The food of love

A selection of metro Detroit restaurants for a romantic meal

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Amadeus Cafe & Patisserie 122 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-665-8767; $$$: Amadeus is a unique restaurant designed after the Old World cafés of Vienna. A variety of traditional dishes from Central Europe are offered, as well as desserts and a unique list of wines and beers. Enjoy candlelit dinners and live classical music on the weekends. Family-owned and -operated for almost 20 years. On Valentine's Day they'll offer a $69 per couple prix-fixe meal.

Antonio's in the Park 15117 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-821-2433; $$: This romantic little Italian restaurant has all the Old World charm of a courtyard café in Rome. The menu has pastas, thick, rich soups and to-die-for specials. The atmosphere is so relaxing that slow service would seem like a gift.

Assaggi 330 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-584-3499; $$$: Assaggi's Mediterranean dishes include wood-fired pizza (prepared, naturally, in the prominently displayed wood-fired oven), antipasti and sea scallops with hand-rolled pasta. A full wine list and a full bar are available to accompany your lunch or dinner. Rumor has it they're coming up with a prix-fixe special for Valentine's Day.

Atlas Global Bistro 3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-2241: Voted by our readers as the best affordably expensive restaurant (under $50 per diner), Atlas has the vibe of a hip city eatery thanks to its striking interiors, knowledgeable service and international cuisine. In Atlas' quirky kitchen, ingredients don't necessarily remain with their cuisine-of-origin, and the fusion fare can be at once exotic and down-home, mixing it up with lemongrass, cactus, Gorgonzola, caviar and black-eyed peas. And Atlas simply oozes hip urban cachet, nestled in the Addison Building — a 1905 beaux arts structure that once flirted with the wrecking ball — where it sports high ceilings, polished floors and street views of Detroit's historic Brush Park. Expect Valentine's Day specials with both seafood and meat options.

Baker's Keyboard Lounge 20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-345-6300; $$: The world's oldest jazz club, now with a new lease on life, features big band and jazz jam sessions and a great late-night dining menu, with metropolitan Detroit's finest local musicians live every weekend. A perennial winner of our best jazz club categories, if your date likes jazz, you have to take her to Baker's Keyboard Lounge on Sunday to catch a performance by the Christopher Key Quartet. Get there early and score one of the horseshoe-shaped booths — just right for two! For Valentine's Day, expect a live performance by Cheri Oliver & Friends.

Bistro 222 22266 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-792-7500; $$: Michael Chamas' bistro, open almost a year-and-a-half, is well-positioned to attract diners with his imaginative Californian-Italian cuisine and reasonable prices. The walls of his intimate room, which seats 60, are decorated in subdued shades and accented with dark wooden panels. Much of the fare is assertively spiced, such as the zesty and generous portion of bruschetta topped with tomatoes, onions and peppers, and small scallops sautéed in a tangy lemon-garlic sauce and artfully presented in three scallop shells. Most of the entrées are $15 or $16, a surprisingly low price considering the quality of the ingredients and the careful thought that has gone into their creation and presentation. All desserts, except for the ethereal, ultra-light house-made tiramisu, come from the respectable outside supplier, Sweet Street Desserts.

Café Cortina 30715 W. 10 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-474-3033; $$$$: Since Café Cortina was started in 1976, its reputation as a true ristorante has spread its Venetian style pasta sauces are well renowned (and available for sale on the café's website). In today's fast-paced environment, this restaurant continues to present the true heart and soul of Italy, but at prices that are more Lamborghini than Fiat.

Café Felix 204 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-8650; $$: Authentic European-style café, serving pastries, breads and cakes baked fresh on-site, as well as European wines, beers and liquors. They serve a full breakfast, omelets, crepes, soups, salads and tapas. Call for information on their special Valentine's Day prix-fixe menu. Handicap accessible. Expect Valentine's Day prix-fixe options.

