It was too much of a challenge to resist. The following email has been slightly rewritten -- for pretty obvious reasons.
"Dear Janice: In a week or so, I'll be coming to Buffalo, flying in to propose to my Western New York girlfriend. Can you recommend a romantic setting/restaurant in the Buffalo area? Thanks in advance.
"P.S. It's going to be a surprise so please don't publish this."
-- Signed, Hopeful
I am printing this with your permission, Mr. H. After all, Valentine's Day is not that far away and the answer may be of interest to all.
The only problem we have here is defining "romantic" -- the word connotes different things to different people. Given the right circumstances, even a hot dog stand can fill the bill. But in this case, I'm opting for fairly small, upscale spots where the tables are reasonably far apart and you can actually hear each other talk.
In other columns, I have mentioned Rue Franklin, 341 Franklin St.; Lombardo's, 1198 Hertel Ave., and Oliver's, 2095 Delaware Ave. Here are a few more:
E.B. Green's, 10 Fountain Plaza, because it is beautiful in an understated, elegant way -- and you're not sitting in the other customers' laps. The lighting is just dim enough and the dining tables are pretty far from the bar, although if it's the right night, Jackie Jocko will be playing there and you will be able just to hear the strains of his piano. The menu is meat based, but seafood is also available.
Then there is Sinatra's, 938 Kenmore Ave., which concentrates on hearty, home-style Italian-American food. The red sauce is great, but that's not the reason I am choosing it. I like the musical background. Frank Sinatra (no relation) tapes play constantly -- at a decent audio level.
Thai Orchid Cafe, 416 Evans St., Williamsville, is a suburban strip plaza Asian restaurant, but the abundance of orchids everywhere makes it very special. This could easily be your choice.
Let me also mention the 31 Club, 31 N. Johnson Park, with its luxurious decor. In this case, I am recommending you sit in the barroom, even though it tends to be busy. The booths along the back are very deep, very commodious and quite private. Ask for one of them.
Finally, if you are up to crossing the border, consider a short drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake. It has plenty of restaurants that are large, pretentious and over the top, but I suggest the Stone Road Grille, 238 Mary St., which is where the residents go.
It is small, it's clubby, maybe even slightly cramped. And though I know that food may not be the biggest thing on your mind on this occasion, it is excellent -- and so is the choice of wine.
And by the way, good luck!
Send your restaurant and dining questions and comments to longtime News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at firstname.lastname@example.org.