Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, so there is no right recipe for romance. Whether you stay home and watch a movie by candlelight or splurge on a fancy meal, you can make the evening something special.
If you do prefer dining out, there are plenty of Tallahassee destinations to help set the mood, including a few new choices. Stick to traditional French classics or be adventurous and have reindeer sliders. Carnivores can find plenty of beef on local menus but you’ll also discover vegan steak. Dive into oysters and splurge on chocolate fondue — well, anything chocolate.
What works for you?
“It definitely has to be fabulous food and service first off,” foodie Joan Batten told Tallahassee Table. “No TVs a must, maybe soft music that doesn’t overpower conversation. It doesn’t have to be expensive, so a simple white tablecloth, a few flowers in a vase and dimmed lights would make even Chick-fil-A a romantic dinner.”
Wherever you go, be sure to make reservations as soon as possible. Some couples will dine out over the weekend to avoid Valentine’s Day crowds — or as one pragmatic reader suggests, order take-out.
To help you find a restaurant with that special something for Valentine’s Day or any other night, here are our ideas, with help from Tallahassee Table’s readers.
+39: The upmarket Italian restaurant, nestled inside the Urban Food Market, will feature its extensive menu with dishes such as antipasto, cartoccio (seafood wrapped in parchment paper) and a range of pasta choices on Valentine’s Day aside from a few specials. +39 is named for the country code of Italy. The Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-536-6843.
319 Wine & Cheese Shoppe: Lynne and Bill Edwards, owners of this cozy cafe, are presenting a three-course, date-night menu, with a cheese board, Julia Child’s recipe for beef Bourguignon and a chocolate-dipped cannoli plus a complimentary bottle of bubbly for $100 per couple. Reservations are required though there will be open seating on the patio. 6265 Old Water Oak Rd.; 850-765-7053.
A la Provence: The fine dining restaurant, known for its attentive service, refined atmosphere and classic French-Mediterranean cuisine, showcases dishes such as charcuterie, escargot casserole, filet mignon and grand Marnier soufflé. While there’s not a specific Valentine’s Day menu there will be upscale specials such as chateaubriand and lobster. 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-329-6870.
Aura: This contemporary, new space in the Kleman Plaza — from Zein Zaioud, a graduate of Florida State University — offers both casual and upmarket dishes, including a long list of appetizers, seafood, steak, and burgers and will serve specials for Valentine’s Day. 215 W. College Ave.; 850-577-1406.
Blu Halo: The chic venue, owned by Keith Paniucki, will be serving its special Valentine’s menu Feb. 11 through 16 with surf-and-turf choices. Sit under the blue halo for an after-dinner cocktail. Bannerman Crossings, 3431 Bannerman Rd.; 850-999-1696
Clusters & Hops:This intimate cafe is “small and quaint with fantastic food,” said Tallahassee Table reader Tanja Hall. The restaurant, owned by chef Kent Steels, is ensconced in a gourmet wine and cheese shop and presents an intriguing menu that includes items such as a daily pâté, ostrich and ossobuco. Valentine’s Day specials will feature reindeer sliders for two with foie gras and grand Marnier aioli. Steels carries more than 2,500 wine selections, but here’s a tip: You can also pick a wine off the shelf for the retail price and pay a small corkage fee. Note: It’s the only day of the year Clusters accepts reservations. 707 N. Monroe St., 850-222-2669.
Cypress Restaurant: Owners chef David Gwynn and his wife Elizabeth showcase Southern-inspired, regional cuisine in this sophisticated, contemporary destination decorated with work by local artists. The menu features classics such as oysters and biscuits, seared diver scallops and a variety of homemade desserts as well as daily specials. 320 East Tennessee St.; 850-513-1100.
The Edison Restaurant: Try to snag a table on the terrace overlooking Cascades Park for a romantic dinner under the stars. The regular menu offers classic dishes such as shrimp and grits, fried chicken, steak and pork chops. Look for a four-course menu with “bubbly” for $100 per couple on Valentine’s Day. 70 Suwannee St.; 850-765-9771.
Essence of India: The aroma of Indian cuisine helps set the mood for an exotic dinner, featuring breads and dishes cooked in the tandoor (clay oven) as well as a thali dinner (with several, varied dishes). The restaurant is offering a three-course dinner on Valentine’s Day with a complimentary glass of wine. 1105 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-656-7200.
Food Glorious Food: The modern space is known for its striking art work as well as its gourmet, global menu. Open more than 30 years, Food Glorious Food features small plates, entrees as diverse as New York strip steak and fried catfish, decadent desserts made in-house and creative cocktails. Look for specials on Valentine’s Day. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-7279.
Georgio’s Fine Food & Spirits: Pampering service and quality cuisine have helped make this Greek-Mediterranean restaurant a popular destination for more than 50 years. Owner Georgio Koikos is still at the helm with help from his daughter, general manager Leni Spears. Expect steak, seafood and cocktail specials on Valentine’s Day. 2971 Apalachee Pkwy.; Tallahassee; 850-877-3211.
Il Lusso:The new, high-end Italian steakhouse offers a fine dining experience, touting dry-aged beef, chops, pasta and cocktails. The elegant restaurant, from Sage business partners — chef Terry White and sommelier Craig Richardson — also features a bar area and cocktail lounge. 201 E. Park Ave.; 850-765-8620.
Kool Beanz: The eclectic venue will feature its changing, creative menu on Valentine’s Day but owner Keith Baxter notes that “amazingly talented pastry chef” Sylvia Gould will be preparing “something wonderful” for Valentine’s Day. Kool Beanz has elevated its funky, fun setting. As part of a recent renovation, the place has been painted and sports a new bar, new floors and different lighting. The restaurant will still feature an array of local art. 921 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-2466.
