Sometimes, rather than trying to impress your significant other with your chef skills and risking burning the meal or the house down (we kid!), you take the easier (and safer) route by going out to dinner (after spending the day on a romantic outing, of course). Fortunately, California has plenty of restaurants that help set the mood with their charming yet intimate atmospheres and breathtaking views of the city. Not all of them are super expensive or require you to dress like you’re about to walk down the aisle, either (unless, of course, you’re planning to propose). Here are some of the most romantic restaurants in California:
The Cellar Restaurant and Spirit Room: European Inspired French Cuisine
305 N Harbor Blvd, Fullerton, California 92832
Conceived, designed, and built by the same artistic craftsmen as Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, since 1969, The Cellar has maintained a tradition of gracious European cuisine and service, as a popular romantic destination. Being one of the most truly unique fine dining restaurants in the area, it is the pride of Fullerton. Accessed via a flight of dimly-lit stairs, The Cellar Restaurant, located in the basement of Fullerton’s historic Villa del Sol, is reminiscent of Old Europe. The Cellar retains all of its architectural and aesthetic beauty from its early conception and building—soft lighting, chandeliers, structured arches, cave-like walls, and two cozy fireplaces gives the feeling of being in the private home of aristocracy. Culinary excellence abounds with only the finest and freshest foods prepared in a lighter version of classical French cuisine. The Cellar is the perfect setting for an intimate and romantic evening of fine dining.
The Hobbit: Multi Course Experience
2932 E Chapman Ave, Orange, California 92869
Guests are invited into the wine cellar to begin their evening. There you are handed the menu for the evening and a flute of Hobbit Champagne. Hot and cold hors d’oeuvres are placed throughout the cellar for you to nibble upon while selecting your wine for dinner. Executive chef and owner Mike Philippi, along with his wife Debra, are present in the cellar to assist in your wine selection, from more than a thousand labels.
Guests are then invited upstairs to their own table. There they enjoy a shellfish or fish course, followed by a fowl or light meat and then a salad course. Take a walk, relax on the patios or visit the kitchen to speak with the chefs, as a brief “intermission” between courses. Ten to fifteen minutes later guests return to their reset table. A flavorful sorbet is served next as a quick palate-cleanser. The main entrée complete with accompanying vegetables, is the focus of the night. Dessert arrives next, always available with a tempting list of coffee drinks, liqueurs, and fine cognacs.
Saddle Peak Lodge: Modern Cuisine
419 Cold Canyon Rd, Calabasas, California 91302
For at least a century, Saddle Peak Lodge has been a place of romance and great dining for generations of those who seek a unique and historical experience. The Lodge had always been a simple dry-goods, beer, and sandwich shop, but was thrust into a new era after being discovered by Hollywood. Featured in many movie classics, it’s served as a respite for stars from the nearby ranches of Warner Brothers, Paramount, and Twentieth Century Fox. In 1985 the Lodge changed significantly—the entire structure was renovated by then-owner Grand American Fare Inc. Holding to the vision of its founder, Al Ehringer, the unique ambiance at Saddle Peak today was created in the massive timbers and log walls, its native rock booth, hunting and fishing gear, elegant salon paintings, and its fantasy and warmth.
Napa Valley Wine Train, Sonoma Valley: Mediterranean Inspired Cuisine
1275 McKinstry St., Napa, California 94559
Most of the cars on the Napa Valley Wine Train consist were built in 1915 by the Pullman Standard Company. Built entirely out of steel, they were the height of technological advancement of their time. For its Ski Train service from Denver to Winter Park, the Denver Rio Grande Western Railroad bought several of these Northern Pacific cars, which remained in service on the Denver Ski Train until they were purchased by the Napa Valley Wine Train in 1987. After acquiring them, the Napa Valley Wine Train began an extensive restoration project to restore and reimagine the cars.
After boarding at the McKinstry Street Station, conveniently located in Downtown Napa, guests travel through the old industrial section of Napa. The Napa Valley Wine Train crosses the Rural Urban Limit Line (RUL) about ten minutes into the journey—and you will be treated to the spectacular scenery of the famed agricultural preserve of Napa Valley.
The Napa Valley Wine Train is foremost a restaurant and takes pride in the gourmet quality cuisine created on the antique moving train. The Napa Valley Wine Train maintains the tradition and art of food preparation in a confined space on board an operating train. Three onboard kitchens allow chefs to create works of art from scratch and to order.
Little River Inn: European Inspired and American Cuisine
7751 CA-1, Little River, California 95456
Resting at the Pacific Ocean, Little River Inn has greeted guests for five generations with dramatic, ever-changing ocean views that provide a breathtaking backdrop for your stay. At Little River Inn time slows down enough to truly appreciate what happens when location and hospitality coincide, creating an evening to remember.
Main Dining Room
Family hospitality meets fine cuisine at this landmark coastal resort. Looking out upon ocean and garden views, the Little River Inn Restaurant is well known for its comfortable atmosphere and enticing fresh local fare.
Ole’s Whale Watch Bar
The bar’s character says a lot about the inn itself. For those who wish to complement the view with dinner, they offer a complete bar menu offering lighter fare, with dishes like Dungeness crab ravioli in sweet pea puree, a tart of fig, prosciutto, and roasted onion with a balsamic reduction, or a combination of Little River Inn’s classic fried calamari with Asian slaw. Order from the bar menu and sip a martini as you enjoy an incredible sunset over the Pacific Ocean from your seat at Ole’s Whale Watch Bar.
And should you intend to over indulge for any reason, Little River is an inn, so you can book a room and make your visit a multi-day event.