg spiced ribeye and grilled filet with a local cheese mousse. Sip on signature cocktails, look over the extensive wine selection or simply choose one of the many local draft beers on tap while relaxing amongst the bustle of downtown. Finish with a slice of Jack Daniels chocolate chip cake or Snickers cheesecake for a truly indulgent end to a delicious evening.
Cork & Cow
403 Main St., Franklin, 615 538-6021, www.corkandcow.com
The Franklin restaurant from McConnell Hospitality Group impresses diners looking for a little romance with one of its custom cocktails like Sugar Bear with Picker’s vodka or Corsair gin, blackberry, strawberry, blueberry, rhubarb bitters and limonata soda. Then try the charred oysters with garlic butter and parmesan crumbs to the veal chop with patatas bravas, broccoli rabe, artichoke hearts and port wine.
Deacon’s New South
401 Church St., 615 994-1994, www.deaconsnewsouth.com
Located in the historic Life & Casualty Tower downtown, this is a modern, Southern steakhouse with a prominent dry-aging room and an exposed kitchen with a wood fire grill, as well as two bars and a lounge. Chicken-fried lobster tails just start off the indulgences, with the bourbon short ribs, roasted duck breast and pork shoulder steak all following suit. Built in the 1950s as Nashville’s first skyscraper, the L&C’s art-deco influences are incorporated into Deacon’s sleek, industrial design.
Decker & Dyer
The Westin, 807 Clark Place, 615 248-2800, www.westinnashville.com
Another hotel restaurant hitting all the right notes is Decker and Dyer, an upscale but still approachable restaurant on the main level floor of The Westin Nashville. At night, it transforms into a lively restaurant, bar and lounge with seasonal offerings influenced by local ingredients. The crab cake is full of lump crab meat and not much filler, served with roasted corn and green chili, watercress and crushed potato while meat lovers will drool over the dry-aged NY strip with glazed pearl onions, thyme butter and malt frites. Feeling amorous after dinner? Just book a room with a view in the new hotel.
97 Chapel Ave., 615 627-1088, www.eastlandcafe.com
This dining destination is what East Nashville is all about – comfortable, casual, community-minded and approachable, with a twist. Owned by Willy and Yvette Thomas of Sylvan Park gem Park Café, the current chef is Paul Wright, who worked his way up after years of sous work at Eastland. The ambiance is inviting no matter how busy, thanks to the warm mahogany paneling and candle-lit tables – perfect for either a special occasion or simply a spontaneous date night. Start by splitting the pizza of the day or the fried green tomato Napoleon with jalapeno candied bacon, pimento cheese and pepper jelly.
Eio and The Hive
5304 Charlotte Ave., 615 942-7031, www.eioandthehive.com
Focused on organic sourcing and sustainability, the restaurant was founded by wellness entrepreneur Jennifer Masley and is located in the heart of West Nashville. The chef-inspired menus feature healthy comfort foods, all of which are sourced from the finest local suppliers and purveyors, prepared by Top Chef alum and former Sinema chef, Dale Levitski. Try the blackened salmon with charred Brussels sprouts, sweet potato mash and lemon ginger maple glaze, or the coconut curry bowl with grilled octopus and golden raisins.
Elliston Place Soda Shop
2111 Elliston Place, 615 327-1090, www.ellistonplacesodashop.com)
With so many new, hip, trendy spots to choose from, why not take the pressure off of a first date and hit up a Nashville institution instead, if only to share one of its super-thick milkshakes with a potential partner? Open since 1939, more than a few of Nashville couples have probably gotten their start over burgers, fries and a fountain soda at this Rock Block staple – the street was named for the Elliston family who originally owned most of the property – not to mention the classic egg creams, ice cream floats, dreamsicles, milkshakes and malts. The rotating meat-and-three menu is great for lunch dates too, or lay all the cards out on the table from the very beginning and show them how much you can dig into the gooey patty melts and a plate of onion rings.
2902 12th Ave. S., 615 720-6765, www.epicenashville.com
This neighborhood Lebanese bistro is just the place to expand your taste buds with someone special. The modest setting with limited seating designed by Nashville’s Patrick Avice du Buisson is owned by Maher Fawaz of Green Hill’s Kalamata’s. The executive chef is William Zaitz, in love with the cuisine since his own romantic marriage to a Lebanese. Indulge in traditional fare like the roasted eggplant with ground sirloin and vermicelli rice or lamb shank with white bean cassoulet or shakshuka with oven-baked eggs over spiced tomato has. At the end, choose from a number of desserts to finish on a sweet note, like the kenafah with sweet cheese, mascarpone, shredded filo and orange blossom syrup.
3790 Bedford Ave., 615 988-0332, www.etc.restaurant.com
Longtime fans of Chef Deb Paquette’s Etch have not been disappointed by this 2,400-square-foot stunner. The interior features simply adorned tables, a large bar and lots of open-air seating, but still remains intimate thanks to funky light fixtures and warm woods that fill out the space. The food is the real star though, and on Valentine’s Day there is a four-course prix fixe menu for $80 with optional wine pairings for $30 that will incorporate all of Deb’s favorite spices and flavors, including a Peruvian winter bisque with lobster, celery truffle oil and amaranth microgreens, or scallops with wild black rice, confit king oyster mushrooms, brussel sprouts, yuzu and kimchi daikon slaw.
303 Demonbreum St., 615 522-0685, www.etchrestaurant.com
Zola’s closing is a distant memory thanks to Chef Deb Paquette’s downtown restaurant in the ground floor of the Encore tower. For a special night out, try the venison with feta filo clutch, pomegranate walnut sauce, black olive tapenade, confit pearl onions and Tunisian poached apricots and mint relish. For dessert, try some cheesecake panna cotta with sweet potato ginger puree, pumpkin spice cake, pear compote and caramelized rice krispies.
The Farm House
210 Almond St., 615 522-0688, www.thefarmhousetn.com
Mt. Juliet native Trey Cioccia is the founder and executive chef of this charming spot that shows off the deep influence of his farmer grandfather who maintained the family’s 100-acre Tennessee farm. From an early age Cioccia developed a deep connection to food, land and farming, which is all clearly evident and deliciously memorable. On Valentine’s Day patrons can experience a four-course dinner for $70/person that includes duck cassoulet with coffee pecan bark, brown butter ice cream and whiskey caramel – and that isn’t even the dessert. For that, make sure you and your date get one of each – the chocolate buckwheat torte and the honey ricotta cheesecake
Fifty First Kitchen & Bar
5104 Illinois Ave., 615 712-6111, www.51nashville.com
Think farm-fresh ingredients with a seasonal flair, 51st thinks of everything, including the dog park for patron’s pets. Heaters on the patio make it possible to enjoy dinner al fresco, like the autumn chicken finished with brown butter sauce and served with parmesan sweet potato risotto and black beans, charred corn and kale. On Valentine’s Day, there’s a full menu with one special, a roasted red pepper pesto-fredo pasta. The fettuccine will be folded in with house-made roasted red pepper pesto and roasted red pepper cream sauce, finished with chicken (or without), fresh basil, and roasted red peppers. The cream sauce is delicate and delicious, and a gorgeous red hue for the occasion.
