By Carla Torres
Updated November 11, 2014
The Courtyard at Mandolin Aegean Bistro
| Credit: Courtesy of Mandolin Aegean Bistro

Despite its huge population of beautiful people, Miami has been a hard place to go on a proper date…until now. As the Magic City evolves into a culinary destination full of impressive dining options, the art of romance seems to be coming back from the dead. These five spots will make for the perfect first date.

1. NIU Kitchen

The setting: A literal hole in the wall tucked away in a nondescript street of downtown, NIU Kitchen is the perfect place to take someone you want to rub shoulders with because that’s how close to them you’ll be. Grab their hand as you walk from up to the glass doors that read “an extraordinary new eatery from the land of burning giraffes and melted clocks.” Inside the intimate and narrow dining room, books float midway through space and graffiti can be found on the repurposed wood panels lining the walls. It’s the kind of land you want to take a date too.

The food: The Catalan inspired cuisine is meant for sharing, so you’ll be able to tell off the bat how the relationship might go. For a first course get the cold tomato soup. Not to be confused with a gazpacho, it’s got a scoop of mustard ice cream and Manchego pesto that, when melted into the cool acidic broth creates the perfect marriage.

2. Lucali

The setting: Located in the charming neighborhood of Sunset Harbour in South Beach, you’ll want to come here right after watching the sunset when the rustic dining room is candlelit. Take a look back to the open kitchen where pizza makers are rolling out dough with wine bottles and tossing it high in the air.

The food: You won’t find any trendy or complex toppings like eggs, pork belly or truffle at this pizza place. Instead, fresh basil and garlic are mandatory garnishes to the paper-thin crust pizza oozing with melted buffalo mozzarella, shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, and their house tomato sauce. For the ultimate pie, go for shallots, onions, pepperoni, basil and garlic. Your mouth will fall in love.

3. Mandolin Aegean Bistro

The setting: This courtyard at Mandolin Aegean Bistro looks like it belongs somewhere in the Mediterranean instead of Miami. Oak trees envelop the red-and-brown cobblestone patio of this Mediterranean courtyard. At night it’s lit up with candles making it perfect for an intimate dinner.

The food: Maybe it’s the fact that the restaurant is run by husband and wife, or their passion for using authentic ingredients from their native lands of Turkey and Greece that makes the love in Mandolin’s dishes felt with every bite. Herbs and produce are plucked from the in-house garden to make the Turkish and Greek inspired dishes. Share the fresh mussels drenched in a citrus and garlicky white wine and oregano sauce and then go all in with the lamb gyro.

4. Nemesis

The setting: Mismatched chairs, psychedelic umbrellas and a montage of neckties make this a fun place to get to know somebody’s personality and taste buds.

The food: The menu itself is broken down into appropriate date-like categories, from “sexy nibbles” to “cool couples.” If the spark isn’t there, you’ll always have the ostrich carpaccio drizzled with rooibos-tea-smoked tomato oil capped with foccaccia croutons or the leek & fig braised duck pot stickers with a guava cardamom sauce.

5. Cypress Room

The setting: The white tablecloths and crystal chandeliers take diners at Michael Schwartz’s fine dining spot back to a time when eating out was considered an occasion.

The food: Schwartz has a tasting menu that changes with the seasons. Classic dishes like frog legs with brioche croutons though are always available, as are an excellent selection of barrel-aged cocktails and pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith’s amazing desserts.