Still looking for the right way to convey your feelings to your sweetie this Valentine's Day? Someone smart once said food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate. True. Food writer M.F.K. Fisher had a zillion quotes about the direct connection between the heart and the belly, the intimacy of sharing a great meal. So, dinner out should do it. But bear in mind, it's the second busiest restaurant day of the year.
This will require some thinking outside of the box. Does it have to be Thursday? Can you push it to the weekend? And does it have to be dinner? Here are what some of Tampa Bay's better-known restaurants are doing to celebrate matters of the heart.
Tampa International Airport
Well, they're not all restaurants per se. From 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, the airport will celebrate the grand opening of 69 new shops and restaurants on the third floor of the airport's Main Terminal. (This is presecurity.) Admission is free and visitors can park free for under one hour in the Short Term Garage. Think about it: You can stroll and nibble from all the new shops (lots of local products on offer, from La Segunda pastries to Toffee to Go toffee and Kahwa coffee), then watch the planes taking off and landing from one of four outdoor patios. Romantic. Have a glass of bubbly and talk about where you'd like to jet off to. And if you're really romantic? Call each other's bluff and buy a ticket. The remake of the Main Terminal and all of the airport concessions were part of the first phase of a three-phase capital program designed to expand the airport's capacity to 34 million annual passengers. 4100 George J. Bean Parkway, Tampa.
How about a little breakfast instead to get the day started off avec amour? Rise and shine to dishes like the strawberry cheesecake-stuffed waffle, or croissant French toast, cinnamon roll pancakes or "Yo Hala on the Square" (thick challah bread stuffed with a mixture of bananas, brown sugar, cream cheese and hazelnut syrup, prepared like French toast and topped with a blueberry strawberry compote). Oh, and mimosas are $2.99 through Sunday. 5250 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 324-6088; 4011 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, (813) 364-0076.
This longtime romantic restaurant in Treasure Island is in its 14th year, offering a special Valentine's Day menu that includes lobster bisque ($10), a tuna martini ($12), escargots Provencale ($12) and Coquilles St. Jacques ($12), as well as entrees like huge Maine lobster tails ($52), bouillabaisse ($32) and duck a l'orange ($29). That's all the romantic foods right there. 163 107th Ave. (727) 360-9151.
Precisely how much do you love your sweetie? This steakhouse is doing something a little different this year. You can wine, dine and surprise your sweetheart with an extravagant dinner and special gift from a jeweler (for her or him). The deal runs through Sunday and, get this, is offered at three different price points, each with distinct Champagne options and gift choices. The first tier ($350) includes a three-course dinner for two, two glasses of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne and the surprise gift. The second tier ($500) is a three-course dinner for two with a whole bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne, plus the gift. And then the pull-out-all-the-stops tier ($1,000) is a three-courser with a bottle of Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne and the surprise gift. There are fancy amuse-bouches (seared scallops, etc.), starters include a choice of mushroom bisque with truffle cream and thyme or beet salad with red onion, pistachios, Campari tomato, goat cheese and honey-lime vinaigrette; entrees are a filet mignon plus a choice of North Atlantic lobster tail or colossal shrimp with herb-lemon butter sauce; and for dessert it's white chocolate bread pudding served with dark chocolate and raspberry-infused whipped cream and topped with warm raspberry champagne sauce. 4322 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa. (813) 874-9463.
This chain seafood spot is doing a filet and lobster thermidor combo, their version a wood-fired filet mignon and jumbo shrimp topped with sweet lobster chunks in a creamy thermidor sauce, served with choice of two sides, available through Sunday. There's also a new Art-Sea martini (tropical flavors of passion fruit, pineapple and fresh citrus shaken with Reyka vodka and Aperol liqueur garnished with some kind of edible art) and a chocolate lava cake topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. For the location nearest you, go to bonefishgrill.com.
