Love: It's in the air right now — or at least it's supposed to be. Stores have decked their halls with red and pink, and heart-shaped everything is everywhere to celebrate the international holiday of adoration.
Whether you're ready for it or not, Valentine's Day is next Friday, February 14. And if it's your turn to plan the romance, it can feel like a lot of unnecessary pressure. Sure, you can buy a card, pick up some supermarket roses, or snag a box of chocolates and call it a day, but V-Day is supposed to be special, a day to let your inner romantic come out to play. (And you better believe your special someone will compare notes with friends and colleagues the following morning.)
It's time to step up your game, and what better way than by wooing the love of your life — or current fling — with good food and wine.
From cozy and casual to superluxe, here are the ten most romantic restaurants in Broward and Palm Beach counties:
1. Serafina Waterfront Trattoria. 926 NE 20th Ave, Fort Lauderdale; 954-463-2566; visit serabythewater.com. The saying goes, "Don't judge a good book by its cover," and the same is true for romantic restaurants. Set in a nondescript storefront on an uninspiring road, this waterfront Italian eatery offers extraordinary ambiance and remarkable food. A narrow path takes you to a small candlelit room with a few cozy seats. Though the interior is enough to induce feelings of enchantment, the patio is where the real magic happens. White-clothed tables topped by flickering candles overlook sailboats gently bobbing on the docks of the Middle River, with a Greco-Roman waterfall softly burbling in the background. If that's not enough to get you feeling the love, the Italian-speaking staff will guide you through the menu of authentic Italian pastas, fish, and meats, such as imported Italian burrata for two, tagliatelle al porcini, and Angello aromatico — grilled rack of lamb encrusted with rosemary and garlic and drizzled with sweet balsamic reduction. It's like an Italian coastal escape.
2. Market 17. 1850 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-835-5507; market17.net. Inspiration for romance differs for everyone. Some want to be enveloped by lush foliage; others prefer a glamorous setting with dim lighting and plush seating; some want to dive into the senses in complete darkness; and others want fine wine and perfectly prepared fare. No matter your style, Market 17 has got you covered. With an ever-changing menu of fresh and exciting farm-to-table food such as sweet potato and hazelnut gnocchi and slow-roasted duck breast, a wide selection of wines from around the world, and indoor, outdoor, and dining-in-the-dark options, this place caters to lovers of all sorts. It might be a bit heavy on the wallet, but finding the ideal way to make your sweetie swoon is priceless.
3. Bistro Mezzaluna. 1821 SE Tenth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-522-9191; bistromezzaluna.com. After a recent move from its original home in a shopping center on Fort Lauderdale's 17 Street Causeway, this long-running Italian restaurant has amped up its amore factor. With two dining rooms boasting elegantly set tables, an inviting patio with a cascading fountain, and a spacious piano bar, the splendorous, 14,000-square-foot space does love on a grand scale. But even with all the room, dining here is an intimate experience. Secluded booths are perfect for indulging in Italian-American classics such as pear salad with mixed greens, Maryland crabcakes, and surf 'n' turf while sipping on one of the 300 bottles of wine.
4. Canyon Southwest Café. 1818 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-765-1950; visit canyonfl.com. This Fort Lauderdale restaurant might be best known for its Southwest-inspired food and unparalleled prickly pear margaritas, but it's also the ultimate place for a passionate date. Tequila aside, the spicy menu is sure to titillate with items such as masala-dusted venison medallions, blue-corn-crusted oysters — you know what they say about those little buggers — and filet mignon with poblano pesto goat cheese. Grab a seat in one of the hidden booths, and let the orgasmic food get the passion flowing.
5. Casa D'Angelo. 1201 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale; 954-564-1234; casa-d-angelo.com. Wine and romance go together. What could possibly be more enchanting than taking your special someone to a place with one of the most extensive wine lists in town? With more than 40 pages of Italian and American wines, this Wine Spectator award-winning restaurant is sure to get the ardent juices flowing. Although wine is the aphrodisiac, the food here is like sex in your mouth. Simply prepared dishes such as bistecca alla fiorentina — oak-grilled, dry-aged New York strip steak marinated in olive oil, rosemary, and garlic with sweet Vidalia onions and wild mushrooms — and tuna carpaccio with arugula, lemon, and olive oil are sure to titillate.
6. Cafe L'Europe. 331 S. County Road, Palm Beach; 561-655-4020; cafeleurope.com. There might be no better way to impress a lover than dining at a swank spot. The most elegant restaurant on an island known for putting on the Ritz, Cafe L'Europe combines beautiful people, sparkling crystal and fine china, sexy piano tunes, sensual fare, and seductive wines in an exquisite setting. The place serves only the finest — and most alluring — classic dishes. Caviar? Got it. Escargots? Bien sûr. Foie gras? Some of the best in the region. There's no denying the beguiling charm of a dinner here — except, perhaps, the price.
7. Blue Moon Fish Co. 4405 W. Tradewinds Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-267-9888; bluemoonfishco.com. When it comes to enchanting views in South Florida, a waterside panorama is best, and few compare to the dockside dreaminess of Blue Moon. With more than 300 feet of dock space and a deck overlooking the Intracoastal, this spot has racked up numerous New Times awards for setting alone. But that doesn't mean the food doesn't measure up to the ambiance. Fine seafood, such as fig-and-olive-rubbed grilled local swordfish, and high-quality meats, such as slow-roasted Colorado rack of lamb, are as impressive as the scene. It's the perfect recipe for a sentimental date.
8. DaDa Restaurant & Lounge. 52 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach; 561-330-3232; dada.closermagazine.com. Love isn't a one-size-fits-all thing. While some people want glitz and glamour to stimulate amorousness, others prefer charm and quaintness. If you fit into the latter category, DaDa is your spot. Set in a historic 1920s home, this Delray Beach restaurant is filled with artistic flavor. From the gravel-lined front yard with twinkle lights and tiki torches to the Daliesque artwork hanging on old plaster walls, the atmosphere is simply beguiling. The food follows the eclectic setting with creative dishes such as lamb ribs, pork belly waffle dogs, and habanero-maple-glazed salmon. This place sways to the beat of a different drummer.
9. 15th Street Fisheries. 1900 SE 15th St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-763-2777; 15streetfisheries.com. When most locals think of 15th Street Fisheries, they imagine wooden tables, fish 'n' chips, and kids feeding tarpon — not exactly a sultry scene for seduction. For that, head upstairs, where the restaurant offers prime water views in a quiet, upscale setting. Citrus black mussels get some local flavor with Florida orange juice, shallots, white wine, star fruit, and basil. Grilled swordfish is spiced up with tropical flavors like cilantro, almonds, Florida rock shrimp, and coconut red curry sauce. A meal here is like being away on a romantic holiday.
10. Mustard Seed Bistro. 256 S. University Drive, Plantation; 954-533-9326; grapevinegourmet.com. Dim lighting, earth-toned walls, floor-length curtains, white-clothed tables, and a contemporary granite bar create a comfortable and homey setting ideal for a quiet, intimate dinner. Friendly yet unobtrusive waiters serve elegant continental cuisine such as bacon-wrapped dates; crispy duck with cherry gastrique and mashed potatoes; and rigatoni balsamic served under chicken, spinach, portobello mushrooms, goat cheese, and pine nuts. It's fine dining with a side of romantic privacy.