Cupid’s arrow points to these restaurants

Cupid’s arrow has hit its mark this year as Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday. With just a week until the date night of all date nights, some of you still might be scrambling for reservations. Here are five romantic dining spots at varying price points, complete with pairing suggestions and a story from a veteran server. Now, that’s romantic dining at its finest.

Ecco

40 7th St., Atlanta. 404-347-9555, www.ecco-Atlanta.com

A good date spot because of: Table 61. Guests can make reservations specifically for this cushioned banquette, considered the best seat in the house. Cozy up next to your date and overlook both the honey-lit dining room and the bustling kitchen. Even if you don’t score this table, the sophisticated atmosphere gets a stamp of approval from celebrities such as Owen Wilson and Jim Carey, who have brought dates to this old world-style restaurant.

What to order

Drink: a bottle of Stella Maris — a versatile red blend with notes of spice and deep fruit flavors. $51

Share: fried goat cheese drizzled with honey. $7

For him: roasted quail with couscous, stone fruit and a pumpernickel stuffing. $28

For her: “love letters” ravioli filled with charred rapini and spiced duck sausage. $18

Finish: Grand Marnier chocolate soufflé (allow 20 minutes after ordering and settle in for post-dinner conversation). $11

The bill: $115

Server story: “What I love the most is people who met here, had their rehearsal dinner here, and frequent Ecco not just on their anniversaries. They really become part of the family.”

— Michael McGill, server at Fifth Group Restaurants for 12 years

The Butcher the Baker

23 N. Park Square, Marietta. 678-224-1599, www.eatlocaleatbetter.com

A good date spot because of: the hometown country feel. The quaint appearance makes it seem as if you are dining in a rustic farmhouse with mason jar lighting, tarnished silverware and antique décor. But don’t underestimate the Southern fare. The servers are happy to tell the tale of a menu that ventures beyond tradition. The husband and wife owners emphasize local food by sourcing from farmers who sell at the Marietta Square Farmer’s Market.

What to order: three-course menu with amuse-bouche and wine pairings. Choice of two for each course: first course, mushroom orecciette, beet terrine or charred romaine salad; second course, seared duck breast, skin-on fish, strip steak; third course, chocolate mousse, goat cheesecake, sorbet.

Drink: wine pairings with each course.

Share: charred romaine salad with pickeled citrus and chevre.

For her: skin-on fish, beet risotto, pickled beets and beet greens.

For him: Brasstown strip steak, garlic gnocchi and roasted broccoli.

Finish: goat cheesecake, graham tuille and Florida strawberries.

The bill: $130 with wine pairings, $90 without pairings.

Server story: “Saturday night is date night at the restaurant and we’ll serve a lot of couples. They like to walk around Marietta Square after their meal.”

— Jason (last name withheld), server at The Butcher the Baker

Canoe

4199 Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta. 770-432-2663, www.canoeatl.com

A good date spot because of: the Chattahoochee River. Before or after dinner take a stroll along the banks of the river, a pleasure you can enjoy not far from the city. The restaurant’s interior takes a cue from a wilderness retreat, but the service brings your attention back to the culinary sophistication on the plate. As one course is cleared, another is presented like an edible portrait. Continue the night with a bottle from the new wine shop next door, Cellar Door.

What to order

Drink: Thomas Morey “Vielles Vignes” Burgundy — a fruit-forward, juicy red with hints of cherry. $65

Share: smoked salmon with goat cheese. $12

For her: cocoa-crusted venison with brown butter sweet potatoes. $35

For him: beef tenderloin served with loaded mashed potatoes and asparagus. $34

Finish: strawberry and rose Champagne panna cotta, bittersweet chocolate Cremeux with toasted white chocolate pound cake $8

The bill: between $150 and $160

Server story: “I was describing how Canoe used to be a place called Robinson Tropical Gardens to a couple. The gentleman looked at his wife and said, ‘We’re at Robinson? I met my wife here 55 years ago. She was the most beautiful woman in the room and I walked across this very floor to meet her, and now I’m having my 55th anniversary dinner here tonight.’ The couple was crying and I started crying, too.”

— Hope Walden, server at Canoe for five years

Cafe Intermezzo

4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. 770-396-1344. 1065 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-355-0411,

cafeintermezzo.com

A good date spot because: Everyone else is on dates. Couples lean across cozy two-tops, candles illuminate the dining room in a soft glow, and the aroma of roasting coffee wafts through the multi-segmented rooms. The Renaissance-style paintings adorning the walls suggest the sultry corners in a European coffeehouse. On this special day, the restaurant is taking reservations for their three-course menu in addition to the traditional cafe service.

What to order

Valentine’s special three-course menu: a glass of champagne each, choice of appetizer to share, two entrees and choice of two desserts from the pastry case.

Drink: a glass of champagne.

Share: crab cakes drizzled with red pepper sauce.

For her: grilled salmon served atop wild rice.

For him: pecan-crusted chicken.

Finish: Don’t miss the red velvet cheesecake.

The bill: $85

Server story: “At our old Buckhead location there was a woman who came in before we moved to Midtown to see if she could buy a certain table. It was the exact table where she had her first date with her husband, a date before they were married, and the last date before he passed away.”

— Christian Olson (son of the owner)

Imperial Fez

2285 Peachtree Road, Atlanta. 404-351-0870, www.imperialfez.com

A good date spot because of: nightly belly dancing. This is not your traditional dining experience. Forget the uncomfortable chairs and stiff conversation; upon arriving you step out of your shoes and into Morocco. Sit on pillows, dip into shared plates seasoned with warm spices, and clap your hands to the belly dancers’ rhythms.

What to order: the five-course Moroccan dinner, price based on entree.

Drink: complimentary Shot to the Heart — an infusion of vodka, tequila, Grand Marnier, orange and strawberry juice.

Share: b’stella — filo dough stuffed with Cornish hen, roasted almonds and spiced eggs

For her: assorted Moroccan salad with spicy harissa and Cornish hen tagine baked with apricots, spices and almonds. $47

For him: harrira lentil soup and roasted lamb shank with spices, garnished with exotic mushrooms. $52

Finish: filo pastry with chocolate and mixed fruit, and Moroccan mint tea.

The bill: $99

Server story: “I saw a couple come on a first date here, then a few months later another date. A year later they asked me to perform at their wedding, which they had here at the restaurant.”

— Kalinka Mahaila, belly dancer at Imperial Fez for three years

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