Where To Have A Big Night Out After Cooking At Home For Months
14 Chicago restaurants for people who rarely go out to dinner and want to make it count.
Maybe you need a break from cooking. Or, you’re completely tired of eating celebratory dinners on your couch. Or, maybe, you’re vaccinated and feel ready to head out into the world. Whatever the reason, you want to go out. So, if you’re looking to treat yourself to a fantastic dinner after months of “three-ingredient meals” or countless coffee table dinners, these are the 14 restaurants you should prioritize.
If you’re wondering which Big New Restaurant you need to visit right away, check out Andros Taverna. This Greek restaurant in Logan Square is exactly what you’re looking for - it’s spacious, has great food, and you can usually get same-day reservations. You’ll find appetizers like the must-order kataifi cheese pie (shredded filo layered with cheese, baked, then topped with honey and pistachios), entrees like prawn saganaki in a rich tomato sauce, and the best spanakopita we’ve ever had. They also have a big patio, weather permitting.
Mama Delia’s is a Spanish spot that opened in Wicker Park last year. And if you’re familiar with Beatnik, you’ll know what to expect. It’s from the same team, and has a similar atmosphere - meaning loud music and ornate furniture, even on their covered sidewalk patio. Come here to catch up with friends over cocktails and share dishes like conversas, tartare, or a cheese plate. Or come on a date, and be grateful you’re not attempting to cook paella at home with that nonstick pan you’ve had since college.
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Rose Mary is a new Croatian spot from a Top Chef winner and former Spiaggia chef, and reservations are hard to get. But this place is fantastic, so you should just go ahead and try and book a table now. You’ll find light dishes like a tomato, rarro, and asparagus salad, delicious crni rizot topped with grilled squid, and of course, incredible pastas. And even though they just opened, they’re operating seamlessly. So if you’re looking for a big night out where everything just flows, you’ll probably get it here.
We already really liked Virtue before the pandemic, but our love for this upscale Southern restaurant in Hyde Park reignited after ordering their Thanksgiving dinner for carryout. It came with about 45 different things (including some truly delicious turkey and gravy) and just served to remind us of how great this place is. Come here for things like fantastic biscuits with honey butter, buttery shrimp and grits, and baked mac and cheese we’d run through a wall for.
Maple & Ash
We go to Maple & Ash when the average Chicago steakhouse just doesn’t feel quite special enough. Along with fantastic food, this place has giant silver candelabras on the tables, big booths covered in velvet, and a $165 tasting menu called “I don’t give a f*ck.” And their outdoor space is just as nice. The heated patio is covered by a big fancy tent (complete with a chandelier) and, yes, more candles on the tables.
Bavette's Bar and Boeuf
Nothing says “I’m done eating dinner in my living room” more than going out for a martini, perfect bone-in ribeye, and the best dessert in Chicago. This all can happen at Bavette’s. You can eat inside in a dimly-lit space that feels like a speakeasy, or get a table on their sidewalk patio. Either way, don’t leave without ordering the chocolate cream pie.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Ok, so maybe you’ve eaten at Bavette’s a million times already. In that case, check out Trivoli Tavern in the West Loop instead. It’s owned by the same team, and serves upscale bar food like a burger or fish and chips, along with entrees like prime rib and fried chicken. The restaurant has the same speakeasy vibe, but they’re part of Gin Alley, which means they also have a cobblestone outdoor patio that’s very cute.
Not only does Etta have great food, but it also works for a lot of different situations: dinner with co-workers that (until recently) have only existed as squares on Zoom, a casual date night, or catching up with friends. This place serves delicious housemade pastas and pizzas, plus other dishes (like vegetables and pork shoulder) made in a wood-fired hearth. There are two large bars here that are both great for hanging out. Plus, there’s a great rooftop patio with plenty of heaters to keep you warm.
Avec River North
Do you love Avec in the West Loop but want to go someplace that feels new for your big night out? Check out Avec’s River North location. It recently opened in the former Pacific Standard Time space (which is about 56 times larger than the original Avec), and has a longer menu full of Avec classics (like the chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates and taleggio flatbread), along with a lot more small and large plates, pastas, and pizza. Basically, it’s like Super Avec.
Sushi makes great takeout food, so it’s understandable if you’ve eaten plenty of it over the past year while sitting in your apartment. But let’s face it, freshly sliced otoro and uni-filled handrolls taste better after being handed to you by a chef versus after spending 15 minutes in your car. One of the best spots for this is Sushi-san in River North. You can’t go wrong with anything here, whether it’s the nigiri, the rolls, the small plates, or the very fluffy Japanese pancakes. Order a “San-set” if you can’t decide and want to try a bunch of different things. Plus, they have both indoor and outdoor dining.
Your big night out doesn’t need to be fancy. Maybe you just want to sit with some friends on a patio, drink some cocktails, and eat delicious pizza. Pizzeria Lobo in Logan Square is a great spot to do this. They serve Neapolitan pies, and you’ll find delicious red sauce options like the “amatrice yo-self” (roasted tomato, pancetta, and Calabrian chile), and white pies like the spicy broccoli rabe with garlic jam, creamy pesto, and fresh mozzarella.
You have two options at Hinoka Sushiko, a new Japanese restaurant in the Elston Corridor from the chef of Kyoten. The first is the 15-course $125 omakase, which takes place on the second floor and requires reservations. The second is checking out the first-floor izakaya, which is more casual and seated on a first-come-first-served basis. There you can drink Japanese whisky and sake, and order bar snacks like gyoza and karaage. Plus, it’s dark, there’s a DJ, and, if you haven’t gone out in a hundred years, it might remind you that you can’t dance.
This place is a scene, but it’s a scene that comes with fantastic food and a beautiful space filled with plants and lots of camera-ready people. This is probably a far cry from your apartment, which has perfectly fine food, a plant on life support, and a pair of “good” sweatpants you save for special occasions. Aba has a large dining room with two bars and a huge rooftop patio that’s perfect for hanging out over drinks. Most things on the Mediterranean menu are meant to be shared, and you can pretty much make a dinner out of all the spreads.
Say “I’m back baby” by going out to dinner at the best Italian restaurant in Chicago. Ok, please don’t say that. But every dish at Monteverde is fantastic, from the housemade pastas like cacio e pepe and tortelli di zucca, to the ragu alla Napoletana with perfectly-cooked pork shank, sausage, meatballs, and fusilli that is one of the most delicious plates of food we’ve ever eaten. Come here on a date, come here with a group, or come by yourself and order every single pasta on the menu.