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3 Arts Club Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy RH

The 24 most romantic restaurants in Chicago

Upgrade date night or plan a Valentine's Day meal at these intimate, memorable dining destinations

Written by
Zach Long
,
Morgan Olsen
&
Allison Yates
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You don’t have to go to Paris to have a meal where you can feel the love in the air. From the twinkling lights of the city’s skyline to the many waterfront views, there are many romantic things to do in Chicago—and that includes some of the best restaurants in Chicago. A date at a romantic restaurant in Chicago could involve a quaint evening at a traditional Italian eatery, dining under the amber glow of lamps at a secret speakeasy bar, or a meal in one of the most unexpected places (who knew that furniture stores had so much allure?). These romantic restaurants in Chicago provide sultry or charming—whichever you prefer—atmospheres and unforgettable culinary experiences for your next Valentine's Day meal or an intimate night out.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best restaurants in Chicago

The most romantic restaurants in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Hyde Park
  • price 2 of 4

Helmed by chef-owner Erick Williams, Virtue specializes in Southern American cuisine and seriously sexy vibes. The lights are turned down low, the playlist is always on point, 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Brendan Sodikoff’s vaguely French steakhouse is a departure 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, and perfect for a cozy evening with your significant other. 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, and if you really feel like treating you date, you can split one of the seafood towers.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Gold Coast
  • price 2 of 4

A furniture store might not seem like the most logical place for a romantic dining experience, but the in-house restaurant at RH’s Gold Coast location is a pleasant surprise. Push past the furniture to an atrium dotted with leafy trees and tables situated beneath chandeliers. Under the direction of former Alinea chef John Asbaty, the kitchen serves contemporary American fare like shrimp cocktails, steaks and fries. Pair your food with a glass of wine and relax in the soft candlelight after dark—and don't let the lush surroundings distract you from your date.

  • Restaurants
  • Lower West Side

Talk about romantic! S.K.Y. owner Stephen Gillanders named his Pilsen restaurant after his wife's initials. The sweet vibes don't stop there either: The dining room is sophisticated and intimate, with jewel-toned chairs and a booth that stretches the length of the room. Better yet, the menu is infinitely shareable, with plates like Maine lobster dumplings in jade butter and black truffle croquettes with aged white cheddar.

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  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

With its seriously sexy British manor-style decór and a reservation-only policy, The Darling brings a new level of swankiness to the West Loop. Sit downstairs in the Library and you'll be treated to pop-up performances from musicians, dancers and puppeteers while you dine. Upstairs in the Ballroom, you'll find more breathtaking ambiance plus heartier dishes on the menu and a long list of intricate cocktails.

  • Restaurants
  • East Village

West Town’s Michelin-starred Porto boasts decor and a menu that whisks couples away to the small villages on the Atlantic coast of Portugal and the Spanish region of Galicia. While every inch of the open-kitchen restaurant exudes elegance and intimacy, dining in the main room offers a dimly-lit atmosphere accompanied by a crackling fire that fuels a wood-burning grill. Sink into soft velvet chairs and sip the Crepusculo, a dark and robust cocktail of Spanish gin, squid ink, wakame-infused honey, lemon, egg white and seasalt. You and your date can also indulge in a few small plates featuring seasonally rotating fresh-caught seafood, vegetables and jamón ibérico.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

Housed in the stately 1920s-era Belden-Stratford building in Lincoln Park, French bistro Mon Ami Gabi’s simple, elegant atmosphere is in effect day and the night. Sit on the patio in warmer weather, imagining yourself at an outdoor cafe on the streets of Paris, or tuck yourself away in the dimly-lit wood-paneled walls of the intimate interior. Whether you order a filet mignon and split a bottle of Bordeaux with a new love interest or unabashedly dig into French-onion soup and ice cream-filled profiteroles, you’ll soon be calling your date “ma cherie.”

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • West Loop
  • price 2 of 4

Italian food is always going to feel a bit romantic (especially when it's accompanied by a nice bottle of wine), but if you really want to heighten the mood, the magical decor at Alla Vita should do the trick. Couples can share a pizza or dig into the exquisite chicken parmigiana under rows of flowing curtains hanging from the ceiling or an indoor pergola draped with greenery. Yes, it's a difficult reservation to get, but a wonderful night with your main squeeze is worth the trouble.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pan-Asian
  • Lincoln Park

If your love language is raw fish, there are few cooler culinary experiences than Sushi Suite 202, which transforms a 500-square-foot guest room inside Hotel Lincoln into an intimate omakase counter. The semi-private dining destination offers a 75-minute, 17-course nigiri tasting menu that's brimming with tasty bites. If things get especially heated during your meal, it's easy to get a room once you're finshed eating.

  • 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • West Loop

The interior of Stephanie Izard's Chinese restaurant in the West Loop was brought to life by design firm AvroKO, which sought to create "a dream-like version of the stores and shops that can be found in all quintessential Chinatowns in America." Every corner of the space has its own identity: There's a jade-hued room where you can wait for your table as well as a smaller dining room that's outfitted in crimson wallpaper and matching drapery. No matter where you sit, there's plenty to take in before you share dishes like xi'an goat slap noodles and veggie spring rolls with your date.

