Tableside romance

Sacramento’s most charming dining experiences

illustration by Sarah Hansel

A sure-fire way to someone’s heart is through a comforting meal, or at least that works for me. So if you’re playing Cupid and aim to remind your special guy or gal just how much you love and admire them, do it over dinner and drinks. Sacramento has much to offer, including scenic views of the river and the Tower Bridge under moonlight and hands-on experiences in private booths with skewers and fountains of melted chocolate. This Valentine’s Day, SN&R invites couples old and new to dine at one of these restaurants, among many others, because there’s nothing more romantic than warm lighting, a glass of wine and your favorite person staring back at you from across the table.

La Trattoria Bohemia

This East Sacramento restaurant blends Czech and Italian cuisines so you and your date can choose between comforting dishes such as chicken paprikash (slow-cooked chicken thighs spiced with sweet Hungarian paprika, cooked in a cream sauce with onions and served over späetzle) or handmade ravioli made fresh daily by owner Mark Lastuvka. Lastuvka emigrated from the Czech Republic in 1990 and learned how to make pasta from scratch from Maria Guerrera, owner of Roma II Pizzeria on Folsom Boulevard. He says Guerrera is like a mother to him, and now Lastuvka can bust out hundreds of perfectly shaped raviolis by noon. The ambiance of La Trattoria Bohemia is what makes this place a romantic destination for a bite to eat, a glass of wine and some nice conversation. The lighting is warm and the aromas of spices waft from the kitchen, giving the dining room a homey touch. Keep this spot in mind for when the weather warms up as it also has an intimate, outdoor patio. 3649 J Street, (916) 455-7803,


There a few Zocalo locations such as its restaurant on Howe Avenue and also its Roseville spot at the Fountains. Still, I’m partial to its Midtown locale with its tall, private booths, ample mood lighting and delicious cocktails. A must: the blackberry margarita. It’s made with organic, pureed blackberries, which creates a beautiful hue of violet. The kitchen also serves up an array of dishes inspired by the Mexican city of Puebla’s rich culinary history, such as mole. Zocalo’s mole boasts 26 ingredients, including dried fruits, toasted nuts, chiles and even chocolate. It’s the perfect dish to order during a romantic evening for two. 1801 Capitol Avenue, (916) 441-0303,


Sometimes, eating delicious meats on a stick and grilled oysters is all you need for a romantic evening. If this sounds like your style, take your sweetheart to Binchoyaki for some modern Japanese barbecue. Whether you sit at the bar or snag a window seat, the small, but cozy dining room has its customers right in the action of the busy kitchen. The aroma of savory meats alone is enough to lure any passersby. Here, it’s all about the perfect, crispy char on the meats. Couples have a lot of proteins to choose from, including New York strip, duck, chicken and a variety of seafood such as salmon, hamachi and tuna. Pro tip: Order a variety of items from the “Binchoyaki” portion of the menu and offer your partner a bite. 2226 10th Street, (916) 469-9448

The Melting Pot

Popularized in the 1960s, fondue made its way into the hearts of many with its pot of melted cheese meant for dipping artisan breads and seasonal vegetables. In Sacramento, we have The Melting Pot, a restaurant that’s truly dedicated to the Swiss food trend. Its website states that on V-Day and through the weekend, it expects to liquefy 400,000 pounds of chocolate, which couples will undoubtedly consume with skewered fruits, marshmallows and other sweet treats. An evening with the one you love over a molten fountain of melted cheese followed by a chocolate river sounds like a hands-on, yet playful experience. 814 15th Street, (916) 443-2347,

Rio City Café

The scenic riverfront view at Rio City Café is gorgeous in the evening. It’s the perfect opportunity to snag an intimate selfie with your loved one as the Tower Bridge glows in the background and the Sacramento River sparkles under moonlight. Located on the river, it’s fitting that Rio City’s dinner menu is studded with seafood options such as coconut prawns and grilled salmon in addition to steak offerings such as filet mignon wellington with portobello and cremini mushrooms. Rio City also has an impressive “after dinner” drinks menu with ports and dessert wines, chocolate martinis and Irish coffees to cap a night off in Old Sacramento just right. 1110 Front Street, (916) 442-8226,

Veg Café & Bar

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about steak and lobster. So for all you lovely vegetarians and vegans out there, treat your bae to a laid back evening at Veg. Chef and owner Suleka Sun-Lindley of Thai Basil in Midtown opened Veg right above her flagship restaurant. The cuisine at Veg combines Asian, Indian and Thai flavors. Featured on its special Valentine’s Day dinner menu is eggplant shakshuka with a tomato-based sauce, green bell peppers and onions, served with creamy polenta and grilled Beyond sausage. What’s not to love? And, since Veg is on the second floor, the view of Midtown’s bustling streets will make for ample people-watching opportunities and conversation inspiration. 2431 J Street, (916) 448-8768,