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VOL. 40 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 5, 2016

Nashville's most romantic restaurants for 2016

Can’t-miss favorites for Valentine’s Day

By Hollie Deese

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Romance can be found all around, in quiet, 50-seat rooms and bustling of-the-moment hot spots. It’s all about the food, the ambiance, the service and, most importantly, your companion for the evening.

Here's a sampling of the Nashville-area's most romantic restaurants, each a great choice for a Valentine's Day meal.

360 Wine Bar Bistro

6000 Highway 100, 353-5604, 360bistro.com

Everything you would expect from a cozy French bistro is on the menu at 360 – marinated olives, artisan cheese plates, liver pate and perfectly roasted chicken. But there’s plenty you wouldn’t expect to find, too, thanks to seasoned chef Will Uhlhorn

F.Scott’s, Table 3, Miel, like the rich squid ink linguini with smoked duck breast and egg, a rustic burger on a buttermilk bun and Muffuletta. If you’re drinking by the glass, the wine list is varied yet carefully curated, while the extensive options for bottles range from everyday favorites to special occasion standouts. This Valentine’s Day it’s all about delicious twists on classic dishes, like oysters Rockefeller soup, potato gnocchi with oxtail and aged gouda, and roasted duck with lingonberries and North Georgia candy roaster squash. Chocolate truffles offer a sweet ending to a succulent meal, and of course, all three courses ($79/person) are perfectly paired with wine, too ($120/person).

1808 Grille

Hutton Hotel, 1808 West End Ave., 340-0012, 1808grille.com

When it comes to nailing the big three – food, atmosphere and service – 1808 Grille excels on all counts. Located inside the Hutton Hotel, 1808 takes the idea of a hotel lounge and make it a place even locals want to be. On Valentine’s Day, Executive Chef Joe Strang has created a four-course meal ($75/person) that will take diners through delicious “new American” options that take into account vegans and those with gluten restrictions without sacrificing flavor at all. Sip pear and parsnip soup before digging into snapper cioppino with clams, mussels, tomato fennel and saffron before ending the evening with chocolate hazelnut crunch with Spanish peanut ice cream, fried bananas and feuilletine crumbs. In-house sommelier Lou Vargo has complied an impressive wine list, and lovebirds staying the night will be lucky enough to order smoked salmon and poached eggs right to their room the next day.

The 404 Kitchen

404 12th Ave. S., 251-1404, the404nashville.com

Don’t let the shipping container exterior fool you. With a menu driven by Chef Matt Bolus (Watermark, Flyte), and nods from the James Beard Awards, Southern Living and Travel & Leisure, it’s one of the hottest tables in town. A few more than 50 people can have a seat for dinner, including the glassed-in patio, which increases the intimacy and exclusivity. And some of those diners may even be lucky enough to have accommodations in one of the five rooms right next door at the 404 Hotel. Lots of local sources are showcased, like the Bloomy Rind cheese plate with whiskey jam, honey and toast, or the Bear Creek Farms dry-aged tri-tip with farro, butternut squash, flower sprout, pepitas and butternut seed oil.

5th & Taylor

1411 5th Ave. N., 242-4747, 5thandtaylor.com

There’s something to be said for being able to share intimate moments while among the presence of others, and this American restaurant that aims to engage members of the community over a meal is the perfect place to do just that. Start off with a few sausage cheddar biscuits or duck liver mousse with blood orange and brioche before moving on to a plate of beef cheek pot roast with mashed potatoes and a side of sweet potato casserole with bourbon meringue. If there is actually room for dessert, grab a couple of spoons and dive into the apple pie with bourbon ice cream for two, or savor the chocolate brownie with chocolate hazelnut ice cream.

Antonio’s of Nashville

7097 Old Harding Pike, 646-9166, antoniosofnashville.com

After more than two decades in business any restaurant can practically consider itself a dining institution, and that’s exactly what this Old World Italian restaurant in Bellevue has become. You won’t come across too many surprises on the menu, just delicious standards that have kept regulars coming back time and time again, like the unctuous salmon sautéed in butter with red onions, flamed with vodka, simmered in San Marzano tomatoes, finished with a touch of cream and fresh herbs and tossed with linguine pasta and parmesan cheese or the osso buco veal shank braised with aromatic vegetables, wine, fresh rosemary, tomatoes, served with grilled polenta alla parmigiana. Dim lighting, sweet treats and usually capable service keeps things on track.

Adele’s

1210 McGavock St., 988-9700, adelesnashville.com

An ode to celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman’s mother Adele, the restaurant in her name is all warmth and hominess despite the building’s beginnings as a garage. Inside there is a large fireplace for grilling just like Waxman had growing up, and that is in addition to the wood-burning oven. After dinner, which might have included a steak with romesco and charred green onions or carbonara with pancetta, black pepper and an egg, look to cuddle outside on the patio in front of another fireplace with one of the many cocktails or spirits on the menu.

