Date Night: Fine-Dining Restaurants

Looking for fettuccine alfredo with a side of romance? These restaurants serve up a romantic setting alongside a delicious meal.

A couple enjoying a meal in an indoor setting of Caretta restaurant.

For an unforgettable meal with Gulf vistas to match, reserve your table at Caretta on the Gulf at the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach.

A great meal with some soft lighting, stylish decor and lovely views is sure to set the mood for romance. Whether it’s a first-time rendezvous or a well-deserved night away from the kids, you’ll find some excellent options here!

1

1200° Chophouse, St. Pete Beach

A plated dish and red wine pairing at 1200 Chophouse on St. Pete Beach

Savory Steak

This hidden gem restaurant offers an upscale ambiance, with steaks seared to perfection at 1200 degrees.

Come early and come hungry to this tiny, locally loved steakhouse in St. Pete Beach1200° Chophouse doesn’t take reservations, so you’d be wise to plan an early dinner or prepare to relax with a drink while waiting for a table. Order the angus ribeye, New York strip, filet mignon, or a porterhouse steak for two – no matter what you select, your cut will be perfectly cooked on its 1,200° searing grill. Dining out with a pescatarian? A variety of seafood offerings are available, including pan-seared sea bass, shrimp in Creole barbecue butter, and twin Caribbean lobster tails.

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2

The Black Pearl, Dunedin

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When you walk into this Dunedin spot, the first things you might notice are the subdued lighting and the intimate size. With most of its 12 tables seating two, The Black Pearl and its French and New American menu is perfect for date night. Thanks to Chef Christopher Artrip, dining here is a sumptuous affair featuring the likes of escargot en croute or white truffle lobster risotto – a perennial favorite. From amuse bouche to dessert, the food here is hand-crafted fresh to order and presented beautifully. To top off a romantic experience, consider the tarte tatin. The spiced granny smith apples cooked in brown butter and served with puff pastry and whipped cream are made for sharing. Bonus: you’ll be in the heart of walkable downtown Dunedin, steps away from the perfect nightcap.

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3

Il Ritorno, St. Pete

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Sophisticated Italian fare, exposed brick walls and a business-casual dress code elevate your date night at this popular small downtown St. Pete spot on bustling Central AvenueIl Ritorno owner and executive chef David Benstock strives to create rustic dishes with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Dishes, all plated elegantly, include a Spanish octopus appetizer with pickled cauliflower, charred romesca and smoked celery root, and such entrees as a short rib mezzaluna featuring truffle fonduta, concentrated tomatoes, piave and chives. The wine list is quite lengthy – especially the reds. To really step things up, opt for the chef’s six-course tasting menu with wine pairings.

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4

Allelo, St. Pete

A variety of Mediterranean dishes are served.

Savor delicious Mediterranean cuisine at Allelo.

If you love Mediterranean cuisine, you’ll adore Allelo in St. Pete, the perfect spot for two to share a tasty selection of small plates, flowing wine and plenty of romance. Sample octopus, beef tartare or Greek salad; order oysters, shrimp or a tower from the raw bar; and wrap it up with Sokolatina cake for dessert along with a truffle-infused spirit. Even the cocktail menu brings out romance, with drinks like "Make Me Blush" and "Smooth Operator."

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5

The Restorative, Dunedin

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Since it first opened in an unassuming Dunedin storefront in 2017, food critics have been writing near-sonnets praising the fare you’ll find at The Restorative. This casual-but-sophisticated small restaurant offers an ever-changing list of innovative dishes crafted with precision and plated in kaleidoscopic arrays that rival fine art. The New American menu changes two to three times a week here, taking advantage of the freshest seasonal offerings. Expect both large and small plates featuring house-made pastas, a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and freshly caught fish (see a sample menu). The wine list isn’t massive but it’s as meticulously curated as the food. And the dessert menu? Words don’t suffice. The limited seating lends itself to an intimate meal, and the clean, simple décor and open kitchen create an atmosphere that’s classy but far from stuffy.

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6

Caretta on the Gulf, Clearwater Beach

A group of friends enjoying a meal with a view at Caretta restaurant.

Dinner With a View

With amazing food and views to match, Caretta on the Gulf at Sandpearl Resort is a treat for the senses.

This elegant restaurant at the opulent SandPearl Resort in Clearwater Beach has its tables draped in white cloths, but Caretta on the Gulf isn’t the type to require jackets. Opt for outdoor seating for Gulf breezes or sit indoors by the floor-to-ceiling windows – either way, if you time it right, you and your date are in for a sunset show. There’s plenty of fresh seafood on the menu, from Gulf grouper to Chilean seabass. Organic herbs and vegetables inspire the menu here, and the wine list is worthy of its Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

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7

Salt Rock Grill, Indian Shores

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The Salt Rock Grill is a landmark restaurant in Indian Shores that offers lovely views of the Intracoastal Waterway. For locals, it’s a go-to spot for special occasions. It's known for hand-cut USDA prime and choice beef, seafood caught daily by boats docked at the restaurant, a raw bar and a top-notch wine cellar. Come here for beef that's been aged then grilled over a natural oak-and-citrus-wood pit fire. The wine list, a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner, features some familiar labels as well as limited-run bottles oenophiles will love. Bonus: After your meal (or before, depending on when you go), beach views of romantic Gulf sunsets are nearby.

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8

Maritana, St. Pete Beach

A young Asian couple in nice clothing walks into the elegant Maritana restaurant at the Don CeSar resort

Elegant Dining

Maritana at the Don CeSar on St. Pete Beach offers a fine-dining experience.