Café Zola 112 W. Washington, Ann Arbor; 734-769-2020; $$$: With tasteful art for sale on the brick walls, large picture windows fronting the colorful pedestrian traffic on Washington Street, and, in season, a sizable outdoor patio, Café Zola is one of the more comfortable restaurants in Ann Arbor. Mains have included spaghetti and meatballs marinara, lamb chops a la Turque, flat-iron steak with garlicky chimichurri sauce from the Pampas, and ahi tuna in a sesame-seed crust with wasabi butter, sugar snap peas, and that crunchy coconut rice. The wine list, a thoughtful if somewhat pricey one, contains a handful of relatively obscure bottles in the high 20s to the middle 30s before it disappears into the stratosphere.

Coach Insignia 200 Renaissance Center, 71st & 72nd Floor, Detroit; 313-567-2622; $$$: This eclectic chophouse is the United States' second-highest restaurant and is located at the top of the GM Global Renaissance Center. Coach Insignia features incomparable food, great service and a world-class wine list to accompany a panoramic view of Detroit and our Canadian neighbors. Handicap accessible; dress code: no jeans. Valentine's Day specials include a package deal with the Marriott — a room for the night and dinner for $239.

D'Amato's 222 S. Sherman Dr., Royal Oak; 248-584-7400; $$: Neighborhood Italian joint with eclectic and "from scratch" fare. A fresh Caesar or Caprese salad will run you $6, and a pizza with feta, grape tomatoes, roasted banana peppers, kalamata olives and more is $8. Tender, fluffy gnocchi of ricotta and spinach come surrounded with a rich sauce, and veal saltimbocca arrives on soft layers of rapini and gnocchi, resting in a silky Marsala sauce. There are many more beef, chicken and seafood entrées, and 30 glasses and 60 bottles of wine to wash them down with. What's more, there's often live music (call for schedule) and legendary Royal Oak martini bar Goodnight Gracie is connected to the restaurant.

The Earle 121 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-0211; $$$: Illuminated with candlelight, The Earle is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner for two. On the weekends, you can enjoy live music during your meal. The menu includes French- and Italian-inspired entrées that will satisfy whatever you are craving, as will an award-winning, 1,000 options-strong wine list.

Fiamma Grille 380 S. Main St., Plymouth; 734-416-9340; $$$: Right next door to Compari's on the Park, Fiamma Grille might be for those looking for something grander than hard-line Italian fare. Boasting a sleek and retro-accented ambience, with art on the walls that's better than most, this joint has steaks and seafood dishes to boast about.�

Forté 201 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-594-7300; $$: Originally an upscale and expensive dining destination, a dramatic retooling kept the talented staff, lowered prices, and came up with fare that is more fun and less fussy: everyday food that's a little bit special, designed by their fine-dining chef, who does comfort foods with an unexpected twist. A good example is "Firecracker Chicken," a whole bird marinated for 24 hours before it's deep-fried and plated upon wasabi mashed potatoes. The wine list is simple and unintimidating. They say they'll likely have a three- or four-course prix fixe for the big night.

French Gourmet 23421 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-541-1200; $$: Grapevine-wrapped pillars, classical background music and jeweled murals. Entrées prepared to order. Vegetable broth-based French onion soup, bay scallops poached in vermouth. Warm salad of duck confit and lobster. Pastries are beautiful to behold.

Giulio's Cucina Italiana 31735 Plymouth Rd., Livonia; 734-427-9500; $$$: For a romantic mood, try one of the cozy corner booths at this Italian eatery, amid the music and twinkling lights. House specialties include seafood pasta, lamb chops with brandy pepper corn and pasta with crab meat. A special menu gives lovebirds the option of going gluten-free.

The Hill Seafood & Chop House 123 Kerchaval Ave., Grosse Pointe Farms; 313-886-8101; $$$: The Valentine's Day menu will be mostly limited to a list of chef favorites, but will include the veal chop of the original menu. The Valentine's Day dinner is a $75 three-course dinner for two that includes a roasted red-pepper shrimp soup, a surf-and-turf entrée whose turf is a 10-ounce filet mignon with mushrooms, and a lava cake for dessert.

