2019 Valentine’s Day Edition: Romantic Restaurant Power Rankings
First, let’s talk about the coolest Valentine’s Day specials happening across our city:
- Sea Level: Enjoy $1 Oysters from 4-7 p.m. before dinner.
- The Stanley: Five-course chef tasting menu ($85 per person) with an optional beverage pairing (additional $45 per person). Book.
- Stoke: Three-course meal ($40 per person). Book.
- Bardo: Four-course dinner experience with curated wine and cocktail pairings ($240 per couple including gratuity and taxes). Book.
- Fin & Fino. Four-course dinner ($99 per person). Book.
- Haberdish: Sip a new “Making Romance” cocktail with maca root extract for libido and energy, available in February only. Ingredients include El Tesoro single barrel, strawberry vanilla gum syrup, Amaro Montenegro, lemon juice, cinnamon and maca root.
- U.S. National Whitewater Center. Zipline and Dine: Valentine’s Edition – zip 1,625 feet before a three course meal ($75 per person). Book.
- Haymaker. Three-course dinner ($65 per person). Book.
- Angeline’s. Four-course shareable tasting menu ($100 per couple). Book.
12. Good Food
The OG of Charlotte small-plate restaurants.
Must-order dish: Steamed bun — Five Spice rubbed pork belly, hoisin, pickled vegetables ($10)
Best for: An intimate group of friends (or a hot date) who wants to try a variety of foods
Agenda protip: You’ll probably need two to four small plates per person. It ends up being an expensive dinner but worth it. Oh, and the cocktails are underrated.
Logistics: Good Food doesn’t do reservations. It’s first come, first served, but they do use the Nowait app if you’re looking to shorten your wait time.
The ideal neighborhood tavern, serving unpretentious food in historic Fourth Ward
Best for: The couple looking for something casual but intimate
Must-order dish: What It Is – blackened chicken breast over fresh rotini in a cajun cream sauce ($16.75)
Tiny, no-frills SouthPark restaurant where it’s hard to get a reservation without making it a week in advance
Best for: The married couple that’s just not into the new trendy stuff and wants a classic spot
Must-order dish: Seared organic chicken served with creamy mashed potatoes, wilted spinach and a garlic pan sauce ($23)
Agenda protip: The restaurant only has about a dozen or so tables, so make sure to call well in advance for a reservation. Also, it’s 30 yards from Foxcroft Wine Co., which makes for a great pre- or post-dinner drink.
9. Dot Dot Dot
*** Note: A Dot Dot Dot member did a full buyout of the space on Valentine’s Day, so no additional tables will be available. ***
Prohibition-style speakeasy in an old storage unit behind Park Road Shopping Center
Best for: Couple that loves a good cocktail
Must-order dish: Grilled Spanish Octopus — crispy potato pavé, pimenton, Spanish chorizo, arbequina olive oil and chimichurri ($17)
Drink: Paloma – El Tesoro personal selection Reposado tequila, lime juice, sugar, Jarritos grapefruit soda and black sea salt, served over ice
Popular Spanish tapas and wine bar with a chic European vibe in South End
Best for: The couple that loves the new hotspots in Charlotte
Must-order dish: The “Albondigas” meatballs includes five small balls made of spiced pork, beef and veal for a juicy rich bite ($8.50). The sauce is made of a thick tomato base blended with boquerones (anchovies) and garlic, which adds a nice salty zesty kick without tasting fishy.
Agenda protip: Mix and match to make your perfect cheese and meat board with Barcelona’s selection of meats and cheeses sourced from Spain, Italy and other nearby European countries. It’ll run you $6.50 for one and $17.50 for three. Barcelona offers about 15 choices for your mixing and matching pleasure.
Gorgeous, award-winning small-plate restaurant in Davidson
Best for: The couple that’s tired of the usual stuff and doesn’t mind driving to Davidson and making a night out of it
Must-order dish: Crispy oysters with dill yogurt, Calabrian chile oil ($12). And of course you’re ordering their famous milk bread (save some and make French toast the next morning with it).
Agenda protip: Order a “Barkeep’s Choice” and the bartender will surprise you with a cocktail of his/her choosing.
Intimate, no-reservations space drips cool with resident DJs spinning every night of the week in Plaza Midwood
Best for: The couple that’s cool and loves a good cocktail
Must-order dish: Asian-glazed pork belly tacos on flour tortillas with watermelon salsa ($12)
Drink: Cucumber Mule on tap
Old-school steakhouse on South Blvd
Best for: The couple that loves steak and Budweiser
Must-order dish: 16-ounce choice-cut ribeye ($39)
Noteworthy: Instead of adding the salad toppings onto the salad, they give you a separate salad topping plate. Puts me to work and allows me to create the perfectly balanced salad and to dip the remaining veggies into my blue cheese salad dressing. Oh, and the cheese dip is money.
New cozy small plate and cocktail spot loved by foodies in South End
Best for: The foodie couple that wants to try a new restaurant
Menu: There are only 13 dishes on the menu and a few dessert options. Portions are small, but the food is outstanding.
Must-order dishes: Oysters ($18), ricotta tortellini ($15), dry aged ribeye ($23)
Space: The kitchen is exposed to the dining room, which makes for a very cool experience. It’s a cozy restaurant with only about 15 tables.
Modern take on classic Italian dishes in an intimate Myers Park setting with an open kitchen
Best for: The pizza-loving couple that wants a classy spot that isn’t stuffy
Must-order dishes: Meatballs — local pork, parmesan, marinara and ciabatta ($10) and Pepperoni and sausage pizza ($16)
Noteworthy: Pizzas are served with a giant pair of scissors so you can cut it as you like. It’s fun.
2. Fig Tree
Sets the standard for a white tablecloth, fine-dining destination in Charlotte — it’s the restaurant I chose after I got engaged to my wife seven years ago
Best for: The couple that’s getting engaged
Must-order dish: Fig Tree’s famous elk chop — grilled New Zealand elk chop over horseradish spaetzle with smoked bacon-braized purple cabbage and boursin-dijon sauce ($42)
Space: Located in Elizabeth, you’ll find Fig Tree inside a Craftsman-style bungalow built in 1913.
1. The Stanley
Seasonally-driven, locally-sourced restaurant by James Beard Award Semifinalist chef Paul Verica located in Elizabeth
Best for: The couple looking for something neighborhood-y and sophisticated
Must-order dish: Surf and Turf — beef tartar, fried oysters, veggie slaw and truffle aioli ($17)
Agenda protip: If you’re going on a weekend after 9 p.m. try their burger.
Space: The Stanley only seats 63 total, including a private dining room in the back that can accommodate 28 and an 11-seat bar in the main dining room. Bar seats are first come, first served and I’d ask for the front dining room if they’ll let you choose.