Valentine’s Day is upon us—or past us, depending on when you read this—but since many folks will be celebrating on the weekend after Feb 14 (because who really goes out on a Tuesday night), it still seems a good time to talk about romantic restaurants and date-night places in and around Boston. Here’s a list of several such spots, with a focus on restaurants that generally aren’t big names (so no three-hour waits) and ones that won’t break the bank.
88 Wharf, Milton
There aren’t many riverside restaurants in the Boston area, but this spot, which is hidden away in a residential development near the Boston line, is one such place—and because it is located at a bend in the Neponset River, 88 Wharf almost feels like it sits above a snug little harbor. The dining spot, which includes an attractive bar along with an outdoor patio during the warmer months, focuses mainly on New American dishes such as statler chicken, seafood risotto, and steak frites, though at the time of this writing, it appears that a Mexican pop-up restaurant is debuting within the space as well (stay tuned).
88 Wharf. 88 Wharf St., Milton. 88wharf.com
75 Chestnut, Boston (Beacon Hill)
The Beacon Hill section of Boston may be one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods, but it isn’t exactly overflowing with restaurants. A few good ones can be found here if you look hard enough, however, including some lesser-known dining spots off the main drag (Charles Street), and 75 Chestnut is certainly one that shouldn’t be missed. Located in “The Flat” of Beacon Hill, the restaurant is basically a dark and cozy tavern that caters mainly to nearby residents, and while it used to be a high-end special-occasion spot, 75 Chestnut is now more of a mid-priced American place that features everything from pork chops to grilled salmon to tremendously delicious burgers.
75 Chestnut. 75 Chestnut St., Boston. 75chestnut.com
Via Lago, Lexington
Restaurants that focus on corporate catering tend not to be overly romantic spots, and neither do places with delis attached. But this longtime Lexington Center fave tends to have multiple personalities, including at night when it offers dinner service. The back room of Via Lago is the place to be here, with white tablecloths and attractive hanging lamps making this private-feeling area a great choice for a quiet, romantic dinner. The menu is mostly upscale Italian, with calamari, bolognese, grilled rosemary chicken, and pork chops being a few choices here.
Via Lago. 1845 Mass. Ave., Lexington. vialagocatering.com/restaurant
Dorchester has become a terrific neighborhood for dining out, and many who come here tend to go to its countless Vietnamese places for quick, cheap eats . But there are also plenty of other restaurants featuring all kinds of cuisine, including this dark and moody Savin Hill spot that features some of the best Indian food in all of Boston. Peaceful and serene, Shanti is a terrific place for quiet conversation over a leisurely meal, with a few menu highlights being biryani, vindaloo, tandoori chicken, and much more.
Shanti. 1111 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester. shantiboston.com
Sichuan Garden II, Woburn
While making a well-deserved name for itself on the cocktail front, this unusual Chinese restaurant/bar north of Boston has a lot more going for it than just memorable drinks (and yes, they are about the best you’ll find in the region). Housed in an historic mansion, Sichuan Garden II is full of nooks and crannies, including several private-feeling rooms off the downstairs and upstairs hallways, a gorgeous library-style bar upstairs, and, yes, the legendary bar on the first floor. The building itself is enough to make this a great date spot, but the drinks and the very impressive Chinese food here really help put it over the top.
Sichuan Garden II. 2 Alfred St., Woburn. sichuangardenrestaurant.com
Metropolis Cafe, Boston (South End)
Couples who are looking for a romantic night out could do a lot worse than Boston’s South End, as they could basically walk in any direction and end up in a cozy restaurant and/or bar. Some of the options in this beautiful Boston neighborhood tend to stand out above the others, however, including this little Tremont Street bistro. Metropolis Cafe has an intimate vibe to it, feeling like it could be in the heart of a European city, and its mostly Mediterranean-influenced menu only adds to this. Some of the offerings here include a chicken and mushroom risotto, seared duck breast, and braised short ribs.
Metropolis Cafe. 584 Tremont St., Boston.www.metropolisboston.com
Stellina Restaurant, Watertown
Italian restaurants tend to be good spots for couples to enjoy a romantic meal, and while many great Italian options reside in Boston itself, some excellent ones can be found in the suburbs as well, including this casual upscale eatery in Watertown Center. Stellina seems to be made for couples, with its live jazz music, little private room toward the back, and seasonal patio with a fountain and garden farther back. The food can be outstanding here, with options including chicken marsala, pork osso bucco, grilled swordfish, pasta with duck and spinach, and a thin-crust white pizza with garlic and truffle oil that is tough to beat.
Stellina Restaurant. 47 Main St., Watertown. www.stellinarestaurant.com
All Seasons Table, Malden
Asian fusion restaurants can be very appealing spots because their menus often have something for everyone, but they are usually places to go for a quick bite to eat or perhaps takeout. Some of them do have rather nice atmospheres, though, such as this popular spot in the heart of Malden’s downtown area. All Seasons Table is quite spacious, yet it has a somewhat cozy and warm feel to it, and its bar is particularly appealing, especially since the cocktails offered include some classic Polynesian drinks that are pretty tasty while also packing a punch. Food highlights are many, with sushi, pad Thai, basil fried rice, and Mongolian beef just scratching the surface.
All Seasons Table. 64 Pleasant St., Malden. astrestaurant.com
Ashmont Grill, Dorchester
This industry favorite is perhaps a bit more romantic during the summer when the leafy back patio is open, complete with aromatic fire pit. But the Ashmont Grill is a great date spot in the colder months as well, as its interior is a mix of rustic, artsy, and slightly industrial, and it has a warm and welcoming vibe to it. Comfort food is big here, with some of the best macaroni and cheese in Boston being offered, along with excellent takes on burgers, baby back ribs, wood-fired steak, and blackened salmon. And for lovers of beer and cocktails, it will be tough to choose which to get, as a number of top microbrews are available, while mixed drinks include a good mix of classic and modern cocktails.
Ashmont Grill. 555 Talbot Ave., Dorchester. ashmontgrill.com
Siros Restaurant, Quincy
Marina Bay can be a crazy place at times—especially when the weather is warm—but this waterside section of Quincy is also perfect for a leisurely stroll along its boardwalk, with memorable views at nearly every point of the walkway. And for a romantic meal, Siros is probably the place to hit when on the boardwalk, with its slightly upscale atmosphere and the fact that it’s quite a bit quieter and more laid-back than some of its neighbors. Siros offers a mix of Northern and Southern Italian fare, with the minestrone soup, rolled eggplant, Caesar salad, chicken piccata, bolognese, pork chops, and veal parm all being worthwhile options.
Siros Restaurant. 307 Victory Rd. Quincy. eatdrinkminglegroup.com/siros-restaurant.html
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.