Fin and Pearl
211 12th Ave. S, 615 577-6688, www.finandpearl.com
At this sustainable seafood restaurant, Executive Chef Matt Farley has created a fish-based menu and is committed to exclusively working with purveyors that provide the highest-quality fish caught by small, privately owned boats devoted to sustainability. On Valentine’s Day, enjoy the regular menu, or try some additional specials like she-crab soup with sherry whipped cream. Surf n’ turf with a 36-ounce tomahawk ribeye with foie gras compound butter and whole Maine lobster with tarragon drawn butter and airline fried chicken and Tennessee paddlefish caviar.
2201 Bandywood Drive, 615 383-0042, www.fireflygrillenashville.com
Holding its own in ever-growing Green Hills, Firefly Grille was opened in 2001 by Curt Cole, a born and raised Nashvillian who brought a seasonally-changing menu to town before most anyone else. The food is just as delicious as the day the place opened, amplified by the casually funky décor, and an intimate dinner for two can never go wrong when it starts with truffled white cheddar and goat cheese macaroni. A perfect place to spend dinner after a movie at the nearby theater, or better yet, before a show at The Bluebird.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar
2525 West End Ave., 615 342-0131, www.flemingssteakhouse.com
Yes, it’s a chain, but there is just something about a delicious steak, a crackling fire and a glass of red that appeals to the romantic in many, and this place hits all the right notes. There are more than 100 wines by the glass, including dozens of local selections, and the food is absolutely indulgent. This year Fleming’s is celebrating Valentine’s Day all week, Feb. 9-18, with a four-course meal that includes a filet mignon or salmon with colossal shrimp and roasted garlic butter or colossal king crab, au gratin style. For dessert - chocolate covered madeleine cookies and chocolate-dipped strawberries with house made Chantilly cream.
Flyte World Dining and Wine
718 Division Street, 615 255-6200, www.flytenashville.com
One of The Gulch’s dining pioneers, it has been more than a decade since Flyte first opened its doors and served its mission of sustainable food, outstanding wines and exceptional service. On Valentine’s Day, try the four-course menu for $85/person, wine an additional $40. Choices will include a roasted tomato soup with multi-grain croutons, crème fraiche and basil, a lobster roll with Mahi rillettes, potato roll, celery and lemon caper and a fish and shrimp duo with Shelton Farm grits, braised greens and shellfish stock emulsion. A pecan toffee bar with caramelized white chocolate and bourbon jam is good enough all on its own to book a table for the night, that and award-winning harpist Kirsten Agresta.
1304 McGavock Pike, 615 730-6273, www.hungrylikefort.com
Cozy and inviting are just two of the words that describe this new American dining spot in East Nashville – and not just because there is a fireplace in the middle of the room. The food and drinks seem to inspire closeness and conversation. Don’t debate about whether you should get the curry fried chicken bucket with local honey and benne seed corn bread – just go ahead and order it. That, and the fish taco steam buns with crispy perch, spicy mayo, and celeriac-green papaya slaw. Tuck into a corner table, order a couple of drinks and enjoy the vibe of this new place led by Chef Greg Biggers.
Foxland Harbor Southern Grill
1445 Foxland Blvd., Gallatin, 615 451-2650, www.foxlandharbor.com
Located in a Gallatin mansion from the 1820s, the menu features Chef Julio Hernandez’s inspired dishes made from sustainable fresh seafood flown in from all over the world, antibiotic and hormone-free beef, locally grown vegetables, made-from-scratch dressings and homemade signature desserts. The décor is all warm wood and low lighting, and the menu offers indulgent twists on so many classics – mac and cheese is anything but ordinary here with seared gulf shrimp and scallops, aged white cheddar and smoked bacon bread crumb brulee, while the black peppercorn crusted ahi tuna comes with fried avocado, pickled ginger spread, seaweed salad and wasabi. The libation list is small but impressive.
1200 5th Ave., N., 615 242-3226, www.germantowncafe.com
With all of the new and exciting restaurants that are opening fast and furious in Nashville, sometimes it is nice to go back to the places where it all began. Germantown Café is one of those spots, a Music City dining innovator that helped make the neighborhood a desirable place to be. The crab cakes keep people coming back for more, but for something new, try the escargot in mushroom caps with seasoned cream cheese herb garlic bitter or coconut curry salmon with creamy risotto. A must-try starter? The pork belly tater tots with shredded sweet potato and white cheddar cheese with apple cider demi-glace.
909 20th Ave. South, 615 760-5932; 106 Harding Place, 615 750-2003, www.giovanninashville.com
Soft piano music, subdued lighting, Italian accents, red wine – Giovanni is all about romance in a Midtown house meant to resemble a Tuscan villa. After moving to Nashville after nearly three decades in Manhattan, this family knows Italian food, as one look at the impressive menu will show. And after the success of the first location, they opened one in Belle Meade last year. All of the pasta is homemade in house with organic free-range chicken eggs, and which make the perfect base for everything from a butter sage sauce to a perfect béchamel. Proposals happen often, and the staff are more than happy to accommodate any special request to make the night a memorable one. On Valentine’s Day for $100 per person, diners can get a sampling of some of the best, like the braised short ribs over mashed potatoes, the roasted rack of pork with Lyonnaise potatoes, the tagliolini pasta with porcini mushrooms and Norcia black truffles, and of course, some tiramisu.
Gray & Dudley
21c Museum Hotel, 221 2nd Ave. N., 615 610-6460, www.grayanddudley.com
Chef Levon Wallace heads up the hospitality and shares the eclectic menu of market-driven dishes, sourced from Nashville area producers and craft purveyors, at this hotel-based stunner. But it isn’t just the looks bringing in the regulars – it is absolutely the food too. The seared octopus with fingerling potatoes, olives, and bagna cauda are a good start, and the royal red shrimp with grits, caramelized fennel and foraged mushrooms really keep things going on a good path. After dinner, check into one of the 124 rooms of the hotel, and if you can, try and snag one of the rooftop suites with outdoor terrace. Maybe you can even grab one of Gray & Dudley’s cream puffs with dark chocolate, caramel, hazelnuts and espresso to go.
