Need a new spot for date night dinner? Here are fine dining restaurants to try
The Treasure Coast isn’t exactly known for its fine dining.
But that doesn’t mean gourmet food can’t be found in Martin, Indian River and St. Lucie counties. Formal dining restaurants have upscale service and settings, and feature unique and often richer menu options.
If you’re looking to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or special occasion — or just looking for a new date night spot — here are some of the best local restaurants.
11 Maple Street
Innovative New American casual fine dining is found in this quaint, century-old cottage in downtown Jensen Beach. The menu is inventive, with plates presented as works of art. Chef Michael Perrin opened in 1985 with one small dining room of eight tables. Whenever possible, he prepares his signature dishes with meats raised in a wholesome and humane way, locally sourced organic produce and the best of farm-raised and wild-caught seafood. The dining room is open with limited seating, and reservations are required. Takeout is available Thursday-Saturday, with pickup at the side entrance.
More: Jensen Beach restaurant co-owner passes away unexpectedly
Try the fresh-baked walnut sourdough bread with herbed goat cheese, salsa verde and roasted garlic; pan-seared rare wahoo sushi loin with spicy kimchi, soft egg, crispy calamari and lime crema; grilled New Zealand elk tenderloin with onion rings, rapini, Yukon gold potatoes and salsa verde; and Margie’s peanut butter pie for dessert.
Globally inspired, locally sourced food is served at this restaurant, in the original Hobe Sound Post Office. After a trip to Napa Vally, the Barrett family set out to bring a uniquely inspired restaurant to their longtime home of Martin County. The team includes Executive Chef Bill Stimmell, Sushi Chef Rome Niyomkun, General Manager Neil Luning and Manager Jimmy Smith. There’s plenty of outdoor seating.
From 3-5 p.m. daily, snack on fresh oysters and Kork chips, which are house-sliced, deep-fried potato chips served four ways: house seasoned; gouda cream, smoked pork belly and green onion; chorizo cream, house salsa and cilantro; and gouda cream, sautéed spinach and shaved Parmesan.
Starters include fresh Brussels sprouts sautéed in rendered pork fat, brown sugar soy, house-smoked pork belly and shaved Parmesan, as well as kimchi-marinated tuna, fresh avocado, pickled cucumber-sesame salad, crispy wontons and green onions. Entrees range from prime rib to seared tuna to Southern shrimp and grits.
District Table & Bar
This seasonally driven restaurant has a daily changing menu based on the availability of products from area farmers and fishers. It’s a warm, energetic spot with an open kitchen where Chef Jason Stocks uses fresh ingredients for a New American menu with Southern roots. It has an outdoor terrace and lounge that can be reserved online. There’s a takeout menu. Kids eat free Tuesdays. Wine bottles are half off Wednesdays. Live music is 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays. Bottomless rosé is Sundays.
Snacks include Belle Glade street corn with cotija, aioli, pickled chili and lime, as well as chicken liver “buttah” with strong mustard, pickles and toast. It has seasonal oysters, Florida stone crab, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, shrimp, mussels and a seafood tower. It also has sweet tea fried chicken with buttermilk biscuit and jam, mac and cheese, “crack sauce” and pickles. All desserts are made in-house daily, such as Grand Marnier souffle with white chocolate anglaise, cinnamon doughnuts with tangerine-basil pot de crème and jam, and buttermilk pie with fig preserves and brown butter ice cream.
Peter Buchner opened the restaurant in 1999 in downtown Jensen Beach. One menu specialty is the 1¾-inch thick cuts of “Peter’s Prime Beef,” dry-aged for tenderness and flavor. Choose from New York strip, porterhouse and T-bones. Supporting accompaniments include Peter’s hash browns, creamed spinach and fried shoestring onions. There’s an extensive wine list and desserts such as Peter’s homemade apple strudel, made from his mother’s Austrian recipe, served with a big bowl of schlag, or whipped cream. Reservations are recommended.
The restaurant, which opened in 2012 in downtown Stuart, is owned and operated by the Wilson family: Rick and Elizabeth and their son, Taylor, the executive chef who runs the open kitchen. It supports local farms across the state. Happy hour in the bar with half-priced drinks is 4-6 p.m. daily and food specials are 4-5 p.m. daily. Tuesday features pineapple-infused Tito’s martinis.
