It's been quite some time since I've seen the quintessential romantic dinner scene from Disney's Lady and the Tramp but I'm reminded of it every time I have one of those spaghetti-slurping moments with my hubby. Date night doesn't always have to mean dinner, especially in Orlando where you can do everything from ice skating to indoor skydiving. But in the right restaurant with the perfect ambiance, lighting, food and wine, a romantic dinner out is usually just what any couple needs to reconnect.
While I wouldn't presume to have figured out the textbook formula for the ideal romantic restaurant, I do have my favorites and I think I've identified a few key elements for a perfect night.
First and foremost, the restaurant needs to make couples feel like they've been transported to another world. Few Orlando eateries do this quite as well as Hemingway's inside the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, where a tropical décor and fresh Florida cuisine whisk guests away to Key West. With its interior dining room and dance hall designed to make you feel like you've just wandered into an outdoor courtyard in the heart of Havana, Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar at Pointe Orlando takes diners on an epicurean journey to Cuba complete with a menu filled with 15 different varieties of Mojitos.
Seating also plays an important role in creating a cozy and intimate space, which is why I love the booths at The Oceanaire Seafood Room. Inside the dining room, a dimly lit space reminiscent of a 1930s luxury ocean liner, these snug seats give couples the feeling of having their special spot to enjoy such delicacies on the menu as the Chilled Shellfish Platter or Oysters Rockefeller. Just down the road, Ocean Prime also offers a handful of fantastic dining booths. Located inside the Blu Lounge, these stellar seats give guests access to the full menu with the added bonus of featuring front row views of the nightly entertainment. The lounge features live music Wednesday through Saturday evenings.
If it's available, try to snag the chef's table overlooking the kitchen at Luma on Park. You'll not only be treated to great food all night, but the secluded bar top provides the ideal vantage point from which to watch the chefs whip up the epicurean masterpieces that have catapulted this restaurant to the top of the local culinary charts.
Sometimes the most romantic restaurants are the ones with just a handful of tables, which is why so many couples adore Maxine's on Shine, a whimsical neighborhood eatery clandestinely tucked into a quiet, downtown Orlando residential street. Maxine's has a bohemian, ‘come as you are' feel with an unfussy menu of really great food and excellent wine. It's locally owned and features live music most nights on the zebra-skinned stage on the edge of its fanciful dining room.
Finally, there is just something so sweet about shared food, whether it's an antipasto platter or strawberries dipped into a decadent pot of melted chocolate. The Melting Pot, the fondue restaurant located at 7549 West Sand Lake Road, features an entire menu of shared meals, which is why I'm sure it continues to come to mind when many local couples start considering plans for everything from first dates to 20-year wedding anniversaries.
This September, all the above-mentioned restaurants will join the more than 60 restaurants participating in Visit Orlando's Magical Dining Month. Each will offer a three-course prix fixe menu priced at just $33 per person.
In addition, couples may wish to book a Magical Nights package, which features the prix fixe dining experiences combined with overnight accommodations at some of the area's best hotels and resorts.
This special post was written by Kristen Manieri. To read more about the romantic side of Orlando and other tips from Kristen, visit GreatDatesOrlando.com.