Where to Seduce Your Sweetheart on a Denver Dinner Date

Photo courtesy of Colt & Gray
By Christine Loomis, Denver Local Expert

A romantic restaurant is not defined only by dark corners and candlelit tables. An alluring aesthetic is created in many different ways. Maybe it's the menu that delivers dishes to share with the one you love. Maybe it's the wine or cocktail list that provides exactly the right moment for bringing out the ring or saying I love you for the first time. Maybe it's a fireplace where the two of you can cozy up and toast your years together. The restaurant should have stellar service that hits just the right note of attentiveness without being fussy, and the food should be exceptional whether you've chosen a charming neighborhood eatery or a city-center fine-dining establishment. The Denver restaurant scene delivers. If you're celebrating one of many anniversaries and you want to splurge, there's TavernettaColt & Gray and Mizuna, all offering exquisite food and superb service. Bistro Vendome and Cafe Marmotte are the choices for fine French cuisine and a romantic ambiance, the first on Larimer Square and the second in the Wash Park neighborhood. For lovers of chocolate, there's Chocolate Lab, and cozy Ultreia offers Spanish and Portuguese small plates and a romantic Old World ambiance. Or maybe the ultimate in romantic dining isn't in a restaurant at all but catered at one of Denver's most romantic B&Bs, Castle Marne. However, you define romance, here are our top picks. 

10. Ocean Prime - Denver
Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

Denver couples often choose Ocean Prime for a celebration. It specializes in seafood and steaks, and though it's a chain delivers an experience that doesn't feel like a chain. Plus it's located on Larimer Street with its old lampposts, Victorian buildings and twinkling lights, which ups the romance factor. (Lovers in south Denver have Ocean Prime in the Tech Center, too.) There's usually a special drink offered for Valentine's Day, such as this year's elegant Cupid's Kiss. It won't be on the menu after but if you request it, the bartender will make it. If trying to impress your date is a goal, the custom-built smoking shellfish tower on the raw menu should do the trick. There's a creative cocktail list and comprehensive list of wines, including many by the glass. So go ahead; celebrate your love with a fine meal and a kiss, Cupid's Kiss.

9. Chocolate Lab
Photo courtesy of Chocolate Lab

No food is more associated with love than chocolate, the traditional gift for romantic celebrations. Any restaurant specializing in chocolate is clearly a destination for lovers, but Chocolate Lab goes beyond "traditional" to woo couples with a multi-course menu featuring cocktails, wine, beer and culinary surprises. This combo shop-restaurant is the passion of owner Phil Simonson, special-ed-teacher-turned-self-taught chocolatier. The shop has all you expect, from truffles, toffee and turtles to triple-chocolate brownies, but also a party platter of cheese, chocolate and charcuterie for romantic indulgence at home. Nearly everything on the restaurant menu includes chocolate, such as pear flatbread with gorgonzola and chocolate balsamic, and pork or chicken with bourbon-chocolate BBQ sauce. For cocktails, there are chocolate Manhattans and mimosas, among others. Chocolate Lab may not offer the traditionally romantic ambiance of some other restaurants, but for chocolate lovers, it is the go-to and an ideal first-date option.

8. Colt & Gray
Photo courtesy of Colt & Gray

Comfortable yet elegant, Colt & Gray is an excellent date-night choice, whether you simply want to be together or you're celebrating a romantic milestone. This locally owned LoHi neighborhood restaurant has made a name for itself with its meats butchered and cured in-house. It has an outstanding charcuterie menu and smaller plates (the Colorado lamb tartare is exceptional) if you don't want to go for a main plate. But if you do, there's plenty to make the meal special, including "From the Butcher" selections of dry-aged steaks, duck breast and more. This is also one of Denver's top cocktail destinations, so ask the bartender for his or her most romantic concoction. Couples searching for that special venue for a rehearsal or wedding dinner or anniversary to be shared with friends should consider Colt & Gray's rustic-chic private dining space.

7. Tavernetta
Photo courtesy of Mike Thurk/Tavernetta

Light-colored woods and stylish contemporary furnishings give Tavernetta an appealing Northern European vibe. Unlike Frasca, its acclaimed sister restaurant in Boulder, Tavernetta draws inspiration not from one region of Italy but from areas across the country, with added inspiration from neighbors Austria and Slovenia, among others. Cloud-like gnocchi and deeply flavorful rigatoni are standouts, but whatever seasonal dishes are on the menu will likely be memorable. For couples seeking a romantic interlude, there are options for two to share, along with an exquisitely curated wine and "aperitivi" list. Among the wines is a very limited selection of glasses priced under $15, but then Tavernetta is a place to splurge, to savor, to indulge and to find utter satisfaction in a meal artfully conceived and flawlessly served and presented. If you just want drinks and appetizers or dessert, find seating for two by the lounge fireplace, Tavernetta's most romantic spot.