Hong Hua Fine Chinese Dining 27925 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-489-2280; $$: At Hong Hua's decor has more of a fine-dining than a Chinese feel. It's has an elegant look, with its curving lines of cherry wood and tasteful paintings of flowers. The shredded duck and mushroom soup comes highly recommended. The Szechuan hot and sour soup is another winner, more sweet and flavorful than simply hot. An excellent entrée is eggplant in chili sauce. The mu-shu pork is tasty if not overly interesting, slightly sweet and crisped-up by the shredded cabbage that's used. Dessert can be peppermint or ginger ice cream, or translucent lychees served on ice. Offers a full complement of fried rices, chow meins and lo meins, along with all the dishes found at corner Chinese restaurants throughout America.

La Bistecca Italian Grille 39405 Plymouth Rd., Plymouth; 734-254-0400; $$: Serving certified Piedmontese beef, fresh fish, seafood, veal and chops, La Bistecca emphasizes fresh ingredients and impeccable service. Their award-winning tiramisu is not to be missed either. To round out your lovers' feast, see their extensive wine list.

La Dolce Vita 17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-865-0331; $$: Tucked away behind a garden gate on Woodward Avenue just north of McNichols, La Dolce Vita has only a cryptic neon sign (reading LDV) to herald its presence. But those who slip behind the building, often for valet parking, can have one of the most romantic, secluded experiences in this urban oasis. Add the friendly, accommodating waitstaff, a well-stocked bar and good food, and you can see why this restaurant is a staff-favorite. For Valentine's Day, the restaurant will feature three specials: veal marengo (a dish that features shrimp and fried eggs), veal chop and sea bass.

The Lark 6430 Farmington Rd., W. Bloomfield; 248-661-4466; $$$$: This European-style country inn-inspired restaurant offers a peaceful and romantic setting for any couple. The overlooking garden, which includes a fountain and grape trellis, provides a dreamy and relaxing setting. Going along with the European theme, the menu is filled with an assortment of entrées created with French cooking techniques. Spice up your evening by participating in the themed dinner nights that range from a Mexican Fiesta to a Corleone Soprano dinner. The dining room design will be appropriately themed on Valentine's Day.

Luciano's 39091 Garfield Rd., Clinton Twp.; 586-263-6540; $$: Serving fresh, delicious pastas topped with your favorite sauces, Luciano's follows an Old Country Italian tradition that specializes in authentic Italian pasta, specialties, wines and desserts. Located in the northwest corner of Gar-Pointe Plaza.

Maggiano's Little Italy 2089 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-205-1060; $$: Staying true to its word, Maggiano's is designed to replicate an original Italian neighborhood restaurant. Red-checkered table cloths complete the Little Italy appearance. Nobody leaves hungry because the portions are colossal, especially for the price. Valentine's Day special running Feb. 10-16. It is $79 for two, and includes a choice of appetizer, two salads, two pastas, one dessert, and two glasses of wine. The special Valentine's Day entrées are lobster ravioli, beef medallion and chicken Francaise.

The Majestic Café 4124 Woodward Ave.; Detroit; 313-833-9700; $$; Contemporary American and European specialties served in an open, airy setting. For Valentine's Day weekend, they'll have their regular menu as well as special prix fixe packages, on Friday (Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner, prix fixe 3 p.m.-11 p.m.), Saturday (brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner, prix fixe 3-11 p.m.), Sunday (brunch 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; dinner, prix fixe 3-10 p.m.) and Monday (dinner, prix fixe 3-10 p.m.). The V-Day prix fixe is $40 for one, $75 for two, and includes salad, choice of appetizer (seared tuna, tenderloin tips, wild mushroom crostada), choice of entrée (orange- and chili-glazed swordfish, cherry-glazed rack of lamb, vegetable linguini) and choice of dessert (gourmet cheesecake, chocolate mousse). Live music all weekend.

The Melting Pot 888 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-362-2221; 26425 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-347-6358; 309 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-622-0055; $$$: A new way of dining mixed with an old favorite, The Melting Pot exists to fulfill all of your fondue fantasies. The Valentine's Day dining experience is a four-course meal. First course is choice between tomato basil cheddar cheese fondue or Caribbean cheese fondue; second course, between strawberry fields and cherry blossoms salads; third course offerings include cold water lobster tail, filet mignon, peppercorn New York strip, honey Dijon chicken, roasted garlic shrimp, citrus pork, teriyaki sirloin, and ravioli; and the fourth course is a choice between dark chocolate raspberry and strawberries and cream white chocolate fondues.