Harvest at Homestead Manor
4683 Columbia Pike, Thompson’s Station, 615 538-6113, www.homesteadmanor.com
Located in a home from 1819, Harvest at Homestead Manor is a Tuscan-inspired restaurant that cultivates its own 50-acre, on-site organic farm for menus that reflect the season. The whiskey-brined confit fried chicken with Tabasco honey sauce, grilled trout with roasted root vegetables, leek sauce and Benton’s Bacon and braised rabbit with mushrooms cream sauce and pasta are all standouts, so maybe make a deal with your date to agree on two dishes and share.
Hemingway’s Bar & Hideaway
438 Houston St., Suite 160, 615 915-1715, www.hemingwaysbarandhideaway.com
A We-Ho restaurant inspired by Hemingway is peak hipness, but the food lives up to the attitude.
For its first Valentine’s Day at $75 a person, a four-course meal sets the tone for romance with beef tartare with beet puree, horseradish, crème fraiche and herbs; raw oysters with orange-ginger mignonette; risotto with parmesan and black pepper – and those are just the starter options. Hopefully, by the time the two of you make it to the chocolate pot de crème and olive oil cake, you’ll have enjoyed the company as much as the food.
2023 Broadway, 615 340-6378, www.henleynashville.com
This modern, Midtown brasserie takes its cues from regional cooking and quality products that are meant to be shared. The most romantic spot in the space is the Snooker, a hushed and intimate area. The Chef’s Table is the place everyone wants to be. Communal dishes and small plates can offer up everything from Bear Creek Farms corned beef and pierogi croquette with pickled red cabbage and Russian hollandaise to lacquered duck breast with sake kasu, pumpkin seeds, sweet potato and onion caramel.
1200 4th Ave. N., 615 490-8042, www.henriettared.com
The Germantown neighborhood continues to become a beacon for Nashville’s booming food scene with this American restaurant opened by Nashville native and chef Julia Sullivan, her business partner Allie Poindexter and Strategic Hospitality. Named for Julia’s grandparents, Henrietta Red showcases contemporary cooking with a focus on seasonal ingredients in a warm and welcoming space. Using a wood burning oven to highlight her seasonal cooking. Menu highlights include wood roasted mackerel with radishes and salsa verde, grilled cauliflower steak with pistachio aillade, and spiny lobster with leeks and preserved lemon aioli. The bar features a large menu of shareable small plates, too, perfect for dates, and includes wood roasted oysters with bagna cauda, smoked mussel toast with dill and mustard butter, and rotating daily specials such as fish and chips with shoestring fries.
37 Rutledge St., 615 256-6565, www.husknashville.com
In a time when Southern ingredients are shining on menus across the city, Husk Nashville in Rutledge Hill is definitely one of the finest examples, thanks to the menu from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock and his talented Chef de Cuisine Nate Leonard. Constructed into the side of a hill in former Mayor Richard Dudley’s 1897 home, the star of Husk is certainly the Southern-influenced fare, some of the best in Nashville, and the menu is updated twice daily. Try any of the menu items with flourishes of Lowcountry (South Carolina) ingredients, like honey lacquered duck with pickled blueberries and chanterelles and crispy pork collar paired with cornbread purée and greasy beans.
73 White Bridge Road, 615 352-0981; 1721 Galleria Blvd., Franklin, 615 771-7779, and Redlands Grill by J. Alexander’s, 2609 West End, 615 340-9901, www.jalexanders.com
At J. Alexander’s and its rebranded Redlands Grill, the focus is on service, atmosphere and of course, the contemporary American wood-fired menu that features a wide selection of classics like prime rib of beef, steak cut in-house and fresh seafood (J. Alexander’s), as well as sushi, tacos and eclectic salad offerings (Redlands). An artisan pizza is a no-brainer to split with your date – maybe the prosciutto de Parma with arugula – though choosing what comes next is hard when the extensive menu is filled with such tempting options, like the cilantro tiger shrimp or slow-roasted prime rib. A wide range of cocktails complement both menus, and dessert is always just the right ending – make sure to see what house made options come tableside that night.
Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse
300 Fourth Ave. N., 615 434-4300, www.jeffruby.com
Stylish, sophisticated, steak. Those are the three things that define this 10,000-square-foot outpost of the Cincinnati-based steakhouse chain that has made its mark downtown with Art Deco-inspired décor and over-the-top grandeur. Snag one of the curved booths and take in the selection of sashimi and nigari that shows off the freshness of the fish just as well as the raw bar offerings, jumbo lump crab cake with red pepper vinaigrette and oysters Rockefeller with spinach, Mornay, Pernod and Parmigiano-Reggiano. But it is the dry-aged steak and sides that really showcase what it does best. For dessert, go all in with ricotta donuts served with mocha and bourbon anglaise.
217 Louise Ave., 615 329-4349, www.jimmykellys.com
Just try and imagine all of the special-occasion dinners this standard steakhouse has been the host to since it first opened in 1934 – chances are plenty of local couples have fond memories of a meal shared with a loved one at Jimmy Kelly’s. The steaks are hand-cut by the butcher in house on the day they are to be served, selected from the stash of grain-fed beef that has been aged a minimum of 28 days. A couple of those topped with chipotle hollandaise and a side of lobster, and you’ve got the makings of a very memorable meal – no wonder it is a Nashville classic. Seal the evening in your brain forever by finishing up with the classic Death by Chocolate - homemade chocolate on chocolate with cream filling between the layers drizzled with a white chocolate sauce.
2316 12th Ave. South, 615 292-7766, www.josephineon12th.com
Open since 2013 in the same location that once housed the pioneering Rumours Wine Bar, you and your date can discuss the evolution of dining in Music City over a variety of small shared plates – maybe the Josephine whole chicken for two with crispy potato, kale and grilled onion vinaigrette. Chef Andrew Little has made sure there are communal tables available for walk-ins, but if you think ahead and reserve one of the high-backed leather booths, you’ll be sure to have a truly intimate evening filled with good wine, good food and a memorable companion. On Valentine’s Day look for a few special menu items in addition to the regular offerings.
