The connection between food and seduction probably traces to some prehistoric man offering a roasted animal leg to his beloved by a roaring fire. Since then, the practice of using food to woo a person has evolved to include champagne, oysters, and music — but some things remain eternal: Fire is still an element, be it candles or a fireplace, and a good meal is still the ultimate way to indicate you love someone or at least want to get it on with them.
And with its aqua ocean, balmy breezes, and sultry Latin flavor, Miami is the perfect place to fall in love. Proximity to the coast allows for water views. Then there are those sunsets.
The most romantic restaurants share the same winning factors: stellar food, seductive drink menus, authentic ambiance, and exceptional service. Whether you want to wow your Tinder date or celebrate your longtime honey, let the sparks fly at these eateries. Just be sure to book a reservation before getting dolled up.
Café Roval5808 NE Fourth Ct., Miami
The coral-rock walls, antique chandeliers, and European vibe create a romantic atmosphere inside prolific restaurateur Mark Soyka's Café Roval. But the lush patio — overflowing with greenery, palm trees, stone pathways, tiered lagoons, and a cascading waterfall with a bronze Buddha at the center — is even more charming. Long story short: There’s no bad seat in the house, and the menu doesn’t disappoint. It offers everything from chilled plates and hot entrées to cheese boards and caviar. Highlights include yellowfin tuna crudo, roasted oysters, and smoked short rib.
Casa Tua1700 James Ave., Miami Beach
Set in an inviting and intimate Mediterranean villa surrounded by a serene garden, Casa Tua feels exactly like its name: "your home." The Tuscan theme extends to a menu that evokes a weekend getaway to Southern Europe: spaghetti, beef tenderloin, and branzino. Leave room for dessert — the signature tiramisu and vanilla and orange crème brûlée are not to be missed. And if you don't plan to drive, explore the encyclopedic collection of wines to pair with your fairy-tale dining experience in this hideaway on James Avenue.
Cecconi's Miami Beach4385 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Italian and Mediterranean dishes are served on a foliage-filled patio at this restaurant tucked inside the Soho Beach House. Begin your evening at the intimate 14-seat bar before sitting down. Look up to find the night sky competing with thousands of tiny white lights twinkling in the many trees dotting the property. The menu is classic, and appetites are made hearty by the soft hint of salt air. The music of pounding waves is provided by the ocean, just a stone's throw away. Because the goal of a romantic meal is to sate, not stuff, start with a classic beef tartare with celery hearts and quail egg ($20), and share an order of handmade spaghetti with Maine lobster, chili, and basil before moving on to Dover sole with lemon and capers, or the grilled seafood for two. Don't forget to have a final toast with the restaurant's house-made limoncello.
Il Gabbiano335 S. Biscayne Blvd., Miami
If romance to you means big bucks and high caloric intake, this splurge-worthy authentic Italian restaurant is your best option. Try Il Gabbiano’s crowd-pleasing pastas, which include a creamy fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti carbonara. Or maybe you crave the incredibly tender filet of beef with Barolo wine sauce. Either way, you also get the beautiful vistas of Biscayne Bay. Food? Check. Views? Check. Vino? Well, you might as well go all out and order a bottle from the extensive wine list. After an evening of fine dining, your date will be singing "That's Amore" in no time.
Juvia1111 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach
If you time your arrival right, you can catch the sunset through floor-to-ceiling windows or in the rooftop dining room complete with vertical gardens. With panoramic views of South Beach and beyond, this penthouse-level hot spot is a great place to impress your date. The menu isn’t too shabby either, offering an eclectic mix of contemporary takes on Japanese, French, and Peruvian cuisine. Order the hamachi espuma ($26) for a mildly spicy and citrusy start. Entrées range from a braised lamb shank ($42) to king crab risotto ($45). Specialty cocktails such as the Juvia lemonade, made with Beluga Noble vodka, mixed berry purée, and lemon, will help alleviate date-night jitters and let Cupid take aim.
La Mar by Gastón Acurio500 Brickell Key Dr., Miami
Dinner at a hotel restaurant can be a precursor to one lucky evening (hello, hotel room), but La Mar by Gaston Acurio at the ultraluxe Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key elevates the standard hotel dining scene via bold and flavorful Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine, dramatic waterfront views of Biscayne Bay, and refined service that will make your date swoon. Share the classic cebiche, made with a citrus-based marinade of ají limo pepper, fluke, cilantro, red onions, and classic leche de tigre ($23) or share a sampler of cebiche favorites ($29).
Le Sirenuse9011 Collins Ave., Surfside
Located inside the historic Surf Club, this transplant from Positano, Italy, exudes the grace and elegance of a bygone era. Le Sirenuse was envisioned in the 1920s by tire tycoon Harvey Firestone as a glitzy Italian refuge for the early 20th Century's 1 percenters. It opened New Year's Eve 1930 and soon became a favorite among celebrities and the global elite looking to hide from the prying eye of Prohibition. The duke and duchess of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor, and Frank Sinatra all strolled its hallways. Today in Miami, the chef blends some classics of his Southern Italian heritage, such as a rich eggplant parmigiana, with ingenious Mediterranean creations such as a plate of vegetables with thin apple slices, skinned cucumber spears, and crisp greens soaked in ice water with an orb of lemon sorbet that does double duty as a palate cleanser and dressing.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro4312 NE Second Ave., Miami
Take a stroll along NE Second Avenue in the Design District and stop at the blue-framed door of Mandolin Aegean Bistro. Enter the 1940s home and feel like you're in a Greek village complete with blue and white accents. Head to the cozy back patio for a complete Grecian experience, and enjoy a seat at a lantern-lit table beneath the trees. Share the Greek sampler ($16), which comes with warm homemade bread and a trio of dips — tzatziki, tarama, and eggplant — and then feast on Mediterranean delicacies such as whole grilled sea bass ($38) and chicken kebabs ($26) — hearty chunks of grilled chicken served with orzo pilaf and maroulosalata.
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Matador Room2901 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Bypass the sleek midcentury-modern dining room at celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Latin restaurant inside the sleek Miami Beach Edition and opt for a table on the candlelit terrace. The wow factor of the stunning alfresco setting is enhanced by the menu. Crunchy calamari, Florida black grouper tacos, and arroz con pollo will make you immediately fall in love — with the food. And if all else fails, bowling, ice skating, and dancing are in the same building to entertain your date.
Palme d'Or1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables
If your budget doesn't include a trip to Paris, Palme d'Or might be the next best experience in Miami. The grande dame of Miami's dining offers a three-course chef's tasting menu ($49) that combines traditional French technique with the freshest local ingredients. Palme d'Or has long held a reputation as being the go-to place for proposals and anniversary dinners, but dining here is its own memorable occasion.