Happy Sunday, friends! I can’t believe February is just around the corner. I always look forward to this month. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big holidays person, and after a month without anything to celebrate, I’m always excited for Valentine’s Day!
If you celebrate Valentine’s, you may already be looking at restaurant reservations for the big night. After all, it’s arguably the most popular ‘date night’ of the year, and reservations fill up so quickly! I find there are two camps of people when it comes to Valentine’s Day celebrations: those who love to go out for a romantic dinner at a restaurant, and those who prefer to stay in and celebrate with a cozy evening at home. I’ll admit that while I see the appeal of both options, both Tania and I are in the ‘stay home’ camp. Our anniversary falls in February too, so typically we’ll do dinner at home on Valentine’s Day and save the night out for our anniversary, when restaurants are a little less crazy. If you’re also an at-home celebrator, not to worry – in a couple of weeks I’ll be sharing some recipes for fun and festive treats you can make at home! But I also can’t argue the appeal of a beautiful dinner cooked by someone else, so for those of you who prefer to go out, I thought I’d compile a list of my picks for Ontario’s most romantic restaurants. I chose my top twelve, five of which are in Toronto – I’ll start with those, then move onto the ones outside of the city.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
Auberge Du Pommier, Toronto – This luxurious French bistro is one of Toronto’s most renowned restaurants. If you’re looking for a fine dining experience to impress your date, look no further! Located in North York, the restaurant is old world charm at its finest: it consists of two 1860s woodcutters’ cottages surrounded by a lush garden terrace. Tania and I enjoyed a lovely lunch on their patio a couple of summers ago, but the restaurant’s interior is equally impressive.
Bar Poet, Toronto – Located on Queen Street West, this trendy Italian resto-bar is where Tania and I chose to celebrate our anniversary last year, and we were not disappointed! The dimly-lit space is filled with tall trees adorned with twinkling lights. It makes you feel like you’re dining al fresco on a summer evening, even in the middle of winter. You can’t go wrong with their pizza or pasta, and be sure to get an order of arancini to start – it’s some of the best I’ve ever had!
Cluny, Toronto – The interior of this upscale French bistro is styled like a classic French brasserie, with vibrant patterned floor tiles, coffered ceilings, and gilded mirrors adorning the brick walls. It’s renowned for its creative and innovative cuisine and is widely considered one of the best French restaurants in the city. It gets extra points for being located in the historic Distillery District, which is always a romantic place to go for a stroll. Check out my blog post about the Distillery District (and Cluny) here.
Le Papillon On Front, Toronto – I discovered this gem of a restaurant recently, when a friend invited me to join her for dinner there. Located on Front Street near the St. Lawrence Market, Le Papillon has been around since 1974 and specializes in French dishes, including crepes (they were Toronto’s first creperie!) and their French onion soup, which they are famous for. I enjoyed their grilled salmon, which was cooked to perfection, and lots of bread and wine of course! The atmosphere here is très belle.
Maison Selby, Toronto – It must be true that French restaurants are the most romantic, because I just realized that 4/5 eateries on this list so far have been French! Maison Selby is a favourite of mine, and gets my vote for the most beautifully designed restaurant in Toronto. It’s located in the 139-year-old C.H. Gooderham House, which was carefully restored and renovated by ERA Architects and Hunt Heritage over a 7-year period before opening in 2019. Each room in the building is uniquely designed, boasting its own distinct personality (and some pretty amazing wallpaper patterns.) Maison Selby is famous for their craft cocktails, traditional French dishes with a twist, and decadent desserts.
Hibachi Teppanyaki & Bar, Burlington – This may not be what you’d think of when picturing a textbook ‘romantic restaurant’ – it’s located in a plaza and is just as popular with families as it is with couples – but if you’re looking for dinner and a show, you’ve come to the right place! We went here for a friend’s birthday last year and had the best time. Teppanyaki is a Japanese style of cooking where food is grilled at high temperatures over an open flame, and here it’s done right in front of guests. The cooks are as much entertainers as they are master chefs. Watching them flip and juggle the food they’re preparing is a show in itself; it’s truly an art form! If you’re looking for a unique dining experience to share with your sweetheart, this is it. (Note that we went to the Burlington location, but they have several locations throughout the GTHA.)
