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duck duck goat
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

Chicago moved to Tier 1 mitigations on January 23, allowing restaurants to reopen at 25 percent capacity. We've confirmed that these spots have resumed dine-in service, but things change fast. Please call ahead or make a reservation online, and don't forget your mask!

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.

Photograph: Martha Williams

2. Bavette’s

Restaurants Steakhouse River North

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. 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.

the darling
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

3. The Darling

Restaurants American creative West Loop

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. Willing to brave the cold? The outdoor Rose Garden awaits with steamy cocktails and cozy blankets inside private greenhouses.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

4. S.K.Y.

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 sexy, 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.

duck duck goat
Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

5. Duck Duck Goat

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 start digging into xi'an goat slap noodles and veggie spring rolls.

Geja's Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy Adam Alexander Photography

6. Geja’s Café

Restaurants Eclectic Lincoln Park

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!

Sushi Suite 202
Photograph: Courtesy Sushi Suite 202

7. Sushi Suite 202

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 an hourlong, 17-course nigiri tasting menu that's brimming with tasty bites straight from executive chef Kin Wangchuk.

Photograph: Jeff Marini

8. 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.

GT Prime
Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

9. GT Prime

Restaurants Steakhouse River North

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 Toentori'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.

Photograph: Neil Burger

10. Tzuco

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.

duck inn
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

11. The Duck Inn

Restaurants American Bridgeport

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.

Gibsons Italia
Photograph: Courtesy Gibsons Italia

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

Photograph: Ethan Jollie

13. 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.

Eleven Eleven
Photograph: Courtesy Eleven Eleven

14. 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.


15. Truth Italian Restaurant

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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