Remember when going out for dinner was a no fuss thing to do? Remember when going out for dinner didn't require you checking your bank account to see if it was really, truly feasible? If you and your significant other have gotten into the takeout and Netflix habit, Dandylion is a good place to go to brush off the cobwebs of your relationship. Dubbed as "refreshingly vegetable-forward and inexpensive" by the Globe and Mail, Dandylion has brick walls, an open kitchen and most importantly, house baked bread that will remind you why you left your house. It's the kind of place that maintains a lightness that will allow you to utter words different from, "Not tonight, honey. I'm stuffed." In other words, the food of love.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: A relaxed vibe, light food and money in the bank to pay the babysitter.
Courtney's expert tip: The rotating menu ensures that things stay fresh and seasonal.
When it comes to keeping the romance alive, one nugget of advice that is often circulating is to try new experiences together. Although Bar Isabel falls into the "safe" category of restaurant, it does have menu options that you likely haven't tried before (such as bone marrow) which may help to keep things spicy. Open until midnight (and on weekends until 2am), it is the perfect spot to wile the night away. To wash down the carnivorous bounty, sample from their impressive (and lengthy) cocktail list. It's cozy, it's delicious and it requires weeks of advance reservations. In other words, just perfect for date night.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Red glow ambient lighting, soft classic tunes and a menu that is sure to impress.
Courtney's expert tip: If your date is partial to octopus, tried the whole grilled octopus and potatoes, which opens up like a delightful under-the-sea fan.
Scaramouche has one of the best dining views of Toronto. The sublime food has been receiving raves for over 30 years, as this is one of the rare restaurants that keeps impressing. The tables by the floor-to-ceiling windows are a hot commodity, so if you plan on acquiring one, call well in advance. First courses are filled with extravagant yet seasonal ingredients, such as Warm Lobster and Truffled Gnocchi Parisienne. Subsequent courses continue to tempt, if you have a wallet as big as your heart. Orders are sizeable, including the oysters that wash down nicely with the impressive wine list. If you would prefer to bring your own wine, corkage is available for $35 a bottle.
Simple, honest and handmade is not a bad thing to aim for in any diet, especially when the night may take a romantic turn. Woodlot adheres to a "simple is best" philosophy and after tasting their dishes composed of high quality ingredients, you may have to agree. Situated in the heart of Little Italy, Woodlot cooks filling dishes without overloading them with unnecessary ingredients. Their bread is worth the visit alone, with 7 varieties of sourdough, organic, wood-fired and warm. Foods are light and inspiring, such as the carrot and ginger stuffed sourdough agnolotti. Woodlot doesn't shy away from fat, with duck fat potatoes complementing the roasted fillet of rainbow trout. However, fat is used as an accent rather than the star of the show. It is moderate eating at its finest. Nothing sexier than that.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: A loft space that overlooks a wood-fired oven is just perfect to fire up some romance.
Courtney's expert tip: Very limited service means you will be doted on. Do make reservations in advance to avoid looking like a chump.
Canoe is appropriately situated above TD bank in the centre of the entertainment district. This splurge of a restaurant is impressive through and through, from the artful handling of the food in the immaculate open kitchen, to a menu by chef John Horne that showcases local ingredients. The view is spectacular and as soon as you step in the door, you will be aware that you are about to embark on a top dining experience that has been showcased in many TV shows and movies. From deep bellied wine glasses to exquisitely garnished mains, the details are there to enjoy. Every dish is exquisite, from short ribs to venison to fois gras. The food will make an impression on you well beyond your mealtime. It is a must see and must eat. A perfect location for courting your beloved.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Not one detail is missed in Canoe, so you can focus your attention wholeheartedly on your date, pausing only to sigh in culinary appreciation.
Courtney's expert tip: When you make your reservation, ask to sit in the bar that overlooks the kitchen. The few seats here get an amazing view of the food. You will still be able to appreciate the city's visage from the window, which gives an ideal view of the CN Tower.
