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VOL. 41 | NO. 5 | Friday, February 3, 2017

Nashville's most romantic restaurants for 2017

By Hollie Deese

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No matter what romance means to you, Nashville has you covered – and then some. Here’s the list of where to go to celebrate love and some seriously good food.

360 Wine Bar Bistro

6000 Highway 100, 615 353-5604, www.360bistro.com

Suddenly this wine-centric spot is more than 10 years old, making it one of Nashville’s new classics. The menu is always evolving, but never straying too far from what works. In fact, new chef Joe Townsend (Merchants, Moto, F. Scott’s) has been in charge at 360 before, and upon his return has completely revamped the French bistro menu while incorporating updated classics. Menu staples like yellowfin tuna tartare have been updated, this time served with avocado, black aioli, radish salad and togarashi chips. The wine list never disappoints, offering up many carefully-chosen bottles that span everyday favorites to special occasion standouts. For dessert, the options are simple and delicious – apple pie with vanilla gelato, chocolate crème brulee and even rum raisin and chocolate pecan cookies and milk.

1808 Grille

Hutton Hotel, 1808 West End Ave., 615 340-0012, www.1808grille.com

Located inside the Hutton Hotel, 1808 Grille fuses traditional Southern dishes with global flavors in a warm and welcoming environment of reclaimed wood and award-winning food. In 2016, 1808 Grille earned their first prestigious Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence, one of only three Tennessee restaurants earning the nod last year. Executive chef Kerri Roach joined the team in November, coming from a stint as executive chef at BOKA Restaurant and Bar at the Hotel 1000 in Seattle. She brought a reinvigorated, Southern-inspired menu that on Valentine’s Day will include choices of duck consommé, roasted red beets with blood orange and truffle honey, foie gras, smoked sea scallops with watercress and caviar, and even a petite filet Oscar with purple asparagus, all for $75/person.

The 404 Kitchen

404 12th Ave. S., 615 251-1404, www.the404nashville.com/kitchen/

With a menu driven by chef Matt Bolus (Watermark, Flyte) and nods from the James Beard Awards (2014 nomination as Best New Restaurant), this is one of the hottest, more intimate tables in town. Available on Valentine’s Days is a five-course tasting menu ($90/person) and wine pairing ($40/person) that will include scallop toast with avocado, banana and preserved lemon; crab agnolotti with Jerusalem artichoke and Calabrian pepper and a chocolate budino with pine nuts and orange argumato. For extra exclusivity, be sure to book one of just five rooms next door at the 404 Hotel. Luxury room packages will be $399, plus tax and a bottle of sparkling wine and chocolate dipped strawberries will be waiting on arrival.

5th & Taylor

1411 5th Ave. N., 615 242-4747, www.5thandtaylor.com

Inspired by Sunday dinners growing up, chef Daniel Lindley revisits that feeling of love through food, only elevated for an increasingly discerning crowd. An enclosed patio space features a diamond-shaped, infinity-edged fountain and matching exterior bar, but the weather will probably keep you inside this season. The main floor is wonderful for the energy, but for extra romance try and score one of the elevated dining rooms for something a bit more private. For dinner, you won’t do wrong starting out with a few sausage cheddar biscuits or duck liver mousse with apple pear butter and brioche before moving on to a plate of grouper with sunchokes, collard greens, smoked pepper and herbs. Make sure to save room for dessert, and make sure it is the sweet potato donuts with burnt marshmallow cream.

Antonio’s of Nashville

7097 Old Harding Pike, 615 646-9166, www.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 on Old Harding Pike in Bellevue is. While filled with delicious standards you might still find a few tasty surprises on the menu too, like the spinach pignoli e pancetta salad, with tender baby spinach and red onions sprinkled with crisp Italian bacon, pine nuts, sliced mushrooms and drizzled with warm port wine dressing. The osso buco all Milanese veal shank never fails to deliver though, braised with aromatic vegetables, wine, fresh rosemary, tomatoes, served with grilled polenta alla parmigiana and veggies. Dim lighting, sweet treats and usually capable service keeps things on track.

Adele’s

1210 McGavock St., 615 988-9700, www.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 humble 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 could 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. On Valentine’s Day indulge in a special, four-course prixe fixe menu priced at $70/person that includes tortellini with three-cheese filling and parmesan-tomato bone broth and a chocolate hazelnut cake with mascarpone cream.

AVO

3 City Ave., 615 329-2377, www.eatavo.com

A plant-based restaurant created by raw food chef Jessica Rice and Hot Yoga Plus owner Susannah Herring, you and your dining partner can celebrate a love of fresh fare together at the city’s first plant-based restaurant which has been drawing fans as much for its ambiance as for its vegan fare since it opened in 2015. 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 – light, fresh, cold and delicious. Drinks are just as adventurous, including house made kombucha and the signature margarita made with fresh avocado, resposado, cilantro, fresh lime, agave and homemade orange dust.

Barcelona Wine Bar

1200 Villa Place #110, 615 327-0600, www.barcelonawinebar.com

One of six across the country, the menu at Barcelona is handily taken care of by chef Andy Hayes (Hermitage Hotel, Moto), a Jackson native who uses his experience growing up on his grandmother’s blueberry farm to drive his sustainable menu of fresh ingredients. Start with some selections of charcuterie and cheese like the 12-month aged Manchego sheep’s-milk cheese or the acorn-fed Iberico pig fat, cured with herbs. Then, load up on tapas and share as much as you like with your partner – seared scallops, charred broccoli, redfish a la plancha, pickled beets and so much more. The restaurant also has one of the largest Spanish wine programs in the United States, with an extensive collection from Spain and South America including more than 40 by the glass.

Bastion

434 Houston St., 615 490-8434, www.bastionnashville.com

With just 24 seats, this WeHo restaurant hasn’t even been open a year but is one of the hottest tables in town. Chef Josh Habiger of Catbird Seat fame gets to live out his culinary dreams here, and diners get to reap all the rewards.

Butcher & Bee

902 Main St., 615 226-3322, www.butcherandbee.com

Sandwiches are sexy, right? If they weren’t before, they are now at the East Nashville outpost of the Charleston original. The menu is always changing based on what is fresh that day, ensuring each dish is full of flavor, including those sexy sandwiches like the grilled persimmon and spicy honey with ricotta and pickled peppers on sourdough. If sandwiches aren’t on your list of romantic foods, no worry. A plate of octopus poke with Carolina Gold crispy rice and escarole will work. Up the romance quotient tucked into one of the intimate spaces with a couple of glasses of prosecco or even one of the custom cocktails like the classic B&B Old Fashioned with Ginger and Clove Dickel rye, Benedictine, Dolin rouge and sassafrass bitters.

