You Could Stay in a Giant Seashell in Mexico
A multi-course adventure where you wash your hands with chocolate
Though this ultra-modern Colombian spot from chef Juanma Barrientos sits tucked away behind a condo tower on the Miami River, its environs aren’t inherently romantic. But when the second course of this nine-course journey has you and your date washing your hands in chocolate then licking it off, you’ll see why it’s the rare meal that is as much an adventure as it is dinner. You’ll spend a couple hours discovering Barrientos artful creations, from a tree sculpture made of traditional Colombian bread to exquisitely-designed meat courses. If you’re a couple who enjoys discovering and learning together as much as you do eating, there’s no better date spot in Miami.
Intimate Italian food, made by actual Italians
The quaint, private Italian restaurant is a romantic tradition, and Miami’s best offering is Soya & Pomodoro, set inside an old bank building. Mismatched furniture dots the dining room, giving the feeling of discovering a random family-run hole-in-the-wall somewhere in Italy. It’s quiet and secluded, with Italian servers and homemade pasta ramping up the authenticity. The restaurant is both unpretentious and beautiful, and through its gotten plenty of accolades and awards, still somehow feels like an undiscovered gem.
Riverfront romance with grilled meats and no attitude
For years, dining on the Miami riverfront meant packing a picnic and watching freighters full of mattresses load up for Haiti. But times have changed, and the best spot for romance on the river is this Greek offering with sunset views one way, and golden-hour reflections off Downtown the other. You and your date can share one of the plush booths next to the river while enjoying fresh seafood, souvlaki, and steaks paired meticulously with hard-to-find wines. It’s elegant and classy without feeling exclusive: nobody’s denying you entrance because they don’t like you shoes. Kiki lets you splurge on romance without making you feel like you don’t belong, and that’s why it’s the river’s best bet for dinner dates.
Front-row seats to the Atlantic with robatayaki and ocean breezes
Because the Hyde Beach resort is set right up on the shore, sitting at one of the waterfront tables at Etaru gives you the feeling of eating atop the ocean. It’s not unlike dining on a cruise ship, except instead of the midnight buffet here you’ll get all sorts of robata-grilled meats like ginger short rib and black cod marinated in yuzu miso. It’s also got a huge list of sushi and sashimi that can hold its own with anywhere in South Florida. For the best experience, opt for the five-course tasting menu where you’ll get a little of everything Etaru does best, served with a heaping side of warm tropical breeze blowing off the Atlantic.
The best dinner view in Miami, period
Busting out your phone on a romantic night out is about the fastest way to ensure there’s not another date... but it’s almost impossible when presented with the art deco tableau spread out in front of you at Juvia. From the top of the 1111 building, this restaurant looks east across Miami Beach at the largest collection of art deco buildings in the world, then out onto the Atlantic Ocean. Even with the crowds of beautiful people that pack the place nightly, when the warm humid air combines with that view, it’s pure Miami romance. Just try not to ruin it by taking too many selfies.
A cozy bungalow with old family recipes
If food can make the Greeks and Turks fall in love, clearly it’ll work wonders for your date. This spot set in an old 1940s Buena Vista bungalow was founded by a Greek/Turkish couple who’ve taken their family recipes and are serving them in a Christmas light-draped courtyard. Sharing the Greek or Turkish samplers is but the beginning of a night or romance, as you converse across dim light over tirokafteri or hummus and eggplant. Continue with light stuff like chicken kebabs and orzo, or the simple lemon and oregano grilled sea bass, and you’ll have plenty of energy for the rest of the night.
Romantic stalwart stays on top with new food and creative cocktails
If you thought the Rusty Pelican, with its giant glass windows looking across Biscayne Bay to the skyline, was so romantic it had become cliché, thick again. Not content to be the grand dame of Miami’s romantic restaurants, the venerable Rusty Pelican has completely revamped its menu, adding stuff like fresh sushi, lobster risotto, and an impressive lineup of steaks. The cocktails here are also among the most surprisingly creative in the city, with six herb-infused gin and tonics complimenting an array of craft creations, like the Cider on the Biscayne with Elijah Craig bourbon, Drambuie, apple cider, lemon juice, and sugar cane.
