Whether you’re in the mood for almond-crusted cod by the fire or butter-poached lobster with a water view, here are seven restaurants perfect for a romantic rendezvous.By Sarah Shemkus
Late winter and early spring are certainly not the most popular times of year on Cape Cod, but these months may just be some of the most romantic. The white-tipped waves, windswept beaches and snow-dusted marshes invite you to enjoy the beauty of nature with your loved one, and the temperatures give you an excuse to cuddle up close when you get back inside.
An added bonus: The lack of summer crowds makes it easier to score a table at one of the Cape’s coziest, most intimate dining destinations. Whether you’re looking for historical significance, European flair or just a toasty fire, Cape Cod’s restaurateurs have something to offer.
Here are seven of our romantic favorites.
Captain Linnell House
When husband-and-wife Bill and Shelly Conway first saw the Captain Linnell House property 27 years ago, it was in rough shape. But Bill, a chef, and Shelly, a restoration gardener, saw something special in the sprawling neo-classic villa.
“It was love at first sight,” says Shelly Conway.
Today, the Conways have turned the rundown property into a wedding venue and a Zagat-rated restaurant that offers fine dining without pretension. The menu is heavy on classically elegant cuisine with a modern touch: Wellfleet oysters, roast duckling, sautéed scallops and shrimp.
The approach is a hit with couples; Shelly Conway has lost count of how many men have popped the question at her restaurant. String quartets have showed up to accompany proposals, she says, and one young man had 10 dozen red roses delivered to accompany the big moment.
Address: 137 Skaket Beach Road, Orleans
Water views: No, but an easy walk to Skaket Beach
Romantic résumé: The house was built in 1840 as a bridal present for the new wife of the original owner, Capt. Ebeneezer Linnell.
Belfry Inn and Bistro
Everywhere you look inside the Belfry Inn and Bistro are echoes of the space’s former life as a community church. Stained-glass windows edge the dining room, the soaring ceilings are ribbed with wooden buttresses, and pendant lighting dangles from the ceiling.
Adding to the atmosphere are three fireplaces and crisp linen tablecloths. The space is divided into several rooms; for a true dinner-for-two, reserve the single table in the tower room.
“The building itself exudes romance,” says owner Chris Wilson. “It has a feeling of putting its arms around you.”
The menu, recently revamped with the arrival of a new chef, revolves around well-executed traditional dishes like steak frites, baked cod and braised lamb shank. Sauces, Wilson says, are “light and aromatic.”
Together, the building and the food have proven a winning combination for romance; the restaurant is a very popular spot for eloping couples, small weddings and anniversary dinners. Like the customers who kick off their married lives at the restaurant, the Belfry Inn and Bistro is committed to romance, Wilson says.
“We’re in it for the long term.”
Address: 6 Jarves St., Sandwich
Water views: No
Romantic résumé: Last year a young couple, worn out by the wedding planning process, secretly eloped at the Belfry.
The Glass Onion
At The Glass Onion, the experience is all about the food, says Josh Christian, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Tally. The chilled local oysters with cucumber mignonette, pork tenderloin with bacon jalapeño jam and seared duck breast with carrot foie gras hash are just a few of the dishes that make the Glass Onion a go-to spot for couples. Much of the produce comes from local farms and everything from the bread to the ice cream is made from scratch, in-house.
“The food lends itself to a special occasion,” Christian says. “We have a lot of people who come for dinner after a proposal.”
Because the restaurant has just 16 tables, romance-minded diners will never have to deal with noisy crowds. Beadboard on the walls and old-fashioned, single-pane windows give the place a touch of historic charm.
“It’s really a pretty place to sit and relax,” Christian says.
Address: 37 North Main St., Falmouth
Water views: No
Romantic résumé: Owner Josh Christian is flattered when couples celebrate their 50th anniversary at The Glass Onion – “It really makes you feel like you’re doing something right.”
No country embodies romance like France.