Butchertown Hall

1416 Fourth Ave. N., 615 454-3634, www.butchertownhall.com

Open seven days a week, there’s no stopping a romantic evening because of a closed door. Also, the wood-fired Tex-Mex fare is a little something different, adding a touch of spice to the Germantown neighborhood. The result is an homage to chef Terry Raley’s Texas Hill Country roots, and the historic Czech and German butcher shop culture that once filled Germantown. As for the food, expect charred garden vegetables alongside the finest wood-fired premium cuts and craft tacos. Start with charred Shishito peppers with romesco spread, cashew gremolata and house rosemary cracker or the piccadillo empanada with spiced beef, olive and raisins before moving onto the main course – maybe the pork shank osso bucco with braised beans and pickled apple and mustard seed mignonette.

Cabana

1910 Belcourt Ave., 615 577-2262, www.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 staple from Randy Rayburn and gang. Lump crab hush bites with lime cocktail sauce are just too good to ever take off the Southern comfort menu, which is also filled with sweet tea smoked chicken, spicy shrimp and cheddar grits and the salmon with butternut squash risotto. 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, but a reservation is needed ahead of time if you want to guarantee one – a $250 spending minimum is in place for cabana reservations. No problem – just get a special bottle of wine or two, your favorite meals and even some desserts and you are all set.

Caffe Nonna

4427 Murphy Road, 615 463-0133, www.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 based on his grandmother’s recipes, it would be hard to imagine this exploding residential neighborhood without the tiny Italian eatery, one of the foremost businesses in the area. 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, especially when sipping a Malbec with your dinner date. Fall in love with the spicy marinara sauce? Buy a bottle to keep in the pantry at home.

The Capitol Grille

231 Sixth Ave. N, 615 345-7116, www.capitolgrillenashville.com

It’s hard to beat the high note of an evening begun with a drink in the Oak Bar, but the Capitol Grille is sure to meet it every time. One great place to start is the hour-old mozzarella drizzled with 15-year old balsamic for one of the most delicious versions of a Caprese salad around, from chef Cory Untch. As for the steaks, they are dry-aged on site for more than 18 days to achieve the absolute best flavor and texture. Then, each is hand-carved by in-house butchers to meet their exacting standards. And it’s that standard of excellence that expands to the impeccable service from the professional staff. In fact, if you leave instructions for your special evening when booking a table they will be sure to do what they can to make it happen.

Carters

1001 Broadway, 615 620-5665, www.unionstationhotelnashville.com

What was once Prime 108 is now Carters, the onsite fine dining establishment inside the iconic Union Station hotel where 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. Lamb sliders are meant to share, as are the deviled eggs with Tennessee chow chow and pickled mustard seed. Truffle fries sprinkled with Parmesan are an indulgence worth making, as is the grilled tomahawk pork chop with smoked sweet potato puree and sautéed greens.

The Catbird Seat

1711 Division Street, 615 810-8200, www.thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com

With just 22 seats in the room, it doesn’t get more intimate than this in the bustling Gulch. The creation of Strategic Hospitality’s power restauranteur brothers Max and Benjamin Goldberg, the kitchen is enclosed by an intimate U-shaped counter and has seen a number of talented chef’s 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 run on a 30-day rolling calendar, and that is about as far out as you want to try to book if you want in. The multi-course chef’s tasting menu ($115/person) is always changing, and the interaction with the chef throughout is what makes this a truly interactive and special experience.

Chauhan Ale and Masala House

123 12th Ave. N., 615 242-8426, www.chauhannashville.com

Another Chicago chef plucked for Nashville’s pleasure, Maneet Chauhan, formerly of the Windy City’s Vermilion, is becoming 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 five-course menu, “The Language of Love.” For example, the “Amour” course of fresh oysters with orange, candy onion mint mignonette, pomegranate and spiced cashew is followed by the “Agape” course, a saag paneer spanakopita with arugula, fig, candied pecan and champagne vanilla vinaigrette. The ending is what diners will really love though – an avocado mousse with chocolate, caramel bites and chocolate-covered strawberries.

City House

1222 Fourth Ave. N., 615 736-5838, www.cityhousenashville.com

One of Germantown’s pioneering restaurants is still one of the best, thanks to the seemingly never-ending 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, not to mention the perfect date night. With a new menu posted each week, recent options have included popcorn with cheese and chicken fat and roast lamb with harissa, carrots parsnips and pea shoots. 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. And if you have never had the belly ham pizza with a fresh fried egg in the middle, you have not experienced one of Nashville’s signature dishes.

City Winery

609 Lafayette St., 615 324-1010, www.citywinery.com/nashville

Quickly becoming a favored place to have a sophisticated date downtown thanks to ample seating, buzzy energy, extensive wine list and incredible food, City Winery is an elevated live music venue/ restaurant hybrid complete with wine by the tap and food that pairs perfectly with the drinks. Nashville’s first fully operational winery, City Winery Nashville produces and serves house wines from grape varieties sourced from the finest vineyards around the world including California, Oregon and Argentina. As for executive chef Garrett Pittler’s wine-inspired, Mediterranean-influenced menu, people swear by the crispy risotto balls, duck confit tacos and Maryland-style crab cakes, as well as the root beer braised beef cheeks with potato and root vegetable hash, jus and orange and fennel frond gremolada.

Commerce Street Grille

Renaissance Nashville Hotel, 611 Commerce St., 615 493-4050, www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-information/restaurant/bnash-renaissance-nashville-hotel

Hotel restaurants are really starting to make a name for themselves in Nashville, each competing to not only please on-site guests but to also pull locals in with its regional menu featuring dishes such as Lynchburg spiced ribeye and grilled filet with a local cheese mousse. Sip on signature cocktails, look over the extensive wine selection or simply choose one of the many local draft beers on tap while relaxing amongst the bustle of downtown. Start with a plate of hickory smoked deviled eggs with Benton’s bacon and Tennessee comeback sauce, then dig into a plate of chicken fried chicken with Yazoo-braised greens, buttery whipped mash and cracked pepper gravy. Finish with a slice of Jack Daniels chocolate chip cake or Snickers cheesecake for a truly indulgent end to a delicious evening.

Cork & Cow

403 Main St., Franklin, 615 538-6021, www.corkandcow.com

A Franklin restaurant from McConnell Hospitality Group, Cork & Cow impresses diners looking for a little romance right off the bat with one of their custom cocktails like Sugar Bear with Picker’s vodka or Corsair gin, blackberry, strawberry, blueberry, rhubarb bitters and limonata soda. After a few sips of that, everything will look delicious, and there is really no mistake to be made from your order, from the butternut squash fritters and crab-stuffed shrimp with hoppin’ John to the one-in filet or tempura lobster. Grilled parmesan frico redfish and the herbed elk loin have their own fans, and dessert is always a winner – like the layered white cake with toasted coconut and crème Anglaise.

Decker & Dyer

The Westin, 807 Clark Place, 615 248-2800, www.westinnashville.com

Decker & Dyer is on the main floor of Nashville’s newest hotel, The Westin.

