A friend recently asked where she should have dinner for her first anniversary with a guy. I was tongue-tied at first; having waxed poetic about what to cook for romantic date meals for years, I scrambled to come up with some decent restos to suggest. Then it occurred to me: Brooklyn is perhaps the best borough to find restaurants that exude a cozy, intimate, and homey air, yet serve incredible food. Places where you can sink into a table and get lost in your deep conversations, without feeling as if the staff is trying to scoot you out as soon as possible. These most romantic restaurants would have their own personality quirks, just like your date, but never succumb to over-pretentiousness.
Fresh flowers and backyard settings weigh into this calculation, too, as well as plenty of options to imbibe with on the menus. This list may also favor establishments that have well withstood the test of time, as they'll provide a better guarantee of greatness and less claustrophobic waits due to recent hype. Here are our picks for the best candlelit meals to enjoy eating out for a date, now, in Brooklyn.
10. The Good Fork
You have to venture to the farthest end of Red Hook then look for a wooden door engraved with the simple restaurant's name. There, on Van Brunt St., just up the block from the pier, you'll find this quaint and eclectic eatery. The place's history reads like a love story, too, founded by a local couple (she cooks, he does the carpentry). Proximity to Valentino Pier for an after-dinner moonlit walk is a plus.
This cozy neighborhood corner restaurant has a handsome bar for snacking and lounging at, and a small handful of tables with dark leather booth backs. Take a turn at each with your date and enjoy a full range of its well-crafted New American cocktails and dinner courses. The local food purveyors favored throughout the menu convey a community-based approach to dining; save room for the excellent desserts, which feature classic options with local flair, such as the Mast Bros. pot de crème.
Dressler is just a notch dressier than most of the good restaurants in Williamsburg, and you will look beautiful no matter what you're wearing thanks to its marvelous setting. The custom-made chandeliers and interior decor have a modern, worldly vibe that extends to the sophisticated and innovative menu. There are enough appetizers to choose several to share, and good wines by the bottle to divvy up between you and your date as well.
7. The Farm on Adderley
Cute, rustic, fresh and fragrant, this local food-loving restaurant boasts a sister bar and flower shop next door, Sycamore, where you can stop in for drinks beforehand. The husband-and-wife-owned eatery has brought many a Brooklynite out to Ditmas Park, while serving its share of locals. Quiet and unassuming, it offers a top-notch seasonal menu, filled with daily specials.
6. Frankie's Spuntino
The flagship spuntino is still serving up its meatballs with red sauce and other Italian American favorites in Brooklyn. The Franks have since spawned other restaurants as well as a best-selling cookbook, but the Court St. location is just as charming and homey as always. Sit in the plant-strewn patio for a night al fresco, and share at least one fresh pasta dish to slurp up together like Lady and the Tramp.
5. Palo Cortado
Spanish tapas were meant to be shared, and that's how your entire meal should be at this authentic and unassuming Cobble Hill tapas bar. With a long list of sherry wines to pair each crispy, cheesy, grilled, saucy, and lip-smacking small plate, your palate will be dancing by the end of the meal, and you're likely to be a little tipsy, too. Salud!
4. Cafe Moto
This tiny den tucked underneath the rumbling JMZ train is enlivened with live jazz every night, to serenade your meal. This is an experience not to be missed in Brooklyn, and well-suited for a date (especially if you're a little shy and find music a good conversation-starter). The food is simple, and often quite good; like the musical acts, nightly courses will change constantly. Check out the calendar to find a fitting band for your outing, or just walk in cold turkey for a delightful surprise.
3. St. Anselm
It's too bad so many people discovered how incredible this restaurant is — from the food to the low-key elegance of the atmosphere. The wooden aesthetics and hardy, rustic fare tends to favor rich and meaty, but the menu actually offers a full arsenal of flavors, ranging wildly from soft and playful, to hard-hitting and heavy, just like a good, uh, romance.
2. al di la
There's something about Italian food and date meals. Made with love, by another husband-and-wife team, each course and wine selection at this pioneering Park Slope restaurant is a blessing for more dates to come. The earthy, brick-laden interior as well as ragu sauce clinging to tagliatelle will take you away like a Venetian gondola for a night. Share the buttery, beet-filled ravioli or braised rabbit for a taste of the old world in your town.
1. Vinegar Hill House
Tucked far away from the train stops near the Navy Yard, this small, bustling townhouse is practically the only sign of life in a somewhat rural-looking patch of Vinegar Hill. A wood-burning stove glows from inside like a hearth, beckoning wanderers in. There can be many of those on weekends, but a seat at a rickety wooden table or the grapevine-strewn patio is worth a wait. Supple, fresh pastas, seasonal salads and magnificent entrees roll out of the open kitchen to oohs and aahs. It's hard not to fall in love here.