AVO

3001 Charlotte Ave., #200, eatavo.com

Try something new with your partner, or celebrate a love of fresh fare together at the city’s first plant-based restaurant, which is drawing fans as much for its ambiance as for its vegan fare. No processed ingredients in sight, and with nothing heated above 118 degrees, food has been elevated to an art with plates about as pretty as they come, including the pad Thai with kelp, daikon and zucchini noodles tossed in homemade spicy almond sauce and the lasagna with marinated zucchini, cashew hempseed ricotta, basil pesto and sundried tomato sauce. Drinks are just as adventurous, including the signature cocktail made with fresh avocado, resposado, cilantro, fresh lime, agave and house-made orange dust.

Butcher & Bee

902 Main St., 226-3322, butcherandbee.com

Sandwiches are sexy, right? If they weren’t before, they are now, although the new East Nashville outpost of the Charleston original is offering so much more with lamb neck and grits or trout and potato salad gnocchi. Although if you do opt for one of the handhelds, the roast beef with chimichurri and smoked onion jam is a flavor-filled standout. Up the romance quotient that can be limited by the amount of fellow diners with a couple of glasses of prosecco or even one of the custom cocktails like the Dickel Me Elmo with Dickel No. 1, Montenegro, lemon, cinnamon and decanter bitters.

Butchertown Hall

1416 Fourth Ave. N., 454-3634, butchertownhall.com

Open seven days a week, there’s no stopping a romantic evening because of a closed restaurant door, and the wood-fired Tex-Mex fare is a little something different, adding a touch of spice to the Germantown neighborhood. Start with the fried chicken livers, hot oysters or maduros (sweet plantains), then move on to the meat – house-made sausage, beef brisket, pork spare ribs and so much more. The black forest empanada with crème fresh sorbet is worth saving room for.

Cabana

1910 Belcourt Ave., 577-2262, cabananashville.com

Get caught up in the energy of the crowd, or sink into a cabana for some quality one-on-one time at this Hillsboro Village outpost from Randy Rayburn and gang. Lump crab hush puppies are just too good to ever take off the southern comfort menu, which is also filled with blackened catfish, shrimp and grits, bison meatloaf and fried chicken. The semi-private cabanas can be shut off with a curtain so you and your partner can enjoy some privacy. Luck into an open spot, or be prepared to spend if you want to guarantee one – a $250 spending limit is in place for cabana reservations.

Caffe Nonna

4427 Murphy Road, 463-0133, caffenonna.com

The ambience is on point at this Sylvan Park stalwart, a culinary gift to the neighborhood from Chef Daniel Maggipinto. Coming close to 20 years of serving the locals, his from-scratch pastas and sauces are based on his grandmother’s recipes. It would be hard to imagine this growing neighborhood without the tiny Italian eatery. From the beginning of the meal that could start with beautiful seafood Caprese bruschetta with shrimp, scallops, crispy pancetta, sundried tomatoes and fresh herbs to the very end sipping Italian roast coffee with dessert, the meal delivers on quality. The small space makes this the right place for special occasions, but don’t shy away for a delicious lunch either thanks to shrimp po’ boys and meatball parm subs.

The Capitol Grille

231 Sixth Ave. N, 345-7116, capitolgrillenashville.com

It’s hard going up from the high note started by a drink in the Oak Bar, but the Capitol Grille is sure to meet it every time. Be sure to leave instructions for any special accommodations you want made for you and your dining partner when booking a table, and the staff will be sure to do what they can to make it happen. Fans of the recently departed Tyler Brown are still getting used to fine-dining pro Cory Untch from Texas – he has only been at the helm for just a few months but expect his stamp to become apparent soon. On Friday, it became the only Nashville restaurant to receive a AAA Four Diamond Award from AAA – The Auto Club Group.

The Catbird Seat

1711 Division Street, 810-8200, thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com

With just 22 seats in the room, it doesn’t get more intimate than this. The creation of Strategic Hospitality’s power brothers Max and Benjamin Goldberg, the kitchen is enclosed by an intimate U-shaped counter and has seen a number of talented chefs at the helm. Currently, that distinction goes to Ryan Poli, who before flying to Music City did time at Chicago standouts Tavernita and Barcita. Reservations at Catbird are accepted on a 30-day rolling calendar.

Chauhan Ale and Masala House

123 12th Ave. N., 242-8426, chauhannashville.com

Another Chicago chef plucked for Nashville’s pleasure, Maneet Chauhan, formerly of the Windy City’s Vermilion, had been becoming more and more recognizable from her stints on The Food Network before opening this Indian restaurant in a rehabbed garage. Couples can feel relaxed but still as if they are on a special date night out thanks to the upscale décor, professional staff and buzzy ambiance. On Valentine’s Day, couples can get creative with a special four-course “Te Amo” Spanish-influenced menu that includes a paella Biryani with lobster, shrimp, chicken, saffron, baby octopus, artichokes, clams, mussels and topped with pomegranate raita. The ending is what diners will really love though – a saffron churro, chocolate-dipped rose pistachio sandwich, chocolate-dipped strawberry, silver cotton candy and red velvet heart pops, all served tableside.

