Ink and Elm has a fantastic bar with a roaring fireplace behind it, a wicked drink menu and they do a great job with oysters—which of course is an aphrodisiac.
You know when they talk about D-Day from WWII? Well for an ill-prepared guy, last minute planning for Valentine’s Day is not V-Day…it’s more like D-Day. The good news is that there are no shortage of remarkably romantic destinations in the ATL so with a little planning you can hit the jack pot. Now heads up: this Valentine’s Day is going to be a little tricky because even now with really a couple of weeks to go and given that it falls on a Friday, reservations at top spots are not exactly plentiful. I say if you’re a guy and you contract up front with your significant other that you are going to do Valentine’s Day on the day before or the day after, it still should be worth points. Or if the prime time is taken, snag the early res and hit a movie afterwards. What I am certain is that if you wait until the last minute it will feel like you are storming the beaches of Normandy so don't wait! So this is a cheat sheet of places to take your sweetheart around V-Day so get busy!
First let’s start with a nod to tried-and-true romatic traditions from the old guard:
Bacchanalia—this is still my undisputed heavy weight champion restaurant in the city for romance and all the people who submit surveys that go into the Zagat guide agree—it’s #1. Chef Anne Quatrano is in my opinion the godmother of Atlanta cooking and the experience you get here is near flawless every time. It’s elegant, sophisticated and knee-bucklingly delicious. Also right below Bacchanalia is their sister restaurant, Quionnes, rocks for romance so if you can’t get into one, try the other.www.yelp.com/biz/bacchanalia-atlanta…
There is just something about Italian food that inspiresamore, no? Sotto Sotto in Inman Park does it as well as anyone in town and there is something about the rustic Italian cooking, warm space and neighborhoody ambiance that always equated to romance for me and many others. If you haven’t tried them before get over there.www.urestaurants.net…
Another tried and true big gun of the romantic scene is Aria in Buckhead. The dining room is a work of art as is the food. Dinner there is almost hypnotic in a good way. Top scores for food, wine and ambience there.www.aria-atl.com…
A lot of loyalists braced themselves when chef Kevin Gillespie left Woodfire Grill over on Cheshire Bridge to open his own space but new executive chef Tyler Williams has stepped into Kevin’s large, tattooed shoes and won Eater.com’s top new chef award last year. I was there the other night and it was firing on all cylinders. I had the wood roasted stuffed rainbow trout with creamed kale and a—get this—gold fish cracker porridge. Chef Tyler’s menu is full great twists like that and you will love the mix of intimacy and energy there. www.woodfiregrill.com
And finally from the old guard, one of my favorite little hidden gems—McKinnon’s Louisiane in Buckhead. Now McKinnon’s is real old school. It has been open since 1972 and very little has changed. It’s a little Love Boat, a little JR Ewing and a little Miami Vice decor-wise but I promise you it’s like falling into into a wonderful time warp with great service. Aziz Mehram has been running it since 1979 and he is a classic Mr. Roark-type host serving New Orleans classics along the lines of Gallatoires if you are familiar with that. www.mckinnons.com
Now on to the new and and heart throbbing:
One of the sexiest new places I have been recently is called Ink and Elm. It’s over in the Emory Village and it’s dazzling. Local architects Ai3 have done another marvelous job on the atmosphere. They have a fantastic bar with a roaring fireplace behind it, a wicked drink menu and they do a great job with oysters—which of course is an aphrodisiac. www.inkandelmatlanta.com…
Here’s a little well-kept secret: Tantra. Tantra is on Peachtree St. in Buckhead next to the Imperial Fez and it’s one of the sultriest dining spaces in town. The cuisine is from the spice route so there are influences from Perisan to Indian to the Mediterranean and lots of places in between. The flavors are seductive and as tantra is a hindu tradition of romantic love you take my word for it this place is perfect for couples.www.tantraatlanta.com
And finally the day it snowed was the day I picked to try Ford Fry’s newest creation St. Cecilia and I can tell you that he’s completed his incredible trifecta in less than 18 months with The Optimist, King + Duke and now St. Cecilia. This new concept takes over the vacated Bluepointe space across from Phipps. It’s was always a stunning dining room with 50-foot ceilings but Fry’s team has transfomed it into a soothing setting to eat spectacular northern Italian cuisine. I was particularly blown away by their pastas—I had a pansotti stuffed with roasted beets and ricotta chesse as well as a ravioli stuffed with apples and mascarpone and topped with fresh lobster that were simply transcendent. Grab a bite there and go see a movie in the deluxe seats at Phipps. Perfecto! www.stceciliaatl.com