The 7 Most Romantic Restaurants In Chicago
What makes a restaurant romantic? Is it flickering candlelight and white tablecloths? A place with soft lighting that makes you look perpetually well-rested? The absence of shrieking children? Romantic restaurants can take many forms (though not having shrieking children is non-negotiable), whether it’s a dark place to stare into someone’s eyes while swirling a wine glass and chuckling huskily, or a cute bistro that inadvertently charms you into booking that ill-fated trip to Paris. Chicago is full of them, but this guide has the seven best ones.
photo credit: Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf
Let us count the ways Bavette’s is romantic. One, it’s the only dining room we’ll describe as “sexy” unironically—dark and windowless, with red leather booths, 1920s jazz, and suave servers. Two, the bone-in ribeye is the best in the city and sharing a piece of juicy red meat is inherently romantic. Three, it takes months to get a reservation, and when Resy alerts you that one popped up at 6pm on a Tuesday, you’ll be grateful for the privilege. Bavette’s is where you order an Old Fashioned, then a $200 shellfish tower followed by a prime rib sandwich, more cocktails, then finally finish with a cartoonishly large piece of lemon meringue pie. In other words, this place sucks you in and makes you forget the world is spinning outside.
Ciccio Mio is dim, cozy, and filled with all sorts of old-timey artwork and ornate chandeliers that make us feel like we’re hanging out in the parlor of some old mansion. And thankfully the Italian food is also great—in fact, we’ve never had anything here that we didn’t really like. The menu has antipasti, chicken parm, and wonderful pastas. Like the lasagna, which is served rotolo-style (a.k.a. rolled) allowing each piece to have the perfect amount of caramelized parmesan and toasted edges. It comes with three pieces, so you can test the strength of your relationship with how you both divide the last one.
Bistro Campagne’s courtyard has brick walls, ivy, and lots of plants, and is perfect for a quaint spot to have a romantic dinner outside. This French restaurant is also one of the best-kept secrets in Lincoln Square, which means the crowd (to the extent that there is one) is mostly regulars. You can eat inside too (the lovely little dining room is full of dark wood and tablecloths) but the outdoor patio is primarily where the romance is at. Stick with French classics, like escargot, and congratulate yourself on finding such a cute romantic place to make, er, encourage someone to fall in love with you.
photo credit: Christina Slaton
There is absolutely nothing understated about Maple & Ash, so do not—we repeat, do not—come here if you are trying to play it cool. The dining room looks like a ‘90s rock ballad music video filled with billowy fabric, crystal chandeliers, and towering candelabras in the center of the table. They have a $200 tasting menu called “I Don’t Give A F&CK” where the kitchen randomly decides what you eat, and, no, there are no substitutions. If you go there to celebrate a special occasion, they’ll print a menu wishing you congratu-f*cking-lations. Basically, come here to eat steak and caviar in a space that feels like the mansion from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
photo credit: Matthew Reeves
Do you find a sea of white tablecloths romantic? How about servers in tuxedo jackets and giant flower paintings that would make Georgia O’Keefe smirk? Well, you will find all of these things at Adalina, an upscale Italian restaurant in the Gold Coast. And even though this sounds like the ingredients of a stuffy restaurant, this spot walks the line between fancy and overly formal—both because of the friendly service, and because it’s loud enough that you won’t feel like you’re having a date in a library. Plus, the food is really good. The menu has dishes like gnocco fritto with prosciutto, whipped ricotta, and honey (a fantastic starter)—along with housemade pastas, and entrees like a tender bone-in veal parmigiana.
For a romantic Italian meal outside, the answer is Piccolo Sogno every time. This River West spot has a patio covered with string-lit trees. It’s sequestered from the street and large enough to accommodate a lot of couples without ever feeling too crowded. As mentioned, it’s great for outdoor dates, but the inside is lovely too. The quiet dining room has arched ceilings, white tablecloths, and might motivate you to finally plan that trip to Tuscany.
Is Geja’s kind of cheesy? You bet your ass it is. And not just because it’s literally cheesy (it’s a fondue spot). This Lincoln Park staple has been around since 1965, and hasn’t changed its red-light-district style interior. Booths are separated by little curtains, and the only sources of light in the restaurant are the little blue flames from the fondue pots, flashlights the servers carry around to see, and glowing red bulbs scattered throughout the space. It’s a little lurid and a bit much, but it’s also romantically campy to feed your partner chocolate-covered strawberries in a place that feels like a 1970s darkroom.