VOL. 8 | NO. 7 | Saturday, February 7, 2015
Nashville’s Most Romantic Restaurants
HOLLIE DEESE | The Ledger
Romance means something different for everyone, but most people can agree that if there is low lighting, soft music, a charming companion and something delicious to eat, you’ve already got the makings of one outstanding evening.
Luckily, Nashville is filled with more romantic dining destinations than ever before. We’ve lost a few standouts in recent years, most notably F.Scott’s, a Green Hills standard for romantic evenings that was in the forefront of setting the mood, as well as Randy Rayburn’s Hillsboro Village staple Sunset Grill, which sadly and quietly closed its doors after a 24-year run.
But a city is always changing – maybe not usually as fast as Nashville seems to be right now – and a whole new slew of restaurants have set up shop among the remaining favorites. Josephine in the 12South neighborhood has found a following already thanks to its ambient lighting, luxe leather seating and desserts like Nutella layer cake with candied hazelnut and orange peel.
Likewise, Prima is building a fan base in no small part due to its service, tasty food and breathtaking dining room with bites like oyster mushrooms with beef fat vinaigrette and foi gras home fries with garlic mayo bringing some indulgence to our dining.
And if you want to just skip the meal and go right to dessert, Germantown’s Tempur Chocolate Shoppe is the place to be, where they make custom-molded truffles served up with a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and charcuterie. And what could be more romantic than that?
360 Wine Bar Bistro
6000 Highway 100, 615-353-5604
You have to start with a couple of drinks at the wine bar, and here it is best to listen to the staff –their wine selections are usually right on, a good thing since the sheer amount of choices would be intimidating in the hands of a less experienced staff. A few sips later and you can just ease into dinner, possibly by splitting the pan roasted duck breast with Anson Mills polenta with a carrot-cumin emulsion from Chef Will Uhlhorn, who spent five years at F. Scott’s before opening Table 3 and cooking at Miel. On Valentine’s Day 2015, try something special, like a filet mignon, 64 degree egg, bone marrow toast and polenta with a suggested pairing of Larchago Rioja Reserva. For dessert? A Marcona almond roulade with cherry gel and burnt sugar.
1808 West End Ave., 615-340-0012
This two-story dining establishments has been holding its own in Midtown since 2009 with their sustainable American offerings with a Tennessee twist, lately from Executive Chef Jake Strang. This winter, diners have been delighted with delicate yet hearty starters like a lobster pierogi with melted leeks and truffle reduction or quail stuffed with sweet potato and chorizo. Specialty cocktails keep things simmering, especially the Hot ’Rita with muddled cucumber and jalapeno. Get there early to nab happy hour specials like 50 percent off the bar menu and selected $6 drink and wines, which are curated in house by sommelier Lou Vargo.
Antonio’s of Nashville
7097 Old Harding Pike, 615-646-9166
You don’t last more than two decades without a connection to the community, and Nashville diners have loyally been gathering for Old World-style dinners at Antonio’s ever since they opened, despite being tucked away in a strip mall in Bellevue. Maybe it’s the shrimp bisque in cognac, roasted rack of lamb, homemade stuffed pasta or superb pizza. Starters are as authentic as they come, like raw, thinly sliced Carpaccio or classic Caprese salad. Service is friendly and informative but with a casual, friendly feel.
1910 Belcourt Ave., 615-577-2262
As soon as you slide into one of the private cabanas and pull the curtain, you’ll know exactly why this bustling Belmont restaurant from Randy Rayburn and crew is considered romantic – there’s just something about being hidden in plain sight that ups the excitement level. Pillows, television and a music dock let you personalize the experience. There is a $250 spending minimum for a private cabana on Fridays and Saturdays, but it is the best way to enjoy lump crab hushpuppies, barbecue pork won tons and cheese and braised short rib manicotti, especially if you are looking for some alone time with your significant other.
4427 Murphy Road, 615-463-0133
Small, intimate and insanely delicious, Chef Daniel Maggipinto has been making from-scratch pastas and sauces based on his grandmother’s recipes for more than 15 years in Sylvan Park, a much-needed institution in a neighborhood that has grown exponentially around it. Very few seats and limited square footage make for a private experience no matter how busy it is, and once you taste their authentic offerings you are sure to be back even if Sylvan Park isn’t your neighborhood. The lamb shank Toscana with braised herbs and Chianti wine alone is enough to come back for. And don’t forget to buy your favorite Arrabiata or marinara sauce, jarred and ready for at home use, on your way out the door.