Suave tuxedoed waiters. Live music in the bar. Suitably low lighting. I think of this place as romantic. This year they are doing a Valentine's Eve special on Wednesday. Choose from the menu of seafood and steaks and get free Chambord truffles and a glass of Moet Brut Imperial or Moet Rose to share with your loved one at the end of your meal. Not bad. 4400 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa. (813) 877-7290.
HEW Parlor & Chophouse
This newcomer at the Fenway Hotel in Dunedin is offering a romantic four-course prix-fixe menu for Valentine's Day. There's a choice of appetizer (cold water oysters, sliced yellowtail, charred beef tataki, tasso-style pork, chicken liver mousse or caramelized cauliflower), choice of soup or salad, choice of entree (grilled airline chicken breast, grilled pork loin, duck breast, olive oil-poached cobia, filet, barbecued lamb loin, mixed shellfish risotto or a tomahawk — the entree determines the prix-fixe price, from $56 to $130) and choice of dessert (malted chocolate cake, pear panna cotta or cheese tasting), served from 5 to 10 p.m. 453 Edgewater Drive, Dunedin. (727) 683-5990.
It's another four-course menu, this one in a "sea to table" vein, with a signature surf and turf interpretation that pairs butter-roasted Maine lobster tail, filet mignon and fresh jumbo lump crab cake for $99, which includes choice of appetizer, soup or salad and dessert. The menu also features a number of sommelier selections and a big handful of fun cocktails. (I think their cocktails are some of the best around.) The special menu is offered through Sunday at the Tampa location. 4342 W Boy Scout Blvd. (813) 873-7697.
Head to Orlando
A number of Disney Springs properties are offering deliciousness for lovers. The new Margaritaville Resort Orlando is offering a fourth night free if you book three nights, and with the package you can enjoy all the resort's amenities like dinner at On Vacation Café, a bottle of champagne with dinner and a couples' massage. At Maria & Enzo's, a property designed to look like a 1930s-style airline terminal, there's a special V-Day menu that features two antipasti selections and entrees like a duo of lobster and New York strip or a traditional roasted veggie lasagna, ending things on a sweet note with a decadent bittersweet chocolate ganache tart. At the adjacent Enzo's Hideaway (an Italian speakeasy-inspired, Prohibition-era restaurant and bar) there are special cocktails on offer at the Tunnel Bar, from a limoncello gimlet to a Luciano Spritz, plus opulent cheese and charcuterie boards. Then at Morimoto Asia, seriously one of the most dramatic and gorgeous restaurants in Florida, you can cuddle up at the intimate 14-seat sushi bar, sip something at the Forbidden Lounge cocktail and watch the doings in the exhibition kitchen. Oh, and Wine Bar George is offering a special Valentine's menu all weekend (filet mignon, seared snapper, etc.), which can be paired with a flight of sparkling wine or any of the other 140 wines offered by the glass. disneysprings.com.
The Fresh Market
If going out doesn't appeal, the Fresh Market is offering a complete Valentine's Day meal for two that lets you enjoy a meal together in more of a "Netflix and chill" context. Think choice of filet mignon, North Atlantic lobster tails or Chilean sea bass, whipped potatoes, asparagus tips, garlic Parmesan butter and mini chocolate lava Bundt cakes. The meal is completed with a bouquet of a dozen roses, the whole thing for $59.99. Throw in a bottle of bubbly and you're set. Oh, and they also have heart-shaped ribeyes for $14.99 per pound if you want to get really ridiculous. Visit thefreshmarket.com for locations.
Not feeling the love this year? Everyone's favorite owl-themed restaurant is taking things in a different direction. They are offering free wings for shredding your ex's photo. "You need your ex's photo like you need a kidney stone," the Hooters website says. "Get rid of it now by answering a few quick questions. We'll help you choose the most satisfying method of disposal, so the healing can begin." Fill out a short questionnaire, they will figure out the most satisfying method of disposal, so you can finally move on. And then? Ten free boneless wings. Go to hooters.com for the closest location.
Contact Laura Reiley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.