If you think romance is all about long-stemmed roses, chocolates and jewelry sparkling with a girl’s best friend, you’re missing the point. Contrary to what Hollywood and TV commercials tell you, showing how much you care is about much more than gift-giving. It’s about good, old-fashioned romance. That means it’s time to gaze into each other’s eyes, engage in rapt conversation, share feelings and get closer emotionally. And one surefire way to do so is over an intimate dinner for two. But not all restaurants are created equal. Here are five eateries in Miami and South Beach with all the right elements—great food, seductive ambiance, romantic cachet—where you’re guaranteed to feel the sting of Cupid’s arrow. And like it.
If you want to splurge, there’s no better place than The Restaurant in South Beach’s iconic luxury hotel, The Setai. Since opening its doors in 2005, The Restaurant’s authentic Asian cuisine (by a team of chefs from China, Thailand, India, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia), superb wine cellar, elegant atmosphere and impeccable service has continually drawn diners to this pricey-but-worth-it East-meets-West eatery. They have a Valentine’s Day menu of five- and seven-course meals. Make your reservation early. <em>2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-520-6402
This dimly-lit, perennially popular restaurant has deftly survived the SoBe’s never-ending cycle of “in” and “out” trends. Serving up sophisticated and hearty Italian cuisine, most recently with a healthy twist (think grilled meats, locally sourced organic produce and vegan dishes), this low-key rustic retreat proudly boasts an all-Italian vino list. Granted, a romantic meal here doesn’t come cheap, but at least it’s only once a year. <em>1311 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-9450.
Nothing says romance like an alfresco meal. And The Royal, at the stylish Raleigh Hotel in the South Beach Art Deco district, elevates outdoor dining to an artform. Known mostly to hotel guests, the restaurant’s outdoor terrace exudes tropical glamour, allowing patrons to dine on grilled American classics beneath a lantern-lit lush garden landscape. This idyllic, sophisticated spot has in-house Patio and Martini bars. The latter offers martinis (of course), mixed drinks, spirits and cigars. <em>1775 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-612-1162.
Sure, Buena Vista Bistro is a bit out of the way (on a less-than-premier section of 2nd Avenue fringing downtown’s Design District). But what this charming dining den lacks in location it more than makes up for with everything else. From brunch until midnight, Claude Postel, a Paris-born, Michelin-starred seventh-generation chef, serves moderately priced comfort food (most entrées range from $10 to $18; sides and desserts, $3 and $4, respectively). Daily specials are scrawled on the blackboard and budget wines on a mirrored wall. What makes it so romantic? It’s French bistro, silly. <em>4582 N.E. 2nd Ave., Miami; 305-456-5909.
If your idea of romance is casual, bold decor and culinary adventure, Tap Tap is for you. Decorated with brightly-painted murals, this South Beach mainstay specializes in pleasingly flavor-packed Haitian food. Best of all, it’s downright cheap (few things on the menu top $10), meaning you’ll have plenty of cash left over to splurge on some after-hours fun at one of the city’s many posh night spots. <em>819 5th Street, Miami Beach; 305-672-2898</em>.