It's time to get off the couch. You’ve missed name-that-tune background music, a fancy cocktail, and food expertly prepared by someone else. Not to mention an opportunity to get out of yoga pants. This season isn’t just about Valentine’s Day— it’s about weekly explorations reconnecting (or connecting) as a couple and trying something new. We’ve scoured the North Shore for five romantic restaurants that will suit any mood, along with some fun activities to explore nearby. Try one, or try them all—this list should keep you busy until springtime.
Nine Elm American Bistro, Danvers
Nine Elm is like a warm embrace—the kind of place where they still put bread and butter on the table and the server comes by with a giant pepper grinder as each course arrives. The service is impeccable yet not at all stuffy—it’s low-pressure elegance. The menu is classic bistro fare, from the Caesar salad to the pan-roasted salmon. For a romantic take on surf and turf, one of you should order the filet mignon and the other should order the scallops, and you can share them both.
See a Show: Nine Elm is less than 15 minutes from the Cabot Theater in Beverly, which has a full slate in January and February, from Beatles tribute band 1964 to Symphony by the Sea, not to mention a special Flamenco Valentine’s Day celebration with the Juanito Pascual Trio.
Find out if the rumors are true that oysters are an aphrodisiac, with a full selection from this temple to all things sea and meat. The sleek modern space, done in subtle shades of gray, blue, and white, with a mix of high tops and stylish rattan seating, offers hip music and a buzzy vibe. Ask for a table by the window to people watch as you canoodle over your raw bar selections—we’d suggest the Power Tower, which comes with some of everything. Impress your date by ordering the caviar-topped burrata: creamy, salty, sexy, and very sharable. With an extensive and unique wine-by-the-glass program, it’s fun to each get a glass of something different and debate the merits. Or just spring for a bottle from Brine’s lovely Champagne selection.
Take a Walk: Newburyport’s charming downtown invites window-shopping, and for such a small city, has a remarkable number of options for culture. A five minute or less walk up the street will bring you to The Screening Room, where you can catch a variety of independent films and documentaries. Or a quick few minutes in the other direction brings you to the Firehouse Center for the Arts, which is putting on a live production of Next to Normal in January. Having your date night on the last Friday of the month? Check out the live music series at Blochaus Art Gallery, just around the corner.
Teresa’s Prime, North Reading
Teresa’s Prime in North Reading looks like a private club, because that’s what it used to be. With expansive grounds and a grand entrance, it’s bound to impress your sweetheart with full-on steakhouse selections, house-made pasta, and plenty of fish offerings. Start with the bacon appetizer: triple-thick slabs of pork belly, slow cooked to melty, smoky deliciousness, then seared fast in a Maker’s Mark Bourbon glaze and topped with Luxardo cherries. It’s a sexy, meaty Old Fashioned cocktail on a plate.
Dance On Continue the country club vibes with some ballroom or Latin dancing at Kadanse in Woburn. They offer adult classes almost every night of the week, and twice monthly Saturday night social dances that start with a group lesson.
Feather & Wedge, Rockport
This vibrant spot has weekly live music and a menu that changes frequently, spanning classics like wedge salad and French onion soup to fish stew and roast chicken. If you want elevated comfort food with a neighborly vibe and a great cocktail program (try the Jungle Juice to warm up your evening) tucked into one of the most charming downtowns around, Feather & Wedge is for you. Ask for a table with a water view when you make your reservation.
Listen up: The charms of Rockport, even in winter, are undeniable. Bundle up and stroll out Bearskin Neck, then swing into Tuck’s Candy if they are open. But for an unforgettable night, take in some live music at Shalin Liu Performance Center. For spectacular acoustics in a space like none you’ve ever seen, Shalin Liu’s walls are lined with natural stone, and the stage is backed by a floor-to-ceiling window that looks out on Rockport Harbor when the curtain is drawn back. Enjoy anything from swing to chamber music, as well as HD broadcasts of operas and plays.