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The Highlands.
Michelle Gerard

The Mood Is Just Right at These Romantic Detroit Restaurants

From elegant Italian dining classics to intimate tasting menu experiences, these restaurants offer romantic retreats year-round

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The Highlands.
| Michelle Gerard

Romantic experiences are certainly in the eye of the beholder, but it’s easier to set the mood with breathtaking views, elegant dining rooms, or a stellar tasting menus. In metro Detroit, restaurants offer all this and more, meaning folks can tailor their experience to the occasion or the person they plan to share a meal with.

Italian restaurants, for myriad reasons, feature prominently on this list with spots like La Dolce Vita and Mexican-Italian establishment El Barzon in the mix, but there’s also restaurants delivering fresh oysters and New American restaurants that provide playful takes on classical dining. These 14 romantic restaurants are fitting for a night out with a special someone or simply a memorable meal with good ambiance.

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Coriander Kitchen and Farm

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If you can’t go to Venice or Amsterdam, canal-side dining in in Jefferson Chalmers might be the next best thing. This casual spot offers a garden-like setting with views of the water (some folks even kayak to the restaurant) and a regularly changing scratch menu featuring local produce that’s romantic without being stuffy.

Highlands

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Nestled on the 71st floor of the Renaissance Center, the Highlands features a luxe steakhouse menu with plenty of wine and unparalleled views of downtown and the Detroit River. For $80, diners can select from three categories to complete a three-course meal with options like wagyu beef tartare, lobster spaghetti, and dry-aged Rohan duck. Start the meal with oysters for a little extra.

This intimate underground restaurant in the Financial District is the ideal spot for a romantic date with top notch service, superb cocktails, and fanciful shared plates menu. Find items here such as shrimp cocktail, beef tartare, and “escar-no” a vegetarian dish that trades shelled gastropods for mushrooms in buttery sauce.

This bright, modern dining room planted at the heart of downtown Detroit is a refined spot for a romantic meal. The menu teases dishes such as lamb-stuffed pasta shells and wedge salad as well as garlic bread-style roasted oysters and a deep list of top-shelf wine by the bottle and glass.

Tucked back inside the Siren Hotel, Albena provides diners with an intimate experience that includes lots of face time with folks behind the eight-seat chef’s counter. The sparse atmosphere leaves plenty of space for chef Garrett Lipar’s plates to shine. The $225 tasting menu changes regularly but past dishes have included courses such as shrimp with sweet chili, seasonal citrus dressed up with honey, and venison with sweet potato.

SavannahBlue

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This posh spot perched on the second floor of a building overlooking Times Square and the People Mover serves Northern takes on Southern cooking with options like pan-seared Cornish hen and Cajun-spiced shrimp and grits. Pair the meal warm crab dip and, if the occasion calls for it, a splurgy bottle of Champagne.

Mink Detroit

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Reserve seats at this intimate seafood bar in Corktown for a coursed meal featuring fresh oysters on the half shell from two coasts and a range of dishes. Leek-wrapped halibut, stracciatella with white anchovies, and steamed grouper with cous cous made the rounds on recent menus that stay fresh by rotating roughly every three weeks. A selection of caviar and sake makes the occasion even more special.

The spread of oysters and other small plates surrounded by chopsticks and amber colors glasses and candle holders at Mink. Michelle Gerard

El Barzon

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White tablecloths drape the dining room at this beloved neighborhood gem off Junction Avenue in Southwest Detroit. Chef Norberto Garita is just as adept with making mushroom and ricotta ravioli as he is with mole poblano, which makes for a one-of-a-kind dining experience at El Barzon Restaurante. This fine-dining institution pays homage to the cuisine of Italy and Puebla, Mexico, in an upscale atmosphere that includes an expansive wine list, great cocktails, and a lovely brick patio.

Grey Ghost Detroit

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This New American restaurant in Brush Park takes pride in playing with classics like oysters, dry-aged New York strip steak with zip sauce, and one of the city’s best cheeseburgers. Grey Ghost’s food is rivaled by its distinctive cocktail menu the sports options like the Midnight Expresso, the restaurant’s rendition of the ever-so-trendy espresso martini with vodka, espresso, zucca, cream, and simple syrup. Thoughtful non-alcoholic options are also available for those cutting back or staying sober.

Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails

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This verdant New American restaurant located across the street from the Detroit Institute of Arts keeps things extremely fresh thanks to its tiny kitchen that affords very little refrigerated space. Helmed by metro Detroit power duo Sandy Levine of the Oakland and chef Doug Hewitt, this restaurant serves something special with each new menu from duck confit tortellini to its lauded twice-cooked egg.

Oak & Reel

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Chef Jared Gadbaw, a Michigan native, developed his craft and knowledge of Italian seafood while working at a two Michelin-starred New York restaurant before opening Oak & Reel in Milwaukee Junction. In spite of pandemic setbacks that tempered the restaurant’s debut, Oak & Reel has found its footing among diners seeking out an exceptional meal. Indulge in options like oysters on the half shell, pan-fried langoustine, and black truffle gnocchi.

A halibut steak with seven tiny red peppers on top and mushrooms encircling the halibut on a plate. A hand pours sauce from a jar onto the plate. Karmen Wettlin/Oak and Reel

La Dolce Vita

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Widely considered one of Detroit’s most romantic local restaurants, this Italian establishment off Woodward Avenue charms with its secluded patio and formal dining room that’s popular with people celebrating special occasions. The menu offers Italian classics like lasagna, seafood linguine, and caprese salad.

Mabel Gray

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Mabel Gray has been turning heads since arriving on the scene as an unexpected Hazel Park destination in 2015 under the guidance of former Top Chef contestant James Rigato. The menu at Mabel is never stagnant and always keeps diners guessing. For an exceedingly affordable treat, reserve a seat or a table for the tasting menu, available for $75 with optional beverage pairings. The small dining room ensures diners feel well-cared for and part of the action in the kitchen.