City House

1222 Fourth Ave. N., 736-5838, cityhousenashville.com

One of Germantown’s pioneering restaurants is still one of the best, thanks to the delicious magic being worked by Chef Tandy Wilson and his capable crew of servers, bartenders and sous chefs. The weekly Sunday supper has become one of the most reliable dining events around, and the perfect date night. With a new menu posted each week, recent options have included popcorn with bacon fat and mushroom powder, cracklins with hot onion, sour cream and cheddar and a lamb sausage pizza with navy beans, garlic, rosemary and pecorino. Over a couple of glasses of wine, embrace the smells coming from the wood-fired oven while the hustle and bustle of the always-buzzing room fades away

City Winery

609 Lafayette St., 324-1010, citywinery.com/nashville

Quickly becoming a favored place to catch a live show thanks to the ample seating and incredible food, City Winery is an elevated venue complete with wine by the tap and food inspired by that wine. Mediterranean-influenced, people swear by the crispy risotto balls with adobo barbecue sauce and confit pork belly sliders with fennel and celery root slaw and pickled carrot. One incredible deal is the daily five-course tasting menu for $55 with the option to add wine to each for another $25. Start with the wagyu beef tartare, move on to the baked ricotta with sage chimichurri roasted mushrooms and finish with the chocolate stout cake with brown butter caramel and coffee ice cream. On Valentine’s Day, book a table for two to enjoy an elevated prix fixe menu ($80/person), with an optional wine pairing for an additional $30 each.

Cork & Cow

403 Main St., Franklin, 538-6021, corkandcow.com

A Franklin restaurant drawing diners from Nashville, Cork & Cow impresses diners looking for a little romance right off the bat with one of its custom cocktails like the Chocolate Thunder with Prichard’s Double Chocolate bourbon, Carpano Antica, Luxardo maraschino and orange bitters. After that everything will look delicious, but there is really no mistake to be made – from the charred oysters with garlic butter and parmesan crumbs and tempura lobster with tarragon-chile dip to the dry-aged New York strip or the tomahawk chop. Grilled redfish and elk loin have their own fans, and dessert is always a winner – like the peanut butter cheesecake with chocolate ganache and peanut butter crunch.

Eastland Café

97 Chapel Ave., 627-1088, eastlandcafe.com

This dining destination is what East Nashville is all about – comfortable, casual, community-minded and approachable, with a twist. Chef is Paul Wright, who worked his way up after years of sous work at Eastland. There is a featured catch of the day, a Tennessee Hereford featured cut of steak and a plate of shrimp and tobacco cheddar grits that is hard to resist. The ambiance is inviting, no matter how busy, thanks to the warm mahogany paneling and candle-lit tables. Perfect for both special events or a spontaneous date night.

Epice

2902 12th Ave. S., 720-6765, epicenashville.com

A neighborhood Lebanese bistro is just the place to expand your taste buds with someone special. The modest setting with limited seating was designed by Nashville’s Patrick Avice du Buisson, is owned by Maher Fawaz of Green Hill’s Kalamata’s and the executive chef is William Zaitz, formerly of the downtown Hilton, who has been immersed in the cuisine since his own romantic marriage to a Lebanese. Indulge in traditional fare like the roasted eggplant with ground sirloin and vermicelli rice or lamb shank with white bean cassoulet. At the end, choose from a number of desserts to finish on a sweet note, like the kenafah with sweet cheese, mascarpone, shredded filo and orange blossom syrup.

Etch

303 Demonbreun St., 522-0685, etchrestaurant.com

Fans still mourning the closed Zola were the first to keep Chef Deb Paquette’s downtown restaurant buzzing, and it has been picking up fans ever since. Leave your diet at the door and kick off an indulgent meal with the signature butter tasting with cashew ginger, mushroom tarragon taleggio, saffron chorizo and steak Diane, then add the pork belly starter with smoked apple sauce, caraway creama, rye crisps, kraut caramel and pickled Brussel sprouts. Entrees are just as rich, including a standout grilled 7 oz. filet with beef gravy, sourdough baked potato bread pudding, béarnaise butter and zucchini slaw. 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.

J. Alexander’s

73 White Bridge Road, 352-0981; 1721 Galleria Blvd., Franklin, 771-7779 and Redlands Grill by J. Alexander’s 2609 West End, 340-9901; jalexanders.com

At J. Alexander’s and the rebranded Redlands Grill, the focus is on service, atmosphere and the contemporary American wood-fired menu that features a wide selection of classics like prime rib of beef, steak cut in-house and fresh seafood (J. Alexander’s), as well as sushi, tacos and eclectic salad offerings (Redlands). A wide range of cocktails complement both menus, and dessert is always just the right ending – especially the Very Best Chocolate Cake from Redlands.

Jimmy Kelly’s

217 Louise Ave., 329-4349, jimmykellys.com

It’s mindboggling to think about the number of anniversary dinners, engagements and special occasion dinners this standard steakhouse has hosted since it first opened in 1934. Chances are plenty of local couples have fond memories of a meal shared at Jimmy Kelly’s. The steaks are hand-cut by the butcher in house on the day they are going to be served, selected from the stash of grain-fed beef that has been aged a minimum of 28 days. A couple of those topped with chipotle hollandaise and a side of lobster, and you’ve got the makings of a very memorable meal.