It’s named after Rick Wilson’s grandparents. He recalled visiting them on their farm and his grandfather teaching him how to grill. Their favorite dish to cook together was a giant ribeye steak. The restaurant’s signature menu item, “The Gafford,” is a 20-ounce bone-in ribeye. Options include smoked duck wings, crab cakes, Mabel’s fried chicken, Scottish salmon, Southern style meatloaf, maple-brined double-bone pork chop and macadamia snapper. Desserts include seven-layer carrot cake with cream cheese icing and banana pudding cheesecake with vanilla wafer crumbs and fresh whipped cream.
Clara Russell opened the authentic Northern Italian restaurant in November 1997 in Palm City and runs it with her children, Francesco and Cristina. In 1993, they had opened their first restaurant in the Piedmont region of Italy. Wess Russell, a renowned golf course builder in Florida, was visiting the restaurant in 1995 when he suggested opening a restaurant in Palm City.
Every summer, they close the restaurant and go back to Italy for about three weeks to observe new influences and trends in the kitchen, as well as visit their favorite vintners and experience the grape harvest in Tuscany, Piedmont and Umbria. They import Buffalo mozzarella and ricotta cheese from Campania, meats like speck from Trentino-Alto-Adige and prosciutto from Parma. Even the handmade pasta, one of the house specialties, are made with imported Italian flour.
South Fork Kitchen and Bar
Chef Ron Kerr of Bite Catering and food truck fame opened this farm-to-table scratch restaurant in the space once occupied by District Table. It has added a curbside and to-go menu that includes Korean pork wings, street cauliflower, duck confit and Parmesan-crusted chicken breast. Other sides are Southern-style collards, Parmesan-truffle fries with lemon aioli and broccolini with garlic and chili flake. It also has to-go cocktails, such as lavender lemon drop, cucumber fizz and prickly pear margarita. The raw bar is half-off during happy hour.
Ronald Werner and Munir “Louis” Shapo opened in 2014 in downtown Stuart. Werner, an 18-year resident, wanted to create a unique fine dining experience with outstanding service. He died in November 2018, and now Shapo’s goal is to keep his partner’s dream alive. Happy hour is 4-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday at the bar and high-top tables.
Appetizers include oysters on the half shell, jumb shrimp cocktail, Denver lamb ribs and roasted bone marrow. Italian specialties include pistachio pork and gnocchi, champagne shrimp pasta, branzino and snapper puttanesca. It also has seafood, meat and duck options. Desserts include banana mousse crunch and tiramisu roulade.
The Chef’s Table
The restaurant has been pairing bold New American cuisine with friendly and professional service since 2009 in Stuart. Owner and Chef Adam Fatigate and Executive Chef Paolo Ferretti create seasonal menus showcasing handmade pastas, choice meats, fresh seafood and peak-of-the-season vegetables using classically trained techniques. The understated but elegant dining room seats 46, centered around Fatigate’s childhood table, which seats up to six.
Try mini beet burgers, short rib empanadas, grilled octopus, whole Maine lobster, herbed lollipop lamb chops and homemade pastas — with an extensive wine list.
Riverwalk Cafe and Oyster Bar
Since 2002, chef and owner Steve Feder has been serving exquisite oysters, fresh seafood and USDA prime center-cut steak in downtown Stuart. The restaurant also has over 120 selections of quality wine from across the world. Happy hour is 3-5 p.m. daily and includes food.
Try ahi tuna nachos, beef carpaccio, fiocchi, fried calamari, ginger-glazed wild Scottish salmon, miso-glazed Chilean sea bass, brick chicken and double-bone pork chop.
Casa Bella Restaurant
The restaurant is in a cozy, romantic Key West house in downtown Stuart. Its creative menu features authentic Northern and Southern Italian cuisine. There’s outdoor dining.
Owners Steve Greenman and Executive Chef David Van Stolk, formerly of Sailor’s Return, opened in 2017 in the former Courtine’s building. They remodeled to have a sharp, new look with a subtle elegance. There’s a back patio for outside dining. Reservations recommended. Happy hour is 3-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
Appetizers include eggplant stack, crispy blue fin tuna roll, three-cheese escargot, crab tower and stuffed mushroom. Entrees include oven-baked hogfish stuffed with lump crab and shrimp and crusted with Parmesan cheese, as well as New Zealand Rack of Lamb rack of lamb oven-roasted in Dijon mustard and finished with a cabernet demi-glaze, both served with smashed potatoes and vegetables. They carry a vast array of beer, wine and cocktails with delicately crafted drink specials introduced monthly.
