Candlelight and Ocean Views: Miami's Ten Most Romantic Restaurants

An updated version of this list is available here.

Miami is, by definition, an extremely romantic city. Palm trees sway in the balmy breeze, lightly scented by the nearby ocean. So it comes as no surprise that a multitude of restaurants take advantage of Miami's sexy vibe — adding candles, moonlight, and plenty of champagne and oysters for good measure.

Here's a list of ten of the most unabashedly romantic spots to take your wife, your girlfriend, your husband, your boyfriend, or any combination thereof.

10. Romeo's Café
The two-and-a-half-hour dinner at Romeo's Café is a romance with food itself. There are no menus at this intimate 28-seat restaurant, because chef/owner Romeo Majano custom-prepares a four-course ($60) or six-course ($90) dinner based on your dietary restrictions — and his intuition. The resultant dinner is indulgent, lavish, and will make your date feel like royalty. Which, if you've ever seen a Disney movie, is very romantic.

9. Area 31
Way above the bustle of downtown Miami, Area 31's outdoor terrace offers nothing but gorgeous views of Biscayne Bay and Miami Beach to the east. At night, ships and condos are turned into a display of firefly-like pinpoints of light, twinkling in the distance. If you want to up the ante, the restaurant offers several private dining rooms, cabanas, and casitas where executive chef E. Michael Reidt will prepare a menu featuring sustainable seafood and farm-fresh local produce.

8. Juvia
What's more romantic than a view of the full moon over Miami? We're thinking not much. Which is why Juvia makes our list. Gorgeous views, vertical gardens filled with pink blooms, and white furnishings that complement rather than compete with the atmosphere. The menu is a jumble of Asian, South American, and French cuisines, and the service can be spotty. Just order some cocktails and gaze adoringly into each other's eyes. The restaurant, your date, and the scenery are all beautiful — that's all that counts.

7. Cioppino at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
Voted 2011's best expensive Italian restaurant, Cioppino is going to cost you. But that's the price you pay for the fresh seafood stew ($38) for which the restaurant is named. Which is nothing compared to the porterhouse steak, which will set you back $68. But can you really put a price on a gorgeous, exclusive setting and an after-dinner walk on a secluded moonlit beach? We didn't think so.

6. The Villa by Barton G.
Everyone has a different version of romance. Some think it's a simple picnic on the beach. Others think it's gilded opulence in the framework of a Mediterranean villa filled with intricate mosaic-tiled rooms, fountains, and a lush courtyard. Which describes the Villa by Barton G. exactly. Versace-designed china, robin's-egg-blue linens, and the colors of gold — and money — are everywhere. A $75 chef's tasting menu is the best bet, which includes snapper ceviche, a duck confit crêpe, rack of lamb, and key lime fantasy for dessert. Then you can really rack up the bucks by selecting one of more than 600 wines by the bottle. If your evening is really successful, suites at the villa run anywhere from $900 to $2,500. Now that's romantic.

5. Cecconi's
We suggest beginning a romantic dinner at Cecconi's at Soho Beach House with a little role play. You walk into the restaurant courtyard, strung with what seems like millions of little white lights, and pass dozens of beautiful people as you make your way to the bar. You spot a gorgeous person nursing a drink. You saunter over and strike up a conversation. Sparks fly as you invite your crush to dine with you alfresco, the sounds of the surf in the distance. You laugh over a branzino ($38) or, perhaps, a pizza decorated with speck, fontina, and mushrooms ($20). The night goes so well that you wind up leaving together. (Of course you do — you both arrived in the same car. You've been together for a dozen years.)

4. Villa Mayfair Restaurant & Lounge
Everything about Villa Mayfair is romantic. An ice palace of white and mirrors, this restaurant/lounge invites you to embrace and revel in all that is romantic. Start with oysters (which are both romantic and sexy) before your three-course dinner ($118). Unless you like loud music, have dinner early, because the music begins jazzy but turns house-like after 10 p.m.

3. Villa Azur
If you can't afford a weekend on the French Riviera, this is a pretty reasonable facsimile. Everything about Villa Azur is tinged with the romance of a weekend in France. A combination lounge/library area complete with ultra-mod fireplaces opens onto a patio courtyard resplendent with the lyrical sound of people conversing in French. They could be discussing their bunions for all we know, but if it's in the language of love, it sounds like foreplay to us. Start with a selection of oysters ($2 to $3 each) before sharing châteaubriand (32 oz.), served with béarnaise sauce and foie gras sauce, and soon you'll be crooning "Je t'aime" to your dining companion.

2. Red Fish Grill
We live in one of the most gorgeous areas of the world, yet there are so few romantic spots directly on the beach. Red Fish Grill is so close to the water you might feel compelled to roll up your pants legs to avoid the tide. Housed in a keystone structure, part of the Matheson Hammock beach pavilion built in the 1940s, the restaurant is perfect for watching the moon's reflection play on the waters of Biscayne Bay as you dine on pan-seared red snapper ($32) and Caribbean jerk mahi-mahi ($26).

1. Casa Tua
There are no signs outside Casa Tua, and if you haven't been there before, you might think you're about to trespass in someone's fabulous Mediterranean-style home. You're half right. This is a home — your home for the evening (which is what Casa Tua literally translates to). The romance, however, lies in the courtyard, lit by lanterns everywhere — in the trees, on the floor, on your table. They cast a soft glow on the evening much the same way a romance film makes everything all soft and fuzzy. The cuisine is reminiscent of a restaurant on the Amalfi Coast. Plates are small, but you have other things on your mind after dinner than lapsing into a food coma, don't you?
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss