Whether it's for your first date or your 50th, you'll always need the perfect place to share a special moment with your loved one and Valentine's Day is the most special of them all.
Over the years we've gathered the most romantic restaurants in South Florida to help set the mood for you and your sweetheart. There was our first roundup in 2012, which highlighted places like Casa D'Angelo and Casablanca Cafe in Fort Lauderdale. Then, in 2014, we released our first top ten list of most romantic restaurants, with Dada in Delray Beach and Canyon Southwest Cafe in Fort Lauderdale making the cut. The following year, new favorites popped up on the radar, spots like Candela in Wilton Manors and Valentino in Fort Lauderdale.
This year, we're giving you even more romantic spots to check out, places that run the gamut from hip and cozy Brule Bistro in Delray Beach's Pineapple Grove, to quaint French Bistro 1902 that serves up heart-shaped desserts in downtown Hollywood.
12. 3030 Ocean
3030 Holiday Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-765-3129, or visit 3030ocean.com.
In Broward and Palm Beach counties, the hotel restaurant has become a unique breed of establishment. It can run the gamut from hip and casual à la the Rusty Hook Tavern at the Sands Harbor Resort & Marina in Pompano Beach to the custom-built and cutting-edge, like the new Burlock Coast at Fort Lauderdale's Ritz-Carlton. But 3030 Ocean has stood the test of time. It opened at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in 1999 under the watchful eye of Dean James Max, a chef with a laundry list of accomplishments, from multiple James Beard nominations for best chef to being crowned King of American Seafood at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in 2010. Today, newly renovated and with a fresh, chef-driven menu by Adrienne Grenier, it is one of the more tastefully romantic hotel restaurants to take your beloved for a nice night out.
11. La Brochette Bistro
2635 N Hiatus Rd., Cooper City. Call 954-435-9090, or visit labrochettebistro.com.
Located in a nondescript Cooper City strip mall that also houses a Winn-Dixie is this charming eatery offering French-inspired seafood, and what could very well be one of the best fish dishes you'll find in Broward County. The dim lit restaurant — which opened in 1993 — is small enough to have a cozy neighborhood feel without feeling stuffy or haughty. Here, patrons come for seafood and French-inspired fare compliments of chef-owner Aboud Kobaitri, whose food is influenced by not only his Middle Eastern and Lebanese heritage, but also schooling in Paris and Oslo. Over the last decade or so, the menu has grown from basic brasserie-style offerings to include a number of creatively-crafted seafood dishes. The chef, who is known for sourcing exotic fish and preparing them fresh daily, will go in search of the freshest catch each day, meaning a return visit is never the same. Feeling romantic? If you're envisioning something extra special and unique for your night out on the town, La Brochette may be able to accommodate specific requests for special dishes with advance notice.
10. The Cook and The Cork
9890 W Sample Rd., Coral Springs. Call 954-227-2665, or visit thecookandthecork.com.
Boy meets girl. They fall in love. They live happily ever after. At the Cook & the Cork in Coral Springs, the tale goes a little differently. Chef meets event planner. They build a successful catering empire. They open a restaurant. Parkland Catering owners Keith Blauschild and Dena Lowell are partners in life as well as business. While managing staff, shuffling dishes, and filing invoices seven days a week might ruin the magic for some couples, for these two, the food business only seems to fuel their passion. Both agree that their businesses — and the food they create — wouldn't exist without their union. It makes for a blissful night out for lovebirds of all ages, their cozy dining room and intimately plated dishes perfectly sized for sharing. Lobster macaroni and cheese we've seen — but here it arrives plated like lobster thermidor, elbow noodles and plump shreds of meat stuffed into a lobster's bright-red tail. It's an appealing presentation, but digging noodles from the sharp shell makes for an awkward and frustrating experience. The tarragon-spiced white cheddar sauce makes up for all the trouble, though, walking the line between decadent and indulgent.
9. Kaluz Restaurant
3300 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-772-2209, or visit kaluzrestaurant.com.