The Capitol Grille
231 Sixth Ave. N, 615-345-7116
Make it a night to remember. The Capitol Grille offers the perfect setting for a romantic date. Start with a drink in the adjacent Oak Bar, whose extensive wine list, fully stocked bar and unique environment have earned it many “best bar in Nashville” titles – and where you might casually rub elbows with the likes of Jack White like it’s no big deal. Then, dinner for two with dessert is an experience all its own. After all, the wood paneling in the restaurant is modeled after that used in the Titanic ballroom. But it’s the food that is the real stunner, and Valentine’s Day 2015 is no different with a special four-course meal that includes impossible-to-make choices like the crispy duck leg or strip loin, or the pork belly over the tilefish. After dinner, check in for a night at the adjacent Hermitage Hotel where many have been known to pop the question.
The Catbird Seat
1711 Division Street
When Bon Appetit names a restaurant to its 10 Best in the Country list, people tend to pay attention. At Catbird Seat, it’s all about the shared experience with your fellow diners that makes for a memorable evening. The creation of Max and Benjamin Goldberg, the kitchen is enclosed by an intimate 20-seat, U-shaped counter and is now led by Noma alum Trevor Moran. And if you haven’t heard, Copenhagen’s two-Michelin starred Noma is considered one of the best restaurants in the world. Reservations at Catbird run on a 30-day rolling calendar, and that is about as far out as you want to try to book if you want in.
1222 Fourth Ave. N., 615-736-5838
Tandy Wilson is still working rustic magic in Germantown with no signs of slowing down. The multitude of accolades for the James Beard-nominated chef have not changed his straightforward Italian via Nashville dishes. The wood-fired brick oven is a standout in the space, producing perfect thin-crust pizzas topped with house-cured meats, while a cocktail from the bar makes for an ideal accompaniment. Not interested in joining the masses on Valentine’s Day? City House has a better idea. The day after, on February 15, James Beard award-winning Chef Frank Stitt will be a guest chef, an exciting experience for any foodie. Tickets are $150 and seating is limited, so call ahead.
609 Lafayette St., 615-324-1010
A chain with outposts in Napa, Chicago and New York, City Winery seems to be on the lips of just about everyone in town as one of their favorite new spots to hang out. A music venue for people who like to sit and enjoy the music with a glass of their favorite wine, 14 of which will be produced in house in 2015 and available on tap inside or bottled to go. And the food is just as refined of an experience in the Whiskey & Barrel Room restaurant. Executive Chef Kristin Beringson has taken her Mediterranean background and blended it with her appreciation of traditional Southern food to create dishes like a spice-crusted lamb rack with butter beans, chevre cream, barley and charred Cipollini onions.
Cork & Cow
403 Main St., Franklin, 615-538-6021
Franklin diners have no need to drive into Nashville with places like Cork & Cow in operation. A winner of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, C&C also impresses with house craft cocktails like the Grand Sapphire with house-infused rosemary gin, Grand Marnier, fresh lemon, vanilla bean and agave nectar. Make plans for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day 2015 and dig into a fired brie salad with arugula, pepper jell vinaigrette and champagne cherries before moving on to a choice of four entrees – much more than many restaurants offer for a prix fixe menu. Of course, it only makes your decision harder. Scallops or lamb porterhouse? Beef tenderloin or lobster ravioli. And don’t expect your dessert decision to be any easier.
97 Chapel Ave., 615-627-1088
This East side favorite has quickly become one of Nashville most popular dining destinations, not only for the exceptional food from Executive Chef Paul Wright and the fine wine, but also for great service and ambiance. Happy Hour is a hit for people looking to get a jump on the evening, thanks to incredible deals on fish tacos and stone-baked pizzas. The staff is professional, knowledgeable, gracious, and takes great pride in the food. And with exceptional entrees like Tennessee Hereford featured cuts of meat and Coleman Farms chicken roulade, they should be.
