I’m still dating my husband after 30 years of matrimony. After all that time, dining out with a bottle of Merlot just seems so pedestrian no matter how comfortable we’ve become with each other after all these years. Fortunately in a city like Miami, there is much to explore beyond just having a meal and some wine( although we plan a lot of our lives consumed by the giddy idea of a new restaurant!).
Perhaps you haven’t reached our blessed milestone yet and you are just dipping your toes into the meet-up game. From someone who has been through all the peaks and valleys of the relationship dance, get togethers at every stage of attraction warrant different activities. So, here’s a set of three different Miami date night ideas depending whether you’re not quite to the daily texting stage or you’ve already exchanged house keys.
At First or Second Glance: the beginning of a possible liaison. The birth of any affaire du couer is best when it starts off on a light note and one of the best neighborhoods to just relax with each other is in artsy Wynwood. Situated just northwest of downtown Miami, the funky galleries, numerous graffiti walls, and hip dining are non-intimidating ways to spend the get-to-know you date.
Begin early evening at the famous Wynwood Walls for some fresh air and some of best wall art in the country. Even if one or both of you are not exactly art aficionados, just the mere colors, techniques, and shapes used for the ultra-creative designs will get conversation flowing. And if both of you happen to be in visual ecstasy, well, then this date is off to a rousing start. Take your time strolling from one magnificent piece to the other, bantering about whether artist Kenny Scharf or Shepard Fairey makes better use of clean graphics.
Continue the discussion of which virtuoso has superior urban style over drinks. For date number one and two, keep it very informal, so put aside the fancy cocktails in favor of a down to earth beer brewery. Wynwood is the home base of some of the nations’s most creative dens of beer brewing, so there are plenty of places to select from. My husband, a man who’d never turn down a cold beer on a hot, sultry Miami evening, is partial to J. Wakefield Brewing located at 120 NW 24th Street. Upon approach you might think this another art gallery, but behind the graffiti-laded facade lies a 15-barrel brew house that uses local ingredients twisted into unique beers utilizing tropical mangoes, spicy ancho peppers, farm-fresh peaches and many more interesting flavors. If you both love the sours, then this sweet spot will fit the bill for some pre-dinner fun.
Whoever makes the reservation, one of you is sure to score some admiration points when you book your dinner table at KYU. Although far from unknown; after all it is rated one of the best restaurants in Miami, KYU is a consistently well run establishment with impressive eats. It’s best not to take any chances on this premier date; you just want to concentrate on each other and not concern yourself with any kinks from a newbie or poorly executed restaurant. As a plus, KYU is always comfortably crowded; something too intimate can be be clumsy at this stage of your relationship.
The menu is tapas-style with more than ample portions for the two of you. This kind of offering is an ideal way to get acquainted- is he a chili pepper kind of guy?, does she like sweet and salty flavor combinations? You’ll have fun discovering each other’s palates, but I’d definitely recommend a portion of their out-of-this-world Korean Fried Chicken, Crispy Tuna Tartare and Thai Fried Rice Stone Pot. Find out if your partner will eat their greens by trying offerings from the alluring vegetable menu-Whole Grilled Maitake Mushroom with Ginger and Soy, Japanese Sweet Potato with White Miso and Black Sugar, and Thai Coconut Creamed Spinach with Crispy Shallots are among the various ways to get in your 5 a day vegetable rations.
End the evening on an innocent note as the conclusion of any primary rendezvous is often a bit awkward. Head for Flavian Gelateria, located at 2621 NW 2nd Avenue, for a rich coppetta of authentic Italian gelato. Named after Rome’s Flavian Amphitheater, otherwise known to all as the famous Coliseum, this perky, yet sophisticated parlor is dedicated to the delightfully dense and much more exciting cousin of the usual scoop of ice cream. Maybe you are feeling quite natural with each other now and are ready to take this union to the next important step- order one gelato with two spoons! Continue to enjoy Flavian’s lovely surroundings with a nightcap- no, not more alcohol, but a potent espresso as only the Italians can brew. If the caffeine keeps both of you up for several more hours, well, let’s just say I’ll leave my itinerary here and you can just design your own post excursion.
When You Are Leaving Toothbrushes At Each Other’s Apartments-The several months in dating night. You are at that stage when leaving personal items at each other’s residence has been cemented. Now you are ready for a Miami date night that’s a bit more romantic and hands-on.
The journey begins on Miami Beach, but outside of the heart of busy South Beach for a little more refinement. Since you are now contented with each other, stroll arm and arm starting at 24th street on the elevated Miami Beach boardwalk. When you hear the word boardwalk you think of paths lined with cheap touristy paraphernalia and this boardwalk is definitely not that. No, it’s simply a very clean, nicely maintained walkway that allows for spectacular views and peaceful calm. It’s charm comes from viewing the beach and sparking waters on one side and a peek at the glamorous facades of the best hotels on Miami Beach on the other. Along the way, literally stop to smell the roses, as your romantic jaunt will be lined with lush vegetation. Feel free to get playful with each other at the beach as there is access to the shoreline at various points along the way. Slip off your shoes and go for an ankle dip into the Atlantic wrapped in each other’s embrace as you watch the sun set.