Josephine

2316 12th Ave. South, 292-7766, josephineon12th.com

Open since 2013 in the same location that once housed the pioneering Rumours Wine Bar, diners can talk about the evolution of dining in Music City over a variety of small shared plates, including the crispy pork belly, heirloom tomato sauce, mozzarella and Josephine basil, smoked carrots, curry granola, dill and buttermilk vinaigrette or Nashville hot scrapple with pickle vinaigrette and frisée. Chef Andrew Little has made sure there are communal tables available for walk-ins, but if you think ahead and reserve a high-backed leather booth you’ll be sure to have a truly intimate evening filled with good wine, good food and, perhaps, a memorable companion.

Kayne Prime

1103 McGavock Street, 259-0050, mstreetnashville.com/restaurants/kayne-prime

Nothing has been left to chance at M. Street’s Kayne Prime, from the décor to the wine menu to the range of classic cocktails and innovative drinks. A fusion of a classic American steakhouse and of-the-moment hot spot, couples will love sinking into one of the rich leather booths and admiring the dark wood walls made from reclaimed railroad ties. Leave the casual attire at home since men in flip flops and shorts won’t be seated, no matter how hot it is outside. Enjoy some of the city’s best views, too, overlooking the iconic train yards, Union Station and the downtown Nashville skyline.

Le Sel

1922 Adelicia St., 490-8550, leselnashville.com

Only open since October, Le Sel (‘salt’ in French) has impressed Nashville diners with its Gallic cuisine that starts with a raw bar and ends with an apple and pear galette with pecan rye brittle and brown butter and honey ice cream. Located in the base of the Adelicia condos in Midtown, the vibe is playful with a room that is light and bright. Couples will love starting off with hot and cold foie gras preparations and a warm boucheron with tomato and fine herbs before moving on to the rack of lamb or 16 oz. chateaubriand for two. Love seafood? Splurge on the grand seafood platter with lobster, oysters, shrimp, crudo an Alaskan King Crab for $135.

Little Octopus

604 Gallatin Ave., 454-3946, littleoctopusnashville.com

A neighborhood restaurant perfect for meeting after work for an impromptu dinner date or a special dinner out. Chef Daniel Herget has created a menu that is both simple and sophisticated without being pretentious. And with all entrees under $20, management knows its neighborhood. Vegetarians will love the sumac-crusted tofu with cassoulet, pea shoots and lemon vin as well as the black beans with charred sofrito and herb salad, but the real standouts are the seafood, including the grilled scallops with braised lentils, fermented honey and kimchee.

Lockeland Table

1520 Woodland St., 228-4864, lockelandtable.com

One of the area’s greatest talents ? and by area we mean the entire South - 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 at Capitol Grille before moving on to be the executive chef of Eastland Café. After five years there, Hal ventured out with Lockeland and its adventurous regional cuisine. On Valentine’s Day ($85/person), start off a five-course meal with the lobster salad and caviar with champagne, choose from filet of sirloin with potato hash pisselaladiere or the organic salmon with black lentils and red cabbage, then finish strong with a Brownie Cherry Delite with graham shortbread, Bordeux cherry compote and white chocolate Cool Whip.

Mack and Kate’s Café

3078 Maddux Way, Franklin, 591-4104, mackandkatescafe.com

Identifying as “urban country,”Mack and Kate’s is a cute little romantic café marked by soft lighting and delicious food. The menu is fine dining but the approach is all southern hospitality, brought right to diners by Jan and Bernie Strawn. Sourcing local ingredients as much as possible, the iron skillet diver scallops with corn cakes and sorghum buerre blanc is a real standout, while the lobster mac and cheese has become an area favorite. As for the shrimp and grits, it’s some of the best around with Tennessee stone ground cheddar cheese grits, jumbo shrimp and spicy andouille sausage.

The Mad Platter

1239 Sixth Ave. North, 242-2563, madplatternashville.com

New restaurants come and go, but currently celebrating its 26th year in business is Germantown’s The Mad Platter, a consistently bright spot dining spot that has always been known as much for its eclectic charm as it’s tasty southern fare. The menu features a rotation of fresh ingredients based on what’s available, paired with the pan-seared salmon, duck or filet of beef. One item you’ll always find is the stellar bananas Foster, totally decadent with its bananas sauteed in butter, brown sugar, vanilla, rum and banana liquor, topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. A steal at $6.50.

Margot Café

1017 Woodland St., 227-4668, margotcafe.com

Intimate, warm and buzzing with camaraderie, Margot has been luring with its seasonal French- and Italian-inspired menu long before East Nashville was flooded with its current array of upscale neighborhood dining destinations with a casual flair. Still, the backbone of the city’ slow cooking movement, Margot McCormack remains one of the best, and if the packed house wasn’t any indication, any doubts otherwise left will be gone after the first bite. Some recent offering include veal scallopini with homemade fettucine, grilled quail with apple and radicchio salad with sweet bacon dressing or monkfish medallions with saffron tomato broth, crostini and aioli. Kick back with coffee and dessert, and simply enjoy the conversation among the other happy bustling tables doing the same thing.