  • Restaurants
  • Eclectic
  • Logan Square
  • price 2 of 4

If you can't take your date on a European vacation, you can at least send their taste buds on a journey through the mountain cuisines of France, Italy Austria and Germany. Inspired by the rustic inns that provide shelter and sustience for travelers in the Alps, the menu at Table, Donkey and Stick includes charcuterie and cheese boards that are easy to share alongside heartier steaks, cassoulets and burgers. Begin (or end) the evening by sharing glasses of Alpine wine, brandies or liqueurs.

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  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Walking into GT Prime feels like teleporting to a lavish set from Game of Thrones. The dimly lit space is filled with both masculine and feminine touches: There's taxidermy, still-life photography, glitzy chandeliers and fur-lined chairs. It's all designed to set the mood for chef Giuseppe Tentori's elaborate menu, which spans land and sea with oysters, king crab, hand-cut beef tartare and all the red meat you could ever want.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • River North
  • price 4 of 4

If bonding over culinary history and culture are the key to your heart, look no further than chef Rick Bayless’s Michelin-starred Topolobampo. The lights aren’t low but the art-lined walls and dishes honoring the rich heritage of Mexican ingredients will provide plenty of conversation starters. Start with the Kusshi oyster with fresh tuna ceviche and white sturgeon caviar or the fresh-ground corn in a blue corn tamal. Make sure to save room for a prickly pear fruit and nopal cactus dessert or a twist on the pineapple upside-down cake served with mole and plantain ice cream—and try not to spill the ancho chile mole, which Topolobampo calls the “tablecloth stainer.”

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  • Restaurants
  • Logan Square

No matter how often you dine at Daisies, you probably won't encounter the same menu twice. That's because owner-chef Joe Frillman switches things up based on what's in season at his brother's farm. Diners can expect pasta dishes that highlight the week's haul, showcasing fresh herbs, summer squash, sweet corn and earthy mushrooms. The serene back patio is a welcome respite from Milwaukee Avenue, and the indoor dining room feels extra cozy come winter.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Bridgeport
  • price 2 of 4

If your dream date night involves crispy cheese curds, duck fat french fries and a seriously upgraded Chicago dog, you've come to the right place. Chef Kevin Hickey's Bridgeport restaurant checks all of the boxes (and then some) inside a charming, pre-Prohibition era tavern. Plus, a heated tent out back offers yet another way to dine—just be sure to order a round of hot, rum-spiked buttered banana bread cocktails.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

If you love a dark and mysterious vibe, River North’s Gilt Bar features plenty of wooden walls and tucked away corners. Bathed in the soft glow of table lamps, you can sip dark cocktails like the 100 Year Old Cigar, a mix of rum, cynar, and laphroaig. Order from a menu of elevated American bar food or grab an appetizer—go fancy with tenderloin steak tartare or no-frills with pigs in a blanket. If you stop by Thursday through Saturday, sneak into The Library, a speakeasy-inspired room with chandeliers, velvet booths and books that is only accessible via a nondescript side door in the basement.

  • Restaurants
  • Eclectic
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 3 of 4

This dimly lit fondue den 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. We consider that dinner and a show!

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  • 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.

  • Restaurants
  • River North

There's plenty to love about chef Carlos Gaytán's splashy Chicago comeback, which acts as a portal to his hometown of Huitzuco, Mexico. The heated, all-season patio is a cozy alternative to dining indoors, but the restaurant's interior creates an otherworldly backdrop for date night. The sand-colored walls are adorned with encased natural artifacts from Huitzuco. The French-influenced Mexican fare doesn't disappoint either—just be sure to save room for dessert.

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  • Restaurants
  • West Loop

There are three floors to explore at this modern riverfront steakhouse, which deals in premium cuts, decadent handmade pastas and classic Italian eats. The handsome dining room is hard to forget, but as soon as you see the views—an eyeful of the Chicago River and world-class architecture—you might have trouble concentrating on your date. Center the conversation with a bottle of bubbly and an order of tiramisu.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

If your idea of romance includes onion-filled cheeseburgers, Miller High Life and Old Fashioneds, 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. Your sweetheart deserves the best, right?

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • West Loop

Pulling inspiration from local music, art and fashion, Eleven Eleven aims to stimulate guests with a holistic dining experience. With chef Lamar Moore at the helm, menu is decidedly modern American, with touches of wanderlust throughout, including Italian and southern fare. Unlike its predecessor, Eleven Eleven has done away with the white tablecloths and brought down pricing overall, which means you can snag an entree and a cocktail for around $40. One thing that hasn't changed? The playlist is still bumping and the interior design is still off the charts.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Douglas

When only a proper Italian feast will do, look no further than this Bronzeville staple, helmed by owner Peytyn Willborn-Mayes. Come summertime, you can dine under the stars on the sizable outdoor terrace Indulge in classic Italian eats, like calamari fritti and chicken alfredo, alongside some knockout seafood plates, including the fan-favorite fried catfish.

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