1103 McGavock Street, 615 259-0050, www.mstreetnashville.com/kayne-prime
M. Street’s boutique steakhouse Kayne Prime continues to hold its own in a rapidly growing food scene, thanks to everything from the décor to the wine menu to the range of classic cocktails and innovative drinks. A fusion of a classic American steakhouse and of-the-moment hot spot, couples will love sinking into one of the rich intimate booths and admiring the dark wood walls made from reclaimed railroad ties. Start with house made bacon with black peppercorn and maple cotton candy, then move on to the snapper with kale kimchi, sweet potato puree and beet powder. Even the creamed spinach is next level with a fried egg and truffle. Some of the city’s best views too, overlooking the city’s iconic train yards – the name takes inspiration from the neighborhood, based on the historic Kayne switch yard located directly across 11th Avenue.
1922 Adelicia St., 615 490-8550, www.leselnashville.com
Located in the base of the Adelicia condos in Midtown, the vibe at this French brasserie is playful and fun with a room that is light and bright, with the middle of the restaurant highlighted with a white marble oyster bar filled with innovative raw options. Le Sel (salt in French) is another stunner from Strategic Hospitality, added by Chef Brian Lea. And the food is truly delicious to boot, from the bouillabaisse with rock shrimp, mussels, scallops and clams to the cote de bouf with pomme aligot and au poivre.
505 12th Ave. S., 615 454-3946, www.littleoctopusnashville.com
Settling into its Gulch location after its East Nashville launch, the food and atmosphere make it both the perfect place for meeting after work for an impromptu dinner date, or planning ahead for a special dinner out. The brainchild of Pop Nashville’s Sarah and Brad Gavigan, the menu is both simple and sophisticated without being pretentious. Plates are meant to share, especially this Valentine’s Day when you can split a plate of white sweet potato with zaatar, salsa verde and sunchokes.
1520 Woodland St., 615 228-4864, www.lockelandtable.com
One of the South’s greatest talents, Hal M. Holden-Bache opened Lockeland Table with its adventurous cuisine in August 2012 after spending more than a decade delighting palates all over the city. After five years at Eastland, Cafe Hal ventured out with Lockeland. On Valentine’s Day book just for the fried gulf oysters with creamed spinach and horseradish lobster tail with Nicoletto’s linguni with crème frache, lemon and tarragon. End it all with an Olive & Sinclair deep dark woods cake with chocolate ganache, rye cherries, candied pecans and LTY cool whip.
Mack and Kate’s Café
3078 Maddux Way, Franklin, 615 591-4104, www.mackandkatescafe.com
The first restaurant owned by longtime area restauranteurs Jan and Bernie Strawn, its brand of “urban country” keeps people coming because the food is still some of the best of what you would find downtown, but made with the care and love found in a downhome country kitchen. Simply put, Mack and Kate’s is a cute, cozy, romantic café marked by soft lighting and delicious food, and that just works. Start with the jumbo lump crab, grapefruit, mango, avocado, cilantro and champagne vinaigrette – an award-winner – then dive into another signature, the lobster mac and cheese.
1017 Woodland St., 615 227-4668, www.margotcafe.com
Intimate, warm and buzzing with camaraderie, Margot has been luring patrons with its seasonal French- and Italian-inspired menu long before East Nashville was flooded with its current array of upscale neighborhood dining destinations. Still, a pioneer of the city’s slow cooking movement, Margot McCormack remains the best, and if the constantly-packed house wasn’t any indication, any doubts will be gone after the first bite. A recent switch to end the decade-long weekend brunch and add a Sunday dinner was certainly bittersweet, but some of those favorites will still make their way on to plates at night, like the cinnamon pecan sticky bun sundae with homemade ice cream and caramel sauce.
Makeready Libations & Liberation
Noelle, 200 4th Ave. N., 615 649-5000, www.makereadynash.com
One of the newest, most gorgeous boutique hotels in Printers Alley, with art Deco appeal and tons of local touches, this spot is the place to be. Good thing the food is ready for a romantic evening out, too. The restaurant will offer some additional treats to the regular menu Feb. 14-17, and all options are meant for two. Try the roasted spring vegetables with beet demi-glace, scallops and braised oxtail with polenta, a bone-in ribeye with red chimichurri and plantain or the gnocchi with taleggio, black truffle and fine herbs. Also available to all hotel and non-hotel guests on February 14 will be a sample of the La Vie En Rose cocktail and praline truffle from 6-7 p.m. in the hotel’s Trade Room.
401 11th Ave. S., 615 232-6001, www.marshhouserestaurant.com
Another Gulch offering, Marsh House is seafood and Southern-centric and does both very, very well. While the room is bustling and open, intimacy can be found among sharing the food at a corner table or tucked into one of the bar’s intimate seating spaces. Starters sing, like fried oysters with creamed collards and hollandaise sauce, and the shrimp toast with chili and ginger aioli. As for that stunning seafood, the grouper with fennel and satsuma salad with cauliflower puree and pumpernickel is a shining example. Of course, if you want to venture beyond the sea, there are plenty of delicious – and indulgent – choices like the duck confit dirty rice with roasted duck breast and duck fat radish.
2100 West End Ave., 615 321-1990, www.masons-nashville.com
Located in the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, Mason’s is yet another hotel restaurant that is doing it right, bringing forth some tried-and-true provisions with delicious twists at every turn, no matter who the chef is making the menu decisions. Today it’s Patrick McEntyre and the food he has been presenting is delicious, classic favorites, like sea scallops, roasted chicken, and beer battered cod served up with just-right savory sides. Enjoy the location, too, and hit up nearby Midtown bars post-dinner for a bit of extra fun.
The Melting Pot
166 Second Ave. N, 615 742-4970, www.meltingpot.com
What was once one of the foremost romantic dining destinations in Nashville actually still is for plenty of couples young and old. Fondue is romantic, and no one does it better than Melting Pot. Expect Valentine’s Day to be busy, but thanks to the restaurant hosting its romantic specials Feb. 10-14, more couples will get to enjoy each other without waiting all night on V-Day. Creamy cheese fondue is prepared tableside, served with artisanal bread and veggies, but it’s all about the chocolate fondue finish that leaves such a sweet impression. Choose from s’mores, turtle or milk chocolate flavors, then add dippers like brownies, marshmallows, fruit and cake. Even vegetarians can enjoy delicious meals at Melting Pot.