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One of the newest openings downtown, Decker and Dyer is an upscale but still approachable restaurant on the main level floor of The Westin Nashville. In the morning, Decker & Dyer offers a café breakfast that segues into lunch later on with gourmet salads, artisan sandwiches and flatbreads. But at night Decker and Dyer really comes alive, transforming into a lively restaurant, bar and lounge featuring seasonal American offerings. The menu is influenced by local ingredients fused with a California style. The crab cake is full of lump crab meat and not much filler, served with roasted corn and green chili, watercress and crushed potato while meat lovers will drool over the dry-aged NY strip with glazed pearl onions, thyme butter and malt frites. After dinner? Just book a room with a view in the new hotel.

Eastland Café

97 Chapel Ave., 615 627-1088, www.eastlandcafe.com

This dining destination is what East Nashville is all about – comfortable, casual, community-minded and approachable, with a twist. Owned by Willy and Yvette Thomas of Sylvan Park’s gem Park Café, the chef is Paul Wright, who worked his way up after years of sous work at Eastland. The ambiance is inviting no matter how busy, thanks to the warm mahogany paneling and candle-lit tables – perfect for either a special occasion or simply a spontaneous date night. Start by splitting the pizza of the day or the goat cheese brulee with flatbread, sundried tomatoes, local honey and roasted red peppers before diving into a bowl of shrimp and grits or featured catch of the day. Add a bottle of wine – the prices here are practically a steal with many in the $30 range.

Elliston Place Soda Shop

2111 Elliston Place, 615 327-1090, www.ellistonplacesodashop.com

With so many new, hip, trendy spots to choose from, why not take the pressure off of a first date and hit up a Nashville institution instead, if only to share one of their super-thick milkshakes with a potential partner. Open since 1939, more than a few of Nashville couples have probably gotten their start over burgers, fries and a fountain soda at this Rock Block staple – the street was named for the Elliston family who originally owned most of the property – not to mention their classic egg creams, ice cream floats, dreamsicles, milkshakes and malts. Their rotating meat-and-three menu is great for lunch dates too, or lay all the cards out on the table from the very beginning and show them how much you can dig into their gooey patty melts and a plate of onion rings.

Epice

2902 12th Ave. S., 615 720-6765, www.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 or shakshuka with oven-baked eggs over spiced tomato has. 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.

Etc

3790 Bedford Ave., 615 988-0332, www.etc.restaurant

Those awaiting this smaller, more intimate version of Deb Paquette’s Etch in Green Hills have not been disappointed by this 2,400-square-foot stunner. The interior features simply adorned tables, a large bar and lots of open-air seating, but still remains intimate thanks to funky light fixtures and warm woods that fill out the space. The food is the real star though, and on Valentine’s Day they are serving a special four-course prix fixe menu for $80 with optional wine pairings for $30 that will incorporate all of Deb’s favorite spices and flavors, including l’orange lamb brochette with caramelized cauliflower sauce, mint pesto and pinenuts and grilled tuna and octopus with smoked lima bean espuma, Amarillo crema, Andean corn butter, shaved asparagus and mushroom ceviche.

Etch

303 Demonbreun St., 615 522-0685, www.etchrestaurant.com

Fans who mourned the closing of Zola have tucked that pain far behind and have been able to move on thanks to chef Deb Paquette’s downtown restaurant in the ground floor of the Encore tower. They will be serving a special four-course prix fixe menu for $90 with optional wine pairings for $40 on Valentine’s Day, which will include a chili lime-dusted Latino prawn with goat yogurt sphere, salsa negra, lobster relish and passion fruit vanilla sauce and smoked duck and parsnip bisque with balsamic duck syrup, pine butternut poori and chervil – and those are just the starters. A grouper and clams escabeche with clam and Spanish olive oil vinaigrette, sunchokes, avocados and yellow beans. For dessert, indulge in the dark chocolate mousse with hazelnut crunch, caramelized hazlenuts and Morello cherry.

The Farm House

210 Almond St., 615 522-0688, www.thefarmhousetn.com

Mt. Juliet native Trey Cioccia is the founder and executive chef of this charming spot that shows off his deep influence to his farmer grandfather who maintained the family’s 100-acre Tennessee farm. From an early age Cioccia developed a deep connection to food, land and farming, which is all clearly evident and deliciously memorable to diners. On Valentine’s Day, diners can experience a three-course dinner for $65/person that includes choices of confit rabbit with rabbit spam, barley cabbage dill and serrano, fried oysters with smoked blue cheese, cherry peppers and brown butter almonds and a scallop bouillabaisse with clams, mussels, citrus fume, rouille and white bread. For dessert, make sure you and your date get one of each – the chocolate truffles and macaroons and the buttermilk panna cotta.

Fifty First Kitchen & Bar

5104 Illinois Ave., 615 712-6111, www.51nashville.com

After a total management and kitchen shakeup, chef Francisco Vito is now at the helm creating a seasonal menu with farm-fresh ingredients that have an Italian flair. Fifty First will be opening its Victorian doors for diners on Valentine’s Day, where diners may be lucky enough to add on truffles and other treasures to the menu that includes Earl Grey smoked salmon with pickled red onion, caper dill crema and sourdough lavash, roasted red pepper and lobster soup with apples and dill, Bear Creek Farms pork belly with blue cheese whipped blue potatoes, baby carrots, foi gras butter and oxtail demi and gulf redfish with pea and preserved lemon puree, kumquat, pickled cauliflower and pea tendrils.

Fin and Pearl

211 12th Ave. S, 615 577-6688, www.finandpearl.com

The mission at Nashville’s latest seafood restaurant is to create a sustainable, earth-friendly seafood restaurant in both practices and buying strategies, including sustainable and traceable sourcing. Executive chef Matt Farley and chef de cuisine Dale Levitski have together created a fish-based menu that appeals to all – wild-caught options will be the fresh fish of the day, while farmed options include salmon with herb-crusted Alaskan salmon, hot-buttered lobster whipped potatoes, wilted organic greens and blood orange glaze or crispy fried whole bronzini with seaweed citrus salad and spicy black bean sauce. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a three-course prix fixe dinner for $65 and additional wine pairings for $45.

Firefly Grille

2201 Bandywood Drive, 615 383-0042, www.fireflygrillenashville.com

Another classic in bustling Green Hills, Firefly Grille was opened in 2001 by Curt Cole, a born and raised Nashvillian who brought a seasonally-changing menu to town before most else. The food is delicious, amplified by the casually funky décor, and together make a great escape among some of the city’s most bustling areas. An intimate dinner for two can include a bowl of decadent truffled white cheddar and goat cheese macaroni, fried oysters with remoulade or a duck duet of roasted leg and cold-smoked breast with sweet potato puree, puffed wild rice and Chinese broccoli. A perfect place to spend dinner after a movie at the nearby theater, or better yet, before a show at The Bluebird.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

2525 West End Ave., 615 342-0131, www.flemingssteakhouse.com

Yes it’s a chain, but there is just something about a delicious steak, a crackling fire and a glass of red that appeals to the romantic in many, and this place hits all the right notes. There are more than 100 wines by the glass, including dozens of local selections, and the food is absolutely indulgent. The steak toppings are almost too good to be considered just an accompaniment, especially the truffle-poached lobster with bearnaise and caviar or diablo shrimp baked with a spicy barbecue butter sauce. But when added to one of the dry-aged cuts of meat, surf and turf perfection is achieved. Desserts are like a greatest hits of American desserts, from the chocolate lava cake with premium vanilla ice cream to the crème brulee with fresh seasonal berries.

