Valentine’s Day is almost here again. Do you have plans yet?
I’m not one to go out of my way to dine on February 14th (mostly because I hate crowds and the annual urgency everyone has to plan a special dinner on that very day). With careful planning though, a unique experience can be had without it feeling forced or cliched. Celebrating the day before, dining earlier in the day, or reserving a brunch are some ways to avoid the Valentine’s Day rush. Fortunately, South Florida doesn’t need a designated day to offer sexy and romantic options. Really. It’s an all day, errday thing. When romance calls, this is my go to list of (southernmost to northernmost) tried-and-true favorites and I am now sharing it with you. How is that for hot?
1. Better Than Sex Key West
Technically speaking, it’s not better, but it does come close. That’s what she said, anyway. The I-need-a-flashlight-because-it-is-too-dark interiors and seductive menu will easily set the stage for a special night. I suggest starting with their signature rim job. To clarify, that is a beer or wine “rim job.” On a glass. I like the Choco-Cab and the husband enjoys Mandy’s Man Candy. While Better Than Sex is supposed to be a desserts-only restaurant, it can easily replace dinner if you order wisely. I don’t think we’ve ever not ordered at least two of the Chocolate Grilled Cheese sandwich: brie and dark Belgian chocolate grilled, then topped with cinnamon sugar, and snuggled up against a shot of strawberry champagne sauce. Another lusty favorite is the Fork You Fondue: a chilled vanilla cheesecake fondue with pound cake donut holes, rolled in cinnamon sugar for dipping! Exactly.
2. Latitudes Sunset Key-Key West
Located on the exclusive Sunset Key, Latitudes offers a laid-back, yet elegant dining experience away from the Key West rowdiness. Unparalleled sunset views from their sandy waterfront oasis and top-notch dining await you once you disembark (make sure to request outside seating). The Sunset Key Launch departs from The Westin Key West Resort approximately every half hour. I absolutely love their wagyu beef skirt steak and butter-poached Florida lobster tail. End your dinner with the peanut butter bread pudding and then slowly stroll to the shore where the staff is always happy to help you perfect that Key West sunset shot. Brownie points! Don’t let the supposed touristy vibe keep you away. Latitudes is the real deal.
3. Little Palm Island Little Torch Key
Can’t swing the $1700 a night rate to stay the weekend? That’s OK! In addition to resort guests, The Dining Room at Little Palm Island takes reservations for off-island visitors. Tables are set up just steps away from the shore on the sandy terrace. Personally, I enjoy their brunch a little more than their dinner. There’s something surreal about brunching while looking out to the beautiful Florida Keys ocean blues that captures my heart every time. As you can imagine, Florida seafood rules the menu at LPI, but there’s also an abundance of other high quality options such as Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin. Then, there’s the always overflowing magnetic dessert table. The serene boat ride to and from the island is also part of the (sure-to-be) memorable experience. If you are lucky, you might even get to bond with one of the local Key deer. Legend has it if you spot one, you will find eternal love. Just kidding, but it’s still pretty cool to dine next to one!
4. Tuyo Miami (Downtown)
With an 8th floor view to the always bustling Biscayne Boulevard, Downtown Miami has never looked this stunning. Tuyo’s hidden location is definitively part of the draw. For extra added charm, request to sit near the fireplace. Offering local Floridian fare, sexy and quintessential Miami, Tuyo will not disappoint.
6. Villa Azur Restaurant & Lounge Miami Beach (SOBE)
One of South Beach’s most beautiful restaurants. The captivating interior decor, however, makes you feel far away, somewhere else. Rome, perhaps? Dimmed lighting, exquisite fabrics, tufted sofas, twinkle-light draped trees, and good food too? Yes! Always popular and in demand, yet Villa Azur still finds a way make your dining experience unique.
7. Cypress Room Miami (Design District * 2/2016 now Cypress Tavern)
Located in the Miami Design District, this tiny restaurant delivers a (hard to find in Miami) near perfect, fine dining experience. Exceptional service, beautiful china, crystal chandeliers, and superb dining.
8. Hakkasan Miami Beach
An unconventional choice for this list, but a good one. Why? Well, while modern Cantonese food might not be what you think of when one mentions romance, Hakkasan can sex it up like no other. Valet park your car, walk through the lobby, down the hall, down another hall, and up another one to the elevator. Ride to the fourth floor and, voilá, you have finally arrived. Clubby beats vibrate in the background, a sea of blue lighting combined with floor-to-ceiling carved panels and alluring interiors hypnotize you. Just where are you exactly? It might take a couple of visits to figure out the pattern of the labyrinth-like dark pathways leading to your table. Chances are the only lighting around might be the one hitting your table dead-center. The absence of significant lighting gives off a sense of privacy (despite the restaurants’ large space) and the loud music forces you to cuddle up for conversation. Win-win! Finally, there’s the food. And more food. Modern Chinese done just right. Ahhh, get thee to thy Hakkasan ASAP.
9. Jimmie’s Chocolates and Cafe Dania Beach
Dania Beach. Not necessarily bustling with noteworthy restaurants, but then there’s Jimmie’s. Choose to dine al fresco under the many old trees in their garden area or in the cozy upstairs. The latin inspired menu is unexpectedly great. Save room for dessert and maybe one of their many chocolate themed coffees. You will never drive by their hidden location again without fighting the urge to go back in.
10. Ocean2000 Fort lauderdale
In theory, South Florida should be overcrowded with oceanside restaurants. But it isn’t. I’m not sure why that is, but I do know that Ocean2000 is one of the magical few. Located inside the Pelican Grand Beach Resort, not only is the restaurant on the ocean, but it is also just a few steps away from the shore offering verandah seating and serves solid American-Caribbean fare. Listen to the waves crash, as you sip your cabernet and dive into your Florida Yellowtail Snapper “Á la Plancha.” Once finished, lounge on one of the rocking chairs lining the verandah or take a romantic walk on the sand. Or do both.
The locations of most of these restaurants I have listed are also ideal for fabulous stay-cations. Go ahead, enjoy one of the perks of living where many vacation.
LIFE IN PARADISE IS GOOD!