In the right setting, with the right person, the dinner table can encapsulate some truly peaceful, loving moments, sometimes to the exclusion of all else.

I suppose it begins on the drive or walk to the restaurant, where you can let the highs and lows of the day tumble out, along with any lingering stress or angst.

When you arrive to the restaurant, a switch is flipped and you’re immediately relieved of certain responsibilities. Someone welcomes you and chooses a comfortable place for you to sit, fills your water glass, and offers a couple hints on what tastes good before leaving you to make the final few decisions of the evening: what to eat and drink. With those determinations made, you have the night ahead of you to give yourself over to conversation and let your sweetheart hold your attention, your gaze, and maybe your hand across the table. It’s a time to be present and tune in to a shared experience with someone you love.

You’re served and looked after, checked in on and cleaned up after, all the while creating a new memory with your special person. By the end of the meal, you’ve had an hour or more of face to face time with another human, something I think is nourishing to our hearts and souls and maybe a little too rare these days.

Has it been too long for you? Has no one ushered you through a night of time well spent lately? With Valentine’s Day upon us, I implore you to treat yourself and your loved one to a night out. Here are a few perfectly memorable and romantic places to try:

Ocean Boulevard in Kitty Hawk

A classy, American bistro vibe with a seasonal menu, great wine list, and fantastic martinis that change throughout the year. Ocean Boulevard’s open kitchen is part of the experience here, as well as the ocean views from their upstairs tables. (

The Village Table & Tavern in Duck

Casual waterfront dining in Duck with panoramic sound views. This lush and cozy tavern offers delicious favorites like a bone-in pork chop with root vegetable hash, green beans cooked in bacon fat, and apple mostarda. (

The Paper Canoe in Duck

A southern-influenced menu with ethnic twists and daily specials, featuring locally caught seafood, plus wood oven pizzas and entrees. The cozy, intimate space overlooks the Currituck Sound and is the perfect spot for a romantic evening. (

The SaltBox Cafe in Colington

The corner booth at this charming and cushy spot on Colington Island is just right for enjoying the innovative and unforgettable food. The menu changes frequently and always offers unique and delicious twists on local seafood, fresh meats, and vegetables. Chef Amanda’s house-made desserts are a must. (

Aqua Restaurant in Duck

A delicious seasonal menu and exceptional wine list with stunning sound views. Look for their special Valentines Day menu offerings and gift packages to pamper your special someone at the spa upstairs. (

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