5201 Maryland Way, Brentwood, 615 467-1945, www.merebulles.com
A candlelight dinner in an old plantation home in Maryland Farms is the epitome of Southern romance and charm, and the staff works diligently to recreate the classic atmosphere that could be found in the home of the French-born Civil War widow Michele Rutledge, who had a penchant for champagne and started a small restaurant in 1866 in Charleston. The wine and champagne list is extensive, as are the martini and cordial options, all perfect starters to the classic Southern steakhouse fare. Those not in the mood for a succulent rack of lamb or ribeye and cheesy hash brown potato cake may opt for one of the seafood treats, like the phyllo-wrapped sea bass with stuffed shellfish, brie and spinach and served with an artichoke and tomato beurre blanc or pan-seared scallops with shrimp risotto.
401 Broadway, 615 254-1892, www.merchantsrestaurant.com
Broadway doesn’t immediately scream romantic ambiance, but once you walk through the doors at Merchant’s, you’ll forget about all that noise out front, especially if you snag a table upstairs in the more refined seating area of the restaurant. Bought by Strategic Hospitality’s Goldberg brothers in 2010, the one-time pharmacy that opened in 1892 has new life, new regulars and a revitalized menu. Start with the smoked oysters with tobacco butter and saltines, then move on to the steakhouse soup with ribeye, root vegetables and beef broth. For the main event, chicken paillard is delicious, with lemon caper butter sauce. And go ahead and throw on a side of white truffle mac – you only live once.
102 19th Ave. S., 615 320-7176, www.midtowncafe.com
Randy Rayburn’s Midtown Café is still holding its own since1987 and despite the closing of sister restaurant Sunset Grill and the sad death of award-winning chef Brian Uhl in 2016. The lemon artichoke soup is a standard people come back for, drawn to the restaurant as much for the hot soup starter as they are for the low lighting and intimate environment. Other standouts include veal three ways, a tasting of the restaurant’s piccata, saltimbocca and Oscar-style versions, and the crab cakes served with smoked Gouda cheese grits, lemon dill and remoulade. There are nearly 50 different wines available by the glass, 150 by the bottle, and a selection of martinis, Bellini’s and other classic cocktails.
343 53rd Ave. N., 615 298-3663, www.mielrestaurant.com
Located in the historic Johnson’s Meat Market building in Sylvan Park, diners appreciate chef Andrew Coins’ way of making the act of eating French cuisine in an old barn in Nashville seem just right, and has been for almost a decade. Couples can go in on multiple little plates to share, making the meal more of an interactive experience. Grilled octopus comes with a shrimp cracker, fermented cabbage, squid ink aioli and pickled red dulse, while the braised pork shoulder with Parisienne gnocchi, house-pulled mozzarella, arugula and pork jus. Feeling super adventurous? Call 3-5 days in advance and reserve the roasted pig’s head.
1120 McGavock St., 615 736-5305, www.mstreetnashville.com/moto
Italian for “motion,” Moto showcases delicious fare in the exploding Gulch neighborhood while still paying homage to the location’s mechanic shop beginnings. Driven by seasonality and the pursuit of excellent produce, food ranges from lighter, fresh fare like the Georges Bank scallops with smoked celery root puree and green tomato mostarda to the savory and indulgent Wagyu filet. From the bar there is an award-winning wine list with special focus on selections by the glass “enoteca-style” while mixologists infuse Italian classic drinks with fresh ideas. And when it comes to a romantic dinner for two, the restaurant’s seductive ambiance and private room options make it a top choice.
M Restaurant and Bar
209 10th Ave. S. #223, 615 678-1591, www.mrestaurantandbar.com
Another stunner from Jan and Bernie Strawn’s Southern dining empire, the Cummins Station outpost serves up classics like salmon taken to new heights with seared apple butter, butternut and apple risotto and pomegranate, orange and walnut relish or cast-iron filet with chorizo sweet potato hash with Fresno chili hollandaise and fried eggs. For dessert, they take a local favorite and put their own spin on it with a Donut Den apple fritter bread pudding with salted caramel ice cream. Need chocolate? The chocolate crème brulee is clutch.
801 Clark Place, 615 902-3111, www.oaksteakhousenashville.com
Another steakhouse? We will absolutely take it when it is this beautiful, sexy and delicious. Small plates are meant to be shared, like chargrilled Gifford’s bacon with house made slaw, black-eyed pea relish and Jack Daniels barbecue glaze, or the Hudson Valley foie gras with skillet cornbread, jalapeno jam, blackberries, chorizo, lavender and mustard greens. Entrees go beyond the unctuous steaks, like the rack of lamb with polenta, fine herbs, breadcrumbs and bordelaise. And since it is located adjacent to the Westin downtown, just grab a room.
4403 Murphy Road, 615 383-4409, www.parkcafenashville.com
The philosophy at this Sylvan Park institution from Willy and Yvette Thomas (Eastland Café, Pomodoro East) is to create innovative cuisine using high-quality seasonal ingredients from the vine and farm using simple preparations, and has been ever since they opened in 2001. Since that time, they have cultivated great relationships with local purveyors and the care is reflective in the menu, so don’t skip this space with refreshed interiors just because it isn’t the newest, hottest place in town. Small plates are great for sharing, like the chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped with Benton’s Bacon and served with Romesco and Marcona almonds, or the seasonal baked oysters with garlic butter and Parmesan crumble. On Valentine’s Day, slip into one of the many cozy nooks in the dining room and tuck into one of the special dishes on the menu that evening.
1035 W. Eastland Ave., 615 679-0377, www.peninsulanashville.com
A new East Nashville offering is already standing out with its Spanish and Portuguese food served using French techniques, in an effort that is simply delicious. All the small plates are meant to share, perfect for a longtime love or a new first date. Try the pork shoulder with lardo, squid ink and country bread, braised rabbit with garlic broth and piment d’espelette or the serrano ham with tomato butter and grilled bread. End the evening on a sweet note – with an unexpected hit of savory – with lime curd, berries and tarragon or the crema Catalana ice cream with caviar and potato chips.
33 Peabody St., 615 751-8111, www.pinewoodsocial.com
Another hotspot from the Ben and Max Goldberg of Strategic Hospitality – do they do it any other way? It might at first be hard to reconcile romance with a bowling alley until you realize what an ice breaker it is – it’s pretty impossible not to smile watching others perfect their roll down the lane. But beyond that, Pinewood Social makes romance happen thanks to the attention to detail given to everything from service to starters. Located in the Trolley Barns, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Manuel Zeitlin Architects developed the space, and the late local designer Landy Gardner handled the fun and flirtatious design. Chef Will Uhlhorn is in his element, too, with standouts like pork sugo with kale, arugula and polenta or the salmon with fennel herb salad, almonds and lemon vinaigrette.
