Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Top 5 Romantic Restaurants

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and so I've been thinking about where I should take my wife to eat. Don't worry, I'm smart enough not to announce it to the world in a blog. It's a surprise. But in light of this upcoming holiday and to help others like me who are pondering where to go, Neel and I are going to submit our top 5 most romantic Memphis restaurants list.

This list is a bit unusual because it is a joint list rather than a list created by just one of us. We figured the topic demanded a joint list because what is Romantic should be determined by both a male and a female. Going to a romantic restaurant wouldn't be much of a success if one party found it unappealing!

Before we get to the list, three caveats. First --- and somewhat obvious --- we're only going to list places we've actually been. We say that because there are numerous restaurants on our "places to go list" that we think will qualify as romantic and have high expectations for. Such restaurants include Andrew Michael's Italian Kitchen, Grace, and a few others.

Second, we need to define what makes a restaurant "romantic." As we use that term, and compile the list, we're basically going to be weighing atmosphere and mood much more than usual. Certainly, food quality and price and other factors will play a great role in the list, but we're going to give atmosphere much more than its usual due in the analysis. But even that definition is partly question begging since we also need to define "romantic atmosphere" or "romantic mood." For those terms, we're thinking about a restaurant that lends itself by its layout, lighting, etc to intimate, private conversation. There is nothing less romantic than trying to carry on a conversation when your table is located a foot away from the table next to you and that table can hear everything you are saying (and vice versa).

Third, though we're giving more weight to atmosphere than usual, we're giving a bit less weight to price. This is not to say we're making that factor completely irrelevant. I (Jon) don't think I could eliminate the price factor even if I tried. It is to say that, for that special occasion and/or person, it's justifiable to expend more funds. Thus, all the restaurants on this list are going to be relatively high priced. If you feel like you need to scale back, we would suggest referencing our forthcoming Best First Date List. With all that in mind, we can now turn to the list.

1. Pasta Italia: Though it's a long drive to Collierville, Pasta Italia has to be one of my favorite restaurants in Memphis! I went here about a month after I returned home from my summer in Italy. It is probably the closest I have come to eating authentic Italian (Northern Italy) food in Memphis. The plates are a practical size with huge flavor - so fresh! I recommend the pasta sampler. The staff is extremely charming. The first time Jon and I ate there they asked us to come meet the executive chef. After finishing a bottle of wine or two(?), we were up for anything. We followed our waitress to the back and chit chatted with the chef for a little while - not really sure what was communicated (Being a native to Italy, he spoke only broken English).These are true Italians cooking for you! The atmosphere is quaint, dim with warm lamplight and candles, rustic yet clean, and very intimate for sweet conversation.

2. Iris: Neel and I have been to Iris three times and it has been great each time. It is located off Cooper in an old house. This fact creates a unique atmosphere that really lends to romantic dinning. Like any house, each room is somewhat separated from the other and they don't put too many tables in each room. As a result, you are usually set off from the other dinners and can easily carry on a conversation (usually at candle light) in a somewhat private setting. As for food, it is amazing. The shortrib might be my favorite dish in all of Memphis. The service has always been great as well. They take care of you, without lingering over the table. It's a great dinning experience.

3. Flight: Neel and I went to Flight as our Christmas gift to each other and we had a great time. Flight took over Stella's and is located downtown. The layout of the restaurant is cool because there is an upstairs and downstairs. The lighting is somewhat dark and creates that romantic food. Flight is a bit more open than two restaurants listed above, but it is not too cramped so you can still get that sense of privacy, though at some tables more than others. What separates Flight is the menu. It is based on small plates (though you can get full entrees), so you can get to try a few different things. You can also get "flights" of wine, so you can try out 3 different types of wine. I think that unique factor creates a sense of community between you and your date and also a fun sense of discovery as you try new things together. As for the food, they try not to make things too crazy but they are good at what they do, solid, tasty small plates. It was great.

4. Tsunami: This restaurant has been a long time favorite of mine. I'm a big fan of its creative menu and fresh fish. I recommend the scallops. The atmosphere definitely lends to enough privacy, but not seclusion. It has a more modern feel with hues of green, gray, and blue. Additionally, I truly enjoy its location. Cooper Young is always a fun and entertaining area to walk off your dinner if the weather permits and great people watching if you're sitting at a window table.

5. Interim: Interim is in a great location, right on Sanderlin in East Memphis. As for food, it's very good with a good deal of options. Everything I've had there has been very good. But a special shout-out needs to go to the burger. Wow. Yes, this place is fine dinning but they've probably got the best burger I've had in Memphis. As a bonus, that is the cheapest thing on the menu. Neel often gets the scallops and thinks they're great. As for atmosphere, it has a new, chic, modern feel inside. Strangely enough, I think that adds to the romantic feel. I thoroughly enjoy it. More so than the other selections, the layout is open and public. You can easily carry on a private conversation because of the background noise of other conversations. Significantly, the tables are not too close together; so even though it has an open bright look, you can still focus in on the person you're eating with.

Runners-up: Circa, Itta Bena, Spindini, Cafe 1912


  1. Excellent list! I'm looking forward to the first date list & hereby nominate the Applebee's on Union

  2. Ross, I will accompany you to Applebee's - it was a classic first date place in Collierville. N&J, loving the blog and I can't wait to try some of these eateries!

  3. You helped me out. Not critiquing but a price range would help your viewers. :-)

    1. Can you help me out on what are two great for a date Italian restaurant's? Nothing too flashy or flaky...

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