6. Ultreia
Photo courtesy of James Florio/Ultreia

Tucked into a cozy corner in Union Station, Ultreia exudes warmth with its Old World murals and intimate interior. The menu celebrates foods of the Iberian Peninsula, a region that has given us chorizo, Caldo Verde, Jamon Iberico, delectable Spanish olive oil and Manchego cheese. More truffles are produced in Spain than in France. Basque and Moorish flavors influence the cuisine and sherry and port are staples to pair with any dish, not to mention Spanish and Portuguese wines. Nowhere in the world is the gin tonic (no "and" in the name in Spain) more elevated than in Spanish bars, and Ultreia honors that with a fine collection of gin and gin cocktails. After dinner, order two glasses of Madeira, Portugal's divine fortified wine. Be prepared for intriguing food and drink combinations and expect stellar service in an ambiance with European charm. Date night? Sí!

5. Beatrice & Woodsley
Photo courtesy of chad_k

Gauzy curtains, an abundance of natural wood and warm lighting set the scene for lovers at Beatrice and Woodsley. The romantic aesthetic is enhanced by a story of two young lovers, Beatrice from a French winemaking family that moved to California in the 1800s, and Woodsley, from a family of coopers that made barrels for the fledgling industry. True or not, their story informs the restaurant, evoking all the romance of young love. As for the menu, there's a focus on the best quality and sustainable products and a mix of meat and vegetarian dishes along with a nice wine list. Service can be unhurried so relax and linger. This is an ideal setting for bridal parties (consider the tea served for 12 or more by reservation), rehearsal dinners or anniversary celebrations. The Cellar seats up to 28 in an utterly romantic atmosphere or the entire restaurant can be reserved.

4. Cafe Marmotte
Photo courtesy of Cafe Marmotte

Don't be fooled by the exterior or the location on Downing. This intimate neighborhood bistro is a perfect date-night destination, cozy and romantic with excellent French cuisine and a nicely curated wine list. While the service and food are of the highest quality, there's a relaxed charm here that makes it feel very welcoming from the moment you step in the door, as if you've stepped into your French aunt's country cottage for a home-cooked meal. Of course, we don't all have a French aunt, but we can all have Cafe Marmotte. The wine list favors France, making it easy to pair your inspired contemporary or classic French dish with just the right wine. Consider ordering the cafe's signature Coq au Vin, the French country dish that takes chicken to another level. Bon appétit, lovers.

3. Mizuna

Undeniably one of Denver's highly romantic restaurants, Mizuna is open for dinner only, giving chefs plenty of time to create one extraordinary dining experience each day. Every aspect of the restaurant has been thoughtfully conceived. At Mizuna, you won't find the loud clamor that seems so popular in many restaurants today so go ahead and sweet talk your companion. Mizuna embraces a warm yet minimalist aesthetic. A handful of conservatively appointed tables dot the intimate dining room; soft lighting and professional, unobtrusive service complete the elegant scene. The menu creatively combines unusual tastes and textures resulting in such mouthwatering offerings as pheasant and decadent lobster mac 'n cheese made with poached Maine lobster. At least one vegetarian dish is among the entrees as well. The menu changes monthly though some favorites remain available. The wine list is extensive but a sommelier is on hand to guide you.

2. Bistro Vendome
Photo courtesy of Bistro Vendome

With its inviting patio tucked into a secluded courtyard off Larimer Square and an intimate interior with Old World touches, Bistro Vendome captures the essence of a Parisian bistro in its ambiance and menu. Cozy, dark and warm, Bistro delivers romance at every turn. Expect French classics (some rotating) as well as fish, vegetable and pasta dishes. Consider the ever-changing, always divine grilled cheese for happy hour (apple and brie is a fave). The bar offers a stellar selection of French wines at varying price points, and the bartenders–and other staff–are knowledgeable and helpful but never overbearing. This is a place where a couple can linger over dinner, then move if they choose to the bar for a glass of port or other after-dinner sipper and linger some more. On warm summer evenings, the patio is the sweet spot for a leisurely romantic rendezvous.

1. Castle Marne
Photo courtesy of Castle Marne

One of Denver's most romantic meals is found not at a restaurant but rather at the historic and equally romantic inn and B&B, Castle Marne. This is the ultimate in intimacy, an exclusive meal for the two of you served in Castle Marne's evocative formal dining room where you are the only diners. The four-course candlelight dinner is prepared by one of Denver's top personal chefs, custom tailored to a couple's preferences and includes soup, salad, entree and dessert. There is always a focus on local, fresh ingredients. Couples are welcome to bring their own wine or other beverages to pair with each course and there's no corkage fee. Staying overnight at the inn is not a requirement for booking the meal, but why wouldn't you want to stay and keep the romance going through to the next morning?