Choosing a restaurant for a date is a daunting task. Bad food, service or a distracting atmosphere can easily divert your date from noticing what an interesting and fun person you are and ruin the chance of another meeting. Of course on Valentine’s Day this pressure is immeasurably greater. Failure to select the right restaurant for a romantic dinner can ruin your carefully planned evening before it has even started.
OK, we are being overdramatic here; you can’t really go wrong with any restaurant around campus (here we are assuming that you are romantic enough not to bring your date to Popeye’s). But for those of you who want the perfect dinner, here are our insights:
Both Scoozi and Basta boast a great menu with dishes from all over Italy. Chances are that, by the time you read this article, Basta is already fully booked, but keep this charming six-table restaurant next to Claire’s in mind for your next date. While Scoozi has a more modern-chic atmosphere, Basta has a more intimate and cozy feel. Both of them have a great selection of Italian reds.
A steak house is probably not what first comes to mind when thinking of Valentine’s Day. However, the tables in the wine cellar of Central Steakhouse on Orange Street offer one of the most romantic atmospheres in New Haven. Temple Grill, on the other hand, is a cheaper alternative, although the TVs at the bar detract from the otherwise hip ambience. The menus at both places are diverse — they offer a lot more than just steak.
French and Spanish/Latino
Bespoke and, more frequently, Union League are often cited as “New Haven’s Best.” They both offer great food, cocktails and wines. Bespoke features a fusion of Latino and French flavors, whereas Union League’s food approaches that of an elegant Parisian bistro, including a good raw bar selection. As both are quite expensive, Pacifico is a great substitute; it offers very good food at a lower price, albeit missing the finer touches of the “best.”
In terms of sushi, Miso offers the most romantic atmosphere. The menu is varied and unlike other sushi places in New Haven, includes several non-sushi items. Miya’s and Sushi on Chapel clearly have a less romantic feel, but you do get more bang for your buck. Be careful at Miya’s though, as the price ranges are huge and you should make sure that you don’t plan on ordering many $4-6 rolls while your date ends up ordering one of the $40+ dishes.
Out of the —menu-wise and price-wise — homogeneous Thai restaurants of the Chapel Street area, Bangkok Gardens offers the nicest atmosphere and probably best preparation of most dishes. If you want to stray a little farther, Kudeta and Bentara boast more exciting menus — the former offers some euro-asian fusion food and sushi, and the latter Malaysian cuisine. While Kudeta is slightly more expensive than most other Asian restaurants, Bentara’s only downside is that it is a 15-20 minute walk away from Old Campus — just make sure your date’s not wearing high heels.
Zinc offers a small but upscale menu with a good selection of wines. The restaurant’s atmosphere can best be described as elegant and somewhat hip.
Why not do a “picnic”? Buy a steamed two-pound chick lobster from Shaw’s ($15) and a bottle of Cava or Prosecco from Wine Thief (around $10). For just $25 (that’s less than two pad thais and spring rolls with tax and tip) you could have a luxurious dinner in your suite. Also note that shellfish and sparkling wines are natural aphrodisiacs. The only downside is the lack of a romantic setting (but it’s hardly impossible to make your single temporarily more romantic than Thai Taste — think fake rose petals and candles), and some people may be left hungry (just make yourself a few midnight snack sandwiches at lunch).
And if money and time allow, or if you are a senior planning to get engaged, consider going to New York where an abundance of restaurants and hotels have Valentine’s Day specials (booking.com will help you find a “cheap” room).