As evidenced by Racked's Wedding Week last week, we're deep into nuptials season. Thinking about popping the big question? Here's a list of twelve restaurants that are perfect for a marriage proposal. Some are very fancy, others are not, but all of them serve great food in unique dining rooms, and will know how to handle your special moment. As a bonus, we've included anecdotes from the chefs, owners and general managers of each establishment, about couples that have asked and answered at their tables.
Click on each restaurant name for contact and location info, as well as more Eater coverage.
12) Corton: Drew Nieporent and chef Paul Liebrandt's chic Tribeca restaurant is riding a wave of good buzz right now following the release of the excellent Liebrandt documentary A Matter of Taste. This is the perfect place to pop the question if your significant other is wowed by modern cuisine, as even the most ambitious dishes here have an accessible hook. The staff will quietly anticipate your every move.
Drew Nieporent, restaurateur: "At Corton, we've had engagements, but they're very understated. We had one just the other night, but there was no ring in the cake or anything like that. Back at Montrachet though, there was one where the guy did the whole 'get on his knees in the middle of the restaurant and beg his bride' thing. He ordered Dom Perignon for the whole restaurant and made a whole scene about it. He was a real wise guy, a regular, so it wasn't surprising coming from him. But we didn't even know he was going to do it. When I saw him, at first I was thinking get the f*ck off the floor." [Photo: Krieger]
11) Recette: Recette serves vibrant fine dining-style plates, in a small room on a quaint corner of the far West Village. It's an intimate restaurant, and it's not particularly expensive, so this could be a place you revisit on other special occasions, down the road.
Jesse Schenker, chef and owner: "Recently, a customer proposed to his girlfriend early on in the dinner — he was so anxious and couldn’t sit there through the meal with the ring in his pocket. She screamed so loud with excitement that I dropped my spoon while I was plating!” [Photo: Krieger]
10) Joseph Leonard: Gabe Stulman's West Village restaurant is the kind of place that some people would like to eat at every night — cozy and cool, with interesting bistro food served at a reasonable price. It has an off-the-cuff charm, so if you propose here, it will surely come as a surprise.
Gabe Stulman, Owner: "I assume it's difficult because we don't take reservations and that is something people like to plan. I, however, proposed to my wife around the corner from Joseph Leonard and we walked back to the restaurant to celebrate." [Photo: (Krieger]
9) GILT: GILT is one of the most romantic restaurants in the city, due in large part to its Baroque, theatrically-lit dining room, and location inside of the majestic New York Palace Hotel. Chef Justin Bogle has a gift for preparing fine dining classics with a number of unexpected ingredients and twists, and sommelier Patrick Cappiello has put together one of New York's great sleeper wine lists.
Stephane Lacroix, General Manager: "I would say we have an engagement taking place at GILTon a weekly basis, as I believe guests see the restaurant as the perfect setting for a romantic, elegant and dramatic backdrop. Quite often, the gentlemen will ask us for advice and we will guide them on timing so they can just relax and enjoy the evening. The staff will usually bring the ring under a dome just before dessert, and if the answer is the one expected, we will then bring to the table champagne to enhance the celebration."
8) The Meatball Shop: Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow's The Meatball Shop is not a fancy restaurant, but it is a place that many people love both for the food, and the convivial vibe. As it turns out, this Lower East Side hot spot was recently part of an elaborate marriage proposal.
Damien Domenack, General Manager: "We had a gentleman call up and ask if we would deliver a small order of meatballs to his hotel room, and he asked if we would place a hole in one of the balls. He needed the hole in order to place a ring inside, we of course were able to do so. Not less than an hour after the delivery he called us back and thanked us, turns out he got a yes!"
7) Blue Hill at Stone Barns: For a really special place to pop the question, make the day trip to Poncantico Hills, NY for dinner at Dan Barber's grand farm-to-table restaurant. Arrive early for a tour of the grounds, then sit down for a long, leisurely meal in the dining room, sampling the best that the season has to offer. The team at Stone Barns will make sure the proposal goes off without a hitch.
Irene Hamburger, Vice President: "Concierge Robert Delaney gauges each couples' sense of 'adventure' and proceeds from there. Often grooms-to-be allow Robert to set up candlelit tables in the restaurant's tisane garden or Stone Barns Center's vegetable fields; in the winter months, he fills the Center's Silo with candles and champagne. One night we turned the 'engagement spot' three times (for a total of five proposal that evening)."[Photo: Gothamist]
6) Luke's Lobster: Luke Holden and Ben Conniff's casual East Village lobster shack is a popular first date spot, but the restaurant has also been the backdrop for a few marriage proposals, too.
Ben Conniff, Co-Owner: "The best story is from last year. A pair of friends had decided to see if they could be something more and went on a date. That first date was at Luke's in the East Village — a lobster roll topped off with a romantic stroll in Tompkins Square Park. It must have gone well, because a few months later they came back, recreated the scene, and the gentleman proposed. We helped the happy couple get pics of themselves sharing a lobster roll for their engagement album, and it was awesome to be a part of such a joyous occasion."
