Dating IRL

We convinced two single Chicagoans to ditch the apps and embark on a choose-your-own-adventure date through Chinatown

Photograph: John Khuu

The dates:

Brian, 30:

Recruiter, world traveler, live music aficionado; Old Town

Justine, 30

Writer, hot dog enthusiast, dance-off champion; Humboldt Park

Stop 1: Nine Dragon Wall

Justine

“He’s the polar opposite of who I typically date. My type is usually tattooed guys who are in creative fields. He was super friendly and didn’t seem nervous, which put me at ease and set the tone for a fun evening exploring Chinatown.”

Brian

“I was kinda nervous walking up to the wall, both because I had never been to Chinatown ­before and wasn’t confident I’d be able to find the wall and because I had no idea what Justine would be like. She was immediately fun and outgoing,
which I appreciated.”

Stop 2: Won Kow Restaurant

Justine

“We ordered drinks for each other, and he picked one of my favorites, a Singapore sling. We sipped our bowls o’ booze and talked about how this didn’t have any of the pressure we often feel on a first date. Or maybe that was the gallon of gin?”

Brian

“Won Kow was probably my favorite part of the date. The menu had random drink names like Scorpion but didn’t list ingredients. In true blind date fashion, I suggested we order each other’s drinks. I figured this would break the ice. Luckily, we both chose options the other liked.” 

Stop 3: Phoenix Restaurant

Justine

We had a nice little view of the skyline and hashed out the creative merits of Breaking Bad and House of Cards. How is there not a dating app that pairs people up based on what you watch on Netflix? Get on that, tech people.

Brian

The next card had us choose between ramen or dim sum. We went with dim sum, and while the conversation still flowed, the food was a little lackluster. It was just cordial, friendly conversation. There wasn’t much flirting or attraction involved.”

The Verdict?

Justine

“I had fun with Brian. He totally went with the flow. There wasn’t a spark for me, but I did think of my single lady friends who would probably dig him. So hey, Brian! Let me play matchmaker. (That’s weird, right?)”

Brian

“The date was fun. I liked not knowing anything about the other person. It took away a lot of the preconceived notions you often have on first dates. Justine’s very pleasant, has a great personality, but just not what I’m looking for!"

The Date

Nine Dragon Wall
Attractions

Nine Dragon Wall

Nine Dragon Wall in Chinatown is a smaller version of a similar wall located near the Forbidden City in Beijing and contains nine large dragons as well as hundreds of smaller dragons.

Won Kow Restaurant
Restaurants

Won Kow Restaurant

This Chinatown staple serves up Cantonese fare alongside dim sum and a cocktail menu full of impressive and flashy tiki drinks. Legend has it Al Capone was a Won Kow regular.

Phoenix Restaurant
Restaurants Book online

Phoenix Restaurant

Nine-to-fivers will have to skip work to avoid the crowds at this dim sum stalwart, but it’s worth it to bypass the weekend frenzy. What’s the fuss? Hangover cures in the form of fried or steamed dough stuffed with savory, sometimes spicy pork. The classic bao are proper pillowy buns, Malay steamed cake is soft and spongy, deep-fried red bean dumplings are sweet and greasy (this is not a bad thing), and crêpes are characteristically silky wraps for shrimp, beef or greens—try the pan-fried version of both for a bit of crispness. Save room for interesting options like tender baby octopus with a slight curry flavor and crispy eggplant stuffed with steamed squid.  

Users say
3 out of 5 stars
Book online

The Second Option

Aji Ichiban
Shopping

Aji Ichiban

This Chinatown shop is the perfect place to meet your sweetheart and kick off a date filling up on rows of treats in cute packaging.  

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Strings Ramen Shop
Restaurants Book online

Strings Ramen Shop

Heat things up over bowls of piping hot ramen. Bonus points if you slurp your noodles up Lady and the Tramp-style.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
Kung Fu Tea
Restaurants

Kung Fu Tea

Enjoy conversation and a few round of board games over cups of customizable tea at this recently opened shop. 

Other Dates In Chinatown

AJ Housewares & Gifts
Shopping

AJ Housewares & Gifts

Get a little closer to your date in this crowded shop that has a vareity of trinkets and a stellar selection of housewares. 

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Wan Shi Da
Restaurants

Wan Shi Da

Share a pork cookie at this low-key family-run spot. The decor is sparse but the staff is friendly and the flavors are delicious. 

Lao Hunan
Restaurants

Lao Hunan

Dine on spicy Hunanese dishes under the watchful eye of Chairman Mao. If the date is lacking heat, all the chili oil should help. 

Ping Tom Memorial Park
Attractions

Ping Tom Memorial Park

Take a walk in the park as you enjoy city skyline views while kayakers pass by on the Chicago River. 

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Giftland
Shopping

Giftland

Grab a super cute Hello Kitty for your cute date at this shop packed full of the popular character alongside other gifts and accessories. 

Go 4 Food
Restaurants Book online

Go 4 Food

Have a hands-on date digging into the chili crab, a messy but delicious feast of Dungeness crab cooked with curry. 

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Book online

Comments

0 comments