202 Dovercourt, at Argyle, 416-532-7397.
It's all about the love. For more than a decade, Jesus and Sylvia's relaxed Cuban cantina on a quiet west-side residential street has been downtown's number-one date resto. Sure, the people-watching amounts to occasional neighbours strolling past on their way to the laundromat, but the seductive spot's starry-eyed ambience, all whispering trees overhead and the sparkle of candlelight on wine glasses, is a scene all its own. Add a pre-Castro Havana tapas card made to share (grilled and then pressed marinated pork, ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches with sweet pickle, fried mashed potato papa rellena stuffed with spicy ground beef and green olives, powerful pork picadillo de marnita hash with jalapeños and raisins on saffron-scented rice) and understand why reservations are essential.
155 King E, at Jarvis, 416-366-4040.
This upscale Italian eatery set on a water-featured terrace behind historic St. Lawrence Hall is one of the core's most amorous rendezvous. While fountains tinkle, regulars tuck into starters like Caesar salad and Atlantic salmon tossed with fresh fennel and tart mandarin orange, delivered to table on a slab of ice, followed by massive secondi like Costoletta Milanese veal cutlets.
455 King W, at Spadina, 416-977-1234.
This casual New York loft-style French bistro heats up once it takes it to the cobblestones of its west-side courtyard for the season. Find classic Gallic cuisine - Alaskan king crab cakes over watercress, pancetta-wrapped saddle of rabbit, warm apple beignets topped with cider foam, mascarpone and house-made vanilla bean ice cream - and an authorative sommelier-led wine list available by the glass.
Hair of the Dog
425 Church, at Wood, 416-964-2708.
Kitty-corner from Maple Leaf Gardens and just south of Toronto's gay village, this relaxed multi-level watering hole also sports an exceptionally lovely curbside garden deck. Trellised and overflowing with plants, it's just the spot for a discreet encounter over multiple martinis and unusually tasty veggie burgers. Don't-miss weekend brunches, too.
Red Tea Box
696 Queen W, at Euclid, 416-203-8882.
Now in its sixth summer, this luxe bake shop with a tiny rear terrace and coachhouse specializes in sensational pan-Asian bento boxes, spectacular Pacific Rim sandwich 'n' salad combos, and breathtaking desserts. Warning: reservations are not taken, so if you manage to snag one of the three or so mismatched country-chic tables in the coach house, consider yourselves very lucky indeed.
More romantic patios
2409 Yonge, at Broadway, 416-481-6865.
A slightly hidden walkway entrance leads to a chic singles bar.
294 Adelaide West, at John, 416-979-1910.
A venerable Italian resto-lounge in a converted clubland garage attracts an upscale crowd.
Auberge du Pommier
4150 Yonge, at York Mills, 416-222-2220.
Snuggled between two recreated 19th-century crofters' cottages, this Hogs Hollow brasserie has been a dining destination for lovers since 1987.
456 Wellington W, at Spadina, 416-260-9393.
Miami-like spa complete with cabanas and wading pool.
Jeff Healey's Road House
56 Blue Jays Way, at Wellington W, 416-593-2626.
Toronto's house of blues rocks seven nights a week.
Langolino Wine Bar
50 Clinton, at College, 416-530-4710.
Long-running Italian wine bar open nightly from 5 pm for dinner al fresco.
256 Augusta, at College, 416-929-4900.
Here's a funky low-key spot with an intimate street-side enclosure serving no-nonsense French bistro classics. Smooth service and nightly $30 three-course prix fixe dinners, too.
12 Amelia, at Parliament, 416-924-9901.
Mainstream French bistro in Cabbagetown with garden and $17.95 all-you-can-eat weekend brunch.
595 Markham, at Bloor, 416-536-3211.
Except in the dreaded dead of winter, diners can eat outdoors on a covered, heated patio at this New Orleans-style eatery.
41 Clinton, at College, 416-533-9619.
This quiet tree-shrouded eatery attracts celebs like Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida for Italian-style classics like Cumbrae lamb chops and garlicky tiger shrimp.
3 Charles E, at Yonge, 416-935-0240.
Whitewashed walls, ceiling and floors provide a neutral backdrop for low-slung overstuffed sofas piled with pillows and cashmere throws.