Elliston Place Soda Shop
2111 Elliston Place, 615-327-1090
Guess what? It is still romantic to share a milkshake with your sweetheart, and no one does it better in Nashville than Elliston Place Soda Shop. Open since 1939, it has probably set the stage for many burgeoning romances as couples converge for one of their many fountain drinks, including classic egg creams, ice cream floats, dreamsicles and of course, milkshakes and malts. Its rotating meat-and-three menu still draws, but you might as well throw down for a patty melt and some fries and make it a full-on diner experience.
303 Demonbreum St., 615-522-0685
Fans of now-closed Zola have been keeping Chef Deb Paquette’s downtown restaurant buzzing since it opened, and they are showing no signs of stopping, even with the amount of other fine-dining establishments filling the area. Located in the ground floor of the Encore tower downtown, Etch offers a private dining room, full bar and an open kitchen with bar-style seating, allowing guests to interact with the chef as she works on her bold flavors and colorful presentations. A butter tasting is more romantic than it sounds, especially when it includes ginger cashew and prosciutto truffle flavors. The cuisine is complemented by a comprehensive wine list, featuring an extensive collection of wines from around the world.
2201 Bandywood Drive, 615-383-0042
The seasonally changing menu is punctuated by the fun and funky décor at this Green Hills staple, which makes it a great escape to pop into when the traffic gets too crazy or just the right spot for an intimate dinner for two. Chef Kristen Gregory, past champion of Food Network’s Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen has created a winter menu that warms hearts and tummies with items like a Bear Creek Farm steak with caramelized onion-bacon turnip gratin and cheesy broccoli phylo hot pocket. And now Leiper’s Fork residents can dine at sister restaurant Fly South.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar
2525 West End Ave., 615-342-0131
Yes, it’s a chain, but we don’t mind – if the service is stellar, the food is delicious and the wine is thoughtfully chosen. Fleming’s does all of that and more, serving innovative dishes in a cool setting. There are more than 100 wines by the glass, including dozens of local selections. Start with some small plates to share, like the New Bedford scallops with Meyer lemon-honey glaze or lobster tempura with so-ginger dipping sauce. And while the seafood is stunning, it really is all about the steaks with both wet- and dry-aged USDA cuts available.
Flyte World Dining and Wine
718 Division Street, 615-255-6200
Fresh, local and creative are the tenants of Flyte, and the diners are the ones who reap all of the rewards. The latest talent in a kitchen that has seen its share of fine chefs is Mike Moranski who is making meals with sourced meat and fish and locally grown produce whenever possible, working with CC Gardens, Noble Springs, Bonnie Blue, Bear Creek and more. Wine director and co-owner Scott Sears has compiled a superb high-value selection of offerings from around the globe, the majority of which are available by the glass. They want guests to explore wines they’ve never tasted or even heard of before, or to get to know wines that are variations on their favorites, so sample away until you find one just right.
1200 5th Ave., N., 615-242-3226
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 such a desirable place to be. The food is still just as sharp and clean as ever, with their staple Plum Pork over mashed potatoes bringing in fans of its own every week. Plus, the view of downtown from the dining room is still one of the best in the city.
909 20th Ave. South, 615-760-5932
Soft piano music, subdued lighting, Italian accents, red wine – Giovanni is all about romance and more in a house meant to resemble a Tuscan villa. Proposals happen often, and staffers are more than happy to accommodate any special request to make your night a memorable one. Couples are more than happy to sink into their seats, sip a glass of house red and enjoy the inherently romantic rustic Northern Italian fare from Chef Giovanni Pinato. On Valentine’s Day, a special menu is sure to satisfy with choices like red snapper in lemon, butter and white wine or roasted rack of lamb with sweet garlic sauce. And no matter how full you are, there’s no passing up the semisweet chocolate soufflé for two.
Holland House Bar & Refuge
935 W. Eastland, 615-262-4190
Ground Zero for what is now a craft cocktail explosion, Holland House is holding its own in East Nashville with a delicious mix of fine dining, casual comfort and the perfect low lighting you want at a meal with your sweetheart, helped along by crystal chandeliers and flickering candles. Starting with drinks is a must, of course, with the well-trained staff able to direct you to something special like the Base Burner with Four Roses bourbon and ginger ice cubes, or the Agent Provocateur with Smith & Cross navy-strength rum, Martinique rum, smashed limes, grenadine, allspice dram and old-fashioned bitters. For dinner, dive into the whole poussin for two with roasted winter vegetables.
