Get Your Cupid On: Romantic Dining in Memphis

Photo courtesy of Cafe Society
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Iris
By Sally Walker Davies, Memphis Local Expert

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!

10. 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.

9. Acre Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Acre Restaurant

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.

8. Terrace at the River Inn
Photo courtesy of Terrace at the River Inn

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.

7. Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar - Memphis
Photo courtesy of SinglePlatform

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!

6. Itta Bena
Photo courtesy of 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.

5. Erling Jensen - The Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Erling Jensen - The Restaurant

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.

4. Folk's Folly Prime Steak House
Photo courtesy of Memphis Foodie Blog

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.

3. Paulette's
Photo courtesy of 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.

2. 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 When the weather's nice, be sure to ask for a table on the small but charming patio.

1. Chez Philippe
Photo courtesy of Peabody Hotel

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.