Best Bars: Cuddle Up

Spark romance at these spots
Romantic All-Stars
806 Wine and Martini Bar // A Victorian love seat by a fire. No TVs. No games. No distractions. Just love the one you’re with. 806 Literary Road, Cleveland, 216-862-2912

La Cave du Vin // A basement hideaway as dark and sultry as a good syrah. 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-932-6411,

Budapest Blonde // You, a date, a glass of wine and a laid-back atmosphere. No one interferes. Perfect. 6901 Rockside Road, Independence,

Wine Bar Rocky
River // The West Side pickup place and date
spot for middle-agers who’d rather munch on duck enchiladas than chicken wings. 1313 Linda St., Rocky River, 440-799-4300,

Market Avenue Wine Bar // Its simple style exudes charm: soft lighting, tables perfect for pairs and 600 wines. Picking a bottle to share is a surefire convo starter. 2521 Market Ave., Cleveland, 216-696-9463,
Lava Lounge
Eleven years ago, when the hippest neighborhood in Cleveland was just starting to hit its stride, Fat Cats owners Ricardo Sandoval and Jack Anfang realized what was missing in their lives: a cool little neighborhood bar. Someplace so cool, it would feel right at home in Chicago or even New York City. So Sandoval and Anfang secured a building, splashed up a coat of red paint, minimized the lighting, fleshed out the atmosphere with candles and couches and opened Lava Lounge. These days Tremont is the epicenter of cool, and Lava Lounge is its pulsing heart. There’s local art on the walls, a laughably small kitchen turning out some of the best late-night bar treats in town (share the hummus or splurge on the pomme frites) and a DJ playing mood music so creamy it drips out of the speakers like expensive liqueur. It still caters to artists and intellectuals, but now it draws another crowd, too: couples. Want to convince your date that you’re sensitive, smart and in-the-know? Take her here. Order champagne. Be witty. It’ll work. 1307 Auburn Ave., Cleveland, 216-589-9112
= $5  = $9

D’Vine Wine Bar
Twice monthly, the D’Vine staff congregates at the bar for wine training. It’s a tough job, but one that ensures your bartender will offer an intelligent suggestion next time you’re staring helplessly at the wine list and trying to choose from 60 glass pours (a dozen new wines rotate in every 12 weeks or so). Such comforting concepts have made D’Vine a Warehouse District favorite of the happy hour crowd and date-night clientele, who come for quiet conversation and a lengthy menu designed for sharing. Petite, antique stained-glass chandeliers hang over the bar, and a brick wall climbs out of view toward the soaring ceiling, providing a city-gritty backdrop to the dark woodwork and Victorian-era aesthetics. We were intrigued by the area off the main barroom, removed from the bar and filled with a couch and comfortable chairs. A crackling fireplace provided most of the light. Known as the cigar room (pre-smoking ban era), now it’s simply a place to get away. 836 W. St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, 216-241-8463,
= $5  = $10

87 West 2
Maybe it’s the warm glow from the burnt-orange décor, the actual warmth from the stone fireplace or the mishmash of moveable chairs and tables, but 87 West 2 exudes the ease of a cozy coffee house. Yet here, cappuccino makers are replaced by Enomatic wine machines pouring 2-ounce samples of regularly rotating bottles. Small plates and fondue trump muffins. And there’s no jarring grind of coffee beans, only the resonant chatter of patrons from young couples to empty nesters to Browns players. In a booth built perfectly for two, a couple cuddles in quiet seclusion, feeling as comfortable as the guy at a nearby table who rests his shoeless feet on a stool. “It almost feels like their own living room,” says co-owner Scott Kuhn. “They kind of let their guard down a little bit.” With that feeling and a good glass of wine in hand, it’s easy to relax amid the frenzy of Crocker Park. 287 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake, 440-250-2334,
 = $4  = $8-$9

The Fairmount Martini & Wine Bar

Slipping into the Fairmount on a cold, quiet night, it’s only natural that the fireplace is the first thing you notice. Firelight softens the cozy atmosphere, a welcome addition to a barroom humming with easy conversation. A Raconteurs song playing in the background gives a nod to the bar’s trendy rep, as does the conversation-inducing drink list. (Is the Spicy Martini with pepperoncini juice, Tabasco and horseradish an acceptable evening alternative to the Bloody Mary? Discuss.) Come summer, hipster students, sexy doctors and East Side trendsetters will flood the secluded patio out back, but on this winter evening the interior is, thankfully, a bit more sedate. The Fairmount gets more than the usual share of 20- and 30-something regulars streaming in from the Clinic, Case and the rest of University Circle. With the young professional crowd comes an onslaught of singles, and there are a whole lotta pheromones hovering around the Fairmount. Red walls and strategically placed candles provide a romantic backdrop for evenings fraught with meaning. Last year a couple came in, ordered a bottle of champagne and told their server that they’d had their first date at that very table three years ago. He proposed. She accepted. Not that we’re hinting or anything. 2448 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-229-9463
   = $5  = $8 

Going Out Guide

 serves food; kitchen closes before midnight
 serves food; kitchen open after midnight
 singles spot
 live music regularly
  average cost of a beer
 average cost of a cocktail
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