Dry off your toes as it’s time for dinner. Make your way to the Miami Beach EDITION Hotel at 2901 Collins Avenue, where a whole amorous evening is already planned for you. Check in for your outdoor table at the Matador Room. The capable hostess will usher you first through the interior supper club-like atmosphere of the restaurant. Reminiscent of the 1940’s, make a mental note to dine next time indoors when a cool Miami winter evening might make dining al fresco too bone chilling. But for now, you’ll be seated on the sumptuous and sweetly seductive terrace.
Amid the low sensual lights, share plates of Latin and Caribbean-inspired cuisine created by world class chef Jean Georges Vongerichten. Begin with the light and fresh fare first by splitting a healthy hearts of palm, heirloom tomato, young coconut, and avocado salad. After feeling virtuous and maybe a bit deservedly smug about your sound choice, encourage each other to indulge just a bit. Order something fantastic from the Golden & Crispy section of the menu such as Crunchy Calamari with Aji Amarillo Dip and Cinco Jatas Jamon and Manchego Cheese Fritters. Then go right ahead and live it up celebrating your love for each other with an easily shareable cookie platter. Finish with a digestif of Green Chartreuse, but don’t imbibe too much because the active after-dinner activities are about to commence.
Lurking below all the hotel action one flight down, lies the EDITION BASEMENT. You’ll know your coupling is now at a level of trust when you help each other balance on blades for a unique indoor ice skating experience on the lower level of the property. This unusual site for beachy Miami features a 2000 square foot rink with brave skaters gliding to a pulsating beat (no sleepy music here, after all it IS Miami).
But maybe holding on to dear life on a thin strip of metal isn’t exactly your idea of togetherness, so trade the skates for a pair of bowling shoes. In the same downstairs space you can choose one of four lanes to show off your game. This isn’t the bowling alley of your adolescence; it’s cool, dramatic and artsy- in other words, it’s quintessential Miami. And let’s face it, you are now in the status that you can easily poke fun at each other’s bowling prowess without offending.
Congratulations! The serious and permanent committed phase has arrived. To honor this turning point, you both deserve an evening out that acknowledges such a big step. The classic idea of an everlasting bond is a perfect match for the polished neighborhood of Coral Gables.
This Southwest Miami enclave is one of the city’s most refined. And even though it is well-manicured, your date night here will be anything but fuddy duddy. Begin with a promenade down Miracle Mile, Coral Gable’s beautifully bricked avenue chock- a-block with comely commerce. If matrimonial bliss is imminent, you might want to spend your pre-dinner time browsing the many bridal ( and groom) ateliers. In fact, Miracle Mile has one of the highest concentrations of gown, veil, tuxedo and more wedding day needs in the country. These shops are far, far from the typically strip mall, and shall I say, cheesy outlets you might find elsewhere. It’s all hush-hush in these plushy carpeted salons where you’ll find the tiara of your nuptial dreams.
Once you are done playing dress up, your thirst will need quenching at one of the watering holes that dot the strip. Come to The Globe, a jazz bar and upscale restaurant for a preprandial libation that’s been under the same family ownership since 1997. Tucked into 377 Alhambra Circle, the relaxed environment is filled with locals and visitors alike. While the food isn’t anything to write home about, it’s the cool vibe and quiet ambiance that will make spending an hour or so here nursing a cocktail while you discuss your future together well worth it.
From The Globe, call an Uber and head for the grand dame of Coral Gables, The Biltmore Hotel. While splashing out for one of their coveted rooms would be a treat, you don’t need to be registered guest to enjoy the Biltmore’s legendary charm.
Built in 1926, this salmon-colored confection has stood the test of time through a devastating hurricane to World War II to being unoccupied from the mid 1970’s to the late 1980’s. As the crown jewel of Miami hotels, it provided shelter for people displaced during the 1926 hurricane. During the stock market crash era of the 1930’s, it lifted the spirits of the community by hosting aquatic galas featuring bathing beauties and synchronized swimmers at the nation’s largest pool. The hotel became a 1200-bed hospital during the war years in 1942 and was renamed Pratt General Hospital. The hotel reopened in 1987 after many years of not operating at all and today it’s the first class champ of Miami resorts.
You’ll begin the early evening hours by taking a stroll throughout the property; the grounds are so meticulously managed you’ll want the name of the gardeners for your own front lawn. Stop to admire the sprawling award-winning golf course and have a drink at the clubhouse for a birds-eye view of the last golfers for the day.
Retreat inside for a little gift shopping at the lower level boutiques. Perhaps separate and buy each other a little secret trinket that you’ll reveal at the dinner table.
While all the hotel’s dining options are sure to satisfy your appetite, for this night Fontana Restaurant is ideal for your nouveau situation. Reserve an outdoor table and you’ll be transported to Italy. With gurgling fountains and a landscaped courtyard setting, enjoy the balmy night air over mouthwatering starters through homemade pastas to the last bites of creamy tiramisu, ample enough for sharing between lovebirds. Finish off this splendid day marking the first day of the rest of your lives with a little sweet limoncello reminiscing about that first shy date in quirky Wynwood.
But wait......did you know our award-winning Miami Culinary Tours are a perfect activity if you’ve been together for 30 days or 30 years! Join one of our walking food tours of Little Havana, South Beach, Wynwood or the Design District led by our highly expert master guides. And if your time with us leads to a next positive step in your relationship, well, we won’t mind taking a tiny bit of credit for the bright boost.
By Robyn Webb