Valentine's Day is just around the corner and even Pollo Tropical has a Valentine's Day special going (two dine for $9.99, if you must know). If you haven't made your plans, you should probably do so now before restaurants fill up (the lovely Gibraltar is fully booked) and events sell out. Here are some options (all prices exclude tax and tip unless otherwise noted).
Picnic at the Garden: Pack up some food, grab a blanket and head to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden where jazz singers Kevin Mahogany and Kathy Kosins will serenade you and your honey (plus all the other couples) on Valentine's Day. Gates to the garden open at 5:30 p.m. and the concert starts at 7. Admission is $60 for members and $75 for non-members. If you don't feel like preparing your own picnic, Andrea and Frank Randazzo's Creative Tastes Catering will prepare it for you. Packages range from $29 to $34 per person. Purchase your tickets online.
Poor Man's Alternative: Pack the food yourself and go to the beach or the park or your backyard. Who said you need to go far to have a picnic?
Take a Drive to the Redland: I thought I was the only nerd who thought taking a drive to Knaus Berry Farm for cinnamon rolls and a strawberry shake would be a good date. Apparently I'm not. The only downside of taking this trip south is that you'll have to celebrate on Saturday and possibly deal with very long lines. Just think of the time spent in line as quality time with your sweetie.15980 Southwest 248th Street, Homestead 305-247-0668.
Get Cozy: For something different, take your sweetie to Magnum Lounge (709 Northeast 79th Street, Miami; 305-757-3368) and get cozy while you enjoy their comfort food and the sounds of the piano. Or head to Fox's Sherron Inn (6030 S Dixie Highway, South Miami; 305-666-2230) and play your favorite tunes on the jukebox while you enjoy unpretentious food and drink.
Go Mexican: Talavera is offering a five-course meal that starts with "guaca-shrimp" - a crispy tortilla bowl stuffed with guacamole, sautéed shrimp and guajillo pepper - followed by fresh corn soup, blue corn sope, seared petit beef and mini chocolate kiss. For $32 per person it may be worth a shot. 2299 Ponce de Leon, Coral Gables, 305-444-2955
Or head over to Mercadito. The Midtown restaurant didn't come up with special dishes for the occasion but for $50 per person you can choose from several guacamoles, ceviches, tacos and sides from the Valentine's Day menu. They did, however, come up with a special drink: the chocomole shot (tequila, chocolate, mole and spices). Sounds rich to us but hey, your date may like it. Dishes here are served family-style so if you're dining in a group that day, this menu's for you. 3252 Northeast 1st Avenue, Miami, 786-369-0430
Splurge at The Setai: You know if you go to The Setai, you'll be dropping some cash but the romantic setting may be worth it. Plus, its Valentine's Day menus include oysters and lobster, duck foie gras and chocolate. Aphrodisiacs, they say. A five-course menu will be offered on Saturday, February 12 and Monday, February 14 and costs $110 per person. Add $45 if you want wine pairings. A seven-course menu ($155 plus $55 with wine pairings) will also be offered on Monday. 2001 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 305-520-6000.
Wine and Dine at The Forge: Dinner at The Forge starts with foreplay. Share oven-roasted oysters filled with rock shrimp and brie, corn cakes topped with caviar, and an endive, smoked salmon and heart of palm salad. Follow with your choice of grilled filet mignon, seared tuna, angus short rib pot pie or three mushroom risotto. The meal ends with shared dessert: a threesome of chocolates, berry filo tart and pumpkin fritters. Price: $69 per person. 432 41st Street, Miami Beach, 305-538-8533
Vegetarian Romance: Sublime is serving a four-course vegetarian meal for $39 per person and the restaurant is filling up quickly. Yes, dinner here requires driving to Fort Lauderdale but when you're on the hunt for a good vegetarian meal, why not? Dinner starts off with organic red chard salad, follows with your choice of macadamia Gardein cutlet or wild mushroom en papillote. The meal finishes with strawberry cheesecake and includes a complimentary glass of champagne. 1431 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, 954-615-1431
Hearts at Vino e Olio: The restaurant's "due cuori" (two hearts) menu features seared Florida shrimp and scallops, hearts of burrata, heart-shaped ravioli stuffed with burrata and amberjack tataki. Dessert is a spiced chocolate pie with rum crème. The menu will be offered from February 11 to February 14. Cost is $68 with an optional wine pairing for $30. 139 NE 39th Street, 305-573-0707
Surf & Turf at Wish: The Valentine's menu at Wish may not be overly creative but the restaurant provides a great setting for a romantic meal. Dinner starts with a hamachi sashimi and follows with butter-poached lobster and seared tenderloin. Dessert is a chocolate Armagnac torte. The cost is $75 per person. Not to your liking? You can also order from the restaurant's regular menu. 801 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 305-674-9474
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Hawa, Hawa: We've heard great things about Hawa Fusion from Short Order writer, Riki Altman. The Coral Gables restaurant is offering an $80 three-course menu from Saturday, February 12 to Monday, February 14. Start with one of their golden pockets and a salad. Then choose an entree from choices, including filet mignon freekeh risotto, lobster edamame with sushi rice, chicken with shiitake mushrooms or sushi extravaganza. End the meal with desserts to share. 30 Giralda Avenue, Coral Gables, 305-569-0908.
Romance at Michy's: What's a girl not to like about Michy's? From the sweet decor to the food and its almost off-the-beaten path location. Chef Michelle Bernstein has created a special three-course menu for the occasion at a reasonable -- for Michy's -- $70 per person price tag. But note that you'll end up paying extra if you want the fancier items on the menu, such as the lobster risotto ($25 supplement) or the caviar to start (add $15). Reserve soon. 6927 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, 305-759-2001.