This 200-seat waterfront eatery opened quietly in early 2013 and was immediately popular with Fort Lauderdale's mature and professional crowd. The menu, similar to that of American chain restaurants like Season's 52, offers fried appetizers, salads, burgers and flatbreads, plus more substantial entrees like seared diver scallops. The restaurant runs with stunning efficiency — fast service by teams of servers; precise execution of dishes by cooks in matching orange coats — thanks in large part to Demirjian's partner David Baldwin, who spent is early career working for Houston's and Hillstone, a company known for its rigorous training program. Kaluz is not the place to find soulful, personal food, but it is good for a solid meal and a stunning view of the Intracoastal Waterway at dusk — just what you need to set the mood.
319 Belvedere Rd., West Palm Beach. Call 561-249-2281, or visit kitchenpb.com.
There is eating, and there is dining: At Kitchen, husband and wife team Aliza and Matthew Byrne aim to show you the difference. It begins with the reservation. You won't get into Kitchen without one. During the winter months the modern American brasserie located in the city's El Cid neighborhood is often booked, groups of patrons arriving in timed waves. Next, it's the service, an all-female staff that will guide you through multiple courses and help you select the perfect bottle of wine for the evening. There will be plenty of quiet conversation and staring into your beloved's eyes; there are no TVs in this dim-lit, cozy bistro perfumed by the scent of lavender candles. The menu at Kitchen will change — although not entirely — every few months. Some dishes have stood the test of time, regulars refusing to let them swap out their favorite plate for a more new-fangled creation. Others appear according to what's available and fresh, while still more are created on a whim. After a few dishes have come and gone you can't leave without sampling one of Byrne's homemade desserts, especially the from-scratch lemon coconut cake, a dense vanilla cake married with a mildly sweet, coconut-encrusted lemon curd icing.
7. Grille 66 & Bar
2301 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-728-3500, or visit grille66andbar.com.
When it comes to setting a romantic tone to the evening with a slightly upmarket vibe, visit Grille 66 & Bar. This waterfront restaurant has been known to draw Broward's recession-proof crowd, located on the Intracoastal Waterway adjacent to Pier 66 and the Hyatt hotel, the eatery boasts outdoor balcony dining, white tablecloths, and a lovely view of yachts floating by. Also available for the boaters: a convenient 400-foot dock to park your floating Ferrari. The award-winning menu offers popular appetizers like filet mignon carpaccio, while mains include lobster, crab cakes, veal, and lamb chops. Of course, it's the strip steak, porterhouse, or filet mignon that helps to make Grill 66 & Bar one of the best steakhouses in Fort Lauderdale.
6. Bistro 1902
1902 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Call 954-689-2229, or visit bistro1902.com.
Though South Florida is certainly no bastion of French fare, a few places have found their way into the fray and made a name. In Hollywood, Bistro 1902 fills the franco void thanks to the owner, Parisian-born Karim Laitaoui. The menu of bistro-style classics encourages adventurous orders: frogs' legs, boeuf bourguignon, duck confit, foie gras, and escargots. Still, some entrées have been selected with an eye for American taste, says Laitaoui. The faint at heart find refuge with a burger and surf and turf with a Champagne sauce. They are familiar and comfortable, despite being served with a French interpretation. The best items, however, are the French triumphs of fat and flavor. Start with a foie gras appetizer, a two-ounce portion of Hudson Valley's finest, seared in its own unguent juices — just a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper — finished with a raspberry vinegar reduction, and served with a half poached pear and mixed greens. Though all French dessert is exquisite — and here made from scratch from the apple tartin to the crème brûlée — the most exotic is the ice cream sampler. Perfect for sharing with your honey: flavors imported from a small, organic farm in France including the basil gelato which captures the herb in creamy sweetness, as though it were plucked fresh from the garden.
5. La Veranda
2121 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach. Call 954-943-7390.
This charming Italian restaurant has been under the same ownership since 1976 when partneFranco Antimucci opened off Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach. A city well-known for its loyal clientele, they return time and time again for to this romantic bistro with a homey Tuscan vibe. For dining al fresco the outdoor courtyard can't be beat, lit by string lights and made even more cozy by the bubbling fountain. Inside La Veranda's stone fireplace offers a warmer vibe.
