Local restaurants rank among the most romantic

With Valentine’s Day still more than a week away, there are four local restaurants with reputations for romance that are booking up quickly.

Mona Lisa, the Craftwood Inn and Briarhurst Manor in Manitou Springs, along with The Pepper Tree on the southwest side of Colorado Springs, were ranked among the 100 most romantic restaurants in the country by OpenTable.

OpenTable allows diners to make online reservations and then requests restaurant reviews following the reservation. With more than 5 million reviews of more than 12,000 restaurants, the company was able to compile a list of the most romantic restaurants.

There were 16 restaurants in California, eight in Texas, seven in New York, six in Hawaii, five in Ohio and Nevada and four in Arizona, Colorado and Florida to receive the honor.

All four of the Colorado honorees are located in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs.

“Manitou is a very kind of romantic place in itself,” said E.J. Kelley, general manager for the Craftwood Inn. “It’s nestled into the foothills right at the foot of Pikes Peak. It’s got a very relaxing wonderful feel with wide sidewalks and better weather than almost anywhere.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Craftwood is a 100-plus-year-old English Tudor mansion tucked into its own hillside away from busy Manitou Avenue. There’s a large fireplace inside and intricate copper details from the home’s history as a craft house, Kelley said.

It’s also regularly ranked among the top wedding venues in the Pikes Peak Region by local publications, Kelley said.

Couples come to the restaurant for anniversaries, first dates, romantic birthday celebrations and proposals.

“We have nights where we have a guy on his knee proposing at the side of the table and then an hour later someone else is asking us to put a diamond ring in the desert,” Kelley said.

The Briarhurst is similarly attractive to couples. The restaurant, a Victorian mansion in Manitou, appeared on the OpenTable list last year when just 50were named.

“We’re in a secluded area,” said Ken Healey, Briarhurt president. “We have intimate small rooms, quiet grounds where people can walk and beautiful wood interiors.”

The restaurant has hosted thousands of weddings, Healey said.

“The house itself has a romantic history,” he said.

Dr. Bell, who built the home, called his wife his “magnificent distraction,” Healy said.

This summer, the restaurant helped a couple celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary.

“And they were married here,” Healey said. “We’ve been a restaurant for 37 years consecutively. But people have been getting married here for probably 130 years.”

Both Briarhurst and Craftwood are offering prix fix menus for Valentine’s Day and both are nearly booked up.