Mason’s

2100 West End Ave., 321-1990, masons-nashville.com

Located in the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, Mason’s has been bringing forth some tried and true southern provisions with delicious twists at every turn. The atmosphere is on point, presentation is always perfect, and of course, the food is phenomenal, like the diver scallops with lady pea succotash, pork belly, Carter Creek basil and corn milk soubise. Valentine’s Day dinner offers one of the best deals in town – for $39.99 get a three-course dinner that includes shrimp or short ribs with creamy potato puree and veggies with a chocolate trio dessert. For $10 more, add a specialty cocktail or celebratory glass of champagne.

The Melting Pot

166 Second Ave. N, 742-4970, meltingpot.com

Let’s face it – fondue is romantic and no one does it better than Melting Pot. Expect Valentine’s Day to be busy, but thanks to the restaurant hosting its romantic specials all weekend long, more couples will get to enjoy each other without waiting all night on Sunday. Creamy cheese fondue is prepared tableside, served with artisanal bread and veggies, but it’s all about the chocolate fondue finish that leaves such a sweet impression. Choose from s’mores, turtle or milk chocolate flavors, then add dippers like brownies, marshmallows, fruit and cake.

Mere Bulles

5201 Maryland Way, Brentwood, 467-1945, merebulles.com

A candlelight dinner in an old plantation home is the epitome of southern romance and charm, and the staff at Mere Bulles makes sure guests leave with more than just an idea of how charming it can be. 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. The wine and champagne list is extensive, as are the martini and cordial options, all perfect starters to the classic Southern steakhouse fare. Those not in the mood for red meat can opt for one of the seafood treats, like the phyllo-wrapped sea bass with stuffed with shellfish, brie and spinach and served with an artichoke and tomato beurre blanc.

Merchants

401 Broadway, 254-1892, merchantsrestaurant.com

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. Bought by Strategic Hospitality’s Goldberg brothers in 2010, the onetime pharmacy that opened in 1892, found new life and a revitalized menu. Duck fat tater tots are all the rage, and the perfect way to start a meal that can include braised short ribs with black truffle grits, sweet onion compote and natural jus, or Carolina mountain trout with potato puree, cauliflower, lemon parsley salad and crab brown butter.

Miel

343 53rd Ave. N., 298-3663, mielrestaurant.com

Located in the historic Johnson’s Meat Market building in Sylvan Park, diners appreciate chef Andrew Coins’ way of making the act of eating French cuisine in an old barn in Nashville seem just right. Try the braised pork shoulder with Parisienne gnocchi, house-made mozzarella, arugula and jus or the lamb cassoulet with housemade lamb bacon, navy beans, olive gremolata and ricotta salata. Finish with dark chocolate ganache profiteroles, a dark chocolate terrine with peanut butter mouse and smoked Maldon salt or the buttermilk and salted caramel panna cotta with chocolate butter cookie.

Midtown Café

102 19th Ave. S., 320-7176, midtowncafe.com

Randy Rayburn’s Midtown Café is still going strong since it first opened in 1987, despite sister restaurant Sunset Grill’s closing, thanks in part to award-winning chef Brian Uhl who creates three- and five-course tasting menus and signature standards in addition to prime steaks, sustainable seafood and delicious cocktails. Their lemon artichoke soup is a standard people come back for over and over again, drawn to the restaurant for the hot soup starter as they are for the low lighting and intimate environment. There are nearly 50 different wines available by the glass, 150 by the bottle, and a selection of martinis, bellinis and other classic cocktails.

Moto

1120 McGavock St., 736-5305, mstreetnashville.com/moto

Italian for “motion,” Moto showcases delicious fare in the growing Gulch neighborhood while still paying homage to the location’s mechanic shop beginnings. Featuring rustic-modern Italian cuisine with a contemporary approach, ingredients are extremely important to the outcome of the final plate and are consciously sourced from local farms and artisans as much as possible, paired with premium products imported right from Italy. House made pasta ranges from gnocchi to black spaghetti with lobster, and the limoncello – also made in-house – is just the start of a carefully created list of cocktails.

M Restaurant and Bar

209 Tenth Ave. S. #223, 678-1591, mrestaurantandbar.com

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 without spreading themselves too thin. Classics like crab cakes are anything but basic with apple cider glazed cipollini onions, roasted corn, bacon and arugula and whole-grain mustard vinaigrette, while the veggie tower with pecan pesto and fried green tomatoes is sure to make lifelong fans of area vegetarians. One plate everyone can agree on is the apple fritter bread pudding with salted caramel ice cream.

Otaku Ramen

1104 Division St., 942-8281, otakuramen.com

Sarah Gavigan and her husband Brad opened a permanent outpost this winter in The Gulch space briefly occupied by Rumours Wine Bar. The space is small and wait times can be long, but they will take your number and call you when your table is ready if you want to head on down to nearby Yazoo for a beer while you wait. Then, after a piping hot bowl of ramen, give up your table and head over to Inryo, Otaku’s own whiskey bar.