Little Italy: Romance is always in the air at homey Italian establishments like Litty Italy, owned by Enver Sulollari and his wife Vjollca since 1987. The classic family restaurant serves a long list of traditional dishes. On Valentine’s day, couples can choose one appetizer, two entrees, dessert and a bottle of wine for $65. If Enver Sulollari had to pick one romantic dish, he said it would be “the shrimp piccata for its zesty lemon flavor.” 111 S Magnolia Dr.; 850-878-7781.
Little Paris: The new French restaurant is “beautiful, romantic and the food is incredible,” said Tallahassee Table reader Leigh Richey. “Service is not white cloth, but the ambience and the food make the date. … Order the duck confit.” Also on the menu: foie gras, vol-au-vent (seafood in a pastry shell with a béchamel sauce) and rib-eye plus French delicacies for dessert. Owner and Marseilles native Marie Warmack said she’ll be giving female customers a red rose on Valentine’s Day. 1355 Market St.; 850-765-7457.
Lucilla: This casual cafe has an intimate vibe, thanks in part to the friendly atmosphere and creative cuisine from owners chef Joe Richardson and Lara Hooper. The menu includes popular pimento cheese fritters, snapper St. Charles and root vegetable pot pie with varied homemade desserts. 1241 E. Lafayette St.; 850-900-5117.
Melting Pot: It’s hard to find a more romantic pairing than chocolate fondue and champagne. That’s one reason the Melting Pot is a popular spot for a special occasion. The restaurant will be offering a four-course prix fixe special, with cheese fondue, salad, entree (also a fondue) and chocolate Feb. 7 through Feb. 21st for $54 per person — except on Valentine’s Day, when it’s $75 per person. 2727 N. Monroe St.; 850-386-7440.
Mimi’s Table: The charming new restaurant in the Old Town District combines an inviting setting, friendly servers and a fine menu that delves into Southern, French and Italian cuisine, with daily specials. Executive chef/owner William Lawson said Mimi’s regular menu includes romantic dishes such as smokey fried oysters, grilled prime New York strip and dark chocolate cheesecake with Belgian chocolate, crème anglaise and fresh raspberries. Add a chilled bottle of Mont Marcal Brut Rose. Ladies will receive a rose on Valentine’s Day. 1311 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-999-8406
Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits: Egyptian and African art add an exotic and opulent accent to this regal space from owners Sharon and Dana Dennard. Just check out the queen’s table. On Valentine’s Day, Nefetari’s will feature live music and in addition to its regular menu, a special selection with lamb chops, and for vegans, a vegan steak. 812 S. Macomb St.; 850-210-0548.
Sage: “The ambience is comforting, peaceful and relaxing,” Tallahassee Table reader Jill McMullen Elmore said of Sage. “The staff is genuinely caring and welcoming. The food is healthy, fresh and deliciously prepared.” Chef/co-owner Terry White has recently renovated Sage, but it retains its refined style, local art and its landscaped patio. 3534 Maclay Blvd. South; 850-270-9396.
Savour: This new upscale destination from restaurateur Drew McLeod is a classy addition to the downtown dining scene. Chef Brian Knepper has created a diverse menu with dishes such as escargot pot pie, sweet potato gnudi and pot belly, bone-in veal chops, Gulf Coast Bouillabaisse and “adult Key lime pie.” Aside from the thoughtful wine list, consider the tableside “pour-over” coffee experience. 115 E. Park Ave.; 850-765-6966.
Shula’s 347 Grill: Diners will be serenaded by a violinist and harpist at the sophisticated steakhouse inside the Hotel Duval on Valentine’s Day. Aside from its regular steak and seafood selections, Shula’s will offer a prix-fixe, three-course menu with wine pairings for $60 per person. A romantic finish: A cocktail at Level 8 rooftop lounge under the stars. 415 N. Monroe St.; 850-224-6005.
Tour of Italy: The homey restaurant offers a large menu of Italian classics, including pizza, homemade pasta, seafood and “Mama kebabs” in casual but warm surroundings. 3805 N. Monroe St.; 850-629-8203.
Z.Bardhi’s Italian Cuisine: “We love Z.Bardhi’s,” said Tallahassee Table reader Kelly Harris Jones. “We love sitting outside and relaxing. The restaurant has been a popular choice for fine Italian fare for more than two decades. Try to get a seat on the lovely patio, with its white tablecloths and candlelight, for the most romantic setting. 3596 Kinhega Dr.; 850-894-9919.
Sweets for the sweet
Au Péché Mignon French Pastry Shop: It’s never too early in the day to eat chocolate, especially on Valentine’s Day. The French bakery, which also offers lunch, features a scrumptious array of handmade chocolates, pastries, cakes, cookies, croissants and macarons. There are now two locations, in the Northeast and downtown. 1415 Timberlane Rd. and 220 Duval St.; 850-668-5533.
Lofty Pursuits: Sharing an ice cream sundae is an old-fashioned treat that’s as romantic as ever. Lofty Pursuits serves an extensive menu of cool confections plus house-made hard candy, including some made to celebrate Valentine’s Day. You can even have ice cream and waffles for breakfast. 1355 Market St.; 850-521-0091.
Peterbrooke Chocolatier: Savor chocolate-dipped strawberries along with other decadent sweets including truffles, handmade caramels and cherry cordials, chocolate-covered cookies, pretzels, marshmallows ands potato chips. 1817 Thomasville Rd.; 850-577-3111.
Rochelle Koff writes about food and dining at TallahasseeTable.com. Reach her at [email protected]