Mon Jin Lau 1515 E. Maple, Troy; 248-689-2332; $$$: Sophisticated but casual chic Asian-deco decor, serving New Asian cuisine that combines the taste of Asia with artful presentation. Great ambience for gourmet Chinese food, with a lively bar for drinks or sushi, as well as cool music and lighting. From 6 to 9 p.m. on Valentine's Day, Matt Kysia will be performing acoustic renditions of all your favorite love songs.

No. VI Chop House & Lobster Bar 27000 Sheraton Dr., Novi; 248-305-5210; $$$: As plush a steak and seafood house as can be found in the area, this one offers top-of-the-line fare in a darkly sophisticated setting located in the Crowne Plaza. All of the meats are prime, from the filet mignon to the veal chop. The cocktail lounge offers something of a shellfish smorgasbord, with oysters on the half-shell and tasty lobsters.

Pasticcio Ristorante 854 Erie St. E., Windsor; 519-253-3329; $$: Voted by our readers as the best Italian restaurant in Windsor's Little Italy in 2002, Pasticcio's serves amazing Italian cuisine, with notable seafood pastas. You might want to try our the Gamberoni Portabella, grilled portabella mushroom smothered in sautéed shrimp, asparagus, and garlic cream sauce. Warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Rattlesnake Club 300 River Place, Detroit; 313-567-4400; $$$$: An upscale restaurant that is located on the Detroit riverfront offers an eclectic mix of surf n' turf cuisines. Steaks are made only with Angus beef and the succulent seafood comes in a huge variety. The view is also amazing; guests can enjoy the scenery of both the Detroit River and skyline. Regular menu will be presented prix fixe-style on Valentine's Day weekend.

Small Plates 1521 Broadway, Detroit; 313-963-0497; $$: What could be more romantic than nibbling off the same plate? The diminutive dishes range from hand-cut fries ($4) to pan-seared scallops ($17). And they're so serious about their food, they make almost everything on-site, including the mayo and ketchup.

Whitney Restaurant 4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-5700; $$$: The 1894 mansion turned restaurant offers a menu filled with unforgettable American flavors. Your date will be impressed by The Whitney's 350-label wine cellar, including local favorites from Traverse City. While the restaurant is host to elegant and refined decor, the Ghost Bar on the third floor appeals to the younger, more casual crowd. Offering live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays, the Ghost Bar provides an exciting sliver of nightlife. Feb. 11-14, the Whitney will be offering a $75 per person four-course meal that comes with a wine pairing. No coupons will be accepted Valentine's Day weekend.

Wolfgang Puck Grille 1777 Third St., Detroit; 313-465-1648; $$$: In the midst of a busy casino, Wolfgang Puck Grille is a perfect getaway to a cozy cabin. Including a fireplace and antlers hanging from the ceiling—not a bad look for a romantic evening for two. The food is Wolfgang Puck's rendition of traditional American food with his own special kick. The food is incomparable and the atmosphere is most definitely peaceful. Only on Valentine's Day, Wolfgang Puck Grille at the MGM Grand Detroit will offer a three-course, prix fixe menu for $35 per person and an optional $21 wine package. Diners can choose between three appetizers: cauliflower soup, chopped vegetable salad and ricotta gnocchi. Choice of four entrées includes roasted chicken breast, sautéed salmon, grilled rib-eye steak and angel hair pasta. Dessert choices are chocolate-hazelnut mousse with caramelized bananas and rum raisin ice cream.

See any inaccuracies in our listings? Let us know! Send an e-mail to [email protected] or call 313-202-8043.

About The Author

Michael Jackman

Born in 1969 at Mount Carmel hospital in Detroit, Jackman grew up just 100 yards from the Detroit city line in east Dearborn. Jackman has attended New York University, the School of Visual Arts, Northwestern University and Wayne State University, though he never got a degree. He has worked as a bar back, busboy,...
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