18 Seminole Italian Bistro
Enjoy fine Italian cuisine with a fresh, vibrant twist in a rustic, historic 1920s building in downtown Stuart. Original architectural features, such as the well-preserved wood flooring, have been retained. Pastas, sauces and desserts are made fresh daily. The restaurant, which has an intimate and romantic setting, uses locally sourced product and fresh herbs from its own garden. The owner and chef, Skip, has 33 years of culinary experience. Takeout and outdoor seating also are available.
Menu options include fried calamari, steamed blue mussels, eggplant tower, house meatballs, veal marsala, chicken parmigiana, eggplant Florentine, shrimp scampi and linguine puttanesca. Gluten-free and vegetarian choices are available.
Pepe & Sale
The bistro opened last September in the vacant spot left by Stuart’s Fish & Pig downtown. It serves modern Italian dishes with a focused wine list. Eric Cavallaro and his wife, Maria, wanted to create a unique dining experience. He grew up in the business with his parents, who immigrated from Sicily to Brooklyn. The couple met in Yonkers, New York, were married in Sicily and later moved to Florida.
Menu options include burrata alla caprese, Portuguese octopus carpaccio, gourmet pizza, ravioli allo zafferano, tagliatelle alla Bolognese and costola di maiale alla Milanese vestita. Reservations and pickup orders can be made online.
Spritz City Bistro
This unique downtown Stuart bistro, with its casual but upscale atmosphere, is known for tapas and small plates, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menu items, as well as craft cocktails and local beers on tap. The menu offers an array of classic American cuisines with a twist, including meat-and-cheese charcuterie boards, crostini, tacos, flatbreads, salads, sandwiches and dishes from the sea, land and earth. Appetizers include lump-crab deviled eggs, shrimp and fruits, short rib lollipops, Buffalo cauliflower and truffle mac and cheese.
More: Find vegan, vegetarian, organic, healthy food at these 15 Treasure Coast restaurants
Drift Kitchen & Bar
This sleek, trendy restaurant in the Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa has plenty of outdoor bar and table seating with one of the area’s best ocean views.
The Grille at Martin’s Landing
The Grille serves primarily steaks and seafood, and homemade desserts such as bourbon pecan pie, cornbread strawberry shortcake or mocha crème brûlée.
Address: 10431 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Sunday
Griffin’s Surf & Turf
The restaurant’s website says it sources its ingredients from local vendors and hopes to give diners a coastal-inspired experience.
Address: 2621 S.E. Ocean Blvd., Stuart
Hours: 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, closed Monday
Indian River County
Fire & Wine
This hidden gem of an American restaurant is at the east end of the Winn Dixie shopping plaza at Oslo Road and 27th Avenue, in the former Oslo Diner space. It may not look like much from the outside, but diners will be impressed by the food and service. Reservations are recommended by calling.
Menu options include sauteed escargot over an “egg in the nest” with a farm egg, artichoke, prosciutto, tomato and parsley vinaigrette; crispy fried green tomato bites with housemade pimiento cheese, sriracha honey and pickled jalapenos; pecan-crusted crab cheesecake with mesclun greens and Old Bay vinaigrette; mango- and orange-crusted Faroe Island salmon with tropical barbecue black beans, grilled asparagus and cilantro-lime vinaigrette; and pork ribeye saltimbocca with prosciutto, basil, gruyere, parsnip puree, garlic roasted broccoli and marsala sauce.
Since March 2000, Chef Leanne Kelleher has been offering her distinct menu of Floridian and New American cuisine with Southern, Latin, Caribbean and classical French influences. They serve fresh seafood, locally grown and organically raised vegetables and fruits, and the finest quality meats — with an extensive wine list. Reservations are encouraged for the dining rooms and patio.
The full menu and wine list are available for takeout by calling ahead to place orders. Options include lobster ravioli with corn pudding, lobster butter, blistered corn-lobster salsa and garden-fresh tarragon aioli; pan-seared scallops with crispy goat cheese polenta, homegrown basil pesto, tomato jam and bacon syrup; and cedar-planked cold water salmon with balsamic butter, wilted baby spinach, creamy polenta and asparagus.
The Wave Kitchen & Bar
Every detail of this restaurant inside Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa is designed to feel like an intimate dinner party. The open kitchen and customizable selections engage guests. Make reservations online or by calling. The early bird dinner menu is 5-6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday.