37 Rutledge St., 615-256-6565
In a time when Southern ingredients are shining on menus across the city, Husk Nashville is still a star. Located in Rutledge Hill, the kitchen at Husk is helmed by James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock, a local culinary star who is still shining bright. Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Brian Baxter, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products. Constructed into the side of a hill, the design of Husk’s interior only enhances the building’s root. Everything on the daily changing menu is delicious, and if you are ever going to order shrimp and grits, this is the place.
2609 West End, 615-340-9901 73 White Bridge Road, 615-352-0981 1721 Galleria Blvd., Franklin, 615-771-7779
Chain dining done right, J. Alexander’s prepares contemporary American wood-fired cuisine with a focus on service at each of its Middle Tennessee locations. The menu features a wide selection of classics like prime rib of beef, steak cut in-house and fresh seafood, as well as a number of rotating specials, all with a modern spin. A full-service bar includes an outstanding selection of wines both by the glass and bottle. Splitting a sweet slice of white chocolate cheesecake will only prolong a delicious evening.
217 Louise Ave., 615-329-4349
It’s hard to imagine how many anniversary dinners Jimmy Kelly’s has hosted over the years since it opened in 1934, but chances are there are quite a few couples who look forward to their annual dinner out to the long-time Nashville establishment. Great steak, good whiskey and professional service mark the shining qualities diners will find at the steakhouse. And you really haven’t done a romantic dinner out until you have shared a classic chateaubriand for two, prepared perfectly and traditionally with a burgundy and mushroom wine sauce.
2316 12th Ave. South, 615-292-7766
Located in a new space that once housed the original Rumours Wine Bar, diners can remember what once was – while totally enjoying what is in front of them now. And with offerings like beef cheeks, pork shank and grilled quail from Chef Andrew Little there is plenty to be happy about. Communal tables are available for walk-ins, but reserve one of their high-backed leather booths to envelop you and a guest in intimate luxury.
1103 McGavock Street, 615-259-0050
With a bevy of awards under its belt, Kayne Prime is the artful fusion of an innovative newcomer and classic steakhouse, their interpretation of the modern evolution of the classic upscale steakhouse. Aside from the outstanding food, the interior makes the evening that much more special with its sleek wood, rich leathers, and reclaimed railroad ties. Some of the city’s best views too, overlooking the historic train yards, Union Station and the downtown Nashville skyline.
1520 Woodland St., 615-228-4864
One of the area’s greatest talents, Hal M. Holden-Bache opened Lockeland Table in August, 2012 after spending more than a decade delighting palates all over the city, first as the executive chef at Nick and Rudy’s Steakhouse, then briefly on the team with Tyler Brown at Capitol Grille before moving on to be the executive chef of Eastland Café. After five years at Eastland, Hal decided to venture out and now Nashville is blessed with Lockeland. On Valentine’s Day, tasty bites abound like wood-fired oysters Rockefeller, chicken Milanesa with slow-roasted tomato confit and finishes with a chocolate strawberry trifle with champagne sabayon.
Mack and Kate’s Café
3078 Maddux Way, Franklin, 615-591-4104
Soft lighting after the sunset transforms this place from rustic lunch spot to romantic café. The menu is fine dining but the approach is all welcome home hospitality. Jan and Bernie Strawn source local ingredients as much as possible, and their lobster mac and cheese is a local favorite. Kate’s bouillabaisse is another standout, a Pernod broth filled with shrimp, crab, mussels and fresh fish. The carefully-selected wine list has more than a few, reasonably priced, highlights.
The Mad Platter
1239 Sixth Ave. North, 615-242-2563
New restaurants come and go, but The Mad Platter has remained a consistent bright spot in Germantown for decades, recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, celebrating by serving up some of the area’s most iconic dishes – chocolate Elvis anyone? The charming dining room is filled with old books and memories, and when the sun goes down the lighting is perfect for getting intimate. Current cool-weather offerings like pan-seared duck breast and rosemary-Dijon crusted lamb chops and garlic-parmesan mashed potatoes are a mix of quality and quantity.
