1535 Elizabeth Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28204
Carpe Diem, one of Charlotte’s most beautiful and romantic restaurants, is a long-time favorite for special events, including Valentine’s Day and engagements. The art nouveau interior will have you thinking you’ve stepped into Tolkien’s Rivendell, with twining woodwork, copper vines, marble floors and arching doors and windows. Founded by sisters Tricia Maddrey and Bonnie Warford, the restaurant features New American cuisine crafted from locally sourced foods, including N.C. trout and a wonderful warm goat cheese salad crusted with hazelnuts, all artfully presented. Repeatedly tapped by Zagat as one of the city’s top 10 restaurants, Carpe Diem is vegetarian friendly as well, with creative entrees for non-carnivores offered on every menu.
3520 Toringdon Way
Charlotte, NC 28277
This charming and intimate spot in the Ballantyne neighborhood is the creation of Chef Bernard Brunet and his wife Shannon, a couple who met in international waters while working on a cruise ship. Brunet, a native of Nice, France, has worked at notable restaurants all over the world and his menus reflect this global influence with dishes, such as paella, duck confit, sweet potato gnocchi and lamb with couscous, and include many items sourced from local organic growers. Desserts here are especially delicious, with confections of Swiss-style white and dark chocolate or perhaps a plate of imported cheeses with fruit, accompanied by an after-dinner liqueur.
511 N. Church St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Enjoy a Valentine’s Day meal at one of Charlotte’s most distinguished restaurants, consistently voted as the city’s most romantic and the winner of AAA Four Diamond awards for 16 consecutive years. Selected as one of the most “extraordinary” restaurants in the United States by Zagat, the McNinch House is the labor of love of owner Ellen Davis, who restored the historic 1891 Victorian in the Fourth Ward neighborhood herself and served as its first chef. Gourmet dinners are served amid a setting of Victorian antiques at intimate tables in front of roaring fireplaces and feature creative dishes crafted from wild game, free-range meats, line-caught seafood and organic produce. A wine steward selects pairings from a cellar that has won awards from both the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines. All meals at the McNinch House are multi-course and prix fixe, available only by reservation.
3415 Pineville-Rock Hill Road (NC 51)
Fort Mill, SC 29715
Luca and Jessica Annunziata share such a passion for food that they named their restaurant Passion8. Chef Luca, a native of Sorrento, Italy, honed his cuisine chops at top venues abroad before becoming the in-house chef for Good Housekeeping magazine, where he met the woman who equaled his passion for food and wine. The restaurant they created is noted for its prix fixe menus, replete with flavors from around the world, yet crafted from the finest of local ingredients. This will be the last Valentine’s Day in the tiny original location near Carowinds. This spring, Passion8 moves to 1523 Elizabeth Avenue, far closer to the heart of the city.
165 N. Trade St.
Matthews, NC 28105
Located in an historic building on Matthews’ main drag, Santé exudes the sort of old world charm typically found in older cities such as New Orleans and Charleston. Another culinary destination created by a married couple, Santé is owned by Veronica and Adam Reed. Chef Adam, a classically trained French chef with a resume that includes Tatou’s, Maxim’s and The Russian Tea Room in New York City, is also a culinary instructor at the Art Institute of Charlotte. Santé’s annual Valentine’s prix fixe menu is served in the European style with appetizer, fish, entrée and dessert courses, and includes such deluxe options as lobster bisque, filet mignon and lamb chops—and, of course, chocolate for dessert.
With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.