More: The Wave Kitchen wins annual Top Chef Challenge
Try the center-cut filet mignon served with sauce béarnaise and the pork tenderloin served with natural au jus infused with port wine. There’s fresh, locally sourced seafood and produce, as well as Cuban specialties developed by the hotel’s owners, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, from their Estefan Kitchen Cookbook. The couple, who opened their first restaurant on Miami Beach in 1992, wants to promote their culture and heritage through their food, as they have with music, throughout the world.
Address: 3244 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach
Hours: 8-11 a.m. daily for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for lunch, 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday for dinner; 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Sunday brunch
This staple of Vero Beach for 14 years is in the Portales de Vero, with a recently remodeled kitchen, new equipment, COVID cleaning, new furniture and more airy and comfortable outside patio seating. Make reservations online or by calling.
Food options include bruschetta salad, black grouper, local pompano almandine, sweet corn hash, bourbon-baked brie, lobster bisque, scallop and pork belly, ahi tuna, steak, Australian lamb chops and wild mushroom ravioli. Try the key lime tart with macadamia crust and meringue topping. It also has an early bird menu and extensive wine list.
Formerly Citrus Grillhouse, the American bistro-style, casual oceanfront restaurant features dishes that are simple classics with Italian and Mediterranean-inspired origins. Executive Chef Scott Varricchio’s creative plates make up a menu that changes with the seasons using regionally grown produce and specialty meats and seafood. He previously worked in New York City and Las Vegas.
More: Citrus Grillhouse reopens in Vero Beach
The menu includes Idaho fries, ricotta meatballs, sweet potato salad, truffle risotto, house-made spinach fettucine, squid ink fra diavlo, Virginia flounder and Wagyu steak. Happy hour is daily until 6:30 p.m. Reservations are suggested by calling.
Dario and Diana Bordoli opened the beachside restaurant in September 2013. He grew up in Lake Como, Italy, and left home nearly 40 years ago. He worked in Switzerland and the UK before he moved to Florida. He and his Italian-American wife have six sons.
The restaurant focuses on upscale Italian food and wine; an authentic Italian experience; a trattoria-like atmosphere that’s open, inviting, casual and family-friendly; professional service and late-night bar accommodations.
The restaurant, established in 2000, features multiregional Italian cuisine. Try baby artichokes, calamari, stuffed eggplant, clams, duck sausage, carbonara, lasagna, house-made ravioli, cannelloni, veal cranchio and chicken piccata. Desserts include lemon mascarpone cake and cannolis. Happy hour is 4:30-5:30 p.m. Al fresco dining and online ordering are available.
Named for the blue-green oceanfront view from every alfresco table, this special-occasion restaurant’s large patio with towering palm trees is set behind the Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa. On a cool day, ask if you can eat around the fire pit, which is a great spot to enjoy drinks any time of day or night. Happy hour is 4-5:30 p.m. It has complimentary valet parking for up to three hours, as well as takeout service.
St. Lucie County
Treasure Coast native Kyle Greene opened in 2017 in the former Pietro’s on the Ocean, where he was executive chef. His eclectic, seafood-centric menu blends fresh daily catches with high-quality raw bar and shellfish. There’s plenty of outdoor, oceanside seating, and complimentary valet parking.
More: Popular breakfast and brunch spots on the Treasure Coast
Braford Presents: The Fort Steakhouse
This first modern steakhouse in downtown Fort Pierce, formerly called The Braford, opened in 2018 in the Galleria of Pierce Harbor. It features classic cocktails and prime beef from open pastures without added hormones or antibiotics. It started with locally sourced Braford beef, but since has expanded to include other independently owned ranches. Chef Kevin Darr most recently was executive chef for the Big Time Restaurant Group in Palm Beach for nearly 10 years.
More: Braford steakhouse restaurant opens in Fort Pierce
Try roasted bone marrow with rosemary-lemon pangrattato; carpaccio of beef with truffle aioli, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano; escargot with garlic-herb butter and crostini; lobster mac and cheese with fresh pasta, aged cheddar and Maine lobster; Vidalia onion and wild mushroom soup; seared duck breast with sweet potato puree and bing cherry jus; and, of course, steaks and specialty cuts.