1017 Woodland St., 615-227-4668
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 many more additional, and equally thoughtful, options. Still, the competition does nothing to detract from what the local grand dame of slow cooking Margot McCormack does best, and that’s cook. One day you might be blessed with a hot bowl of heirloom carrot curry with couscous, almonds and scallions, another day it could be grilled amberjack with basmati rice and a pepper, onion and tomato stew.
2100 West End Ave., 615-321-1990
Tried and true southern provisions is what they tout, and that is exactly what you get. Self-described as an edgy, yet elegant Southern Brasserie, the menu features historic, traditional Southern dishes prepared with classic French techniques. Head Chef Brandon Frohne approaches his menu with energy while honoring his local quality ingredients. Indulge in a larder board filled with Sweetgrass Dairy brie, Alabama goat cheese, Soppresata, Tennessee prosciutto and fig jam, or for the meat lovers, espresso-rubbed beef tenderloin with tarragon creamed corn and strawberry ramp relish. It really hits the spot. A side of grits with, shitake mushrooms, smoked Gouda and chives is tempting enough to order extra and share, no matter how much you’ve already tasted.
The Melting Pot
166 Second Ave. N, 615-742-4970
There was a time when this was the epitome of romance in Nashville, and if you have been around long enough to remember, chances are you’ve been on at least one dinner date there, maybe even for prom. And let’s face it – fondue is romantic and no one does it better than Melting Pot. Expect Valentine’s Day to be a mad house, but any other night you can slink into a booth and enjoy their redesigned menu. A Sweet and Savory duet serves up a greatest hits of cheese and chocolate, perfect for a bit of fun indulgence with your sweetheart.
5201 Maryland Way, Brentwood, 615-467-1945
Candlelight dinner in an old plantation home named after “Mother Bubbles” sounds very romantic. The staff work hard 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 who started a small restaurant in 1866 in Charleston. Their wine and champagne list is extensive, as are the martini and cordial options, all perfect starters to the classic Southern steakhouse fare.
401 Broadway, 615-254-1892
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. With its own special menu, start with a tuna crudo with potato aioli before moving along to a country pate with Yazoo Gerst mustard. Finish with an entrée like red snapper with collard green and hushpuppies for a truly memorable meal.
343 53rd Ave. N., 615-298-3663
If you aren’t there for one of their wine dinners, it doesn’t matter because the entrees on the regular menu delight anyway. Located in the historic Johnson’s Meat Market building in Sylvan Park, diners love Chef Andrew Coins’ delicious fare, and Valentine’s Day 2015 they will be able to celebrate for $55 a person, $100 with full wine pairings. Options like sunchoke soup, braised oxtail and pan-roasted rock shrimp are great conversations starters as well as indulgences. Somehow, Miel makes eating French cuisine in an old barn in Nashville seem just right.
102 19th Ave. S., 615-320-7176
Now that sister restaurant Sunset Grill has shut its doors, right now is the perfect time to go to Randy Rayburn’s Midtown Café where Award-winning Chef Brian Uhl creates three- and five-course tasting menus and signature standards. The lemon artichoke soup is a standard people come back for over and over again, as are the seared day boat scallops with lobster brie mac and cheese, steamed asparagus and lobster cream sauce.
1120 McGavock St., 615-736-5305
Moto features inspired rustic-modern Italian cuisine and what it touts as modern Italian “sex appeal.’’ We’ll buy that, especially with Executive Chef Andy Hayes’ contemporary menu served in an atmosphere of a rustic-industrial inspired brick warehouse. As lively and vibrant as the clientele, the menu shines just as bright with meals made from food sourced from local farms and artisans as well as imports from overseas. Try the duck fat olives or perfectly grilled octopus.
M Restaurant and Bar
209 Tenth Ave. S. #223, 615-678-1591
Jan and Bernie Strawn of Macke’s, Mack and Kate’s and m.market, expanded their Southern dining empire into Cummins Station with M. Restaurant and Bar. Classics like fried green tomatoes go beyond basic with the addition of pimento cheese, Benton’s Bacon marmalade and Sriracha aioli. The sweet tea brined airline chicken breast with skillet gnocchi, rainbow chard and vegetable hunter sauce also excels, as does the award-winning crab and avocado salad with jumbo lump crab, mango and champagne vinaigrette.