Park Café

4403 Murphy Road, 383-4409, parkcafenashville.com

The philosophy at this Sylvan Park institution from Willy and Yvette Thomas (Eastland Café, Pomodoro East) is to create innovative cuisine using high-quality seasonal ingredients from the vine and farm, and it has been ever since they opened in 2001. Small plates are great for sharing, like the chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped with Benton’s bacon or the roasted Gulf oysters with Parmesan crumble. On Valentine’s Day, slip into one of the many cozy nooks in the dining room and tuck into the lobster bisque with chive Chantilly cream, braised lamb shank and a sweet sampler of macaroons and more.

Pinewood Social

33 Peabody St., 751-8111, pinewoodsocial.com

It might be hard to reconcile romance with a bowling alley, but Pinewood Social somehow makes it happen – thanks to the attention to detail given to everything from service to starters. Smoked trout dip (a big portion comes with plenty of Lavash crackers so sharing is no hardship). Entrees shine, including the hangar steak with parsnip puree, oyster mushrooms, pearl onions and Swiss chard. Grab another couple for a double date, and dig into one of the larger-format dinner plates to serve the whole crew.

PM

2017 Belmont Blvd., 297-2070, pmnashville.com

Top Chef alum Arnold Myint helps Belmont students impress their dates over and over again with his Asian-inspired cuisine served up in a casual, buzzy atmosphere. The energy drives the room, but so does the food. Share some lump crab wontons and coconut calamari with your date before indulging in some green curry mussels or five-spiced strip steak. Sushi options are varied but not overwhelming, and happy hour has a vibe all its own.

Prima

70012th Ave. S., 873-4232, primanashville.com

Vishan Ramcharan, left, and wife Jennifer Ramcharan enjoy a date night at Prima Restaurant off 12th Avenue South.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

Certainly a special occasion spot, Prima aims to become people’s every go-to as well, thanks to the recent addition of brunch and a happy hour menu that appeals to the after-work crowd. But it is at dinner where Prima really shines – the 900-light Bruce Munro light fixture sets an impressive tone that is only followed up by the service and food. Grab a seat at the table known as The Vista for a view overlooking the whole dining room, or opt for something a little bit cozier to up the romance factor. Service is thoughtful and a brand new daily tasting menu encourages people to keep coming.

Prime 108

1001 Broadway, 620-5665, unionstationhotelnashville.com/nashville-dining/prime108

Inside the iconic Union Station hotel, 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. The signature menu is in the good hands of Executive Chef Konstantin Rubis, who sources the finest products available including organic vegetables, locally-sourced meats and sustainable seafood. There is a rotating daily flatbread inspired by what is available, but fans swear by the Vidalia-marinated strip steak with truffle Parmesan pome rites.

Red Pony

408 Main St., Franklin, 595-7669, redponyrestaurant.com

This sophisticated southern stunner has been open for almost a decade now and has never waned from drawing regulars and new diners alike with its rotating diverse menu from Jason McConnell (55 South, Cork and Cow). His spin on Nashville hot chicken – the Franklin hot quail – has hot chicken dipped in quail knots and served with the customary white bread and pickles, while the braised rabbit with bacon-herb dumplings and garlic creole mustard is perfect for warding off cold winter nights.

Rolf & Daughters

700 Taylor St., 866-9897, rolfanddaughters.com

Located in the historic Werthan Factory building, Rolf & Daughters offers upscale rustic food that is thoughtful, homey and inviting. Beef cheek and sausage with Brussels sprout panzanella, heritage pork with kale and sauerkraut, lamb sausage with navy beans and radicchio Treviso, crostini with chicken liver and hakurei turnip are all takes on updated peasant food, and it is all delicious and just right for a chilly date night. Walk-ins are relegated to the communal tables and bar, but call ahead for a table.

Rumours East

1112 Woodland St., 262-5346, rumourseast.com

Those who say this is Nashville’s hidden treasure aren’t kidding, especially when it comes to the expansive backyard filled with tables and freestanding brick fireplace, making it the perfect place to grab a well-chosen glasses of wine and a few shared plates 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. Too cold? It’s just as charming inside, especially when you order up a plate of pan seared scallops with miso potato puree, pickled red beet salad and sesame and mustard seed caviar.

Saffire

230 Franklin Road #11Y, Franklin, 599-4995, saffirerestaurant.com

Located in the historic Factory at Franklin, Saffire is the brainchild of Tom Morales (TomKats, The Southern Steak & Oyster) and is a warm and welcoming atmosphere for people dining on the modern updates to Southern classics from Executive Chef Matt Farley and Chef de Cuisine Jason La Iacona. The Valentine’s menu includes a tasting of fresh oysters, pork belly with smoked cauliflower puree and Kalamata olive relish and chocolate whoopee pie with brown butter filling, macerated cherries, toffee and ganache.

Sambuca

601 12th Ave. S., 248-2888, nashville.sambucarestaurant.com

With its red décor, low lighting, intimate booths and sophisticated menu, Sambuca is all about swanky sex appeal with tall booths meant for hiding out, nightly live entertainment and a menu that has plenty of small options to share – prosciutto mac and cheese, lobster tempura, chicken fried oysters are just a few of the many choices. Drinks, of course, are a specialty, with a classic Sazerac with Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe and Woodford Reserve Rye tasting very nice. On Valentine’s Day, get a three-course meal and live music for just $49.95 a person, then add on drinks and extras as you like.

