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.

An African American couple enjoying drinks at Doc Ford's on the St. Pete Pier.

The outdoor seating at Doc Ford's has views of the St. Pete Pier head and Tampa Bay. It's a great spot to linger with loved ones.

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!


The Black Pearl, Dunedin

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When you walk into this quintessential Dunedin spot, the first thing you might notice is the subdued lighting. It’s perfect for date night – as is the French and New American menu you’ll find at The Black Pearl. Thanks to Chef Christopher Artrip, it’s a sumptuous affair featuring the likes of asparagus bisque with lemon crème fraiche or white truffle lobster risotto – a perennial favorite. From amuse bouche to dessert, the food here is crafted with all five senses in mind. Speaking of dessert, the tarte tatin (spiced granny smith apples cooked in brown butter and served with puff pastry and whipped cream) is made for sharing. Bonus: you’ll be in the heart of walkable downtown Dunedin, steps away from the perfect nightcap.

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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 offbeat-but-sophisticated 18-seat restaurant offers an ever-changing list of innovative dishes crafted with precision, plated in kaleidoscopic arrays that rival fine art. The menu changes about twice a week here. 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 creates an atmosphere that’s classy but far from stuffy.

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Caretta on the Gulf, Clearwater Beach

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

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

While you’re met with professional valet service and white tablecloths at this elegant restaurant at Clearwater Beach’s opulent SandPearl Resort, there’s no jacket required at Caretta on the Gulf. Opt for outdoor seating for Gulf breezes or sit indoors by the floor-to-ceiling windows – either way, you and your date are in for a sunset show. There’s a ton of fresh seafood on the menu, from Gulf grouper to Chilean seabass, on the menu, but there’s also a great sushi bar. Organic herbs and vegetables inspire the menu here, as does a wine list you’ll have to see to believe. For an experience that’s sure to impress your date, go for the chef’s tasting menu, which includes impeccably curated wine and dessert pairings.

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Salt Rock Grill, Indian Shores

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The Salt Rock Grill is a landmark restaurant located 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 U.S.D.A. prime and choice grade beef, fresh dayboat-caught seafood, 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 some limited-run bottles oenophiles will love. Bonus: after your meal (or before, depending on when you go), stroll across the street to catch a romantic Gulf sunset.

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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 features an 80-foot-long raw bar. Salt is also part of the experience: More than 130 different types of salt are used on the menu here. As you walk in, a large structure may catch your eye: the wine tower, which contains the 4,000 wines that constitute the sommelier’s vino-pairing palette. 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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Il Ritorno, St. Pete

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Sophisticated Italian fare, exposed brick and a business-casual dress code (no flip-flops) elevate your date night at this popular downtown St. Pete spot that looks out onto bustling Central Avenue. Il Ritorno owner and executive chef David Benstock strives to create rustic dishes informed by fresh, seasonal ingredients. Dishes are plated with the same elegance as your surroundings. Naturally, the wine list is quite lengthy – especially the reds. To really step things up, opt for the chef’s five-course tasting menu with wine pairings.

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Rococo Steak, St. Pete

The majestic facade of Rococo Steak.

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 historic building, renovated with a certain grandeur. You’ll find steak in every form on the menu, but here’s a little-known secret: The brilliant kitchen staff expertly concocts dishes for every dietary style. Just call ahead – the kitchen will create something amazing for you, if you have a special request or dietary needs. This versatility is informed by farm-fresh ingredients. Rococo Steak is the only restaurant in town to win Wine Spectator’s Best Award of Excellence.

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Maritana Grille, St. Pete Beach

Maritana Grill

Adding to the Don Cesar's iconic status is Maritana Grill, the award-winning restaurant housed within the famous resort.

Recent renovations have given this seaside restaurant in St. Pete Beach a clean, modern makeover to make dining at award-winning Maritana Grille an even more sophisticated affair. Located at The Don CeSar (aka the "Pink Palace") the menu has a wow factor that's in keeping with its landmark setting, which is perfect for popping the question or celebrating an anniversary. Expect excellent 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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