4403 Murphy Road, 615-383-4409
The philosophy at this Sylvan Park staple from Willy Thomas is to create innovative cuisine using high-quality seasonal ingredients from the vine, and has been ever since it opened. For years they have been committed to serving market fresh cuisine featuring products from local farms, gardens and artisan producers. Simple preparations allow the quality of the ingredients to shine, and can be seen in their Valentine’s menu with dishes like lamb chops with caramelized sweet potatoes and white bean puree or a dry-aged strip with chimichurri and potato apple gratin.
700 12th Ave. S., 615-873-4232
One of the newest restaurants to open in Nashville, Prima is already creating a big buzz with everything from the food from Salvador Avila to the large sculpture from artist Bruce Munro. One of the best seats in the house will have you looking down above it all, but that table is tough to get. No matter – every table is the setting for romance with impeccable service and food that follows up. Try the whole grilled sunburst trout with lemon and olive oil, or the braised rabbit with Gordal olives and Calabrian chilies.
2017 Belmont Blvd., 615-297-2070
Top Chef alum Arnold Myint certainly knows how to set the tone for a romantic meal with steamy, sippable soups like wild mushroom thom kha or curried sweet potato bisque before moving on to the main courses. After sharing a plate of green curry mussels or street fare beef pho, young couples will have all kinds of things to talk about, like how great the meal was they just shared.
1001 Broadway, 615-620-5665
The beauty of the grand architecture hits you right away, with its glass ceilings, large stone fireplace, and hand-blown Italian glass chandeliers. It’s that ambiance that immediately elevates your Nashville dining experience into something memorable at Prime 108, which opened in 2007. Then it’s hammered home with the food from Chef Thomas Cook – his fairy tale pumpkin ravioli, is just that – a culinary delight with foraged wild mushrooms, caramelized fig, leeks and blueberry balsamic. Unsure what to sip on? The in-house sommelier will help steer your pairings in just the right direction.
408 Main St., Franklin, 615-595-7669
The restaurant opened in September 2006, and continues to draw newcomers and regulars alike with its rotating diverse menu from Jason McConnell (55 South, Cork and Cow). The cuisine is Southern but global influences abound, spurred on by the chef’s travels, like the house-made guacamole with cilantro, lime and jicama chips. On Valentine’s Day, crab and asparagus Oscar with a fried egg is just the start of an indulgent meal that keeps going with smoked prime rib with horseradish white bean puree or pan seared scallops with blistered tomato curry.
Rolf & Daughters
700 Taylor St., 615-866-9897
Located inside the historic Werthan Factory building, Rolf & Daughters offers upscale rustic food at its finest. Their take on “modern peasant food,” involves thoughtful cooking that produces dishes like beef sausage with fingerling potatoes, lollipop kale and colatura or heritage pork with sauerkraut, gala apple and spaetzle. 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 date.
Rumours Wine Bar
1104 Division St., 615-432-2740
After the original closed to make way for progress in 12South, fans were without their favorite wine bar. But patrons were soon rejoicing when Christy Shuff and crew reopened in The Gulch, patio and all. Shuff may now be gone too, on to work on the new Fifty-First in the Nations neighborhood, but the wines, of course, remain a draw. And the food is still right up there with plates that continue to entice, like scallops with spicy almond and hazelnut Romesco or half-roasted chicken with shitake mushrooms.
1112 Woodland St., 615-262-5346
In warm weather it is easy to grab a table outside and forget where you are for a couple of hours, but even on chillier nights, the freestanding brick fireplace makes a glass of wine and a few shared plates more than pleasant, especially 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 darn cold out, it is just as romantic and charming inside. Dinner only adds to the experience, especially on Valentine’s Day when they are serving up an artichoke lime bisque with smoked paprika, brie and fresh chives, followed by five-spiced seared scallops with miso potato puree and a chocolate torte with vanilla whipped cream.
