Dining Guide

Portland’s Most Romantic, Date-Worthy Restaurants

Planning a date with that special someone? Peep this list first.

By Karen Brooks and Katherine Chew Hamilton

Quaintrelle's monochromatic green curry salmon

There's a reason the dinner date is the most quintessential date of them all: it awakens the senses, goes great with a cocktail or glass of wine, and gives you plenty of time to sit face-to-face with your love interest and settle in for a chat. But for the dinner date to go well, both the food and the atmosphere need to be on point. Enter our list of suggestions, from seared scallops to clam pasta to a rice table feast served on banana leaves. (And now that we've saved you some time, go pick out what to wear!)

Coquine

At this cozy neighborhood fine diner, love comes in many forms: pristine oysters, hard-to-find Champagnes, and playful snacks. Seven-course tasting menus are the Big Night here. But commitment-phobes can opt for the four "chef's choice" courses (carnivore or vegetarian) or the lovely house roast-chicken feed, made for the table. Best date move: splurge for the add-on caviar service, which is interactive and doesn't take iself too seriously. Changing caviars (Kaluga to Siberian sturgeon) arrive in a glass jar with a little spoon to heap over the whim of the moment: blinis, potato buns, French onion dip, or house-made chips. 6839 SE Belmont St

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Davenport’s sought-after seared scallops, eased back with rare wine and handblown Zalto glasses

Davenport

This East side boîte is just the place for fools in love and lovers of food, whether for lunch or dinner. Kevin Gibson is known as a chef's chef among his peers. You don't need to stare at the plates or deconstruct the ingredients. Just know the best of the season is front and center in dishes that would be right at home one of those romantic local spots two blocks off the main street in Italy, France, or Spain. If you're trying to make a not-so-subtle point, kick off dinner with the Italian wedding soup bobbing with rabbit meatballs. This is where beet salads are dusted with pistachios, pâtés are in their glory, and duck legs dance with oranges, couscous, and pomegranates. And know this: no one makes better scallops than Gibson. The wine list has plenty of Euro-treasures, mostly $45 and up. 2215 E Burnside St

Gado Gado

Portland’s funkiest Indonesian-Malaysian-inspired restaurant has gone full tasting-menu mode, a $75-per-person Rice Table feast featuring the likes of onion fritters, corn pani puri, babi kechap, a smattering of sambals, and clove rice, artfully arranged on banana leaves and all meant to be lovingly shared. The parking lot covered patio has been transformed into a tropical oasis with bright floral tablecloths and gas heaters, and the custom-wallpapered-dining room is finally open once again. 1801 NE César E. Chávez Blvd

Le Pigeon

Portland's most acclaimed restaurant feels like indie-rock Portland meets a cult Paris bistro, with food combinations that would make Escoffier laugh and a deep wine list. If that's not your idea of romance, we can't help you. You never know what might spring from the mind of gifted James Bearded chef Gabriel Rucker, but it will be interesting. The experience is now tasting menu only, the weird and the wonderful, each course seemingly from a different Rucker planet, with distinct omnivore and vegetarian menus. Meat courses might include a smoked duck leg à l'orange. Veg people get the likes of beet Bourguignon with duchess potatoes. Desserts are date-night fun:   chocolate passionfruit Monte Cristo, anyone? 738 E Burnside St

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Clam pasta at Luce

Image: Karen Brooks

Luce

This charming room is the quintessential Portland date spot—intimate, modestly priced, marching to its own beat. Even the floor-to-ceiling mini-mart grocery shelves are candlelit. Unadorned plates evoke the kitchen’s paean to honest Italian food: delicious pasta, fresh focaccia, and olive oil cake. Make a date-night party out of the $2 antipasti list or share a collection of house pastas, all available as half orders. Dig into the wine lover's list, priced for everyday people, and don't miss the silky panna cotta. 2140 E Burnside St

Quaintrelle

The Wonder-Lust cocktail, bar manager Caville Cavan's play on a whiskey sour

Food meets art at this quirky, unpretentious tasting menu restaurant newly moved to SE Clinton, where salmon gets the monochromatic treatment with green curry and a whole pile of “green things” (a.k.a. herbs) and cocktails are garnished with whimsical, super-spiraled zest and muddled with ingredients like charred peach. Sit at the bar, in the dining room, or on the romantic, plant-filled patio. 2032 SE Clinton St

Scotch Lodge Whisky Bar

Our idea of the perfect date night: sitting in a dark, dreamy whiskey cave, sipping from an A-caliber list that and sharing the chicest bar foods in town. Oysters dabbed with icy-sweet granita set the mood—on the half shell, embedded in ice, and glistening with playful toppings like tequila-laced tropical punch. If a soft shell crab sandwich can be sensual, this is it, all crispy edges and soft bread. It's meant for two to share, cut in neat halves. The menu makes room for lovely pastas, a flat-iron steak seasoned with chili crisp, a heap of pickled fries, and fried brie. Or come for a smoky cocktail from a crack team of friendly bartenders. 215 SE Ninth Ave #102

St. Jack

The pâté en croûte and pithivier from St. Jack

With its new chef John Denison at the helm, St. Jack is now one Portland's most enticing  restaurants, combining all the date night charm of classic French cooking with playful flair. Not many places serve savory puff pastry treats. Here you can have your pick of old-school pithivier (stuffed with the likes of duck, foie gras, and bitter greens), super French pâté en croûte (a kind of fancy meatloaf) or an inventive mushroom vol-au-vent (filled with sheep’s cheese and a soft egg). Summer's haricots verts gained a quick cult following, and in you want to impress a date, mention that the gougeres are killer. For dessert, share a batch of fresh madelines. 1610 NW 23rd Ave

Urdaneta

Give your date a taste of Basque country at this tapas bar, where you can pair a different vermouth or sherry with every sweet and savory dish, sip on pitchers of sangria, and choose from a sizable wine list, plus beers and Basque cider. Our must-order tapas include the bikini, a deceptively simple grilled ham and cheese drizzled with umami-filled truffle honey, and the interactive Tortilla Española 2.0, a thin egg omelet served alongside a mason jar filled with tender potato chunks and foamy aioli. Close the lid, shake the jar, spread the potato mixture on the omelet, fold and slice—all for the fluffiest Spanish tortilla of your life. 3033 NE Alberta St

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