Plaza Mariachi Cultural Center
3955 Nolensville Pike, 615 373-9292, www.plazamariachi.com
This new cultural experience on Nolensville is actually filled with multiple eating establishments as well as shops, dancing and a vibe that is just right for the early days of a relationships. One such restaurant to try out on date night is Madera Café with outstanding molletes, which are mini bolillos topped with frijoles refritos, chorizo, Oaxaca cheese, crema and pico de gallo. Yum. The trifongo is also a must-try, with ripe plantains, green plantain and yucca mashed with garlic and bacon and served with chicken, steak and shrimp. Lose the stuffiness, take off some pressure and just have fun on Valentine’s Day.
701 Porter Road, 615 873-4978, www.pomodoroeast.com
Another delicious offering from Willy and Yvette Thomas (Eastland Café, Park Café) is this Italian neighborhood spot that showcases the best of what can be done with simple ingredients and preparation. It’s a hit list of Italian specialties, from the warm marinated olives and thinly-sliced Wagyu beef carpaccio with horseradish cream and fried capers to the pan-fried chicken breast Parmesan with hand-pulled mozzarella over spaghetti. Split a wood-fired pizza with your date, and end the evening with a couple of cocktails, like a classic Negroni with Tanquerey, Compari, sweet vermouth and muddled basil or the Chattanooga Nights with Chattanooga 1816 whiskey and black walnut and cherry liquors.
2017 Belmont Blvd., 615 297-2070, www.pmnashville.com
Top Chef alum Arnold Myint keeps Belmont students and neighborhood residents impressing their dates over and over with his Asian-inspired cuisine served up in the casual, buzzy Belmont atmosphere. The energy in the vibrant neighborhood drives the room, but so does the tasty and innovative food. Share some lump crab wontons and coconut panko calamari with your date before indulging in one of its sushi burritos. Overall the options are varied but not overwhelming, and happy hour has a vibe all its own, leading to plenty of couples deciding to stay for dinner and make a date of it.
408 Main St., Franklin, 615 595-7669, www.redponyrestaurant.com
This sophisticated Southern stunner has been open for more than a decade and has never waned from drawing regulars and new diners alike with its rotating, diverse menu from Jason McConnell (55 South, Cork and Cow) who takes inspiration from his Southern roots and many travels. On Valentine’s Day sample four courses for $75, including pink Argentinian shrimp with garlic, rosemary and beet on toast, the seared triple tail with Delta rice grits, charred green beans and Tasso ham with crawfish Pontchatrain. For dessert? The triple chocolate cheesecake with raspberry mousse will make for a very memorable end.
Rolf & Daughters
700 Taylor St., 615 866-9897, www.rolfanddaughters.com
Located in the historic Werthan Factory building, Rolf & Daughters offers upscale rustic food that is thoughtful, homey and inviting all at the same time, and holding its own in the ever-expanding food landscape. Items like heritage pork with savoy cabbage, black garlic and coriander or the lamb sausage with mokum carrot and sourdough miso are its take on updated peasant food, and it is all delicious and just right for a chilly date night. Walk-ins are relegated to the communal tables and bar, but call ahead for a table to ensure a special evening for you and your partner, and be sure to commemorate the night with a selfie in front of the mural out front.
Rosemary and Beauty Queen
1102 Forrest Ave., 615 730-7700
More a bar than full-on restaurant, there is certainly romance to be had over some shared bao buns filled with pork belly, fennel and hoison sauce or Italian beef with sirloin and spicy giardiniera peppers, or soba noodles with pork belly or sake-marinated seitan. While sharing snacks, sip on one of its well-made classic cocktails, like the house old Fashioned with Angel’s Envy bourbon and cognac, or the Harvey Wallbanger with vodka, orange juice and Galliano.
1112 Woodland St., 615 262-5346, www.rumourseast.com
What was once one of Nashville’s hidden treasures has now become a neighborhood staple, thanks to the expansive backyard filled with tables and a freestanding brick fireplace that makes it the perfect place to grab a well-chosen glasses of wine and a few shared plates under the twinkling canopy of lights. The pergola-covered patio and backyard feels more like a friendly hangout than a typical al fresco dining area, but if it is just too cold out, it’s just as charming inside, especially when you order up some grilled salmon infused with ginger and served with baby bok choy and a creamy dill sauce.
Rumours at 12 Stones
1201 Twelve Stones Crossing, Goodlettsville, 615 448-6036
Open since 2016, this country club outpost of the East Nashville location is making couples who live north of the city super stoked to have something this delicious a bit closer to home. Expect the same attention to detail on the menu and wine list, and this Valentine’s Day, Rumours at 12 Stones is offering a special three-course meal for $150 a couple that will include salad, choice of steak, salmon or vegetable option, dessert and a glass of wine.
601 12th Ave. S., 615 248-2888, www.nashville.sambucarestaurant.com
Over the years this chain has become one of the older restaurants in The Gulch, and is doing just as well now as it did when it first opened and helped forge the way for the area to become one of the more hustling and bustling restaurant districts. No surprise it remains a standard for romance too – with its low lighting, intimate booths and sophisticated menu, Sambuca is all about swanky sex appeal with tall booths meant for hiding out, nightly live entertainment and a menu that has plenty of small options to share. On Valentine’s Day, get a three-course meal – a standard or premium version that includes salmon Oscar with dill-spiked hollandaise or chili-rubbed jumbo scallops with asparagus, risotto and smoked tomato cream sauce. To finish, a mini dessert trio offers a parade of hits – white chocolate cheesecake, a chocolate torte and sticky toffee pudding.
209 3rd Ave. N., 615 891-2221, www.seasaltnashville.com
Locally-sourced and French-inspired, it brings even more flavor to the heart of downtown with its sophisticated take on French and American classics. Ingredients are sourced close to home, as much as possible, by Chef Mike Haggerty. The bar program, created by James Beard nominee Jeret Peña, features regional craft beer, a carefully curated wine list and specialty cocktails, while the interior space and thoughtful service make it an instant special occasion spot. Valentine’s Day service offers a number of specials, including a salmon rose appetizer with house-cured sockeye with shallot puree, mustard sauce and fresh greens, and your choice of surf and turf or surf and surf, one of which is a pan-seared halibut fillet with jumbo shrimp, fingerling potatoes, sautéed spinach and honey butter.
1121 Fifth Ave. N., 615 750-2912, www.silotn.com
Another Southern-influenced offering in Germantown – yes, there are a lot – but Silo stands out since its 2012 opening thanks to its take on farm food that is combined with a room designed by nationally award-winning architect Greg Ibañez. Date night is perfectly set for making memories, especially if you start with the caramel-bacon popcorn and fried brie with pickled berries, frisee, almonds and balsamic vinegar. It’s farm to table taken to the next level too – the tables and chairs were constructed by Amish craftsman Enos Hostetler from Ethridge, and the pendant lighting comes from artist John Beck.
