If you haven’t made a reservation for Valentine’s Day by now, you’re a failure.
At least that’s how it’ll feel as you frantically scroll through OpenTable, only to find you can dine at 5 p.m., 11 p.m., or anytime you like at TGI Fridays. Instead of competing with every jerk in the city for a table (and the privilege of spending a week’s pay on price-inflated tasting menus), head to one these spots where you can have it all: ambiance, wine and a few bites.
Presenting our ten most romantic wine bars to get you through next week:
Aria Wine Bar
Although the candlelit interior of Aria exudes charming, Italian rusticity, the lead-up to the bar really sets the mood. Where else in the city can you find an ingenious scaffolding-pergola strung with romantic lights? The wine list offers an appreciative nod to the women producers of Italy, and the menu covers a host of Italian small plates to keep the night as affordable as you want. 117 Perry Street, 212-242-4233
As your eyes adjust to the dimly lit room, low-slung ceiling and flickering candles, it’s easy to feel tipsy, even if you’re sober. Fortunately, all this sexiness comes with a serious wine list regularly updated by the French owners. The kitchen serves a collection of internationally inspired dishes plus a regular rotation of oysters, perfect for stimulating your evening if the setting hasn’t already. 247 Broome Street, 212-228-4450
The Vault at Pfaff’s
This sophisticated subterranean lounge in Noho is named after Charles Pfaff, an 1850’s wine and beer connoisseur who ran a watering hole frequented by the likes of Walt Whitman. Meant to evoke that era, the décor offers cozy seating and an elegant bar with a hand painted backsplash. Although a cocktail den at heart, Pfaff’s offers a thoughtfully curated wine list that includes grower Champagnes. Table reservations recommended, but not required. 643 Broadway, 212-253-5421
Library Bar at the Nomad
Who said the library wasn’t sexy? What could’ve easily felt like a Midtown Ivy-League gentlemen’s club, manages a buzzy date-spot feel after sunset. The fashionable set lounge in the book-lined room, sipping cocktails and wine from one of the best lists in the city. Snuggled in the corner with a few dishes from the exceptional kitchen, your date won’t mind passing on (as you walk by) the pricey dining room tasting menu. 1170 Broadway, 212-796-1500
This go-to date spot has been around awhile, but there’s a reason it always tops romantic bar lists: The sexy, blood-red interior feels like a cross between Louis XIV and Mae West. The wine list is varied and full of good bottles, whether you’re paid like an intern or an executive. To compliment the wines (and cocktails!) are a selection of chocolate, cheese, and savory fondues. On Valentine’s Day, they will be offering seated reservations for a 4-course menu paired with drinks. Call for details. 111 E. 7th Street, 212-475-2246
Casa La Femme
Want to surprise your Valentine’s date with an exotic dancer? Bring them to Casa La Femme in the West Village, the Egyptian oasis features belly dancers nightly. Reservations are required for V-Day dinner and the front room tables; for those afraid of commitment, the bar is free for you to come and go. The wine list changes regularly, but always features European whites, reds, rosés and, of course, bubbles. 140 Charles Street, 212-505-0005
If your date is more Etsy than EMM Group, romance them at this charming slice of French countryside on Grove Street. The kitchen is run by the superb Jody Williams who excels at packing loads of flavor into adorable packages; try the rabbit pot pie. Wines are French and Italian, ranging from Medoc to Montepulciano, and Beaune to Barbaresco. No reservations, so arrive early. 42 Grove Street, 212-255-3590
Serious wine aficionados bring dates to Lela Bar to sample the stunning collection of bottles and by the glass offerings. No matter what day of the year it is, the long oval bar is crowded with canoodlers. The chance to supplement your bottle with nibbles like oysters, chocolate, meat and cheese, leaves you only one responsibility: Flirting. 422 Hudson Street, 212-206-0594
DOC Wine Bar Brooklyn
Ever wonder why Italy ranks at the top of every romantic destination chart? They have wine bars like DOC. Feeling as authentic as Williamsburg-meets-Italy is gonna get, DOC is filled with small, candlelit tables, far enough apart for couples to actually hear each other rather than their neighbors. If you’re not there to talk, the wine list runs up and down the Italian provinces, and the menu covers plenty of territory if you’re inclined to graze while gazing. 83 North 7th Street, 718-963-1925
Experimental Cocktail Club
I’m bending the rules a little by adding this bar, since the focus at ECC is on cocktails not wine. However, their finely tuned seasonal list, crafted by Parisian bartender Nicolas de Soto, features several wine-based ingredients growing in mixed-drink popularity: Sherry and vermouth. Plus they serve Champagne by the bottle, the classic drink for wooing a V-Day date, which you can drink in one of the many romantic nooks. Reservations by email. 191 Chrystie Street, email@example.com
Lauren Mowery is a wine and travel writer. She writes the Unscrewed column for Fork in the Road and blogs at Chasing the Vine.