Zest Kitchen & Bar
This restaurant, which opened last May in St. Lucie West, offers a unique style of modern American food with global influences, as well as a wide selection of wine, beer and spirits. The team is Executive Chef Francisco Ixcoy, Sous Chef Marcus Jones, General Manager Tyler Grissom and Todd Rosson, director of catering and menu development. Happy hour is 4-6 p.m. daily. Early-bird, two-course dinners are available 4-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Try Snake River Farm Kobe beef sliders with caramelized onions, cheddar, brioche and house fries; beef tartare with the traditional accompaniments; shredded duck salad with local mixed greens, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, hearts of palm, pine nuts and cherry vinaigrette; New Zealand lamb chops with port wine-roasted black garlic and wild mushrooms; duck bacon-wrapped sea scallops with mango-jalapeno jam; and grilled swordfish with lime-bourbon soy. Sides include Tahitian vanilla bean sweet potato mash, sea salt hand-cut vinegar fries and balsamic Brussel sprouts and bacon. Desserts include classic Tahitian vanilla bean crème brulee, chocolate panache and Key lime pie with smoked salt caramel sauce.
Meating Street Steak & Seafood
The butcher shop, steakhouse and seafood market, which opened last October at the former location of HopCat in Tradition, offers an elevated food experience that encourages the exploration of shareable dishes. There’s outdoor dining on a waterfront deck. The market is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Happy hour is 2-5:30 p.m.
More: HopCat parent company files for bankruptcy
It’s owned by the same family that operates Pastaio in Port St. Lucie. Italian-American brothers Pat and Carmine Lamarra have a deep respect for the old-school era. Their imagination and talent infuse their own spin on classic dishes. Try bone-in ribeye, veal chop, scallop risotto and cioppino — seafood stew, fish, clams, mussels, calamari, lobster, tomato broth and herbs. A raw bar of oysters, clams, tuna tartare and beef carpaccio also is available.
Oak and Ember Steakhouse
This steakhouse, which opened last November, follows the traditions of the finest establishments in Chicago or New York with aged cuts, sides, craft cocktails and fine wines. It’s the latest restaurant concept by Kyle Greene, a Treasure Coast native who climbed the restaurant ranks from dishwasher to line cook to owner. His other eateries are Kyle G’s Prime Seafood and Hutchinson American Kitchen, both in Jensen Beach.
Executive Chef Shane Johnson and his team source beef from some of the nation’s top cattle producers. He plans extensive dry-age programs, specialty cuts and prime beef selections on a weekly basis, allowing different steak selections. All bone-in items receive a brief smoke treatment to enhance the natural robustness and richness of the steaks. Then, they are cooked over an oak-fired grill inspired by the Argentinian parrilla, an open-fire wood grill that allows the steaks to be seasoned with smoke, similar to salt, to add another layer of depth and complexity. Reservations are required for Valentine’s Day weekend.
It features traditional Italian recipes from various regions of Italy, from as far north as Bologna and surrounding areas to as far south as Naples. It features family specialties from Sicily to celebrate the owner’s heritage. Recent renovations include new fine dining rooms, a modern sports bar and an enclosed air-conditioned patio.
The menu features appetizers, insalata, risotto, pasta, seafood, steak, chops and Italian classics, such as Parmigiana, Francese, Marsala, piccata, eggplant rollatini, ravioli, alfredo and rigatoni arrabiata.
Jason Alfonso, 39, and his wife, Hallie Thomas, 36, opened the Southern-style restaurant on Dec. 23 in downtown Fort Pierce. Alfonso is the executive chef while Thomas is front of the house and sommelier. When Alfonso graduated from Vero Beach High School, he worked at The Moorings Yacht & Country Club. Thomas’ family previously owned multiple restaurants: Dune in Nantucket, where the couple met; Savor and Blue Agave, both in Vero Beach; and 121 Tapas in downtown Fort Pierce. Pickled moved in soon after a 2017 fire at Karen Kane Interiors, there since 1997.
More: Pickled opens as new restaurant in downtown Fort Pierce
The menu features deviled eggs with salmon roe and chive; sliced Wagyu sirloin with sweet potato hash and pink peppercorn au poivre; duck confit pot pie with homemade butter biscuits; homemade meatloaf; and honey-chipotle pork chop. Sides include collard greens, green beans with almonds, Brussel sprouts, bacon-wrapped asparagus, five-cheese truffle mac, creamy risotto and white cheddar grits.
Laurie K. Blandford is TCPalm’s entertainment reporter and columnist dedicated to finding the best things to do on the Treasure Coast. Follow her on Twitter at @TCPalmLaurie or Facebook at faceboook.com/TCPalmLaurie.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Fine dining restaurants in Stuart, Vero, Jensen, Fort Pierce, PSL