2600 Franklin Pike #102, 615 942-7746, www.sinemanashville.com
This luxuriously Kathy Anderson-designed restaurant inside the historic Melrose Theater remains one of the city’s busiest hot spots, thanks to Executive Chef Kyle Patterson’s delicious and art deco-inspired atmosphere. On Valentine’s Day, diners can get a four-course meal ($103/person) with wine pairings for another $54. The upstairs lounge is clubby cool and perfect for sipping cocktails post-meal, and may even be the best place to grab a delicious dessert like the hummingbird cake with pineapple and banana, white chocolate cremeux, lemon marmalade, corn meal and toffee crumbs.
The Southern Steak & Oyster
The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 Third Ave. S., 615 724-1762, www.thesouthernnashville.com
The growing SoBro district has the most buzz in all downtown, spurred on by places like The Southern where you can pop in from the hustle and bustle and immediately feel warm and welcome. Featuring a state-of-the-art shuck-to-order oyster bar and wood-fired grill, you can bet the food is going to be fresh and tasty. A special Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu for $65 a person will include a selection of smoked brisket with jalapeno cheddar cornbread and red onion pomegranate jam or the wood-fired filet with whipped potatoes and sugar snap peas. Finish with a decadent chocolate mousse cake with cherry cream filling and kirsch cherry jam, or almond and apricot tart with crème Anglaise, candied almond and basil syrup.
5109 Harding Pike, 615 353-0809; 650 Frazier Drive, Franklin, 615 778-9950, www.sperrys.com
Celebrating more than 40 years in operation, the original clubby Belle Meade Sperry’s is more than a tradition to some diners – it has become family tradition for countless first dates and anniversaries. The Williamson County outpost has plenty of followers of its own who might not have been to the original. Customer service is top of mind to the crew as they aim to make special occasions outstanding and create regulars out of every new guest – and they absolutely succeed. scallops Benedict with country ham and asparagus over Byrd’s Mill stone ground grits will make you a convert, and if not, be sure to order the Bananas Foster for two prepared tableside. That along with the juicy prime rib, and you’ll be sure to keep Sperry’s top of mind next time a steakhouse is in order.
The Standard at the Smith House
167 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., 615 254-1277, www.smithhousenashville.com
Rich leather, low lighting and an outstanding chef are three key ingredients for a romantic evening. The historic Smith House is the last grand townhouse to remain downtown, an example of antebellum Italianate architecture repurposed and restored into a stunning dining destination and event space. And through March 17 it will be host “Dinner Time Stories: In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, featuring Le Petit Chef,” a state-of-the-art dinner theater experience that is the latest in experiential dining innovation through 3D technology. Patrons will follow an animated French chef character through a two-hour, fully choreographed, six-course dining experience that explores the route of Marco Polo allowing Chef Joe Shaw to interpret his own creations to go along with the experience. Tickets are $162.50 per person.
3821 Green Hills Village Drive, 615 739-6900, www.table3nashville.com
Table 3 Restaurant and Market offers Nashville diners an authentic brasserie experience, in a setting that combines contemporary design elements with an Old World atmosphere. That, and the distinctive and affordable wine list and fresh menu make this a must-try. The beef bourguignon is a classic for a reason, with baby carrots, potatoes and crimini caps, while the pan-seared Carolina trout with almond brown butter is seriously melt-in-your mouth delicious. For dessert, indulge in a salted chocolate mousse with Chantilly cream and a cinnamon palmier cookie.
121B 12th Ave N., 615 782-6786, www.tansuonashville.com
Open since March, Tansuo means “to explore” in Cantonese. The food allows diners to do just that with a menu that is an exploration of contemporary Chinese cuisine reminiscent of China’s night markets and traditional street fare. Valentine’s Day features a table package at $60 a person, or a booth package for $85 that includes a half Peking duck and champagne greeting, as well as wok-seared char sui scallops with petite choy sum, smoked Asian pear, blood orange, crispy kelp, red shisho and black sesame oil. Dessert is a real standout, with a red chamber steamed sponge cake with whipped strawberry, verjus gel, ginger spice ice crème anglaise, or the orange blossom panna cotta.
Tempered Café and Chocolate
1201 5th Ave. N., 615 454-5432, www.temperednashville.com
This Germantown sweet spot is succeeding after an initial name change and menu expansion that goes beyond chocolate, though that still remains the heart and delicious soul of the place. The sandwiches are named after different cities, like the Milano with apple, prosciutto, gruyere and blueberry jam on a croissant, and the Paris with prosciutto, Gouda, creamed honey and Dijon mustard on a baguette. The “green hour” has become a local favorite as staffers perform a traditional absinthe ritual called La Louche just as it was over 100 years ago, as well as serving signature cocktails and traditional absinthe drips when the green light in the window is lit, Thursday-Saturday evenings from 8 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Of course, if it is chocolate you are after, this is certainly the spot with truffles and wine pairings that work well, and plenty of gift options to take home.
3201 West End Ave., 615 298-3444, www.tinangel.net
One of the original Nashville Originals, it was opened by Vicki and Rick Bolsom in 1993 in one of the few historic commercial buildings left on Nashville’s busy West End Avenue. It isn’t just the atmosphere that has kept loyal diners coming back for more nearly 25 years but the seasonally changing food. Indulge in the polenta-crusted red snapper with Romesco sauce and marinated artichokes or the shrimp and crab risotto with sautéed Roma tomatoes and basil.
Trattoria Il Mulino
144 5th Ave. S., 615 620-3700, www.trattoriailmulinonashville.com
From the iconic New York-based Il Mulino restaurant brand, the Nashville outpost opened its doors in the renovated Hilton Nashville Downtown, though it has a separate entrance on 5th Avenue. Once ensconced in an intimate booth, enjoy the combination of local flavors and Italian classics in dishes that are all made from scratch, right down to the house made mozzarella cheese. Gluten-free is available in a vegan penne pasta with shallots, lemon, baby zucchini and jewel box tomatoes. But if there are no dietary restrictions, dig into the goat cheese ravioli with arugula and vodka pink sauce or the black ink fettucine with octopus, olive oil, garlic and cherry tomatoes. Don’t leave without splitting the warm brioche budino with vanilla custard, grappa-soaked raisins and caramel sauce. Totally indulgent and totally worth it.