5) Le Cirque: Le Cirque is one of New York's all-time classic restaurants. The Maccioni family has mastered the art of pampering, and chef Craig Hopson's menu includes a number of luxurious new dishes, alongside standards like the lobster risotto and black tie scallops.
Sirio's son Mauro Maccioni has seen a lot of proposals in his day, including some fairly strange ones: "We had a guest have us bake his ring in the creme brûlée. His fiancée almost said no after almost breaking a tooth on it." [Photo: Jennifer MacFarlane/NYM]
4) Pastis: Keith McNally's blockbuster brasserie always has a celebratory feel to it, and the menu is full of decadent, expertly cooked Parisian classics that you and your date are sure to love. And if everything goes according to plan, Pastis boasts an extensive Champagne selection, in case you want to keep the party going.
When asked about customer proposals, restaurateur Keith McNally quipped, "I think there's been more divorces than marriage proposals at my restaurants." Pastis Manager Elizabeth Negrotto has, however, seen a few: "Last year there was a couple from California, the guy was a fireman, and he proposed to his girlfriend on the outside café. He pulled up in the firetruck?he must’ve gotten the local fire house involved. So he surprised her by being in town, and by proposing. They were a very sweet couple in their late twenties. She was in town for some reason, and she said yes." [Photo Credit]
3) Le Bernardin: Le Bernardin is perhaps New York's favorite fine dining restaurant. Of course, the big draw is Eric Ripert's bracingly fresh seafood dishes, but the carefully-timed service and expansive wine list complete the experience. A truly classy place for a marriage proposal.
Mandy Oser, Director of Strategic Partnerships: "A guy had hired a photographer to follow himself and his girlfriend (they were at the Empire State Building first) and take pictures of them, surreptitiously. When they got to the restaurant, the photographer was stationed nearby (all secretly), and captured the entire proposal, from when he got down on one knee. Another customer wanted to put the ring in a glass of champagne (why?), and unfortunately the girl didn't even notice as she was drinking. The guy had to point it out to her and sort of ruin the surprise. Needless to say, everyone was a bit on edge with that one!"[Photo Credit]
2) Eleven Madison Park: Danny Meyer's four star restaurant has a sensational dining room, with high ceilings, glimmering art deco fixtures, and windows that look out onto Madison Square Park. Daniel Humm's food will wow even the most seasoned gourmands, and the service is some of the best in the country.
Will Guidara, General Manager: "It was early February and we got a call from a gentleman who wanted to propose to his girlfriend at the restaurant on Valentine’s Day. He wanted to integrate “their” song into the proposal. That night, we loaded the song onto an iPhone and placed the iPhone on a tray along with two plates, one with the ring on it and one with tissues on it. We covered both plates with silver cloches and began playing the song. A server brought the tray out to the dining room where they were sitting and as the music got closer to her, she started looking around, trying to find out where the song was coming from. The server approached the table with the tray, set the plates down in front of them, and removed the silver cloches from the plates. The plate in front of her had the tissues and the plate in front of him had the ring. She looked at her plate in confusion, but then saw him kneeling in front of her proposing. They were sitting in the mezzanine level right up against the window, and the entire dining room was watching the whole thing happen. Of course she said yes, and the dining room erupted in applause. That’s when the tissues came in handy?"[Photo: The Wandering Eater]
1) Daniel: Daniel Boulud's fine dining palace offers sumptuous, at times very ambitious French food, in a room that's blessed with beautiful, soft light. The Daniel team also loves working with guests on their special occasions.
John Winterman, Maitre d': "It's a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but for us we've seen it quite often, so it's easy for us to approach it in a calm fashion, and let them know that they're in good hands. We'll present the ring as a surprise course, and we pull the cloche off — he's got an empty plate, obviously, and she's got a beautiful ring sitting in a velvet box, or on sea salt. Then we step back, and we always have champagne ready. Not too long ago, we had a young man who was up and down from his table about seven or eight times, because he was so nervous. He kept coming to the front desk to ask us for advice on how to do this, and to calm himself down. We finally let him know that by getting up that many times, and using the excuse of going to the restroom, she was going to think he had a problem, and that he had to calm down and get back to the table. We kind of talked him down off the ledge from that one. He calmed down, we presented the ring at the moment of truth, she said yes, and we poured champagne, and everything went as it should. But he had just an hour and a half there of freaking out..."
BONUS anecdote: And in case this is getting a little ooey gooey for some readers, here's a not so pleasant story from an anonymous GM at one of the city's other top proposal spots: "It was a Korean couple who came in, and they sat at a table and they were happy and whatnot. And the captain watched him propose and give her the ring. She looked at the ring and essentially started crying, put down the ring, and left the restaurant. And then the guy gets up and leaves the restaurant too. And he left the ring too. We've called him three or four times and he hasn't come back for it. And to be honest, if I got the ring I might say no too."