Silo

1121 Fifth Ave. N., 750-2912, silotn.com

Another Southern-influenced offering in Germantown, Silo is a collaboration of Clay Greenberg (Virago, Lime and Paul Cercone) Charleston’s Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery. Their take on farm food combined with a room designed by nationally award-winning architect Greg Ibañez makes for a great date night. The fried goat cheese with honey, toasted pistachio and aged balsamic will help with those memories, too, as will the seafood etouffee with mussels, clams, shrimp and long-grain rice. Silo takes farm to table to the next level with tables and chairs made by Amish craftsman Enos Hostetler from Ethridge.

Sinema

2600 Franklin Pike #102, 942-7746, sinemanashville.com

Russ Gallagher of Nashville and Karen Harder of Franklin enjoy some time together at Sinema Restaurant & Bar.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

Dale Levitski is so much more than a “Top Chef” celebrity. He’s a seasoned pro who cut his teeth in Chicago, a notorious foodie town with tons of talent to compete against and learn from. Levitski brings that hard work and love of food to Sinema, and diners can’t get enough. On Valentine’s Day – their second – diners can choose from a five-course meal ($125/person) or three-course meal ($75/person) with wine pairings. The upstairs lounge is clubby cool and perfect for sipping cocktails post-meal.

Sole Mio

311 Third Ave. S., 256-4013, solemionashville.com

Owner GianCarlo Agnoletti first opened in his hometown near Rimini, Italy, but Nasvhillians have been lucky enough to have him and his fresh Northern Italian sensibility for more than 20 years now. Sole Mio specializes in serving fresh house-made pastas and sauces, including house favorites like lobster ravioli and linguine Carbonara. Valet is gone, which is a bit of a bummer, especially if the limited parking in back is full. On Valentine’s Day it is offering a four-course meal for $120/couple. If you prefer to leave that night for the masses and stay home with your loved one, OrderUp offers delivery.

The Southern Steak & Oyster,

The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 Third Ave. S., 724-1762, thesouthernnashville.com

The growing SoBro district is one of the buzziest of all downtown, spurred on by places like The Southern where you can pop in from the hustle and bustle and immediately feel warm and welcome. 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. A special Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu by Chef de Cuisine Paul Brantley and Executive Chef Matt Farley will include a selection of oysters, house-made sausage, pan-roasted salmon with smoked tomato grits and house-cured bacon jam and even a toasted coconut and pineapple tart with coconut whipped cream.

Sperry’s

5109 Harding Pike, 353-0809, sperrys.com

Celebrating its 41st year in operation, the clubby Sperry’s is more than a tradition to some diners – it has become family lore for the countless people who had their first date there, celebrated an anniversary or stumbled through an awkward prom date. Sperry’s is all about celebrating life with loved ones, and that comes through loud and clear through the service and camaraderie among the diners and staff. Indulge in half-price bottles of wine on Sunday, Mondays and Tuesdays, making an order of twin tempura lobster tails in addition to shrimp bisque and grilled scallops with green tomatoes and remoulade seem not so outrageous.

Sperry’s

650 Frazier Drive, Franklin, 778-9950, sperrys.com

The Williamson County outpost of the Belle Meade staple may share its classic steakhouse appeal, famous salad bar and dark wood paneling, but it has plenty of followers of its own that might not have ever been to the original. Lobster truffle mac and cheese will make you a convert. Be sure to order the bananas foster for two prepared tableside.

The Standard at the Smith House

167 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., 254-1277, smithhousenashville.com

Rich leather, low 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 repurposed and restored into a stunning dining destination. Choose from a number of different cuts of meat, from filets to tomahawks, all USDA Prime, or opt for one of the entrees like the Gerber Farms airline chicken with blackberry Weisenberger grits and summer squash, or the bacon duroc long-bone chop with speckled bean and sweet corn succotash and Benton’s bacon.

Table 3

3821 Green Hills Village Drive, 739-6900, table3nashville.com

Table 3 Restaurant and Market offers Nashville diners an authentic brasserie experience in a setting that combines contemporary design elements with an Old World atmosphere. That, and the distinctive and affordable wine list and fresh menu make this a must-try – why not on Valentine’s Day when they will be offering a $65 prix fixe menu? If not, come in anytime for cassoulet with pork shoulder, white beans, duck confit and garlic sausage or the beef bourguignon with baby carrots, pearl onion and polenta. A sweet finish is the salted chocolate mousse or the flourless chocolate torte with crème anglaise.

Tempered Café and Chocolate

1201 5th Ave. N., 454-5432, temperednashville.com

Originally called Tempur, the Germantown sweet spot made a name change last year along with expanding its menu beyond chocolate to include sandwiches like the Milano with apple and a gruyere and blueberry jam on a croissant. There also is a “green hour” when a traditional absinthe ritual is performed as it was 100 years ago, as well as signature cocktails and traditional absinthe drips when the green light in the window is lit, Thursday-Saturday evenings from 8 p.m.-2:30 a.m.

