Savor: Some Enchanted Evening

BY Kristen Nieto

It’s February and that means it is the time of year to do something special for your significant other. Flowers chocolates and sparkly trinkets are good gifts to give to the one you love but no romantic night on the town would be complete without a candlelit Valentine’s Day dinner in a gorgeous restaurant with fabulous food. The Azalea Coast offers many such fine dining establishments and here are three that can really make your experience unforgettable.

Deluxe in Historic Downtown Wilmington is ideal for any romantic evening. The tables are nestled amidst ever-changing displays of art perfect for gazing while holding hands across the table. The window seats with a street-side view of bustling downtown have been a tradition for many couples. “I’ve been here about four and a half years ” says owner Scott Haulman “and we have had about two dozen couples propose at those tables.”

Of course Deluxe takes great pride in its locally grown organic foods. For a romantic dinner Haulman strongly recommends the scallops. One of its signature dishes Deluxe’s scallops are fresh-caught dry-packed and then seared in a high-heat skillet giving them a crispy exterior while sealing in the juices. As for dessert Haulman’s personal favorite is the flourless chocolate truffle cake made with rich high-quality cocoa. “The menu the service the desserts … there’s definitely something for everyone ” he says. “We appeal to a fairly savvy clientele.”

Max’s Steakhouse manager Baha Abriham describes the sophisticated Lumina Station eatery as being “Upscale but affordable for those with a budget.” Indeed the dark wood décor and rounded archways make diners feel as though they’re in a New York City private clubhouse dining room. For Valentine’s Day Max’s removes its large-party tables and replaces them with intimate tables for two or guests may also choose to sit in high-seated booths making them feel as though they and their loved one are the only two in the restaurant. Gentlemen who reserve early can even arrange to have flowers placed on a selected table waiting with lighted candles for the romantic couple to arrive.

The food at Max’s Steakhouse is as excellent as the atmosphere. Abriham and Chef Matt Felix are proud of their 1 200-degree grill that cooks steaks to juicy and tender perfection. For a dream dinner they recommend the chateaubriand for two a 16-ounce seasoned steak coated in mushroom sauce and served with a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables. This seasoned entrée is easy to cut and share and leaves enough room for dessert. “Our desserts are phenomenal ” says Abriham. His favorite is the white chocolate croissant pudding made with freshly baked croissants that are filled with white chocolate and served with caramelized bananas and cinnamon ice cream.

For a truly intimate Valentine’s Day dinner the Little Dipper in Historic Downtown Wilmington is another wonderful destination. Known for its exclusively fondue menu couples cook their own delicacies prepared in the kitchen in hot seasoned broths or oils right at their table. Restaurant manager Kristen Gruodis compares Little Dipper diners to classic 1950s couples drinking the same malt with two straws. You can share this romantic experience in one of the Little Dipper’s booths built for two. One special booth comes complete with candles and a fireplace and is highly recommended. Another booth is built deeply into the wall letting the fortunate couple who sits here feel like they’re alone in their own restaurant setting the tone for a truly romantic meal.

Dinners at the Little Dipper are served in four courses: cheese appetizer salad entrée and of course dessert. The restaurant features special entrées for two the Big Dipper being the most popular. It comes with lobster tail filet mignon tuna and shrimp and you also have your pick of four out of the many homemade sauces. “People rave about our sauces!” says Gruodis. For dessert she recommends the Double Your Pleasure: dark and white chocolate fondue served with strawberries cream puffs and other goodies for dipping. Like all of these popular establishments seats at the Little Dipper fill up fast. “Anytime … especially around Valentine’s Day ” says Gruodis. “I would always recommend reservations.”