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Photograph: Ethan Jollie

The 17 most romantic restaurants in Chicago

Upgrade date night or plan an anniversary dinner at these intimate, memorable dining destinations

By Morgan Olsen and Elizabeth Atkinson

Maybe it's the candlelit tables or the lengthy wine list. Or perhaps it's the cozy booth seating that squeezes you even closer to your dining companion. The most romantic restaurants in Chicago crank up the heat and set the mood for an intimate evening out. Over the years, we've kept a running list of the city's top date-night spots—from a tucked-away sushi den and fancy restaurants in Chicago to an old-school fondue haunt that's brimming with charm. Next time you're looking for romantic things to do Chicago, consider booking a table and allowing some of the city's finest chefs to wow you. Plan a night at one of the most romantic restaurants in Chicago for Valentine's Day, an anniversary dinner or any old Friday night.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best restaurants in Chicago

The most romantic restaurants in Chicago

elske patio
Photograph: Carolina Mariana Rodríguez

1. Elske

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

When the restaurant's name translates to “love,” you can expect plenty of romantic feels. So is the case at Elske, a fine-dining destination from husband-and-wife team David and Anna Posey. Fit and priced for an anniversary dinner or special occasion, this West Loop restaurant is lovey-dovey in a sophisticated way. The intimate dining room is filled with handsome wood tables, soft curtains and candlelight. The delicate, thoughtful dishes on the tasting menu speak a love language of their own.

virtue, catfish, erick williams
Photograph: Courtesy Virtue

2. Virtue

Restaurants Soul and southern American Hyde Park

Helmed by chef-owner Erick Williams, Virtue specializes in Southern American cuisine and seriously sexy vibes. The lights are turned down low, the food is filled with soul and the menu boasts some excellent wines by the glass and bottle. Couples are best suited ordering a few appetizers and sides to share plus their own entrees. Save room for banana pudding studded with nilla wafers, and request a round of champagne with Williams, available at market price.

Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

3. Bellemore

Restaurants American West Loop

Even if Bellemore didn't serve a single morsel of food, we'd still consider it one of the most romantic backdrops in town. The sprawling interior is outfitted with rounded booths, moody artwork, funky light fixtures and plush, velvet barstools. Lucky for you, chef Jimmy Papadopoulos ups the ante with a menu of stunning seasonal fare like shaved foie gras with cocoa nib granola, caramelized brioche and persimmon.

Photograph: Ethan Jollie

4. Beatnik

Restaurants Mediterranean East Village

As far as we're concerned, there are three very different spaces within Beatnik: The light and airy front room, the funky side bar and the dark and sexy dining room. For date night or a special occasion, book a table in the latter, which is filled with massive chandeliers, pillow-lined couches and ornate rugs. A menu of shared plates that pulls from all corners of the globe will strike up conversation as you sip cocktails.

Galdones Photography
Eugene (Huge) Galdones

5. The Loyalist

Bars Cocktail bars West Loop

If your idea of romance includes onion-filled cheeseburgers, beer and shots of Old Grand Dad, the Loyalist should be your new date-night spot. In all seriousness, this subterranean West Loop hideaway packs the romance with dim lighting, secluded booths, top-notch eats and, yes, one of the best burgers in all of Chicago. End the night with a round of darts (and shots) by the bar.

Photograph: Martha Williams

6. Bavette’s

Restaurants Steakhouse River North

Brendan Sodikoff’s vaguely French steakhouse is a departure—or perhaps an evolution—for the restaurateur. While his other spots (Gilt Bar, Au Cheval) have their charms, the appeal of this spot—decked out with jazz-era decor and music—is practically universal. Diners need not be huge steak fans to get a good meal; in fact, as good as the steak frites is, both the fried and roasted chicken are even better. Elegant cocktails begin meals here; fabulous pies (lemon meringue, chocolate cream) end them.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

7. Aba

Restaurants Mediterranean West Loop

Come summertime, Aba is the place to be in the West Loop, thanks in part to its spacious patio that's dotted with fire pits. But for a special evening out with your partner, request a seat in the lush sky-lit dining room and order from chef CJ Jacobson's menu of Mediterranean-inspired menu. We're big fans of splitting an order of spicy hummus and a few skewers from the grill. Top off the night with crème brûlée pie, which is just as amazing (if not better) than it sounds.

