A few years ago, I introduced a list of lesser-known, unpretentious places for couples to go to for Valentine’s Day (and for date nights in general), looking at such cozy and mellow spots as the Ashmont Grill in Dorchester and 75 Chestnut in Beacon Hill.
Well, that special day is once again approaching, so it seems like a good time to identify more restaurants and bars that are particularly good date-night places. As was the case last time, this is not a list for those who want to spend a ton of money, hang with beautiful people, or wait in line for hours; instead, the focus is mainly on quiet, laid-back, and, yes, at least somewhat romantic spots in and around the city.
Bocelli’s, South Medford
There’s always something special about an old-school Italian red-sauce joint that’s tucked away in a lesser-traveled area, and this friendly place in the heart of an old Italian neighborhood is certainly one of those restaurants. And while the upstairs area is kind of a mix where you can hang for coffee, dine in, or do takeout, a better bet is to take the narrow staircase to the right down into the basement where there is a very old-feeling dining area that feels more like a private club than a public dining spot. Here you can enjoy some eggplant parm, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and more while hearing servers call people “honey,” and there’s a good chance you’ll hear some cheesy lounge music over the speakers.
Bocelli’s, 374 Main St., Medford.
Tavern at Granite Links, Quincy
OK, so when you’re talking about a golf course restaurant, that can often mean that a) it’s overpriced, b) it’s not very good, and c) you might run into a meathead or two, but in the case of this hilltop space literally in the middle of nowhere, it’s a bit different from your typical 19th-hole clubhouse, though no guarantees that you won’t encounter someone bragging about the hole-in-one they just got (Ed. note: They didn’t). And what puts the Tavern at Granite Links—which is also called the Tavern at Quarry Hills—over the top is its location high above Quincy, nearby Milton, and Boston just a few miles to the north, with spectacular views of the city skyline and the ocean from the dining area. Maybe it doesn’t seem so romantic eating at a golf course, but the views alone at this one should add just a bit of romance to the overall dining experience.
Tavern at Granite Links, 100 Quarry Hill Drive, Quincy.
Parker’s Bar, Boston
Everyone seems to know about the classically elegant Parker’s Restaurant within the Omni Parker House in downtown Boston, and many others (especially lovers of whiskey) know about the Last Hurrah just down the hall from the restaurant, but did you know that there’s a third place in this beautiful old-world hotel? Parker’s Bar doesn’t seem to get much press, but couples looking for a bit of a getaway in the heart of the city might want to consider this spot, which is tucked away off a staircase above both the restaurant and the whiskey bar and offers the option of dining or sipping on alcoholic beverages (or both). Comfort food and upscale pub grub are front and center here, as well as Parker’s legendary Boston cream pie.
Parker’s Bar, 60 School St., Boston.
A real hidden gem that resides in a rather fascinating building, this casual upscale restaurant has the feel of a destination spot in some ways. It might seem strange dining in a massive old watch factory, but the structure—which sits along a quiet part of the Charles River—has been completely renovated and has tons of character both inside and out, including the space in which Brelundi can be found. Expect to see mostly Italian dishes here, with a focus in part on Sicilian fare and Italian seafood items; the prices are actually quite reasonable with many dishes being around or under $20, so there’s no worries about breaking the bank while on a date at this eatery.
Brelundi, 185 Crescent St., Waltham.
Bully Boy Distillers, Roxbury
OK, so maybe going to a distillery might not seem like the best plan for a quiet evening with a loved one, but this relatively new spot near Newmarket Square and the Expressway feels slightly more grown-up than some of the other beer, cider, and spirits places in and around Boston. Its rather rough-looking industrial exterior doesn’t really hint as to what’s inside, which is a somewhat upscale and very colorful tasting room that includes funky bench seats, stylish carpeting, hanging lights, and a warm and inviting bar area where patrons can sample whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and amaro. Bully Boy is a true hideaway that’s a great spot to hit on your way to dinner with that someone special, or just as a standalone spot if you’re both into adult beverages.
Bully Boy Distillers, 44 Cedric St., Boston.
Caffe Vittoria, Boston
What is more romantic than sipping on cappuccino and eating biscotti in an old Italian cafe on a cold winter night? Well, taking a two-week trip to Hawaii might be just a little bit nicer, but it’s somewhat easier and a whole lot cheaper to head over to Hanover Street in the North End instead. And for those who like historic “old Boston” spots, Vittoria is about as good as it gets, with tons of atmosphere thanks to its pressed tin ceiling, murals on the walls, and lots of little nooks and crannies within its several rooms. If you’re on a date and looking for a place to go before dinner—or after dinner, for that matter—there are few choices better than this one.
Caffe Vittoria, 290-296 Hanover St., Boston.
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.