Kerri Westenberg
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What do all romantic restaurants have in common? Not necessarily red roses and high prices. I look for great food, attentive but unassertive service and tables that aren’t inches away from your neighbor’s. In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, a view of one of them helps, too.

I polled well-traveled foodies at Star Tribune to come up the most romantic restaurants worth a short drive. (Among the experts were restaurant critic Rick Nelson, food and travel writer Amelia Rayno and features editor Simon Peter Groebner.) The resulting list is in honor of Valentine’s Day, which may or may not find you out of town. In Travel, I write for the plan-ahead crowd. Good thing that romance isn’t confined to one day a year. Here are our picks, from north to south:

1. Justine’s Fine Dining, the cozy restaurant at Gunflint Lodge, has a view that takes in Gunflint Lake and Canada beyond. A fireplace adds warmth, as do the popular walleye dishes, from chowder to quesadillas (gunflint.com).

2. Lakeside Dining Room at Lutsen Resort occupies prime North Shore real estate in Lutsen’s historic lodge, overlooking a rocky shoreline. Inside, there is lots of warm wood, some of it carved in the Nordic style. Menu options include traditional fare such as Swedish meatballs (lutsenresort.com).

3. 502 Restaurant at Chase on the Lake in Walker, Minn., pours a great hot chocolate — spiked with raspberry, mint or butterscotch schnapps. Tables overlook Leech Lake (chaseonthelake.com).

4. Va Bene Berarducci’s Caffé in Duluth is casual, serves yummy and relatively inexpensive Italian fare and has an astounding view of Lake Superior. Extend the evening with a post-dinner stroll on the Lakewalk (vabenecaffe.com).

5. Nosh, in Lake City, Minn., delivers on the lake view with Lake Pepin — technically an extra-wide stretch of the Mississippi River — and great local fare, too (noshrestaurant.com).

Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.