romantic restaurant round up

by erin thursby
Stuck as to where to take your sweetheart for the Valentine’s meal? Here’s a short list of just some of the fabulous places you can take her in and around Jacksonville. Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days for restaurants, so do call ahead and make reservations. Often, they’ll offer a special menu just for the occasion. If you have your heart set on a particular place but they’re booked, see if you can make plans with your sweetheart on an alternate date.

1171 Edgewood Ave. 384-3160
With luscious in-house desserts, an innovative menu and a posh, shabby chic decor, 1171 is one of the up and coming restaurants on the Westside. The menu can be described as American fusion with an emphasis on the fresh.

13 Gypsies
887 Stockton St. 389-0330,
If you can get a reservation for Valentine’s at this small, bistro-style tapas place with a hip casual vibe, the food is outstanding. It’s a great Valentine’s Day pick because it’s hard to get a table. If you find it’s booked, schedule your own personal Valentine’s dinner earlier in the week (or on Friday) instead. Like the gypsies it’s named for, the cuisine of 13 Gypsies goes almost everywhere gypsies do. Freshly-made pasta and bread is enough to keep customers coming back for more. They often cure their own meat. This degree of control ensures a selective dining experience.

Bistro de Leon
12 Cathedral Pl. St Augustine 810-2100,
A classic French bistro in the heart of historic St. Augustine, with a real French chef. It’s got a true bistro atmosphere, laid back while still serving some of the best French cuisine I’ve had in the area. Everybody knows French food equals romance!

Blue Bamboo
3820 Southside Blvd. 646-1478,
East meets west at this Southside fine fusion experience. A lovely selection of wines, cocktails and their desserts (try the Thai tea creme brulee) are just icing on an already delicious cake, metaphorically speaking of course. If your date likes Asian food but you’d like something fancy, complete with a white table cloth, Blue Bamboo is the place to dine.

145 Hilden Rd. Ponte Vedra Beach, (904) 827-1150
If you like surprising your lady and she likes Thai food, try Galangal. They’ve got a real Manhattan vibe, but the food is similar to what you’ll find at Lemongrass or the Thai Room (same owners). It’s on a lonely stretch of road between St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra, in an area that’s fast developing.

2107 Hendricks Ave. 396-9922,
Matthews is the quintessential extravagant dining experience here in Jacksonville. Not only are the waiters trained in formal serving techniques, Matthews has had staying power. Chef Matthew Medure has risen to the status of local celebrity. If there’s anytime that you’d want to bust out your wallet and spend the cash that an evening at Matthews requires, Valentine’s Day is it. This is the place to take your date/spouse/fling, if your aim is to impress.

3630 Park St. 381-0909,
Now offering more seating since their expansion, you might be surprised at how easy it is to get a table for Valentine’s Day. Orsay’s has a kind of lavish French sensibility, with glitzy chandeliers, raised wallpaper and two ever-so cool bars. The white of the main dining room is offset by a chocolate accent wall painted with a graphic art-style pink leafed tree. The food is French with an excellent raw bar and dynamite cocktails.

Primi Piatti
2722 Park St. 389-5545,
If you’re looking for a classy Italian place that’s not all about pizza (they don’t serve any), which delivers elegance, fresh ingredients and a very romantic neighborhood experience, head to Primi Piatti.

2400 3rd St. S. 241-7697,
I don’t know anyone who has had a bad experience at Roy’s. This Hawaiian fusion experience is well worth the dough you’ll lay out for it. Roy’s is the place for special occasion dining. While there are exotic items on the menu, I’ve never known a fussy eater to come away unhappy. Try the lava cake for dessert.