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Alternative Romantic Dining

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  • tourist season

    (See also our list of traditional romantic restaurants for Valentine's Day.)

    Romantic restaurants for the rest of us

    Romance isn't the same for everyone. Sometimes, you just want a simple escape, a casual spot, or less-refined food to help you celebrate your love. This list might help.

  • (Dec 9, 2010) (Sarasota Herald-Tribune photo by Dan Wagner) Mixed ceviche, including fresh fish, shrimp, mussels and octopus, in yellow pepper lime juice with cilantro, red onions, Cuzco corn and yam is served at The Cottage on the Key.

    153 Avenida Messina, Siesta Key, 312-9300, cottagesiestakey.com

    Cottage on the Key

    Tucked behind The Hub in Siesta Village, The Cottage is a hidden gem with an even bigger secret out back. The front of the place is a nice but typical Siesta hangout, with a front deck and interior dining area arrayed around a central bar, but step through the back door and you enter a cozy oasis away from the bustle of the Village. Small tables, little nooks and plenty of foliage make it a great place to get close to your sweetheart while you enjoy the seafood-centric menu of The Cottage.

  • fwfront11

    1888 Main St., Sarasota, 365-8700, eatheresarasota.com; 5315 Gulf Dr., Holmes Beach, 778-0411, eathereannamaria.com; 240 Avenida Madera, Siesta Key, 346-7800, eatheresiestakey.com

    Eat Here

    Sean Murphy’s mini-chain now has three locations, all with a lively and casual vibe that belies the excellence of the food.  There are dishes for the pickiest of eaters, and sharing is encouraged. Downtown, you can gaze out over Main Street and head upstairs to the lounge. The Siesta and Anna Maria locations are more just as friendly and vibrant.

  • dtourism27

    1600 Harbor Drive South, Venice, 488-1456, sharkysonthepier.com

    Sharky's On The Pier

    In a town that prides itself on its beaches, our area has a surprisingly limited number of dining spots that can take advantage of rolling waves and sandy shores. Sharky's has that in spades, placed high above the beach in Venice, the sand mere feet away. The food is typical tourist fare, but you'll forget all about that with the sunset in the distance.

  • SOpenmike1.jpg

    987 S. Packinghouse Dr., Sarasota, 371-9358, oldpackinghouse.com

    JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe

    Yes, OPC is romantic. The neighborhood vibe, comfortable atmosphere and casual food is just the thing for folks who want to relax and have a good time without the pressure of fine dining. The food is great, the soulful warmth of the place is contagious, the live music is usually fun and -- when you’re done drinking, dining, and dancing -- you can head across the street to the Cock and Bull for a few pints.

  • SHORE_DINER

    465 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands, 296-0301

    Shore Diner

    Shore doesn't have the intimate setting that some of the finer restaurants cultivate -- although its food and drinks are on par or better -- but that's part of its charm. Here you'll be part of a scene, eating your Valentine's Day dinner with a bunch of other couples doing the same thing. Gaze at the stars through the retractable roof in the back dining room, enjoy the view from the beautiful front patio area and soak in the romance that will emanate from St. Armands Circle.

  • gateway to india

    1960 Hillview St., Sarasota, 364-4777, gatewaytoindiasrq.com

    Gateway To India

    This Indian restaurant on Hillview is decked out rich fabrics, elaborate lighting and plenty of gilt-edged wood that turns the dining room into a completely different world from most area restaurants. Different country, more to the point. Gateway has the best Indian cuisine in town. and the slow service will just provide you with an extended platform for thoughtful conversation and soul-gazing.

  • canta rana 008

    1813 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, 343-2280, cantaranarestaurant.com

    Canta Rana

    Canta Rana could easily have gone on our list of more traditional romantic restaurants, but there's something distinctly casual about the place thanks to its location in the thriving bungalow business scene north of Fruitville. Inside the converted house are small, intimate dining rooms, while out back is a courtyard framed by twinkling lights and a picket fence. The restaurant's Peruvian cuisine is focused on seafood, which we all know is a serious aphrodisiac, right?

  • dSEASON_el_a

    12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, 794-1243, starfishcompany.com

    Star Fish Company

    Sometimes, a couple just wants an unfussy venue that will let them relax. That's Star Fish Company. On the docks in the Cortez Fishing Village, you can sit right on the water and eat freshly caught grouper any way you'd like it with a cold beer close to hand.

  • The Beachhouse Restaurant (Sarasota Herald-Tribune staff photo by Thomas Bender)

    200 Gulf Dr. N., Anna Maria, 779-2222, beachhouse.groupersandwich.com

    The Beachhouse

    Another beachfront gem, The Beachhouse is prime sunset-watching territory on Anna Maria, its massive outdoor deck placed right on the edge of the beach, close enough to dig your toes in the sand as you enjoy your Valentine's Day meal. Give in and eat like a tourist with peel-and-eat shrimp and sauteed grouper, enjoy a few frozen cocktails, then stroll off your excesses with a hand-in-hand post-dinner walk down the beach.

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