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Get Your Cupid On: Romantic Dining in Memphis



Nothing says 'I love you' like dining in a romantic setting - whether you're watching a sunset, enjoying the grandeur of five-star service, or simply sharing a bottle of really fine wine.

In Memphis, couples looking to make a love connection - or rekindle one - have plenty of romantic dining options. Our list of the 10Best restaurants for romantic dining were chosen for their ambiance, their dim lighting, and their great food. Romantic, in this list, doesn't have to equal expensive, either.

Being a sucker for sunsets, we picked the rooftop restaurant Terrace at the River Inn of Harbor Town, for our list. It features large glass windows (which open wide in pleasant weather) which give a perfect view of sunset over the Mississippi River. Another out of the way spot is Itta Bena, the eatery tucked away above B.B. King's Blues Club on Beale Street. With its hidden entrance and speakeasy feel, it's like a little hideaway for lovers. Both of these spots are perfect for impressing a first date.

If you're seriously in the throes of love and a long-term commitment is in the works, then the Peabody's Chez Philippe or Paulette's are our top choices for all-out ambiance and fine dining.

On this list, we've even thrown in a few restaurants located in hotels, just in case your romantic meal leads to something more. . . we'll never tell!


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Cafe Society
Photo courtesy of Cafe Society

Located in the historic Evergreen District, Cafe Society offers Parisian flair and bistro atmosphere. The owner's father was a chef at Maxim's in Paris, so the restaurant features loads of classic French sauces and touches. A small bar and outdoor dining add special touches, and the food certainly pleases. An array of dishes includes steaks, fish, lamb, and veal, all tinged with a Continental sensibility. Cafe Society's wine lists is one of the best in the city; the huge selection of half bottles offered makes the list even better. Reasonable lunch prices are a bonus; the menu features the same great food as is served in the evening.

Read more about Cafe Society →




Acre is an example of a great restaurant that serves up an awesome signature steak - a grilled angus ribeye served with garlicky rosemary 'crushed' potatoes in a red wine reduction. Y-U-M. The menu changes frequently based on what's available - both in terms of the locally produced foods and the fresh seafood, flown in daily. This is the restaurant where Memphians will find the most unusual combination of ingredients, bar none. For example, the braised short rib entree is paired with aligot potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms and a black garlic glaze. Foodies will delight in perusing the offerings, while those with less adventuresome or less experienced palates will be questioning the servers. A bar menu offers simpler fare and smaller bites, plus fantastic people watching.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Acre offers couples an upscale night of romance, with sleek interiors and full (but not crowded) dining spaces.

Sally's expert tip: A gorgeous dining patio, with candles tucked into recesses of the stone walls, is open when the weather is fine, and is definitely a romantic setting.

Read more about Acre Restaurant →




The Terrace at the River Inn has upgraded to become a year-round spot - and brings a casual yet upscale nightlife offering to Harbor Town. Big glass windows are either thrown wide open to welcome the weather - or closed to ward it off - and the views over the Mississippi River change with the light and the season. Sunsets tend to be spectacular, and during the summer, quite long - which means you can linger with your handcrafted cocktail or glass of sophisticated yet not outrageously-priced glass of wine. The food had a make-over as well, and now includes a variety of small plates with a southern touch; only in Memphis may one see a combination of scallops and hoecakes. Sliders (traditional and lamb), skewers, pizettas, and charcuterie plates are offered, as well as some simple snack items including truffle oil fries.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The Terrace offers a gorgeous view of the sun setting over the Mississippi River - and is a place to linger long afterwards.

Sally's expert tip: There are cozy couches for canoodling late into the evening.

Read more about Terrace at the River Inn →


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Itta Bena


Tucked high above noisy Beale Street, but with a great view of the action, Itta Bena is a lush bit of quiet yet rustic elegance that sits on top of B.B. King's Beale Street club. With a practically unmarked entrance (facing Second Avenue, around the corner from the entrance to B.B. King's), the idea is to evoke the feel of a speakeasy in modern Memphis, and it works. While the name seems to indicate Italian fare, nothing could be further from the palate; Southern delicacies including fried green tomatoes, she-crab soup, duck and waffles, and Cajun-grilled shrimp and grits are all worthy of a taste.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: With it's clubby feel, live, jazzy-bluesy music,and dim lighting, Itta Bena feels like a secret meeting spot for lovers.

Sally's expert tip: Cell phone usage in the dining room is seriously frowned upon. Do everyone - especially your date! - a favor and put it away.