North Pond
Photograph: Martha Williams

8. North Pond

Restaurants Contemporary American Lincoln Park

This North Side restaurant—just steps from a pond in Lincoln Park—makes you feel close to nature and far from the hustle and bustle of the city, so it’s perfect for a date. The ever-changing offerings have included gulf shrimp and manila clams with black olive capellini, snap peas, and carrot-shrimp broth topped with pecorino and crumbs, and Alaskan halibut served with red and white quinoa, cucumbers, bing cherries, mint and cucumber broth—all delicious and just the things you may need to help you and your sweetheart forget if it’s chilly outside.

Geja's Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy Adam Alexander Photography

9. Geja’s Café

Restaurants Eclectic Lincoln Park

This dimly lit fondue spot is a reliably romantic date destination. The four-course Prince Geja Combination, while pricey, allows couples a chance to get cozy while experimenting with various dips. A salad starter is followed by the cheese fondue appetizer with bread, grapes and apples. Then, beef tenderloin, chicken breast, lobster tail, jumbo shrimp and sea scallops are brought out to be cooked in the tableside hot oil pot. Be sure to save room for the flaming chocolate fondue dessert.

Photograph: Allen Hemberger

10. St. Clair Supper Club

Restaurants West Loop

Leave it to Team Alinea to gussy up the traditional Midwestern supper club model and make it something extraordinary. Situated below Roister in the West Loop, St. Clair is outfitted in tufted leather banquettes and candlelit tables. The star of the menu (and the only meat available in the place) is the hand-carved prime rib that's served medium rare with deeply savory au jus. Share a slice of the show-stopping frozen grasshopper pie for dessert.

monteverde, jason little, burrata e ham
Photograph: Jason Little

11. Monteverde

Restaurants Italian West Loop

The Italians know a thing or two about romance. If you're looking to slurp pasta and gaze into your partner's eyes like a scene out of Lady and the Tramp, head to Sarah Grueneberg's West Loop restaurant. Seats at the bar will afford you a front-row view of the pros making bucatini, tagliolini and tortellini. Up the ante by adding decadent burgundy or white shaved truffles to any dish.

Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

12. Maude’s Liquor Bar

Restaurants French West Loop

Cocktailers hit Maude’s around midnight, but we make a point to get there earlier, when the kitchen is still open. That way we can nosh on butter-smooth chicken-liver mousse slathered on toast with shallot marmalade, smoky slabs of pork belly fanned over a pitch-perfect salad Lyonnaise and roasted chicken paillard. At dessert, only crème brûlée or fancy chocolate squares are offered, a display of brass that would be maddening—if only this hot spot wasn’t so dead-on. Be sure to sit upstairs, where it’s dark and perfect for cozy dates and private conversations.

Fruit loop donut at Dusek's
Photograph: Clayton Hauck

13. Dusek's Board and Beer

Bars Gastropubs Lower West Side

There's something inexplicably sexy about having an entire night planned out to a T, so here's your game plan: Grab dinner at Dusek's in Pilsen (oysters and beer, anyone?) before heading downstairs to the basement bar Punch House for a cocktail. If you've still got some steam, belt some tunes out at piano bar Tack Room on the ground floor before heading home for the night.

Photograph: Jessica Lynn Capron

14. Café Marie-Jeanne

Restaurants Cafés Humboldt Park

When you walk into Café Marie-Jeanne, you’re greeted by a spread of candlelit two tops. The all-day Parisian-influenced café definitely gives off the romantic French vibe, making it easy to grab a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and charcuterie to catch up over. Plus, you’re surrounded by other restaurants and bars to keep the night going after this date starting point.


15. Good Measure

Bars River North

If you like your date night with a side of punk-rock vibes and hand-cut fries, grab a booth at Good Measure in River North. The retro dive bar boasts a lineup of classic cocktails and a full dinner menu, making it a one-stop shop. Toss in a rockin' play list and sexy lighting, and you've got a great excuse to cuddle up close to your special someone.

The Allis
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

16. The Allis

Restaurants Cafés West Loop

By day, the Allis at Soho House Chicago is filled with groups of friends catching up over tea and laptop-equipped busy bees. But after the sun goes down, the hotel lobby transforms into a date-night destination, complete with candles, comfy couches and crystal chandeliers. Stay for a cocktail or two or order small plates like the lamb meatballs, snapper crudo or burrata with tomatoes and basil.


17. Parachute

Restaurants Korean Avondale

Whether you’re booking a special birthday dinner for your partner or searching for ways to upgrade an otherwise-ordinary date night, Parachute is an excellent bet. The Korean-American restaurant serves adventurous bites that will keep conversation alive long after your last glass of wine. Husband-and-wife owners Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim offer an array of shareable dishes like grilled swordfish, raw scallops with Asian pear and the famous baked potato bing bread. Add this intimate spot to your fancy-night-out rotation—you won’t regret it.


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