Flyte World Dining and Wine

718 Division Street, 615 255-6200, www.flytenashville.com

Flyte World Dining underwent a makeover this fall. Enjoy a four-course menu for $85 on Valentine’s Day.

One of The Gulch’s dining pioneers, it has been more than a decade since Flyte first opened their doors and served up their mission of sustainable food, outstanding wines and exceptional service. Despite the growing number of dining competition, it isn’t going anywhere thanks to a commitment to always making the meal and the entire dining experience from reservation to dessert something memorable. They refreshed the look of the room this past October and the food mission has changed with the chefs – always tasty – and the stellar wine chosen by co-owner Scott Sears is just as good as ever. On Valentine’s Day try the four-course menu for $85/person, wine and addition $40. Choices will include a creamy mushroom soup with caramelized onions, croutons and crème fraiche, a blue crab cake with dirty rice and remoulade, a beef hangar steak with whipped potatoes and kale and peanut butter panna cotta with chocolate ganache and shortbread.

Foxland Southern Grill

1445 Foxland Blvd., Gallatin, 615 451-2650, www.foxlandharbor.com

Located in a Gallatin mansion from the 1820s, the menu features chef Julio Hernandez’s inspired dishes made from sustainable fresh seafood flown in from all over the world, antibiotic and hormone-free beef, locally grown vegetables, made-from-scratch dressings and homemade signature desserts. The décor is all warm wood and low lighting, and the menu offers indulgent twists on so many classics – mac and cheese is anything but ordinary here with seared gulf shrimp and scallops, aged white cheddar and smoked bacon bread crumb brulee, while the black peppercorn crusted ahi tuna comes with fried avocado, pickled ginger spread, seaweed salad and wasabi. The libation list is small but impressive, and who could go wrong with the Foxland Manhattan with Bulleit Rye, sweet vermouth and bitters.

Germantown Cafe

1200 5th Ave., N., 615 242-3226, www.germantowncafe.com

With all of the new and exciting restaurants that are opening fast and furious in Nashville, sometimes it is nice to go back to the places where it all began. Germantown Café is one of those spots, a Music City dining innovator that helped make the neighborhood a desirable place to be. The view of downtown from the sleek and stylish dining room is still one of the best in the city, but it is still all about the food. Their crab cakes keep people coming back for more, but if a diner can try the escargot in mushroom caps with seasoned cream cheese herb garlic bitter or coconut curry salmon with creamy risotto, they could be persuaded to try something new each and every time. A must-try starter? The pork belly tater tots with shredded sweet potato and white cheddar cheese with apple cider demi-glace.

Giovanni Nashville

909 20th Ave. South, 615 760-5932; Giovanni West, 106 Harding Place, 615 750-2003, www.giovanninashville.com

Soft piano music, subdued lighting, Italian accents, red wine – Giovanni is all about romance and then some in a Midtown house meant to resemble a Tuscan villa. Having moved to Nashville after nearly three decades in Manhattan, this family knows Italian food, as one look at the impressive menu will show, and after the success of their first location they opened the one in Belle Meade last year. All of the pasta is homemade in house with organic free-range chicken eggs, and they make the perfect base for everything from a butter sage sauce to a perfect béchamel. Proposals happen often, and the staff are more than happy to accommodate any special request to make the night a memorable one. On Valentine’s Day, ($100/person in Midtown for four courses, $65/person for three courses in Belle Meade) diners can get a sampling of some of their best, like the braised osso buco with risotto alla Milanese.

Harvest at Homestead Manor

4683 Columbia Pike, Thompson’s Station, 615 538-6113, www.homesteadmanor.com

Located in a home from 1819, Harvest at Homestead Manor is a Tuscan-inspired restaurant that cultivates its own on-site organic farm on the 50-acre location for menus reflecting the season’s bounty. Executive chef Corey King draws parallels between Italian and Southern cultures, pairing time-honored European recipes with traditional Southern ingredients for a meal that inspires while nourishing. Start with the herb-roasted beef marrow with fresh herbs and fire-baked breads, then move on to the Not My Grandma’s pork chop and applesauce with mustard, herb and panko-crusted pork loin chop, roasted farm root veggies and apples, seasonal farm grilled veggies and a sweet tea gastrique. House-aged cuts of meat include a 14 oz. ribeye and can be served with everything from horseradish cream to marrow butter.

Holland House Bar & Refuge

935 W. Eastland, 615 262-4190, www.hollandhousebarandrefuge.com

Part dining destination, part cocktail lounge, Holland House offers a hard-to-resist mix of fine dining and casual comfort, all with just-right low lighting thanks to crystal chandeliers and flickering candles. Plus, the plates created by executive chef Carrie Upshaw are meant to share, upping the cozy factor with your dinner date. Get a tableful, including the chicken liver mousse with pickled veggies, herbs and artisan read, the lamb meatballs with anchovy, caper, mint and Lamb Chopper cheese and roasted Brussels sprouts with sherry vinaigrette, crispy shallots, comte cheese and crispy ham. Drinks are just as much a part of the meal here as the food, so try one of their house favorites, maybe the Double Barrel Titan with Old Forrester 100, sherry, Laphroig, maraschino and bitters.

Husk Nashville

37 Rutledge St., 615 256-6565, www.husknashville.com

In a time when Southern ingredients are shining on menus across the city, Husk Nashville in Rutledge Hill is definitely one of the finest examples, thanks to the menu from James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock and his talented chef de cuisine Brian Baxter. Constructed into the side of a hill in Mayor Richard Dudley’s 1897 home, the star of Husk is certainly the Southern-influenced fare, some of the best in Nashville. In fact, their motto is if it doesn’t come from the south, it doesn’t come through the door. Try the crispy chicken skins with Alabama white barbecue sauce along with the Florida Octopus in ink barbecue sauce and celeriac just to start, and for the main meal get back to your roots with a plate of chicken, squash casserole, sage and brown butter jus and a plate of hot water cornbread with cucumber and onion salad to share.

J. Alexander’s

73 White Bridge Road, 615 352-0981, 1721 Galleria Blvd., Franklin, 615 771-7779, and Redlands Grill by J. Alexander’s, 2609 West End, 615 340-9901, www.jalexanders.com

At J. Alexander’s and their rebranded Redlands Grill, the focus is on service, atmosphere and, of course, 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). An artisan pizza is a no-brainer to split with your date – maybe the prosciutto de parma with arugula – though choosing what comes next is hard when the extensive menu is filled with such tempting options, like the cilantro tiger shrimp or slow-roasted prime rib. A wide range of cocktails complement both menus, and dessert is always just the right ending – especially the Very Best Chocolate Cake from Redlands.

Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

300 Fourth Ave. N., 615 434-4300, www.jeffruby.com

Stylish, sophisticated, steak. Those are the three things that define this 10,000-square-foot outpost of the Cincinnati-based steakhouse chain that opened last summer downtown. A selection of sashimi and nigari shows off the freshness of the fish just as well as the raw bar offerings, jumbo lump crab cake with red pepper vinaigrette and oysters Rockefeller with spinach, mornay, pernod and parmigiano-reggiano. But it is the dry-aged steak and sides that really showcase what they do best here. The Japanese Wagyu comes from the Miyazaki region of Japan and is hand-cut to order, while the Music City Jewel is a chili-rubbed bone-in ribeye topped with Cipollini onions and shishito peppers. For dessert, go all in with ricotta donuts served with mocha and bourbon anglaise.

Jimmy Kelly’s

217 Louise Ave., 615 329-4349, www.jimmykellys.com

It’s mindboggling to think about the sheer number of anniversary dinners, engagements and special occasion dinners this standard steakhouse has been the host to since it first opened in 1934, but chances are plenty of local couples have fond memories of a meal shared with a loved one 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. Seal the evening in your brain forever by finishing up with the classic Death by Chocolate – homemade chocolate on chocolate with cream filling between the layers drizzled with a white chocolate sauce.

Josephine

2316 12th Ave. South, 615 292-7766, www.josephineon12th.com

Josephine

-- Submitted Photograph By Justin Chesney

Open since 2013 in the same location that once housed the pioneering Rumours Wine Bar, you and your date candiscuss the evolution of dining in Music City over a variety of small shared plates – maybe the beef tongue with toasted bread, caramelized onions and horseradish cream or Nashville hot scrapple with pickle vinaigrette and frisée will do the trick. Chef Andrew Little has made sure there are communal tables available for walk-ins, but if you think ahead and reserve one of their high-backed leather booths you’ll be sure to have a truly intimate evening filled with good wine, good food and hopefully a memorable companion. On Valentine’s Day look for a few special menu items in addition to the regular offerings.

Kayne Prime

1103 McGavock Street, 615 259-0050, www.mstreetnashville.com/kayne-prime

Nothing has been left to chance at M. Street’s boutique steakhouse 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 too – they don’t seat men in flip flops and shorts, no matter how hot it is outside. For dinner, start with popcorn buttered lobster and housemade bacon with black peppercorn and maple cotton candy, then move on to the venison rack with Cumberland sauce. Some of the city’s best views too, overlooking the city’s iconic train yards – the name takes inspiration from the neighborhood, based on the historic Kayne switch yard located directly across 11th Avenue – Union Station and the ever-evolving downtown Nashville skyline.

Le Sel

1922 Adelicia St., 615 490-8550, www.leselnashville.com

Le Sel has served Midtown diners for year on the ground floor of The Adelecia condominiums.

-- Submitted Photograph By Danielle Atkins

Open since October 2015, Le Sel (French for salt) is another stunner from Strategic Hospitality that has impressed Nashville diners with its Gallic cuisine from chef Brian Lea that successfully starts with steak tartare with crispy shallots and ends with one of their famous sour cocktails. Located in the base of the Adelicia condos in Midtown, the vibe at this French brasserie is playful and fun with a room that is light and bright, and the middle of the restaurant is highlighted by a white marble oyster bar filled with innovative raw options. Daily plates du jour show off specials like lobster Americaine or duck confit cassoulet, while the regular menu is filled with stunners like the salmon with lentils and leeks, or the wagyu beef shortrib with sunchokes and marrow puree.

Little Octopus

505 12th Ave. S., 615 454-3946, www.littleoctopusnashville.com

The onetime East Nashville neighborhood restaurant has packed up and moved to The Gulch, making it the perfect place for meeting after work for an impromptu dinner date, or planned ahead for a special dinner out. The brainchild of Pop Nashville’s Sarah and Brad Gavigan, the menu that is both simple and sophisticated without being pretentious. Plates are meant to share, but you each may want to order your own burger with manchego and piquillo aioli – when it hits the table it is still so hot juice practically pops out when you bite into it. Vegetarians will love the sweet potato pancake with pecan and kombu, but the real standouts are the seafood dishes, including the shrimp ceviche with aioli, Worcestershire and onion.

Lockeland Table

1520 Woodland St., 615 228-4864, www.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 smoked shrimp salad and brioche, choose from the NY Strip with horseradish mashed potatoes and brocolini green peppercorn or the lobster tail and Nicoletto’s pasta, then finish strong with buttermilk panna cotta with citrus crunch or the Olive and Sinclair chocolate pavlova.

Mack and Kate’s Café

3078 Maddux Way, Franklin, 615 591-4104, www.mackandkatescafe.com

Identifying as “urban country” because of the culinary creations that are the best of what you would find in any urban center, but the food is also made with the care and love found in a downhome country kitchen. The result is fine dining with an approach that is all Southern hospitality from longtime area restauranteurs Jan and Bernie Strawn. Mack and Kate’s is a cute and cozy romantic café marked by soft lighting and delicious food. Start with the fried gulf oysters or deviled eggs – or both – and then move on to a bowl of the seafood bouillabaisse with crab, shrimp, mussels gulf fish and Spanish chorizo. As for their shrimp and Anson Mills grits, it’s some of the best around with royal red gulf shrimp and andouille-tomato gravy. There is a changing nightly supper club entrée, so be sure to ask your server so you don’t miss something special.

Margot Café

1017 Woodland St., 615 227-4668, www.margotcafe.com

Intimate, warm and buzzing with camaraderie, Margot has been luring customers in 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 the best, and if the constantly-packed packed house wasn’t any indication, any doubts will be gone after first bite. Some recent offerings from the daily-rotating menu include Wedge Oak Farms duck sausage with fennel, pickled grapes, arugula and mustard, grilled quail with grits, tomato-braised greens and bacon, and pan-roasted mackerel with clams, tomato and bacon ragu with parmesan. Service is some of the best in town.

Marsh House

401 11th Ave. S., 615 232-6001, www.marshhouserestaurant.com

Another Gulch offering, Marsh House is seafood and Southern-centric and does both well. While the room is bustling and open, intimacy can be found among sharing the food. Starters sing, like venison carpaccio with crème fraiche and onion jam and the shrimp toast with sweet chili and ginger. As for that stunning seafood, the crispy swordfish with tomato jam and creole beurre blanc or the squid ink Garganelli with Florida bottarga, gulf shrimp and Meyer lemon are shining examples of what the restaurant can do. Of course, if you want to venture beyond the sea there are plenty of delicious choices too, like the Mississippi rabbit with hand-cut pappardelle and porcini mushrooms.

