Synonymous with love as it is with Old World charm, One if by Land, Two if by Sea, located at 17 Barrow Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, is a restaurant that is not only a fine dining landmark, but also the perfect setting for a romantic proposal.
The two-story brick building was built in the early 1800s as a carriage house during a time when many of the founding fathers owned entire streets in New York City. Opening as a restaurant in 1973, the wood-clad space boasts interior garden views from large arched windows, exposed brick, multiple fireplaces and grand chandeliers that pepper the 20-plus-foot ceilings and cast a soft ambience over the dining room below.
The atmosphere emanates romance, but the most romantic aspect of all certainly resides with the fact that the restaurant plays host, on average, to two proposals every week. Those numbers typically go up during the proposal season, which takes place from the end of November through February, often with a slight drop off during January.
Billie Holiday crooned over the speakers as Orchid Huerta, 45, the head server who has worked at the restaurant for seven years, walked through the main dining room, introducing each section with the familiarity most people reserve for old friends.
As the ceilings cascaded down from the atrium, she came to a stop in a smaller space with tufted leather benches lining the walls. Four arched windows, each with an accompanying candlelit table, line the outside of the room. “I love this area here a lot — the feel here is a little more intimate,” Ms. Huerta said.
It’s in this space that she sees up to 10 proposals per week during the busiest month of February, oftentimes with multiple proposals happening per night. Many guests will note that they plan to propose on their OpenTable reservations, but these notes are often followed by phone calls directly to the restaurant to sort out details. This is when the restaurant really shines.
“We have the person bring the ring to the maître d’ at some point during the evening and we put it under a domed platter surrounded by rose petals and they bring it out as an extra course,” said Lisa Gardner, 62, who has worked at the restaurant for 30 years and currently serves as the director of special events.
This is not only a romance-forward gesture, it allows the restaurant to head-off future questions and quandaries by offering guests a streamlined proposal option. That said, some couples still choose to bestow the ring in their own way.
“They’ve put it in glasses of champagne, or our signature dish is the beef Wellington, and they’ll have it sitting on top of the beef Wellington or on a plate with their oysters,” Ms. Gardner said. “I would have to say that nothing is as gracious as the rose platter, but some people have in mind to do it a certain way so we accommodate them.”
These accommodations have even included people coming by days before to map-out inconspicuous spots where their hired photographer or videographer can sit to get the perfect shot of the proposal. Of course, Ms. Huerta and Ms. Gardner are there with their seating recommendations and answers to the myriad questions about the day-of that, at this point, they have come to expect.
Benjamin Wong, 38, proposed to his fiancée, Kaman Font, 30, on Jan. 25 after searching the web for the most romantic restaurants in New York City. He called ahead to specify that he would be proposing, and the staff’s suggestion of the rose petals and platter only confirmed his venue choice. Mr. Font called it “an unforgettable memory,” and Ms. Wong said the other restaurant patrons even cheered after she said yes.
“They were very warm and very kind — a few of them actually came and talked to me after the proposal and congratulated me,” Mr. Wong said. “It was very touching.” After all, with an environment this alluring, a certain degree of romance is expected even by those who aren’t popping the question.
On occasion, though, Ms. Huerta has had to gently quiet large groups next to a table with an impending proposal by saying, “Give us one moment because something beautiful is about to happen.”
Ms. Huerta said she’s seen everything from hired violinists to ornate custom ring-holders brought out during proposals, but on Jan. 18, she witnessed a double proposal for the very first time. Xiaolong Lin, 27, and Keyi Chen, 30, who live in Flushing, Queens, booked online and came a few days ahead to choose the perfect table. Mr. Lin’s sister, 29-year-old Meng Lin, dates Mr. Chen. And it doesn’t hurt that Ms. Lin is also friends with her brother’s new fiancée, 23-year-old Jie Chen.
Mr. Lin and Mr. Chen ordered enormous bouquets, each containing 99 red roses, which Ms. Huerta helped them hide by storing them in the restaurant’s Constitution Room. Since it was a Wednesday night, the restaurant wasn’t crowded, which allowed the couples to take extra time on the dishes from their seven-course tasting menu. It also afforded their photographer and videographer more space to set up.
“There were 99 roses, which means good fortunes in Chinese culture — either 99 or 999,” Mr. Chen said. “We’ve been planning this for a long time and I was super excited.”
Right before the dessert course was brought out, both men went back to grab their giant bouquets with the help of Ms. Huerta. They set down the roses, each of them got down on one knee, and both women said yes. A dessert plate was quickly brought to the table with “Congratulations” written in chocolate, compliments of the staff.
As the restaurant heads into its busiest month of the year, proposal-wise, Ms. Huerta said there’s nothing they can do but look at the day’s reservations and plan. “The system only allows reservations up to two months in advance, but the sooner you make them, the better,” she said. And if you’re looking for a low-key night that’s not as crowded, Ms. Huerta suggested as a good option.
Of course, even if you aren’t planning a proposal but you want to soak in a little romance, it’s almost as though this restaurant summons special occasions.
“We get brides and grooms after they get married at City Hall,” Ms. Huerta said, “we’ll have brides in their dresses and veils.” Ms.