Cafe Cortina

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This longtime metro Detroit establishment remains a destination for special occasion dining with its elegant dining room, well-groomed patio, and progressive Italian menu that showcases options like cacio e pepe and filet mignon with wild mushrooms.

Coriander Kitchen and Farm

If you can’t go to Venice or Amsterdam, canal-side dining in in Jefferson Chalmers might be the next best thing. This casual spot offers a garden-like setting with views of the water (some folks even kayak to the restaurant) and a regularly changing scratch menu featuring local produce that’s romantic without being stuffy.

Highlands

Nestled on the 71st floor of the Renaissance Center, the Highlands features a luxe steakhouse menu with plenty of wine and unparalleled views of downtown and the Detroit River. For $80, diners can select from three categories to complete a three-course meal with options like wagyu beef tartare, lobster spaghetti, and dry-aged Rohan duck. Start the meal with oysters for a little extra.

Shelby

This intimate underground restaurant in the Financial District is the ideal spot for a romantic date with top notch service, superb cocktails, and fanciful shared plates menu. Find items here such as shrimp cocktail, beef tartare, and “escar-no” a vegetarian dish that trades shelled gastropods for mushrooms in buttery sauce.

Parc

This bright, modern dining room planted at the heart of downtown Detroit is a refined spot for a romantic meal. The menu teases dishes such as lamb-stuffed pasta shells and wedge salad as well as garlic bread-style roasted oysters and a deep list of top-shelf wine by the bottle and glass.

Albena

Tucked back inside the Siren Hotel, Albena provides diners with an intimate experience that includes lots of face time with folks behind the eight-seat chef’s counter. The sparse atmosphere leaves plenty of space for chef Garrett Lipar’s plates to shine. The $225 tasting menu changes regularly but past dishes have included courses such as shrimp with sweet chili, seasonal citrus dressed up with honey, and venison with sweet potato.

SavannahBlue

This posh spot perched on the second floor of a building overlooking Times Square and the People Mover serves Northern takes on Southern cooking with options like pan-seared Cornish hen and Cajun-spiced shrimp and grits. Pair the meal warm crab dip and, if the occasion calls for it, a splurgy bottle of Champagne.

Mink Detroit

Reserve seats at this intimate seafood bar in Corktown for a coursed meal featuring fresh oysters on the half shell from two coasts and a range of dishes. Leek-wrapped halibut, stracciatella with white anchovies, and steamed grouper with cous cous made the rounds on recent menus that stay fresh by rotating roughly every three weeks. A selection of caviar and sake makes the occasion even more special.

The spread of oysters and other small plates surrounded by chopsticks and amber colors glasses and candle holders at Mink. Michelle Gerard

El Barzon

White tablecloths drape the dining room at this beloved neighborhood gem off Junction Avenue in Southwest Detroit. Chef Norberto Garita is just as adept with making mushroom and ricotta ravioli as he is with mole poblano, which makes for a one-of-a-kind dining experience at El Barzon Restaurante. This fine-dining institution pays homage to the cuisine of Italy and Puebla, Mexico, in an upscale atmosphere that includes an expansive wine list, great cocktails, and a lovely brick patio.

Grey Ghost Detroit

This New American restaurant in Brush Park takes pride in playing with classics like oysters, dry-aged New York strip steak with zip sauce, and one of the city’s best cheeseburgers. Grey Ghost’s food is rivaled by its distinctive cocktail menu the sports options like the Midnight Expresso, the restaurant’s rendition of the ever-so-trendy espresso martini with vodka, espresso, zucca, cream, and simple syrup. Thoughtful non-alcoholic options are also available for those cutting back or staying sober.

Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails

This verdant New American restaurant located across the street from the Detroit Institute of Arts keeps things extremely fresh thanks to its tiny kitchen that affords very little refrigerated space. Helmed by metro Detroit power duo Sandy Levine of the Oakland and chef Doug Hewitt, this restaurant serves something special with each new menu from duck confit tortellini to its lauded twice-cooked egg.

Oak & Reel

Chef Jared Gadbaw, a Michigan native, developed his craft and knowledge of Italian seafood while working at a two Michelin-starred New York restaurant before opening Oak & Reel in Milwaukee Junction. In spite of pandemic setbacks that tempered the restaurant’s debut, Oak & Reel has found its footing among diners seeking out an exceptional meal. Indulge in options like oysters on the half shell, pan-fried langoustine, and black truffle gnocchi.

A halibut steak with seven tiny red peppers on top and mushrooms encircling the halibut on a plate. A hand pours sauce from a jar onto the plate. Karmen Wettlin/Oak and Reel

La Dolce Vita

Widely considered one of Detroit’s most romantic local restaurants, this Italian establishment off Woodward Avenue charms with its secluded patio and formal dining room that’s popular with people celebrating special occasions. The menu offers Italian classics like lasagna, seafood linguine, and caprese salad.

Mabel Gray

Mabel Gray has been turning heads since arriving on the scene as an unexpected Hazel Park destination in 2015 under the guidance of former Top Chef contestant James Rigato. The menu at Mabel is never stagnant and always keeps diners guessing. For an exceedingly affordable treat, reserve a seat or a table for the tasting menu, available for $75 with optional beverage pairings. The small dining room ensures diners feel well-cared for and part of the action in the kitchen.

Cafe Cortina

This longtime metro Detroit establishment remains a destination for special occasion dining with its elegant dining room, well-groomed patio, and progressive Italian menu that showcases options like cacio e pepe and filet mignon with wild mushrooms.

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