Mason’s

2100 West End Ave., 615 321-1990, www.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, no matter who the chef is making the menu decisions. Today it’s Brandon Fortune and the food he has been presenting has a very Southern-fusion feel, like the duck confit egg roll with braised cabbage, Serrano chilies, curries ranchero sauce, citrus crema and garlic chards or the tikka-masala pork fajitas with cucumber yogurt and grilled naan. On Valentine’s Day, expect something especially decadent from new pastry chef Matt Augustine, and if you decide to stay after dinner you couldn’t be in better hands than at Loews.

The Melting Pot

166 Second Ave. N, 615 742-4970, www.meltingpot.com

What was once one of the foremost romantic dining destinations in Nashville actually still is for plenty of couples young and old. And 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 their romantic specials Feb. 10-14, more couples will get to enjoy each other without waiting all night on V-Day. 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, 615 467-1945 www.merebulles.com

A candlelight dinner in an old plantation home in Maryland Farms is the epitome of Southern romance and charm, and the staff makes sure guests leave with more than just an idea of how charming it can be – they work diligently 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. Because of that their 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

Merchants has been on Lower Broadway since 1988, a 29-year span that has seen many changes, almost all for the better, in that area. Strategic Hospitality purchased Merchants in 2010.

-- Submitted Photograph By Danielle Atkins

401 Broadway, 615 254-1892, www.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 has found new life, new fans and a revitalized menu. Start with the smoked oysters with tobacco butter and saltines, then move on to the baby kale salad with local goat cheese, quinoa roasted fall squash, walnuts and fig balsamic, then indulge in the sunburst trout with Benton’s bacon, watercress and Meyer lemon vinaigrette. And as with any of the Strategic’s properties, drinks are a big part of the plan. At Merchant’s, try the Broadway Bramble with Prairie vodka, lemon and St. George raspberry liqueur.

Miel

343 53rd Ave. N., 615 298-3663, www.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, and has been for almost a decade now. Couples can go in on multiple little plates to share, making the meal more of an interactive experience. Littleneck clams come with braised leeks, Calabrian chilis, shaved celery, cream of potato, oyster crackers, lardo and fermented scallops while the lamb tartare hasa three-hour cured egg yolk, duck liver mousse, fired sourdough bread, honey-roasted peanuts, shies, preserved lime and smoked olive. Try not to leave without sampling the dark chocolate and bourbon ganache profiteroles and buttermilk and salted caramel panna cotta with chocolate butter cookie and Maldon salt.

Midtown Café

102 19th Ave. S., 615 320-7176, www.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 created the three- and five-course tasting menus and signature standards in addition to prime steaks, sustainable seafood and delicious cocktails before he passed away last year. The lemon artichoke soup is a standard people come back for over and over again, drawn to the restaurant as much for the hot soup starter as they are for the low lighting and intimate environment. Other standouts include veal three ways, a tasting of the restaurants piccata, saltimbocca and Oscar-style versions, and the crab cakes served with smoked Gouda cheese grits, lemon dill and remoulade. There are nearly 50 different wines available by the glass, 150 by the bottle, and a selection of martinis, belinis and other classic cocktails.

Moto

1120 McGavock St., 615 736-5305, www.mstreetnashville.com/moto

Italian for “motion,” Moto showcases delicious fare in the exploding 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. A large bar and lounge area embraces a wine repository “enoteca-inspired” vibe, and more than 30 different kinds of wines by the glass that are always changing. 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 10th Ave. S. #223, 615 678-1591, www.mrestaurantandbar.com

Jan and Bernie Strawn of Macke’s, Mack and Kate’s expanded their Southern dining empire into Cummins Station with M. Restaurant and Bar without spreading themselves too thin. Classics like roasted quail are taken to new heights with local honey goat cheese mousse, harvest au gratin, mustard greens, fig lemonade and pistachios or the braised short ribs with chocolate syrah syrup and savory kobocha pumpkin and carrot bread pudding. Parmesan and horseradish crusted mignon is served with charred Brussels sprouts and onions, red wine gastrique and shitake French fries. For dessert, they take a local favorite and put their own spin on it with a Donut Den apple fritter bread pudding with salted caramel ice cream.

Park Café

4403 Murphy Road, 615 383-4409, www.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 using simple preparations, and it has been ever since they opened in 2001. Since that time they have cultivated great relationships with local purveyors and the care is reflective in the menu. Small plates are great for sharing, like the chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped with Benton’s bacon or the roasted Gulf oysters with garlic butter and Parmesan crumble. On Valentine’s Day, slip into one of the many cozy nooks in the dining room and tuck into one of the special dishes they will have on the menu that evening.

Pinewood Social

33 Peabody St., 615 751-8111, www.pinewoodsocial.com

Another hotspot from the Ben and Max Goldberg of Strategic Hospitality, it might at first be hard to reconcile romance with a bowling alley until you realize what an ice breaker it is – it’s pretty impossible not to smile watching others perfect their roll down the lane. But beyond that, Pinewood Social makes romance 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 too, including the lamb Bolognese or salmon with heirloom beets, toasted farro, Swiss chard and herbed yogurt. Grab another couple for a double date, and dig into one of their larger format dinner plates to serve the whole crew – fired chicken or meatloaf for four – then after dinner extend the date without even having to change locations. Bowl for a bit, or when the weather warms play some bocce ball.

Prima

700 12th Ave. S., 615 873-4232, www.primanashville.com

Certainly a special occasion spot, Prima aims to become everyone’s go-to spot. Thanks to the recent addition of brunch and a happy hour menu, it also 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. Executive chef Salvador Avila’s innovative fare includes special picks like octopus a la plancha with fregola, cherry tomato, radish and chimichurri and grilled sunburst trout with grilled beet salsa, oranges and wilted chicory. Grab a seat at the table known as The Vista – site to more than a few proposals – for a view overlooking the whole dining room, or opt for something a little bit cozier to up the romance factor even more.

Pomodoro East

701 Porter Road, 615 873-4978, www.pomodoroeast.com

From Willy and Yvette Thomas (Eastland Café, Park Café) is this Italian neighborhood spot that showcases the best of what can be done with simple ingredients and preparation. It’s a hit list of Italian specialties, from the warm marinated olives and thinly-sliced Wagyu beef carpaccio with horseradish cream and fried capers to the pan-fried chicken breast parmesan with hand-pulled mozzarella over spaghetti. Split a wood- fired pizza with your date, and end the evening with a couple of their cocktails, like a classic Negroni with Tanqueray, Campari, sweet vermouth and muddled basil or the Chattanooga Nights with Chattanooga 1816 whiskey and black walnut and cherry liquors. On Valentine’s Day, get a four-course meal for $65/person and wine for another $25 that includes artichoke bisque, seared scallops with roasted garlic and risotto and raspberry prosecco sorbet.

PM Cafe

2017 Belmont Blvd., 615 297-2070, www.pmnashville.com

Top Chef alum Arnold Myint keeps Belmont students impressing their dates over and over again with his Asian-inspired cuisine served up in a casual, buzzy atmosphere. After all, it’s in his blood thanks to his mother Patti Myint and her legendary International Market and Restaurant just down the street. The energy in the vibrant neighborhood drives the room, but so does the tasty and innovative food. Share some lump crab wontons and coconut panko calamari with your date before indulging in one of their sushi burritos. Sushi options are varied but not overwhelming, and happy hour has a vibe all its own, leading to plenty of couples deciding to stay for dinner and make a date of it.

