Bar Les Freres | Elise O'Brien
As Valentine’s Day approaches, thoughts turn to securing the ultimate date-night ambiance. We'll be the first to tell you there’s not a hard and fast rule to defining the perfect romantic restaurant — the most important element, of course, is the two of you. But the winning recipe seems to include a thoughtful combination of soft lighting, a bit of linen and silver, hushed tones and discreet service — all working in harmony to keep you focused on each other, leaving the rest of the world to melt away.
1. Bar Les Freres
7637 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton
Bar Les Freres was clearly designed for lovers. Its French-inspired décor includes handsome red walls, sparkling chandeliers and cool marble tables that invite lingering over a glass or two of bubbly. The romantic mystique also pairs with seamlessly with a refined French menu for an otherworldly dining experience.
1419 Carroll Street, Lafayette Square
Element’s striking top-floor lounge offers casual romance with a welcoming and cozy ambiance. The dramatically lit tile-faced and wood-topped bar takes center stage in a setting of exposed brick walls, reclaimed barn wood accents, comfortable couches, oversized wingback chairs and large windows overlooking the glittering cityscape of downtown St. Louis.
6679 Delmar Boulevard, University City
Público | courtesy of Público
Taking a cue from its Latin-inspired menu, the atmosphere at Público is sultry. The space has a downright sexy vibe with a gorgeous central bar, modern globe lights and a wood-burning cooking hearth. An added bonus is an adventurous selection of small plates great for couples wanting to try something out of the ordinary.
4. Water Street
7268 Manchester Road, Maplewood
Water Street | courtesy of Water Street
The welcoming storefront setting of Water Street casts a warm glow over people strolling along Manchester in downtown Maplewood. Last year alone this charming neighborhood restaurant saw a wedding and a proposal. It doesn't get any more romantic than that.
5. I Fratellini
7624 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton
I Fratellini | Greg Rannells
Hailed as a romantic “jewel,” I Fratellini offers Old World Italian in a cozy space filled with candlelight and inviting architectural textures. At Bar Les Freres' sister restaurant, the service is unobtrusive, the Prosecco is crisp and the menu is squisito
6. India Palace
4534 North Lindbergh Boulevard
Step out of the everyday to India Palace, a discreet (and unique) Indian restaurant at the top of the Airport Plaza Inn. From your perch eleven floors up, watch travelers arrive and depart from Lambert International Airport in a tropical-themed fine dining setting complete with bamboo-covered walls and white linen-topped tables. It's one of the city's more unique dining experiences — but a wonderfully intimate one.
7. Planter's House
1000 Mississippi Avenue, Lafayette Square
Planter's House | Greg Rannells
Enjoy the moment with some of the best craft cocktails in the city in the Bullock Room of the stately Planter’s House. In this tucked-away hideway up a few wooden steps from the main dining room, the windows are cleverly covered, creating a sense of timelessness ideal for a night you never want to end.
8. Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar
1004 Locust Street, Downtown
Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar | Jess Dewes
The branch chandelier catches your eye as soon as you enter Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar. Then you notice the smaller versions above the custom crafted bar. The graceful curve of the bar, gleaming wine glasses hung above, surrounding warm brick and low lighting are smartly combined for a cozy evening tucked inside. Take the stairs up to the second floor loft and enjoy the great cheese selection and the view below.
999 North 2nd Street, Laclede’s Landing
Cielo | photo courtesy of Chloe Caylor
The sweeping view through Cielo's floor-to-ceiling windows shows the Gateway Arch, the Mississippi River and the rural Illinois landscape, a breathtaking setting for a rooftop meal eight stories removed from downtown’s hustle and bustle. Add to this an unrivaled menu infused with executive chef Gian Nicola Colucci’s passion for Italian fine dining and you’ve got one spectacular night.
8100 Maryland Avenue, Clayton
PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
Cozy booths, candlelit ambiance and chic French-inspired art are still on offer at Herbie's even after the Central West End mainstay moved west to the old Cardwell's spot in Clayton. The restaurant has long been a favorite destination for formal and casual occasions — and from the bar to the bistro, there's not a bad seat in the house. Tasty morsels such as oysters on a half shell, whole live Maine lobsters and dark chocolate fritters tempt the taste buds as well.
Editor's note: This story was updated one year after publication to include details about Herbie's after its move from the Central West End to Clayton.
Follow Sara Graham on Instagram and Twitter at @engagetaste. E-mail the author at email@example.com.