Somehow Enoteca Sociale manages to take basic ingredients and elevate them. Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe sounds simple enough, but the sheep milk's cheese and perfect portion of coiled pasta strands sprinkled with freshly cracked black pepper go well beyond a home kitchen. The pasta is made in house, as are many other dishes, included the freshly baked bread that wafts through the restaurant. If you like the experience of eating off of your date's plate, a la Lady and the Tramp, sharing dishes under the menu column "Piatti Sociale" are all unique and delectable. The wine list has over 80 selections from Italy but also includes fine Ontario reds and whites. Normally you have to splurge on a bottle to sample the good stuff, but Enoteca offers tastes, glasses, quartinos (a carafe that can hold a quarter of a litre of wine) or bottles. You won't forget this dinner.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: When you are bringing out the romance card, you can never go wrong with a moodily dark Italian restaurant.
Courtney's expert tip: The gnocchi is embarrassingly good. Altruistically share some with your date to score some brownie points.
Not all of Toronto's best restaurants are downtown, and Auberge Du Pommier proves that. Ontario chef Malcolm Campbell brings New French flair through his cuisine at this North York neighbourhood restaurant. Auberge has been constructed around two 1860's woodcutters cottages and exudes rustic charm. Enjoy the roaring fireplaces in the winter and the quaint terrace in the summer. The a la carte dinner menu includes exceptional choices like foie gras and risotto with a poached hen's egg. If you and your date decide to indulge in the tasting menu, Chef Campbell's selections will not disappoint. Camembert custard and cinnamon chantilly with brown butter crumble provide a nice balance between the savoury and the sweet. The considerable wine list provides a nice selection of cocktails, wines by the glass or half and full bottles. More than 500 choices means that you might want to bring your reading glasses.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Stone walls, elegant decor and phenomenal French food add up to a night to remember.
Courtney's expert tip: Brush up on your adjectives. The food is remarkable, so when your server comes to ask you how your dinner was, you can respond with more than "good."
Multilingual as Toronto may be, there are also a lot of people who speak bad French. We can make up for the fact that we butcher our country's official language by taking romantic partners to French restaurants. If we are dating the person we accompany, we can be upfront with our shortcomings. If we are newly treading romantic waters, we can show off the fact that we appreciate beautifully presented French food. Atop a heritage building in Toronto, Alo has blind tasting menus or a walk-in cocktail bar where you can drink wine and eat oysters (if you are into that sort of thing). Expect white jackets on the chefs and food so stunning, it will take everything in your power not to whip out your cell phone.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Alo is a high caliber restaurant for your high caliber honey.
Courtney's expert tip: Come very hungry if you are doing the tasting menu. Every single course is worth some stomach space. Reservations are hard to come by, so plan months in advance.
Cluny Bistro takes French food and makes it unfussy. You can have your caramelized onion soup and moules frites but you don't need to have a side of snobbery. Even so, the backdrop for your dining experience will be absolutely stunning. Imagine the look of an elegantly decorated French cookie. High ceilings will have you convinced that the Eiffel Tower is within walking distance. The boulangerie tempts patrons on the way out the door, with all things pastry waiting to be fawned over and taken home in a paper bag. But make sure to enjoy the classic French dishes on a plate, like the tuna tartare nicoise or the ginger-chili frog's legs. It is romance on a plate.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: If you can't afford to fly your beloved to Paris, going to Cluny is the next best thing.
Courtney's expert tip: Cluny is great for brunch, but it also tends to be very family friendly. If you are looking for a meal "a deux," then you must do dinner.
George is the kind of fine dining that is becoming less common in our modern age. The food itself almost demands formal attire, with chef Lorenzo Loseto committing his evolving menus to seasonal and local produce. The food is presented beautifully with swiftly executed service. Tasting menus can be five, seven, or ten courses with a vegetarian option and wine pairings on offer. Many menus are blind, but can be catered to preferences should you have allergies or extreme dislikes. During the summer, take your date outside to the romantic garden patio, decorated with twinkly lights and made private by cloth umbrellas. You will feel so well taken care of during your meal at George, that it will be hard to return to real life.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: George always provides a sumptuous feast well suited for celebration (even if you are just celebrating being a foodie).
Courtney's expert tip: If you are celebrating an anniversary, ask for a private booth. Cozy and romantic, it will encourage canoodling in between courses.