Red Pony

408 Main St., Franklin, 615 595-7669, www.redponyrestaurant.com

This sophisticated Southern stunner has been open for more than 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) who takes inspiration from his Southern roots and many travels. The duck breast comes with butternut squash semolina, cabernet mushrooms, almonds and herb maple glaze, while the bacon-wrapped elk with a potato and cream cheese chile relleno, blackberry mole and roasted garlic sour cream is full of punchy flavor. On Valentine’s Day, sample four courses for $75, including making choices among roasted beet Napoleon with Bonnie blue goat cheese, lobster rolls, pork tenderloin with soy-marinated grilled sweet potatoes and tempura fried green beans. For dessert, a chocolate-covered strawberry shortcake with white balsamic mascarpone whip sounds like a winner.

Rolf & Daughters

700 Taylor St., 615 866-9897, www.rolfanddaughters.com

Located in the historic Werthan Factory building, Rolf & Daughters offers upscale rustic food that is thoughtful, homey and inviting all at the same time. Pastured chicken with preserved lemon and garlic confit, beef cheek steak and sausage with broccoli and turnips and brook trout with farro spaetzle are all their take 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 to ensure a special evening for you and your partner. Finish the meal with Turkish coffee and pistachio or butterscotch and miso ice cream.

Rumours East

1112 Woodland St., 615 262-5346, www.rumourseast.com

When it’s said they are Nashville’s hidden treasure, they sure aren’t kidding, especially when it comes to the expansive backyard that is filled with tables and freestanding brick fireplace making it the perfect place to grab one of their well-chosen a 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. But if it is just too cold out, it is 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, 615 599-4995, www.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 of Southern classics from executive chef Matt Farley. The crispy Bam Bam shrimp or butternut squash ravioli with goat cheese, brown butter, almonds and pepitas are great ways to start.

The fish and grits are a slight twist on a classic, with sautéed, grilled or blackened sustainable fish and the parmesan truffle fries are worth sharing for sure. Somehow both intimate and energetic, Saffire continues to satisfy thanks to its attention to service and consistently quality food.

Sambuca

601 12th Ave. S., 615 248-2888, www.nashville.sambucarestaurant.com

Suddenly this chain has become one of the older restaurants in The Gulch, and it’s doing just as well now as it did when it first opened. With its 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.

On Valentine’s Day, get a three-course meal and live music for just $53 a person, then add on drinks and extras as you like. On tap for that night is choice of salads, an entrée like the salmon Oscar with dill-spike hollandaise or miso seabass with bok choy, Napa cabbage, stir fry, caramelized apples and sesame ginger plum sauce. To finish, a mini dessert trio offers a parade of hits – tiramisu, a chocolate torte and sticky toffee pudding.

Silo

1121 Fifth Ave. N., 615 750-2912, www.silotn.com

Another Southern-influenced offering in Germantown, Silo is a collaboration between Clay Greenberg (Virago, Lime) and Paul Cercone (Charleston’s Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery). Together, their take on farm food combined with a room designed by nationally award-winning architect Greg Ibañez, and date night is perfectly set for making memories.

The fried brie with Granny Smith apple salad, frisee almonds and balsamic will help with those memories too, as will the Nashville hot chicken liver with Bunny bread, pickle relish and slaw. They take farm- to-table to the next level – the tables and chairs were constructed by Amish craftsman Enos Hostetler from Ethridge, Tennessee, and the pendant lighting comes from artist John Beck who lives near Louisville.

Sinema

2600 Franklin Pike #102, 615 942-7746, www.sinemanashville.com

Founding chef Dale Levitski may be gone, but the restaurant inside the historic Melrose Theater lives on with new executive chef Kyle Patterson, who worked with Levitski for years so his influence is still felt on the menu. One such dish is the blackened lamb lollichops appetizer with green apple mint jelly or the short ribs with roasted root vegetables, braising jus and mashed potatoes.

On Valentine’s Day, diners can get a three-course meal ($85/person) with wine pairings for another $40. The upstairs lounge is clubby cool and perfect for sipping cocktails post-meal, and may even be the best place to grab one of their delicious desserts, like the Chocolate and Cherry, a cherry-stuffed chocolate cake, cherry compote, chocolate crunch and cherry black pepper semifreddo.

Sole Mio

311 Third Ave. S., 615 256-4013, www.solemionashville.com

Owner GianCarlo Agnoletti first opened in his hometown near Rimini, Italy, but Nashvillians have been lucky enough to have him and his fresh Northern Italian sensibility for more than 20 years now – a downtown staple that has seen incredible growth build up all around. Sole Mio specializes in serving fresh house-made pastas and sauces, including longtime favorites like lobster ravioli and linguine Carbonara from chef Jeff Brown.

Valet is gone which is a bit of a bummer, especially if the limited parking in back is full, but live music is going to be a new addition soon.

On Valentine’s Day, they are offering a prixe-fixe meal, but if you prefer to leave that night for the inexperienced masses and would rather stay home with your longtime loved one, they now offer deliver through OrderUp.

The Southern Steak & Oyster

The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 Third Ave. S., 615 724-1762, www.thesouthernnashville.com

The growing SoBro district is one of the busiest 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 executive chef Matt Farley and chef de Cuisine Paul Brantley will include a selection of oysters, house-made Kielbasa sausage, pan-roasted salmon with Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potato hash, kale and cumin-whipped mash potatoes and even a champagne vanilla Napoleon with raspberries, champagne mousse and vanilla tuile. The cost is $65 per person.

Sperry’s

5109 Harding Pike, 615 353-0809; 650 Frazier Drive, Franklin, 615 778-9950, www.sperrys.com

Celebrating its 42nd year in operation, the original clubby Belle Meade 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 there or stumbled through an awkward prom date there. The Williamson County outpost may share the same 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.

Customer service is top of mind to the crew as they aim to make special occasions outstanding and create regulars out of every new guest. Lobster truffle mac and cheese will make you a convert, and if not, be sure to order the Bananas Foster for two prepared tableside. That along with their juicy prime rib and you’ll be sure to keep Sperry’s top of mind next time a steakhouse is in order.

The Standard at the Smith House

167 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., 615 254-1277, www.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 and event space. As for the food, 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 “Bacon” Duroc long-bone chop with speckled bean and sweet corn succotash and Benton’s bacon. For dessert, end the evening with the Jack Daniel’s cheesecake or Standard Chocolate mousse cake.

Table 3

3821 Green Hills Village Drive, 615 739-6900, www.table3nashville.com

Table 3 Restaurant and Market offers Nashville diners authentic brasserie experience, in a setting that combines contemporary design elements with an Old World atmosphere. That, and their 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?