Renovations in 2022 have given this seaside restaurant in St. Pete Beach a grand makeover to make dining at award-winning Maritana an even more sophisticated affair. Located at historic The Don CeSar (aka the "Pink Palace"), the Maritana’s menu has a wow factor in keeping with a landmark setting perfect for popping the question or celebrating an anniversary. Expect fresh snapper and grouper with Mediterranean and Floribbean touches, mouthwatering desserts and an excellent wine list. The aesthetics inside are pretty spectacular, but you're also just steps away from the stunning sunsets outside.

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9

Birch & Vine and The Canopy, St. Pete

Two ladies enjoying cocktails at The Canopy rooftop bar in downtown St. Pete

Views from the Rooftop

The Canopy rooftop lounge is one of the St. Pete's most popular gathering spots.

Stay at The Birchwood, a boutique hotel in the heart of downtown St. Pete, and you won’t have to wander far for a great meal. Birch & Vine offers an intimate dining room as well as covered sidewalk seating. Dinner here is a showstopper with entrees such as Togarashi Crusted Fish, with braised rainbow chard, forbidden rice, saffron emulsion, kiwi and midori insalata and a ribeye meatloaf with buttermilk mashed potatoes. Choose from more than 450 wines in a collection that made Birch & Vine one of only three St. Pete restaurants to receive Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence. For one of the best views of Tampa Bay in the area, head up to The Canopy, the Birchwood’s rooftop lounge. Enjoy cool breezes, craft cocktails and tasty bar bites such as fritto misto fried calamari, and shrimp and white fish served with lemon and remoulade.

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10

The Left Bank Bistro, St. Pete

interior of Left Bank Bistro French restaurant in a historic bungalow with chandelier, leopard print chair and tables in background

French Style

Charming Left Bank Bistro is a place to relax and indulge in excellent French cuisine.

Cozy,” “charming,” “amazing,” and “fabulous” are the words that jump out from the reviews for The Left Bank Bistro, a lovely little spot on 9th Street in St. Pete’s MLK North District. Housed in a renovated 1920s bungalow with an intimate dining room as well as covered porch seating, this low-profile gem offers dishes that admiring guests rave about, such as the boeuf bourguignon, a Burgundy-braised short rib that’s slow-cooked for four hours, and the bouillabaisse, made with fresh local fish, shellfish and seasonal vegetables in a saffron lobster sauce. Vegetarian options include a vegan curry with cauliflower, banana peel, wild mushroom, peppers and tofu. There's live jazz on Thursday nights. Reservations are accepted.

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11

Rococo Steak, St. Pete

The majestic facade of Rococo Steak.

Date-Night Dream

On the south end of downtown St. Pete, Rococo Steak is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner.

For one of the most elegant dining experiences in the area, head to Rococo Steak on the south end of downtown St. Pete. A far cry from the stuffy steakhouses of yesteryear, the menu here is as imaginative as the art on the walls. The sensory experience begins before you walk in. Rococo is housed in a 1926 former YWCA that was renovated with a certain grandeur. The menu lists great Allen Brothers cuts of beef, but the variety of meat and other dishes are sure to please everyone. Rococo Steak is one of only three recipients of Wine Spectator’s Best of Awards of Excellence in St. Pete.

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12

Sea Salt, St. Pete

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As the name ­– and the ice chest featuring fresh-caught fish near the entrance – suggest, seafood is the star on the menu here. A great option for Valentine’s Day or any special occasion, Sea Salt is in the upscale Sundial shopping mall and features an 80-foot-long raw bar. Salt is also part of the experience: More than 130 types of salt are used on the menu. As you walk in, a large structure may catch your eye: the wine tower, which contains the 4,000 wines in the sommelier’s vino-pairing palette. Sea Salt is one of only three St. Pete restaurants to receive Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence. While an intimate sit-down dinner is a romantic affair here, the daily happy hour holds its own as a great spot for a rendezvous with a special someone.

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13

The Urban Stillhouse, St. Pete

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Urban Stillhouse demonstrates that fine dining doesn’t have to be a stuffy, formal affair. Instead, this industrial-chic restaurant in St. Pete’s growing Warehouse Arts District offers an ultra-cool cocktail menu to match its uber-cool setting, with a three-story-tall ceiling and windows overlooking the Horse Soldier distillery. Bourbon-inspired entrees and seasonal menu items are crafted on the wood-fired grill using locally sourced ingredients. Try the Prime Delmonico with slow-roasted garlic clove and a porcini mushroom demi-glaze, the tagliatelle of fresh pasta, key west pink shrimp, fava beans, lemon cream and kale pesto, or the fig-and-hazelnut-crusted lamb chops. (Tip: Bourbon-lovers will want to make a reservation for their tasting experience that includes a bourbon flight and an appetizer.) While not formal, this is a place where folks celebrate special occasions, so no beach attire, flip-flops or athletic wear, please. Reservations are required for table service.

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14

Latitude 28, Clearwater Beach

cheese board with champagne

At Latitude 28, the tantalizing aroma of fresh herbs and spices welcomes you, setting the stage for a lovely meal overlooking Clearwater Pass visible through floor-to-ceiling, linen-draped windows. This restaurant in the JW Marriott Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa is perfect for a dinner date in a grand, elegant setting. Favorites among the Mediterranean-inspired dishes include Soujouk Pide, a flatbread with spicy soujouk sausage, kasar cheese confid, yellow cherry tomato and a 65° egg, and the Wagyu strip steak with Mediterranean-spiced roasted fingerlings, tomato gel, pear and sage sauce, and red chimichurri. Ask your servers about their favorite beverage or take a pick from any of the restaurant’s hand-crafted cocktails or mocktails.

 

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