230 Franklin Road #11Y, Franklin, 615-599-4995
Owner Tom Morales of catering company TomKats and Nashville’s The Southern Steak & Oyster is all about creating a top-notch dining experience. Located in the historic Factory at Franklin, Saffire has been combining locally-grown produce with exotic ingredients to deliver creative cuisine in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Saffire offers modern updates to classic Southern cuisine courtesy of Chef de Cuisine Jason La Iacona including a Valentine’s menu with a tasting of fresh oysters, wild mushroom risotto and a sweet profiterole duo to end the meal. An extensive whiskey selection hammers home how great it is to have such a place close to home.
601 12th Ave. S., 615-248-2888
With its red décor, low lighting, intimate booths and sophisticated menu, Sambuca is sometimes overlooked for its romance, but never should be. Dinner options offer a plethora of small plates to share, always a romantic and interactive experience for new couples and people who have been married for years. Start with the spicy Acapulco shrimp with basil and parmesan cheese before moving on to chicken-fried oysters and lobster enchiladas. End it all with a glass of wine from their extensive collection.
1121 Fifth Ave. N., 615-750-2912
Another Southern-influenced offering in Germantown, Silo is a collaboration between Clay Greenberg, formerly of Virago and Lime, and Paul Cercone, previous owner of Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery in Charleston. Together, their take on farm food combined with a room designed by nationally award-winning architect Greg Ibañez, creates a total moment just meant for romance. Leave the community table for an evening out with friends and grab a table for two to enjoy pan-seared mahi mahi with pickled turnips or chicken confit with cheddar biscuits.
2600 Franklin Pike #102, 615-942-7746
One of the many, many celebrity-chef owned and/or operated restaurants that opened in Nashville last year, Sinema already has a fan base thanks to Chef Dale Levitski who cut his teeth in Chicago for years, a notorious food town that embraces both new and old to the extreme. Levitski brings that sensibility here with hearty items like seared venison loin with creamed cauliflower and hazelnut crunch, or the surf-n-surf-n-surf with seared scallop, shrimp Brussel sprout bacon and crab truffle chowder. Finish with one of the indulgent desserts, maybe the drunken pear cake.
311 Third Ave. S., 615-256-4013
Owner GianCarlo Agnoletti first opened in his hometown near Rimini, Italy, but Nashvillians have been lucky enough to have him for nearly 20 years now. In fact, people have been spending special occasions at Sole Mio, thanks to their commitment to service and the community. The delicious food certainly helps, and customers love the option to choose a favorite house-made pasta from nearly ten options, and then top it with their favorite sauce, like the gorgonzola cream with walnuts or vodka tomato cream. On Valentine’s Day, a $30 prix fixe menu is a deal to try in addition to their regular menu.
The Southern Steak & Oyster
The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 Third Ave. S., 615-724-1762
Eating downtown brings its own brand of excitement thanks to the never-ending energy that the place seems to buzz with. And the growing SoBro district is perhaps the buzziest of all, spurred on by places like the Southern. 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. Chef Matt Farley will be serving a special Valentine’s Day menu with tender braised short ribs, roasted red snapper and wood-fire grilled filet with roasted garlic mash.
5109 Harding Pike, 615-353-0809
Since 1974, Sperry’s has been more than a tradition. It has been a cornerstone for many people who remember their first date, 15th anniversary or grandchild’s birthday. Sperry’s is all about celebrating life with loved ones, and that comes through loud and clear through the service and the food. Grilled quail with Byrd’s Mill stone ground grits and burgundy mushroom sauce is just one classic dish that shares space with the jumbo lump crab cakes, barbecue shrimp and grits and twin lobster tails. Even Prince William has dined here and they have the namesake steak dish to prove it.
650 Frazier Drive, Franklin, 615-778-9950
The Williamson County outpost of the Belle Meade staple may share its classic steakhouse appeal and dark wood paneling, but it has plenty of followers of its own that 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. Lobster truffle mac and cheese will make you a convert, and if not, be sure to order the bananas Foster for two prepared tableside. It is sure to secure Sperry’s a spot in your favorite restaurant hall of fame.