Read more about Itta Bena →




Tucked away on an East Memphis side street, Erling Jensen is a bit difficult to find but worth the trouble. Grounded in French tradition but much broader in scope, this fine restaurant has been a favorite for years, its personable chef, Erling Jensen, a fixture both in the kitchen and the dining room. The menu masterfully combines lamb, game, beef, and seafood with fresh vegetables and rich, flavorful sauces. Wild game is a highlight of the menu, with offerings including pheasant breast with risotto, or New England red deer chops, and elk. A huge array of salads, wide selection of seafood and tempting desserts including house-made sorbets round out the broad menu.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The dining room at Erling Jensen's is small and quiet - perfect for a romantic dinner.

Sally's expert tip: If food is the way to anyone's heart, then Erling's is a sure bet for romance.

Read more about Erling Jensen - The Restaurant →




Take off for a taste experience at this downtown Memphis restaurant - with flights of both wine and food, the options are seemingly endless. From champagne flights to salad flights to beef or seafood, cabernets or chardonnays, it can actually be a bit overwhelming to choose a combination of food or drink. Our particular favorites are the chicken and waffles - said waffles being made of potatoes, and the shrimp and grits, some of the best we've tasted in town. The good news is that every dish you can try in a flight is also available in a full size - hooray!

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Flight is a hopping spot, but there are lots of two-top tables and dim lighting to set a romantic mood.

Sally's expert tip: Arrange for a table in the glassed-in patio area that faces Main Street, and you can watch the horse-drawn carriages go by.

Read more about Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar - Memphis →




Recognized year after year as the best steakhouse in Memphis, Folk's Folly guarantees a flawless American feast from start to finish. With its very own butcher shop next door, the restaurant asserts that steak is clearly the specialty. However, the menu also boasts an array of other delicious main courses, including grilled duck breast and Alaskan king crab legs. In typical steakhouse fashion, sides are large and meant to be shared - and are not included with entrees. The restaurant is large and old fashioned, with five dining rooms and multiple private booths. While you're there, stop by the Cellar to enjoy live piano music nightly, along with cocktails and the trademark - and complimentary - fried pickles.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: There are plenty of romantic nooks-and-crannies for couples - even almost-private, walled booths.

Sally's expert tip: When reserving a table at Folk's Folly, be sure to ask for a spot in one of the private dining nooks.

Read more about Folk's Folly Prime Steak House →


Paulette's


Since its move to the River Inn, Paulette's is now open for breakfast daily, and that's a real treat as its breakfast offerings are lush - from eggs Benedict with creamy Hollandaise to hands-down the best French toast in town. Weekday breakfast is complimentary for hotel guests. Every breakfast or brunch begins with Paulette's signature popovers and strawberry butter - and don't be shy about indulging, as the wait staff will gladly bring seconds. Excellent service is the hallmark of Paulette;s, and that's no different at breakfast, when egg dishes and many entrees offered for under $10 - a true treat for the palate and the pocketbook.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Paulette's is known as often being the scene of that most romantic moment, the marriage proposal.

Sally's expert tip: Start you evening with a drink upstairs on the roof of the hotel, in the Terrace.

Read more about Paulette's →


Restaurant Iris
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Iris


Chef Kelly English is usually in the house - as in, the darling house in Midtown that serves as the backdrop for his first eatery, Restaurant Iris. The homey feel of the individual dining rooms is supplemented by great artwork and a low-key ambiance; you'll be comfortable here is dressy jeans or full-out glam. The cuisine is a nice combination of fresh, local ingredients and Cajun flair, thanks to English's home-grown sensibilities - he's a Southern LA (Louisiana) boy. Recent delicacies have included sweet corn griddle cakes topped with Gulf crabmeat and a surf and turf that blends a strip steak and fried oysters.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Iris is a sure bet if you're looking to impress or simply looking for an intimate setting, and offers cozy, candlelit dining.

Sally's expert tip: English and his staff are all about some romance, and are happy to be an accomplice in planing the perfect dinner - just ask!

Read more about Restaurant Iris →




The most opulent dining experience in all of Memphis is found at Chez Philippe, located in the lobby of the historic Peabody Hotel. Fortunately for diners, the cuisine matches the lush and elegant surroundings. Traditional French fare is the focus of the chef, with a seasonal menu featuring a marriage of locally grown and produced foods; a full tasting menu of seven courses, or smaller prix fixe menus of three or five courses include wine pairing options, a must-do. Starters include crawfish consomme and a lobster and fennel salad, while entrees feature dry aged beef, Filet Oscar and an array of seafood options. For those who prefer to choose their own wine, a lush menu offers options beyond the $400 per bottle price tag.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Chez Philippe is over-the-top romantic in its setting, and the Peabody's newly redecorated rooms are just an elevator ride away.

Sally's expert tip: For a super-romantic touch, start with the caviar selection and end with the souflee du jour as an extra treat.

Read more about Chez Philippe →


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Meet Sally Walker Davies

Sally Walker Davies is enchanted by Memphis' music, history, and characters. From the artsy South Main Historic District to the grittiness of her favorite live music clubs to the sophisticated...  More About Sally

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