With options for carnivores and vegans, there are lots to choose from, including a crab au gratin, crispy veal sweetbreads with lemon, capers and brown butter and a vegan white bean and leek terrine. Sweet finishes include a cappuccino custard with dark chocolate shavings or a bananas foster torte with banana mousse and brown sugar caramel. There is even a chocolate lava cake for those who can’t imagine a romantic meal without it.

Tempered Café and Chocolate

1201 5th Ave. N., 615 454-5432, www.temperednashville.com

This Germantown sweet spot is succeeding after an initial name change and menu expansion that goes beyond chocolate, though that still remains the heart and delicious soul of the place. The sandwiches are named after different cities, like the Milano with apple, gruyere and blueberry jam on a croissant, and the Paris with prosciutto, Gouda, creamed honey and Dijon mustard.

Their “green hour” has become a local favorite too when they perform a traditional absinthe ritual called La Louche just as it was over 100 years ago, as well as serving signature cocktails and traditional absinthe drips when the green light in the window is lit, Thursday-Saturday evenings 8 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Of course, if it is chocolate you are after, this is certainly the spot with truffles and wine pairings that work well.

Tin Angel

3201 West End Ave., 615 298-3444, www.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 over and over for more than 20 years – it is definitely the seasonally-changing food too. Warm goat cheese salad is a highlight, as is the bacon-wrapped black mission figs with Noble Farms goat cheese and shrimp and crab risotto with roma tomatoes and charred peppers.

Trattoria Il Mulino

144 5th Ave. S., 615 620-3700, www.trattoriailmulinonashville.com

From the iconic New York-based Il Mulino restaurant brand, the Nashville outpost opened its doors in the renovated Hilton Nashville Downtown, though it has a separate entrance on 5th Avenue. The local executive chef, Thomas Cook, teamed up 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. But if there are no dietary restrictions, dig into the goat cheese ravioli with arugula and vodka pink sauce or the black ink fettucine with octopus, olive oil, garlic and cherry tomatoes.

The Treehouse

1011 Clearview Ave., 615 454-4201, www.treehousenashville.com

Another East Nashville darling, Treehouse really lives up to the hype, thanks to its impressive rotating menu, many of the ingredients are from the Treehouse Farm about 50 miles outside the city. Limited seating prevents them from taking reservations for parties smaller than four, and while they do reserve seating for walk-ins, date nights are sure to fill up thanks to the romantic twinkling lights and rustic charm.

Vegetarians will love baby carrots a la plancha with green tomato emulsion with grilled scallion oil, Hakurei turnip salad and carrot tops and the chocolate soufflé with salted peanut crème anglaise from pastry chef Matthew Clement.

Two Ten Jack

1900 Eastland Ave #105, 615 454-2731, www.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 since it opened.

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. An endless array of skewers offer everything from chicken breast and wasabi, asparagus, bacon and sea salt, and avocado, mustard ponzu and wasabi.

Union Common

1929 Broadway, 615 329-4565, www.unioncommon.com

Nashville is starting to collect quite a few steakhouses, and while it is just right for special occasions, like many upscale dining destinations in Nashville right now, they are aiming to appeal to people even when the only thing to celebrate is another work day is over. Locals have been loving this downtown addition, and visitors walking along Broadway have equally loved stumbling upon it while in town.

Nashville hot chicken livers with buttermilk dressing, pickles and onion appeals to the traditional and adventurous palates alike while hardly anyone could hate the butter poached lobster sliders with lemon tarragon aioli. And the recent addition of tuna tartare, fresh sea scallops and blistered shishito peppers to the menu and there is something for everyone.

Urban Grub

2506 12th Ave. S., 615 679-9342, www.urbangrub.net

With a menu led by executive chef A. Edgar Pendley, 12South residents have been keeping Urban Grub busy ever since it opened. There is an impressive charcuterie selection, as well as raw oysters by the half shell, no surprise since they tout their excellence in fresh fish and fine aged meats. And that excellent handling of seafood continues with the lobster BLT flatbread, crab cocktail with Duke’s creole mayo and shrimp toast with avocado, Yukon mash and pork belly.

But one of their most popular dishes is the beef short rib enchiladas with tomatillo salsa. On Valentine’s Day, expect a special menu for you and your date, and be sure to share the plates with a bottle of wine from the extensive list.

Valentino’s Ristorante

1907 West End Ave., 615 327-0148, www.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 and is the perfect place to pop the question, or just to celebrate a big romantic evening. In fact, it is the perfect place to share a bottle of wine and one of their set menus, like the three-course one they are offering on Valentine’s Day for $75 per person.

Choose from Springer Mountain chicken with mushroom brandy sauce, prime rib with shoestring potatoes or poached salmon with roasted fingerling potatoes, and then sink into a triple chocolate cake with espresso crème anglaise or raspberry pot de crème with limoncello crème fraiche.

Virago

1126 McGavock St., 615 254-1902, www.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 people in this town owe Virago for introducing them to twisted and tweaked fusion fare and sushi rolls – and maybe even a few memorable first dates.

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. Don’t see one of your old favorites still listed? Just ask and they just might be able to make it for you anyway.

Watermark

507 12th Ave. S., 615 254-2000, www.watermark-restaurant.com

Food is the star of the show at Watermark, but the expansive view of the Nashville skyline might be a close second. See it while it lasts. Watermark is moving to the new Bridgestone building in SoBro.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

Outstanding views, creative cocktails, and of course, impeccable dishes have kept Watermark at the top of the Nashville food chain ever since it opened under chef Joe Shaw more than a decade ago. But things do change – Shaw is gone again after a brief return a few years ago – and the view hasn’t been the same since downtown started exploding. And soon enough, the view will be completely different when Watermark moves to its new location in SoBro at the base of new Bridgestone headquarters building.

One thing that has always been a constant though is the grit soufflé, now prepared with bacon lardon, shitake mushrooms and crispy leeks. Other standout dishes to try include the grilled grouper with hoppin’ John, kale and jalapeno cream and the Banana Foster with rum caramel and spiced sponge cake.

Whiskey Kitchen

118 12th Ave. S., 615 254-3029, www.mstreetnashville.com/whiskey-kitchen

This intimate hot spot that dubs itself as tavern chic 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 go right along with the restaurant’s extensive collection of world-class whiskeys, bourbons, ryes and scotches.

Reclaimed oak and crocodile leather wall coverings add warmth while giving a club feel, and the food is all comfort and upscale sophistication added to traditional pub favorites – think gourmet truffle and parmesan wings, bourbon chicken poppers and fried Kentucky white cheddar cheese curds with smoked tomato sauce. Date night got a lot more fun.

Wild Ginger

101 Market Exchange Court, Franklin, 615 778-0081, www.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.

Basil chicken hot off the wok with wild mushrooms, green and red bell peppers and fresh basil is another standout dish, as are the tequila shrimp tacos with mango salsa. A special menu will be offered on Valentine’s Day, the multi-course offering a great way to sample more than a few items.