The Standard at the Smith House
167 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., 615-254-1277
Rich leather, soft lighting and an outstanding chef are three key ingredients for a romantic evening and The Standard offers all that in spades. The historic Smith House is the last grand townhouse to remain downtown, an example of antebellum Italianate architecture. Each entrée is more tempting than the next: filet with The Standard sauce, truffle hash, and fried tobacco onion; the bacon-wrapped bacon with white Marble Farms pork; a grilled rack of lamb with smoked peach preserves and caramelized corn.
3821 Green Hills Village Drive, 615-739-6900
Table 3 Restaurant and Market offers customers an authentic brasserie experience, in a setting that combines contemporary design and an Old World atmosphere. That, and their distinctive and affordable wine list and fresh menu make this a must-try. Crispy duck confit, a Benton’s ham crepe and mussels mariniere are just the beginning. Classic coq au vin and cassoulet can do no wrong, nor can the beef short rib bourguignon.
Tempur Chocolate Shoppe
1201 5th Ave. N., 615-454-5432
Who needs dinner when you’ve got chocolate, cheese and wine? Many people would consider this the ultimate romantic meal, and Tempur is doing it so well in Germantown, staying open until 10 p.m. so people can make this a destination post dinner, or just while away hours indulging in the hand-tempured treats they have to offer. Along with the chocolate, dipped pretzels, sponge candy and other sugar-filled foods, diners can get other foods that range from cheeses and meats to wine.
3201 West End Ave., 615-298-3444
One of the original Nashville Originals, Tin Angel was opened by Vicki and Rick Bolsom in 1993, Tin Angel is one of the few historic commercial buildings left on Nashville’s busy West End Avenue. The building has been carefully restored, from its brick walls and floors and its round freestanding fireplace built from brick salvaged from Church Street, to its period tin ceilings. Antique café tables add charm, and the global-inspired menu is just as appealing as the interior, like the signature lobster and shrimp lemon herb risotto.
1011 Clearview Ave., 615-454-4201
Another East Nashville darling, Treehouse really lives up to the hype thanks to its impressive menu. Limited seating prevents them from taking reservations for parties smaller than four, and while they do reserve seating for walk-ins, date nights are sure to fill up. So will all the other ones too. Scallops, steak, trout and pork belly are all on the menu, and Chef Todd Alan Martin will do their best to accommodate any food allergy, known romance killers.
2506 12th Ave. S., 615-679-9342
Don’t dismiss this place as unromantic just because it has the word, ‘Grub’ in its name. Inside, the atmosphere is very conducive to love, and the menu definitely helps with offerings like wood oven trout with a bacon vinaigrette, Hereford filets and grilled Scottish salmon. Desserts provide a satisfying finish, like their chocolate peanut butter bar with chocolate ganache and vanilla cream.
1907 West End Ave., 615-327-0148
Open since 1991 and still going strong, 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. In fact, it is the perfect place to share a bottle of wine and one of their set menus. On Valentine’s Day they will be serving multiple courses of deliciousness, including classic prime rib, oven roasted chicken breast and three-cheese ravioli. Don’t leave without sampling the tiramisul.
1126 McGavock St., 615-254-1902
A sushi innovator in Nashville when it first opened in Midtown, now it continues to impress as one of M Street’s staples by The Gulch. Many people in this town owe Virago for introducing them to twisted and tweaked fusion fare and sushi rolls. And yet the cuisine still surprises with items like Thai lobster shooters with spicy red curry, crispy pork belly they call ninja bacon. When it comes to rolls, be sure to order the premium soy flight for dipping with bourbon barrel-aged and white tamari options.
507 12th Ave. S., 615-254-2000
Outstanding views, creative cocktails and of course, impeccable dishes have kept Watermark at the top of the Nashville food chain ever since it opened under Chef Joe Shaw years ago. After a series of chefs came through after Shaw, and he graced other local spots with his touch, Shaw is now back at Watermark and it is better than ever. On Valentine’s Day, grab your favorite dining companion and fill up on butter-braised Maine lobster and bouillabaisse of Gulf red snapper before finishing up with a chocolate soufflé or French opera cake.
101 Market Exchange Court, Franklin, 615-778-0081
Wild Ginger stands out among a sea of 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. For dessert, the gluten-free flourless almond cake with diced walnut topped with milk chocolate mousse, crunchy pecan praline and a creamy coffee custard is a decadent winner.