The Aberfoyle Mill, Guelph – If it’s historic charm you’re after, The Aberfoyle Mill is your spot – this cozy restaurant is located in a carefully restored grist mill that was first built in 1859! Between the vintage furnishings, antique artifacts and crackling stone fireplace, stepping into The Aberfoyle Mill feels like taking a step back in time. I highly recommend the pistachio-crusted salmon, and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, their famous white chocolate pistachio cheesecake for dessert! Check out my blog post here for a full review of our experience at The Aberfoyle Mill.
Mrs. Mitchell’s, Mulmur – Yet another historic spot on this list! Clearly I have a ‘type’ when it comes to restaurants. Located in a former schoolhouse that dates back to 1889, this family-run restaurant exudes country charm. Mrs. Mitchell’s is known for its elegantly appointed interiors, menu of gourmet classics (duck confit, mussels and rack of lamb are all popular choices) and thoughtful details – for instance, if you take any food home to-go, they’ll fold the foil into a swan shape for you! It’s beloved within the community and is such a romantic spot that it’s even a popular wedding venue. Check out my blog post about Mrs. Mitchell’s here.
Corso, Niagara Falls – Located in The Hilton Niagara Falls, Corso specializes in gourmet Italian dishes served to your table family-style. For $59 per person, you’ll enjoy an endless array of dishes – yes, that means you can ask for more of whatever you’d like! Too often, buffet or all-you-can-eat style restaurants sacrifice quality for quantity, but this isn’t the case here. Every dish we had at Corso was exquisite, not to mention, beautifully presented. Their in-house pianist will keep you and your date entertained with jazz tunes all night. And after your meal, you can walk down to the falls themselves – what could be more romantic than that? Click here to read my full review of Corso.
Silversmith Brewing Company, Niagara-on-the-Lake – The Niagara region is famous for its wineries, but for those who prefer cracking open a cold one to uncorking a bottle of Chardonnay, there’s plenty of options there for you too! In fact, Silversmith was founded in 2011 when the founders realized that while there were many wineries in their hometown of Niagara-on-the-Lake, there wasn’t a single brewery. So, they bought a 117-year-old church and turned it into a brewery and restaurant! Tania and I have visited Silversmith multiple times, and when we first started going, the food options were limited to snack food like chips and pretzels. Today, in conjunction with Norcini & Co., Silversmith offers a full menu of casual favourites like sandwiches, salads and burgers at reasonable prices. If you’re looking for a more low-key (but equally romantic) option for your Valentine’s meal, I highly recommend this spot – it’s such a beautiful and intimate space, and dining in a converted church provides a unique and memorable atmosphere that you won’t soon forget. Be sure to grab a pint of their award-winning Black Lager while you’re there!
Piano Piano, Oakville – With a flagship location on Harbord Street in Toronto, this Italian restaurant became so popular that it’s since opened three additional locations: one on Mount Pleasant, one on Colborne Street, and one on Thomas Street in Oakville. Tania and I have now been to three out of four locations, the most recent being their Oakville outpost. Pizza and pasta lovers will adore this place! Tania and I are big fans of both; we usually order one of each and just share everything. Piano Piano is offering a special four-course Valentine’s Day menu this year, and is now taking reservations online.
Stillwaters Plate & Pour, Paris – What’s more romantic than an evening in Paris? (Paris, Ontario, that is!) Just northwest of Brantford, Paris was named one of Canada’s Prettiest Small Towns, and it’s certainly a picturesque spot. Part of its charm comes from its idyllic location on the Grand River. If you’re looking for a restaurant with a great view of the river, you couldn’t find a prettier spot than Stillwaters. Its rooftop patio is positively hopping during warmer months, but fear not: their interior boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that give diners an equally nice view of the water during colder months. Their menu offers casual favourites like burgers, sandwiches and chicken wings, alongside some more upscale options such as steak, pasta and fish dishes.
And there you have them – my top 12 romantic Ontario restaurants. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around! There are so many fabulous date night restaurants within the GTA and beyond, and this list only scratches the surface. But if you were looking for some new ideas for this Valentine’s Day, I hope this list was helpful. Now, be sure to make those reservations ASAP – the clock’s a tickin’!
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