National best-of roundups are doomed to disappoint. Readers inevitably look for their favorite spots, often in cities that don't even make it on the list. And whose opinion are we considering? Critics or regular Joes? OpenTable, like Zagat and Yelp, relies on crowdsourced reviews. With the recent release of their "100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America," the company shares the results of data-crunching reviews of more than 20,000 eateries across the country submitted by five million readers. It's fascinating to scan, but hard to act on.
Give the editors of the site credit for owning up to shortcomings in the introductory paragraphs. Only 33 of our 50 United States are included. So 17 states are super-bummed (sorry, Minnesota and Vermont and Kentucky...). Los Angeles and San Francisco each have just one place on the list: LA's The Little Door and San Fran's Forbes Island. New York state has eight restaurants on the list, though three of the spots are not in New York City—which shows diversity even if it baffles Big Apple dwellers.
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Beyond questioning the authority of these voices, there is the issue of criteria. What is romantic exactly? And when does it spill over into cheesy? I was surprised not to see One If by Land, Two If by Sea among the NYC picks, but then again it's been long overhyped in some people's estimations. And, some would argue, the food doesn't live up to the scenery—a common critique of "cozy" romantic spots, though it may not matter to some. "Exceptional ambience" is indeed the unifying theme in this roundup, which explains why restaurants in historic buildings (New York's Rainbow Room) and inns (Duling Kurtz House in Exton, PA) made it to the list. French and Italian cuisines dominate the results, followed by steak and fondue—cheesy in every sense of the word.