4. Brulé Bistro
200 NE 2nd Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-274-2046, or visit brulebistro.com.
Between the intimate 13-seat bar (recently named the best bar in Palm Beach County by the Palm Beach Post), cozy interior dining room outfitted with pillow-tufted bench seating, and outdoor sidewalk patio tables beneath low-slung umbrellas, Brulé Bistro stands as one of the most romantic spots in downtown Delray Beach. Far removed from the crazy crowds off Atlantic Avenue, it can often feel like a sleeper spot despite the well-heeled crowds it attracts. Dishes on the main menu change monthly based on what's inspiring chef-owner Suzanne Perrotta and chef de cuisine Jason Binder. That translates to a rotating lineup of seasonally-inspired, French-influenced, modern American dishes. Right now favorites include starters like the Foie Gras PB&J (seared foie gras paired with a house spiced port gelée and almond butter on toasted brioche), or new mains like the grilled local swordfish (served with lime butter and accompanied with jumbo lump crab, roasted corn, a shiitake ragout, and chive whipped potatoes). Even if you don't opt for dinner, a concise craft cocktail list and well-curated selection of wines and rotating craft beer will push the drink-and-dessert-for-two-at-the-bar-route to the top of your list for favorite date night spots.
3. Cafe Boulud
301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach. Call 561-655-6060, or visit cafeboulud.com.
Located on Palm Beach Island, Daniel Boulud's restaurant inside the Brazilian Court hotel is luxurious without being too serious. Sure, the service is starched and traditional, but you won't be made to feel out of place if your typical dining destinations are in more humble surroundings. To bring Cafe Boulud Palm Beach into a new era, Boulud himself recently renovated the restaurant, making for a more relaxed and casual — if still upmarket — ambiance, unveiling an expanded 15-seat bar — three times its former size — including a new cocktail list, craft-beer taps, and full-menu service offered all day. In a shift away from tropical and traditional Palm Beach decor, the dining room and lounge is more elegant and contemporary, achieved by a shimmery ceiling made from seashells and pecky cypress, improved lighting, and warm wood flooring surrounding a glowing white marble bar. The menu got a little more relaxed, too. The French cuisine Boulud is known for is still there, yet decidedly more casual while Café Boulud Palm Beach executive chef Rick Mace spotlights South Florida's local seafood and produce.
2. Sundy House
106 S Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-272-5678, or visit sundyhouse.com.
Whether you're going for Sunday brunch, a quiet lunch, or dinner for two, Sundy House is one of the best spots in Palm Beach County for a romantic night out. The oldest house in Delray Beach, and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Sundy House has a pedigree going back to 1902 and the eight-time mayor, John Shaw Sundy. Tucked into an acre of dense gardens populated by more than 5,000 species of plants, trees, and flowers, the Sundy House allows diners to take a stroll through its dim-lit garden paths that meander through a variety of vegetation, stunning exotic imports that include African palms, Brazilian jaboticaba, Guyanese chestnut trees, miracle fruit, and thickets of bamboo. You might even want to dip your feet in the self-sustaining, chemical-free, organic swimming pond pool (considered the first of its kind) where tiny fish will nibble at your toes.
1. The Little Chalet
485 S Federal Hwy, Boca Raton. Call 561-325-8000, or visit thelittlechalet.com.
A new fondue restaurant with its roots in Brazil, The Little Chalet in Boca Raton presents a charmingly cozy space, complete with homey and whimsical decor reminiscent of a true Swiss chalet. Trinkets adorn almost every nook and cranny, kitschy items scattered amid the dim-lit red walls. Cobblestone floors, intimate alcoves, an oversized fireplace, and a swanky piano bar set the mood for a romantic night out, while a glass-enclosed indoor terrace provides a courtyard-style dining area that will spirit you off to the Swiss Alps. Ever-attentive staff will ensure your cheese remains heated just to the point of bubbling, your bread basket is full, and your experience is topnotch. They'll also guide you through the myriad fondue options, from all-cheese blends to vino-based picks made with a red wine and a homemade beef broth, creating a bourguignon-style sauce. Looking for a little more ambiance? There's even a special space that's been dubbed the "proposal room" — a few two-seat tables tucked into a private corner where you can pop the question.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.