10 dreamy dining destinations
The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, ME (Photo: Courtsy of the White Barn Inn)
By now, the word is out that Manhattan’s River Café is the perfect place for a marriage proposal, and that the French Laundry is the place to go in the Napa Valley. Dig a bit deeper, however, and romantic restaurants can be found almost everywhere, with marvelous menus combining with a lovely sense of place. Here are some ideas from every corner of the country.
The White Barn Inn, Kennebunkport, ME
For ultra-luxury “Down East”
Kennebunkport is arguably the most posh address in Maine. In fact, it’s not unusual to see former President George H.W. Bush around town. Small wonder, then, that it boasts one of only 50 Relais & Château hotels in America. The 150-year-old White Barn Inn’s restaurant, playfully tucked into what was once the hotel’s barn, features picture windows perfectly set to frame garden views. Summer menus focus on locally sourced ingredients . . . lobster fresh off the boat, just-picked mushrooms, tuna and striped sea bass caught hours ago. The blueberries in the pie? They were gathered that morning. In winter, the menu leans away from the sea, with grilled venison sauced with port and Madeira leading a list of heartier fare. Go for the fine dining, of course, but treat yourself to a room at the inn afterwards.
The Compound in Santa Fe, NM (Photo: Courtesy of The Compound)
The Compound, Santa Fe, NM
For a chic Canyon Road evening
This Santa Fe classic, helmed by James Beard Award-winner Mark Kiffin, is in the heart of the town’s art scene, on sophisticated, gallery-lined Canyon Road. In fact, The Compound bows to the art scene with its folk art décor, from collector Alexander Girard, whose collection also forms the basis (106,000 pieces) of Santa Fe’s impressive Museum of Folk Art. Chef Kiffin has focused the Compound’s menu around the regional ingredients that were introduced to the area in the late 16th century, including cattle and wheat, resulting in a cuisine that he calls Contemporary American. The Compound’s lovely garden is a perfect setting for romantic summer evening meals. One other important asset: The restaurant has its own parking lot, which is a significant advantage on crowded Canyon Road.
Elizabeth on 37th in Savannah, GA (Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth on 37th)
Elizabeth on 37th, Savannah, GA
For stylish Southern comfort
Just stepping into Savannah’s Victorian District, with its enviably elegant mansions, graceful public squares, and towering live oak trees can put you into the mood for love. A table at Elizabeth on 37th, a Savannah classic since it opened in 1981, can seal the deal. The building, a grand turn-of-the-19th-century home, sets the tone for romance. The menu sweeps you forward in time, with a delightfully modern take on traditional southern dishes. Long-time chef Elizabeth Terry has ceded the way to her successor, the equally talented Kelly Yambor, who performs delightful magic on fresh coastal seafood, sources all produce locally and even grows her own herbs. The Savannah red rice with Georgia shrimp (not to mention clams, grouper, okra, and sausage) is superb. The wine cellar is vast.