Tin Angel

3201 West End Ave., 298-3444, tinangel.net

One of the original Nashville Originals, Tin Angel was opened by Vicki and Rick Bolsom in 1993 in 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. But it isn’t just the atmosphere that has kept loyal diners coming back for more than 20 years – it is obviously the seasonally-changing food too. Lobster and shrimp risotto is a highlight, same for the grilled beef tenderloin with port demi-glace and blue cheese.

Trattoria Il Mulino

144 5th Ave. S., 620-3700, trattoriailmulinonashville.com

From the iconic New York-based Il Mulino restaurant brand, the Nashville outpost opened its doors in the newly renovated Hilton Nashville Downtown, though it has a separate entrance on 5th Avenue. The local executive chef, Thomas Cook, teamed with the company’s chef Michelle Mazza to create a combination of local flavors and Italian classics. Dishes are all made from scratch, right down to the house-made mozzarella cheese, and they even make gluten-free, vegan penne pasta with shallots, lemon, baby zucchini and jewel box tomatoes.

The Treehouse

1011 Clearview Ave., 454-4201, treehousenashville.com

Another East Nashville darling, Treehouse lives up to the hype thanks to its impressive menu, with many of the ingredients from the Treehouse Farm about 50 miles outside the city. Limited seating prevents reservations for parties smaller than four. There is seating for walk-ins, though date nights are sure to fill up.

Two Ten Jack

1900 Eastland Ave #105, 454-2731, twotenjack.com

A Japanese-inspired neighborhood pub, or izakaya, that features ramen, yakitori, sushi and other Japanese-inspired pub comfort food that also incorporates local, Southern ingredients has been fully-embraced by East Nashville. The beverage selection features craft beers, wine, handcrafted cocktails, sake and shochu and aims to hit that true izakaya experience – a local gathering spot for the community. Share small plates of pork gyoza and potato fries or warm up with a bowl of ramen.

Union Common

1929 Broadway, 329-4565, unioncommon.com

Nashville is starting to collect quite a few steakhouses. Try the Nashville hot chicken livers with buttermilk dressing, pickles and onion appeals to the traditional and adventurous palates alike.

Urban Grub

2506 12th Ave. S., 679-9342, urbangrub.net

With a menu led by Executive Chef A. Edgar Pendley, 12South residents have been keeping Urban Grub busy since it opened a few years ago. There is an impressive charcuterie selection, as well as raw oysters, no surprise since it features fresh fish and fine aged meats. But one of the most popular dishes is the pork fries with white barbecue sauce. Expect a special menu on Valentine’s Day.

Valentino’s Ristorante

1907 West End Ave., 327-0148, valentinosnashville.com

Open since 1991 and still considered one of Nashville’s finest, 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. It’s the perfect place to pop the question or celebrate a romantic evening. In fact, it is the perfect place to share a bottle of wine and one of the set menus, like the three-course Valentine’s Day offering for $75 per person. Choose from Springer Mountain chicken with mushroom brandy sauce or prime rib with shoestring potatoes. Then sink into a triple chocolate cake or hazelnut biscotti pudding for dessert.

Virago

1126 McGavock St., 254-1902, mstreetnashville.com/virago

A sushi innovator in Nashville when it first opened in Midtown, the hip, Japanese-influenced restaurant is still impressing as one of M Street’s staples, now in The Gulch. Many Nasjville diners owe Virago for introducing them to twisted and tweaked fusion fare and sushi rolls. The rooftop bar has an impressive view of downtown, but if it’s too chilly to hang outside, the ambiance is just right inside with low lighting and flickering candles. When it comes to rolls, be sure to order the premium soy flight for dipping with bourbon barrel-aged and white tamari options.

Watermark

507 12th Ave. S., 254-2000, watermark-restaurant.com

Outstanding views, creative cocktails and impeccable dishes have kept Watermark at the top of the Nashville food chain ever since it opened under Chef Joe Shaw. After a series of chefs fllowed, Shaw returned last year and it was like he never missed a beat. On Valentine’s Day, there will be a brunch for couples who don’t want to go out at night. The dinner seating is a four-course meal that includes lobster bisque with a crispy grit dumpling and Ashley Farms chicken roulade with pommes duchess, English peas, glazed carrots and a Madeira reduction.

Whiskey Kitchen

118 12th Ave. S., 254-3029, mstreetnashville.com/whiskey-kitchen

This intimate hot spot offers a bit of everything with a menu that is a mix of chef-inspired pub favorites, southern classics and wood-fired pizzas. An extensive list of cocktails goes along with the restaurant’s wide array of world-class whiskeys, bourbons, ryes and scotches. Reclaimed oak and crocodile leather wall coverings add warmth while giving a club feel. The food is all comfort and upscale sophistication – think truffle and parmesan wings.

Wild Ginger

101 Market Exchange Court, Franklin, 778-0081, dinewildginger.com

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 – fusion at its finest. 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. On Valentine’s Day a three-course prix fixe meal starts at $40 per person, and includes bulgogi chicken with kimchi slaw, avocado and kochujang aoli. For dessert, the layers of Belgian white chocolate mousse between two layers of dark chocolate sponge cake is certainly worth blowing your diet.

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