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Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

The 15 most romantic restaurants in Chicago

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

By Morgan Olsen

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 dreamy outdoor dining rooms 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

virtue, interior, Barry Brecheisen
Photograph: Barry Brecheisen

1. 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 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.

Piccolo Sogno patio
Photograph: Eugene (Huge) Galdones

2. Piccolo Sogno

Restaurants Italian River West/West Town

Situated on one of the city's busiest intersections, Piccolo Sogno manages to transport guests to the quiet Italian countryside with the help of a rather tall fence, plenty of greenery and massive yellow umbrellas that shield diners from the relentless sun. Of course, the food doesn't hurt either: Antipasti, house-made pastas and flame-kissed pizzas pair perfectly with a lengthy wine list that's rife with hits.

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 a New York strip with grilled beets, crispy shallots and yuzu kosho hollandaise. 

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

4. Daisies

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.

Photograph: Ethan Jollie

5. 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

6. The Loyalist

Bars Cocktail bars West Loop

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. End the night with a round of darts (and shots) by the bar.

Photograph: Martha Williams

7. 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.

8. Truth Italian Restaurant

Restaurants Italian Douglas

When date night calls for a proper Italian feast under the stars, look no further than this Bronzeville staple, helmed by owner Peytyn Willborn-Mayes. The sizable side terrace offers plenty of seating as well as overhead covering in case the weather turns. Indulge in classic Italian eats, like calamari fritti and chicken alfredo, alongside some knockout seafood plates, including the fan-favorite fried catfish.

Eleven Eleven
Photograph: Courtesy Eleven Eleven

9. Eleven Eleven

Restaurants American West Loop

Pulling inspiration from local music art and fashion, Eleven Eleven aims to stimulate guests with a holistic dining experience. The menu is decidedly modern American, with touches of wanderlust throughout, including Italian, Cuban 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 $30. One thing that hasn't changed? The playlist is still bumping and the interior design is still off the charts.

Gibsons Italia
Photograph: Courtesy Gibsons Italia

10. Gibsons Italia

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 architecture—you might have trouble concentrating on your date. Center the conversation with a bottle of bubbly and an order of tiramisu.

Photograph: Jeff Marini

11. 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.

La Storia patio
Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

12. La Storia

Restaurants Italian Rush & Division

Occupying what was once a Gold Coast home, La Storia exudes warmth and comfort. When the weather cooperates, the dining room overflows into a secluded backyard patio that's adorned with string lights and lush ivy, creating the perfect backdrop for date night. An order of tiramisu to share is a must—if only to make the evening last a few minutes longer.

North Pond
Photograph: Martha Williams

13. 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 date night. 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

14. 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.

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

15. Monteverde

Restaurants Italian West Loop

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.

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