At Bleu, chef Frederic Feufeu, a native of the Loire Valley, brings the flavors and techniques of his home country to Cape Cod.
“The romance is in the connection to France,” Feufeu says.
The menu shies away from heavier sauces, but includes contemporary takes on such French classics as escargot, filet mignon au poivre and apple tarte tatin. The seafood trio for two includes oysters, scallops and seared tuna in portions perfect for sharing.
“You can feed each other,” Feufeu says. “There is romance in the food if you want.”
The dining space—more urban than Cape Cod casual—adds to the sense of occasion. In the bar, tables for two with leather wing chairs let you and your loved one block out the rest of the world. If you’re planning a romantic evening at Bleu, think ahead and try to snag one of the three coveted booths for a more intimate meal.
Address: 10 Market St., Mashpee
Water views: No
Romantic résumé: A 100 percent success rate for proposals. “We’ve never had a bad one,” says chef Frederic Feufeu.
With a wall of windows peering over the waters of Nantucket Sound, the Ocean House offers a quintessentially Cape Cod sense of romance. Linen tablecloths, a cozy fireplace and atmospheric lighting complete the picture.
Then there’s the food. The menu is composed mainly of contemporary American dishes with an Asian twist; the tuna tartare appetizer is topped with wasabi foam and ginger vinaigrette and the kung pao-flavored, pan-roasted lobster is accompanied by peanuts and jasmine rice. Some traditional options—roasted chicken, garlic shrimp and linguine—round out the offerings.
For cost-conscious romance (or a mid-week culinary splurge) the Ocean House offers a $30, three-course option that includes a wide selection of choices from the regular menu.
If you’re planning a proposal, give them a call. Many a man has popped the question at the Ocean House, and the staff has plenty of experience hiding rings in desserts, drinks and flowers to surprise soon-to-be fiancées.
Address: 425 Old Wharf Road, Dennisport
Water views: Yes
Romantic résumé: The perfect place to make a memorable proposal.
The restaurants at the Chatham Bars Inn have been delivering upscale romance for 100 years. With panoramic ocean views, dangling chandeliers and proper evening dress required, the hotel’s Stars restaurant has a romantic elegance that fits right in with the luxury resort that houses it.
The steakhouse-style menu offers beef tenderloin, New York strip, and ribeye by the ounce, accompanied by your choice of sauce—think red wine reduction, béarnaise, roasted garlic blue cheese butter—and side. For diners looking beyond red meat, options include butter-poached lobster and butternut squash cannelloni. If you want to share a meal with your loved one, order a whole roasted chicken or the 18-ounce châteaubriand.
For the complete romantic experience, aim to dine at Stars on the night of a full moon. The east-facing windows of the dining room look out over the water, and once a month, diners are treated to a glittering moonrise above the ocean.
Address: Chatham Bars Inn, 297 Shore Road, Chatham
Water views: Yes
Romantic résumé: The resort’s private beach provides the backdrop for multiple pre-dinner proposals every year.
The Mews Restaurant & Café
At the furthermost reaches of the Cape, The Mews Restaurant & Café provides two levels of romance, allowing diners to suit their mood. Upstairs, the vibe is livelier, and wood and brass décor create a more traditionally cozy mood, says owner Ron Robin. The downstairs dining area is quieter, with a light and airy feel, he says.
“It depends on the atmosphere you’re looking for,” Robin says.
No matter which flavor of romance you choose, chef Laurence DeFreitas’ food should please your palate, Robin says. The menu is anchored by traditional American dishes, but is laced with global flavors: almond-crusted cod and filet mignon compete for attention with fish tajin and pork vindaloo.
Chocolate fans should consider making a Valentine’s Day reservation. On Feb. 14, the restaurant offers a chocolate buffet free to all diners.
Address: 429 Commercial St., Provincetown
Water views: Yes
Romantic résumé: The restaurant once froze a diamond ring into an ice cube for a very unexpected proposal reveal. “Those moments are really great,” owner Ron Robin says.