If you haven’t made reservations for Valentine’s Day yet, you’re likely already behind schedule! The National Restaurant Association says 25% of Americans dine out on February 14th. Whether you’re an old school romantic or believe Valentine’s Day is a gimmick created by the greeting card companies, embrace the opportunity for romance – and the chance to try one of the Triangle’s best restaurants. Because if there’s one thing that cures cynicism, it’s good food.
Second Empire Restaurant & Tavern, 330 Hillsborough St., Raleigh
World-class wine, elegant ambiance and a creative menu await at this Raleigh institution. Set in a historic home built in 1879, Second Empire embodies romance. Nosh on braised pork belly, grilled lamb or roasted duck. If you’re looking to really impress your date, splurge for the Chef’s Table experience. You’ll be treated to a table right in the kitchen, where you can interact with head chef Daniel Schurr and his staff.
Lantern, 423 W Franklin St., Chapel Hill
If you’re looking for food that’s a little more exotic, Lantern is your spot. This fusion restaurant combines classical Asian dishes with a southern kick. Indulge in a spicy sweet hibiscus, lime and basil martini – the vodka is infused in-house. The low lighting gives the restaurant an intimate vibe, setting the scene for the starring attraction: the food. Lantern’s coconut braised pork shank is legendary.
Mateo, 109 W Chapel Hill St., Durham
Few things say romance like tapas over candlelight. Embrace the passion of Spain via Durham’s Mateo bar de tapas. Local ingredients and unique additions to traditional recipes make this spot stand above the rest. Our tip? Snag a reservation upstairs, where you can look out over downtown Durham at an intimate table for two.
Vin Rouge, 2010 Hillsborough Rd., Durham
Nobody knows romance like the French. Some say that knowledge extends to food, so treat yourselves to traditional French cuisine Durham’s Vin Rouge. Lush red curtains and chandeliers evoke the classic romance of 1920s Paris. The entire menu is excellent – whether you go for the bouillabaisse or the steak tartare, you’ll head home delighted. Save room for dessert, though, as Vin Rouge’s chocolate mousse is a must.
Durham was named the “Tastiest Town in the South” by Southern Living magazine in 2013.