1011 Clearview Ave., 615 454-4201, www.treehousenashville.com
Another East Nashville darling, Treehouse really lives up to the hype thanks to its impressive rotating menu, many of the ingredients of which are from the Treehouse Farm about 50 miles outside the city. Limited seating, so no reservations are accepted for parties smaller than four, and while Treehouse does reserve seating for walk-ins, date nights fill up thanks to the romantic twinkling lights and rustic charm, despite newer and shinier eateries in the area. Recent menu offerings have ranged from truffled short rib cannelloni with béchamel, Parmesan and chive to a whole roasted chicken with celery root, harissa and spinach.
Two Ten Jack
1900 Eastland Ave #105, 615 454-2731, www.twotenjack.com
A Japanese-inspired neighborhood pub, or izakaya, that features ramen, yakitori, sushi and other Japanese-inspired pub comfort food that also incorporates local, Southern ingredients has been fully-embraced by East Nashville since it opened, and now there is even a Chattanooga outpost too. The beverage selection features craft beers, wine, handcrafted cocktails, sake and shochu and aims to be a true local gathering spot for the community. And it’s working. Share small plates of pork gyoza and potato fries or warm up with a bowl of ramen. It is mainly a walk-in only establishment and waits can be excessive, but staff will accommodate some special requests and reservations on occasion.
1929 Broadway, 615 329-4565, www.unioncommon.com
Nashville is starting to collect quite a few steakhouses, and while this one is just right for special occasions, it also appeals to people even when the only thing to celebrate is another work day being over. Locals love this downtown addition, and visitors walking along Broadway have equally loved stumbling upon it while in town. Gather a bunch of small plates for you and your date to share, like the lobster sliders, butter poached with lemon tarragon aioli and toasted sea salt roll, the beer-battered crab cakes with deviled tarragon and lemon, or the blackened shrimp with mustard cream. Finish with cheesecake beignet or bananas foster bread pudding. You will not be disappointed.
2506 12th Ave. S., 615 679-9342, www.urbangrub.net
With a menu led by executive chef A. Edgar Pendley, 12South residents have been keeping Urban Grub busy ever since it opened in 2012. There is an impressive charcuterie selection, as well as raw oysters by the half shell, no surprise since the restaurant touts its excellence in fresh fish and fine aged meats. And that excellent handling of seafood continues with the wood oven trout with wild rice, wheat berries, quinoa, sweet corn and shallots, or the shrimp and grits with tomatoes, caramelized onion, Tasso cream and smoked Gouda. On Valentine’s Day, expect a special menu for you and your date, and be sure to share the plates with a bottle of wine from the extensive list.
1907 West End Ave., 615 327-0148, www.valentinosnashville.com
Open since 1991 and still considered one of Nashville’s finest, Valentino’s continues to appeal, especially if you book a seat in the wine cellar. This room is requested the most thanks to the intimate atmosphere, brick walls and fireplace and is the perfect place to pop the question, or just to celebrate a big romantic evening. In fact, it is the perfect place to share a bottle of wine and one of the set menus, like the four-course one on offer on Valentine’s Day for $95 per person. Choose from chicken scarpariello with smoked sausage, cherry peppers, roasted potatoes and green beans, or lobster ravioli with roasted garlic, mushrooms and a crabmeat tarragon brandy cream. For dessert, how can you miss with classic tiramisu?
1126 McGavock St., 615 254-1902, www.mstreetnashville.com/virago
A sushi innovator in Nashville when it first opened in Midtown in 2000, the hip, Japanese-influenced restaurant is still impressing as one of M Street’s staples now in the bustling Gulch. Many people owe Virago for introducing them to twisted and tweaked fusion fare and sushi rolls – and maybe even a few memorable first dates. The rooftop bar has an impressive view of downtown, but if it’s too chilly to hang outside, the ambiance is just right inside with low lighting and flickering candles. When it comes to the best food, why not just order the sushi tour picked out by the chef and put your trust in his vision. Don’t see one of your old favorites still listed? Just ask and the staff just might be able to make it for you anyway.
507 12th Ave. S., watermark-restaurant.com
Reopening soon in the Bridgestone Americas headquarters in SoBro
WestEnd Kitchen and Bar
1808 West End Ave., 615 340-0012, www.westendrestaurant.com
In what was once 1808 Grille, WestEnd is only a few months into its reign at the Hutton Hotel, and already there are plenty of fans of the Southern-inspired bar and bistro with decidedly fresh and thoughtful food that is contemporary and beautiful, using fresh herbs and colorful accents in plating. Sure, it’s open all day, but at night is when the romance is really happening, egged on by the delicious plates to share like deviled eggs and bacon, fried oysters with tomato, chili and lemongrass or the stuffed quail with honey mustard and spicy greens. After an amazing meal, sip on some espresso and split a yuzu panna cotta custard with granite, jackfruit and brown butter or chess pie with buttermilk sherbert and puree of lemon peel.
118 12th Ave. S., 615 254-3029, www.mstreetnashville.com/whiskey-kitchen
This intimate hot spot dubs itself as tavern chic offering a bit of everything with a menu that is a mix of chef-inspired pub favorites, Southern classics and wood-fired pizzas. An extensive list of cocktails go along with the restaurant’s extensive collection of world-class whiskeys, bourbons, ryes and scotches. Reclaimed oak and crocodile leather wall coverings add warmth while giving a club feel, and the food is all comfort and upscale sophistication added to traditional pub favorites – think gourmet truffle and Parmesan wings, bourbon chicken poppers and fried Kentucky white cheddar cheese curds with smoked tomato sauce.
101 Market Exchange Court, Franklin, 615 778-0081, www.dinewildginger.com
Wild Ginger stands out among myriad dining options in Cool Springs thanks to its blend of Pan-Asian, Western and South American cuisine. Sushi shares menu space with sweet potato fries, and Okinawa whipped potatoes and Asian coleslaw are just the right sides to go with your braised short rib with wilted spinach with bacon, mango salsa and drizzled truffle oil. Basil chicken with wild mushrooms, green and red bell peppers and fresh basil is another standout dish, as are the tequila shrimp tacos with mango salsa. A special menu is set on Valentine’s Day instead of the regular offerings, a four-course meal starts at $40 a person and includes Wagyu pot stickers with kimchi and shitake and ocean safari maki with pink rice, Ahi tuna, salmon, yellowtail, crunchy, spicy cream cheese mayo, pineapple and topped with coconut tempura shrimp, guacamole, and blue lump crab, chipotle-garlic and yuzu-ume.