The city’s best ceviche, served with a waterfront view of the skyline
Striking the perfect combo between bustling and romantic is nearly impossible, but this Gaston Acurio outpost in the Mandarin Oriental has both the energy to get you excited and the calm to enjoy each other’s company. Enter through the busy dining room, past the open hot kitchen and sushi counter and you’ll feel the hustle of the chefs keeping up with the endless demand. Then step outside to the patio, set just above the running path around Brickell Key, affording a tranquil waterfront view back towards the Brickell skyline and the Rickenbacker causeway. The food here can make you forget about that view, with the best ceviches in Miami leading off a dinner of causas, saltados, and other Peruvians staples done as well as you’ll find north of Lima.
Inventive French cuisine with one of the city’s premier wine lists
Pound for pound this French spot hidden in the Cadet hotel might be the most romantic restaurant in Miami. The name is dead-on accurate as the tiny 40-seater gives the feel of eating in someone’s Paris apartment, complete with unique art on the walls and decorative china. Though you might find yourselves sitting close to other couples, somehow you still feel like you’re the only people there, dining on stuff like short ribs marinated in burgundy wine, or steamed squab and foie gras wrapped in savoy cabbage. It’s all paired with a wine list that’s won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since the restaurant opened, making this the perfect mix of food, intimacy, and culinary expertise.
Eat first-rate steaks while cruise ships sail by
Nothing says "I love you" like cutting into a giant hunk of bloody meat across from your special someone, right? Maybe. But even if steakhouses aren’t your idea of romance, it’s hard to argue with a spot set right on Government Cut with views of Fisher Island and the Atlantic in one direction and sunsets over the skyline in the other. Get a table by the rocks and you’ll almost feel like you’re eating on a desert island (albeit a desert island where cruise ships sail by and ignore you) where trees give your table shade and hide you from other guests. If you’re looking for a fancy steakhouse to stoke the fires, nobody does it better than Smith’s.
A garden escape in the middle of chaos
It’s hard to believe, as you sit among the lush palms, waterfall, and the calming reflecting pond at Café Roval, that you’re mere feet from the hectic traffic of Biscayne Boulevard. But Mark Soyka has managed to create an oasis in the middle of the chaos, a place where the winding stone paths take you from the city to Asian garden in mere seconds. Whether you’re outside by the pond or inside the old pump house, the place is both charming and exotic, serving a menu of seasonally inspired dishes so you can come back again for different experiences. It’s the perfect place for a busy, stressed couple who just want a few hours to escape -- a low-key restaurant that’s equal parts delicious and relaxing.
Phenomenal vegan food in a palm-filled courtyard
Even if you’re one who finds the idea of plant-based meat to be sacrilege, well, what’s more romantic than testing your boundaries together? Plant makes organic, vegan cuisine that even a carnivore will love, so grab a seat out in the palm-filled courtyard and broaden your horizons with ginger-carrot noodles, celery-root lasagna with walnut Bolognese, and almond falafel. The purple lighting and light food make dinner here feel like the start of a big night. And as you discover that vegan food can, in fact, be delicious, so too might you discover things about your date you never thought you’d love.
The most romantic restaurant you’ll ever find on a college campus
The Miami Culinary Institute is never lacking for innovation in food, and if you can score a seat at one of its classes or demonstrations, they’re some of the best dates in South Florida. Lacking that, though, you can never go wrong at Tuyo, the institute’s restaurant set in the middle of the Downtown skyline with perfect views of Freedom Tower and the AAA. Chef Victor Santos oversees the menu, with stuff like braised lamb shanks with butternut squash risotto and duo of Rohan duck highlighting an ever-changing selection of locally sourced favorites.
An unexpected gem for couples along the Intercoastal
Going to Lique for one of its weekend day parties isn’t exactly an intimate occasion, but stop in later at night and you’ll find a hidden romantic gem set just down the dock from Duffy’s. The tables are lined with big, padded booths, meaning if you and your date want to snuggle up and look out at the Intercoastal together, that’s totally doable. The food is light, big on tapas like the seafood risotto or lemon-and-caper sole, sushi served in tacos, and riceless sushi rolls. It hasn't blown up as a date spot either, so you can impress your date with your romantic restaurant expertise and culinary decision making.