Top 10 romantic restaurants for Valentine's dinner 

A Is for Aphrodisiac: Looking for a romantic spot for Valentine's day?

Mmm ... boiled duck embryo, such a turn-on. I just love when that fetal wing tip crunches in my mouth. The blastula eye fluid cascading over my tongue, oh gawd! It just makes me wanna tear off my tube socks and get freaky!

I kid.

The idea of munching on fertilized duck eggs actually makes me want to ralph, but in the Philippines the delicacy is considered one hell of an aphrodisiac. Come on now, think of the lengths you've gone to get somebody's knickers off. A little quack snack looks comparatively tame, no? You saucy minx, you!

Back in the States aphrodisiacal delights are considerably milder and about as thrilling as the missionary position — fennel, strawberries, and figs. Fortunately, Charleston has some sexy chefs with some steamy recipes, and come February 14 they'll translate those virgin ingredients into naughty gateway drugs. Hint: the gateway leads to pleasure town.

Circa 1886
Downtown. 149 Wentworth St.
(843) 853-7828

The main reasons Circa 1886 spells romance? Cubby hole seating for come-hither closeness, and the soup on their five-course V-Day menu. It's chock full of erotic items, like asparagus and avocado oil, so don't be surprised to look up from the second course to find your date undressing. The prix fixe dinner is $100 per person, featuring entrées like roasted cornmeal crusted strip steak, hedgehog mushroom foie gras potato pavé with grilled romaine and balsamic garlic demi glace. It's worth every penny.

Il Cortile del Re
Downtown. 193-A King St.
(843) 853-1888

Weather permitting, Il Cortile's garden seating is exceptionally romantic. A table for two under the moonlight, two glasses of Italian vino — now that's amore! But to get a first-hand account of what's so hot, former Il Cortile waitress Caroline Enten tells all, "Ooh, the sexiest dish on the menu is probably the wild boar because it brings us back to that time in history when women gathered and man hunted and then they came together and ate!" Anything else? Enten adds, "Or the spaghetti frutti di mare because you have to suck up the strands of spag (spaghetti) into your mouth and the sauce is red, which is the color of love and then it has shellfish in it, which are natural aphrodisiacs. Probably garlic too, which is also sexy, and obviously you can get any kind of Italian red wine under the sun, which is always sexy!"

EVO Pizzeria
North Charleston. 1075 E. Montague Ave.
(843) 225-1796

Attention all you ballers on a budget. We understand the economy is crap. You can barely cover your car payment, let alone fund a Valentine's love feast, but fear not. EVO Pizzeria is surprisingly charming and affordable. For 20 bucks a person this Park Circle establishment is offering a Valentine's special which includes salad, pizza, a glass of Proseco, and truffles for desert. Delizioso!

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Muse
Downtown. 82 Society St.
(843) 577-1102

A relatively new kid on the block, Muse restaurant sits on Society Street tucked between Meeting and King. Inspired by the Italian frescos near Pompeii, Muse has a kind of decadent interior the likes of which few Lowcountry restaurants have indulged. The special feeling of the place will be magnified on the 14th by a set menu featuring a four-course pairing with four wines and chocolate dessert. The first wine pairing is champagne, and the cost is $59 per person.

Red Drum Gastropub
Mt. Pleasant. 803 Coleman Blvd.
(843) 849-0313

Any HBO Rome enthusiast will tell you that the Romans were some horny, horny hippos. Perhaps that's because they'd been using arugula as an aphrodisiac since first century AD. At Red Drum Gastropub in Mt. Pleasant you can indulge your own little hippo with their arugula and goat cheese salad with tart green apple, toasted pecans, and crisp bacon. The elegant setting at Red Drum balances upscale, white table-clothed dining with a comfortable tavern atmosphere. That means brewskies for your beau — they have over a dozen beers on tap — plus delicate options like pan sautéed tilapia. Antony and Cleopatra role-playing costumes not included.

Amuse
West Ashley. 1720 Sam Ritttenberg Blvd.
(843) 573-8778

Are you feeling blue? Do Skatell ads make you break into hives? Are you experiencing uncontrollable urges to hurl Necco Sweethearts at anyone who mentions their Valentine's plans? Paging Amuse Chef James Trez, also known as Doc. The Love Doctor thinks he has the cure to your Valentine's woes. Doc's prescription is Amuse's four-course prix fixe menu which includes black beluga lentil soup, rigatoni with gravy, a choice of entrée, and their house-made Tiramisu for dessert. "The price is $40 a couple, without wine pairings, and $60 a couple, with the first three courses paired with wine," Doc says. But just like a busy medical office, space is limited. There will be three main seatings at 5, 7, and 9 p.m., so make your reservation and get help.

Granville's
Downtown. 730 Rutledge Ave.
(843) 577-0486

SoCal sisters will love some Granville's. The garage windowed building and modern aesthetic feels very West Coast (think Lords of Dogtown meets Wine Spectator), plus the food's pretty rad. Granville's has been closed over the holidays due to catering demands, but it reopened on Feb. 5 and promises to debut some new chefs and fresh menu items. Reservations are a must as this place tends to get busy fast.

The Trusted Palate
Downtown. 563 King. St.
(843) 577-7271

Whoever said salted cured meats weren't sexy was wrong. At Trusted Palate you can always slip your girl the salami ... or a little prosciutto, whatever her appetite demands. Finger food is the plat du jour all day, every day. But isn't it just infinitely sexier to do the finger feeding on corporate America's chocolate-fueled, heart-shaped holiday? Wine enthusiasts be warned: Trusted Palate may leave you broke; they've got some sweet libations.

Sermet's Corner
Downtown. 276 King St.
(843) 853-7775

Honest, good food and a central King Street location make Sermet's perfect if you plan on dancing in the moonlight post meal. People-watching also adds to the appeal of the artsy Mediterranean environment. Great for a first date or a newbie couple still in the "getting to know you" stages. Rather than playing what's your favorite color, nibble on Sermet's lavender, honey, and black pepper marinated pork while gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows and commenting on passers-by.

La Fourchette
Downtown. 432 King St.
(843) 722-6261

Your "My Cherie Amour" serenade didn't work last year? (Come on, the shades and the head bopping — it looked more palsy than Stevie!) If you're what the French call "les incompetent," when it comes to romance, all of Cupid's arrows point to La Fourchette. "We'll just be doing our regular menu; we feel that's special enough," says Kevin Kelley. Diners can enjoy La Fourchette's French bistro-inspired cuisine tucked into their boutique-ish King Street address. And in the future, let's leave the singing to Mr. Wonder.


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