Scheduling date nights is crucial at any stage of a relationship. From that pivotal first outing with a friendly stranger to the 251st dinner with your soulmate, date spots should always feel just a little bit special. So whether you’re trying to impress a potential partner with a low-key bar or agreeing to give your joint Seamless account the night off, use this guide to find the perfect date spot to suit your needs in Chicago right now.
All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. Where To Go On A Date Right Now is presented by Monkey Shoulder. As a whisky that’s made for mixing, Monkey Shoulder believes that adult life - and dating - doesn’t have to be so uptight. Check out our full collection of laid-back dating guides here.
The Lardon is a salumeria, so the menu is full of salumi, cheese, and various meats they cure in-house. Basically a bunch of fun, snack foods that are perfect for a casual date. Sit out on their patio, order a meat and cheese spread (which come with housemade accouterments like onion jam), some wine, and wave a cornichon around to emphasize a hilarious-yet-charmingly-relatable point you’re making. And in case you want to go the full dinner route, Lardon just extended their hours and menu, with entrees like steak frites or mussels.
This Mexican restaurant in the West Loop is from a former chef of Mi Tocaya (one of our favorite spots in the city), and serves wonderful dishes like cochinita pibil, tlayudas, tuétano, and pato en mole, along with perfectly chewy tortillas. The big space also has lots of tables outside, and the bar area is ideal for grabbing cocktails (the Paloma is excellent) if you want to hang out before or after dinner.
Qiao Lin Hotpot
Is hot pot a good date food? It depends on the spot, and when it comes to Quio Lin, we’re going to say yes. For one thing, this restaurant in the 88 Marketplace building has tables designed for just two people. And the menu has suggested cooking times, which is not only helpful, but can help avoid potential arguments about how long you should leave the fish balls in the spicy broth (five minutes, by the way). Plus, you can order pots with either one, two, or three-way broth dividers, which is a really good way to gather intel about important topics like sharing, and three-ways.
This upscale Italian restaurant in the West Loop is perfect for two people who just want to have a conversation. It’s large without feeling cavernous, tastefully decorated in soothing neutral colors, and the service is attentive without being obtrusive. More importantly, the food is good. The focus is on handmade pastas, which include things like a fantastic bucatini cacio e pepe, pici with ragu, and paccheri mancini prepared tableside. And while Gioia is in one of Chicago’s busiest neighborhoods, it’s still easy to book a reservation. Plus, there’s a large bar area that’s great for hanging out after dinner, and a cute sidewalk patio too.
The Duplex in Logan Square serves food from different chefs every six months, and (to us) feels more like a bar with great food than a restaurant. That’s partially because of the great music, long cocktail list, and literal bar which takes up half the (pretty large) restaurant. But also because of how you order the food: from a QR code at the table, and then you just close out your tab whenever you’re done. Right now The Duplex is serving Mexican food from Lime and Radish (the birria taco is great) and excellent fried chicken sandwiches from The Kluckerz.
The restaurant is small and dimly lit, with vintage touches (like chandeliers and candles) decorating the space - and it has a surprisingly good sound system where you will be able to hear your date, but unable to hear the people around you. The menu is full of delicious things, like escolar topped with black garlic honey, an airy chicken liver mousse, and an incredible burger that only has three components: beef, rose marie sauce, and balsamic onions. Bonus: the simplicity of the burger means you are 85% less likely to drop a bunch of toppings all over your lap.
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 patio). It’s full of people who are enjoying the long cocktail menu - not by doing a bunch of jello shots, but by acting like they just got some great news and/or are having a very fun date. Come here for cocktails and to share dishes like conservas, tartare, or a cheese plate.
Recess in the West Loop is a theme bar, and the theme is basically “City Hall,” which means menus are made to look like municipal forms and cocktails have names like the “Alderman’s Choice.” And while government buildings and red tape aren’t what we’d normally consider romantic, we promise this place is fun. The outdoor space is huge (14,500 square feet), and includes tables situated inside repurposed shipping containers, giant games of things like Connect Four, and it even has an outpost of Bob’s Pizza. In conclusion, come here, play games, get drinks, order pizza, and get to know each other.
Dinner and a show is a classic date night combo for a reason. And both locations of City Winery (West Loop and on the Riverwalk) offer live music and serve a full dinner menu with shareable things like cheese and charcuterie, and entrees like steak or risotto. Come to either one when you want Citizen Cope to do the heavy lifting for you, and the Riverwalk location is good if you want to take a romantic post-show stroll along the Chicago River.
This small cocktail bar in Albany Park has a lot going on There’s a long drink menu of classic cocktails, fancy bar snacks like chicken liver pate, and live DJs on the weekend. But, it all works well together, and makes for a great early-in-the-game date spot, especially because you can either stay for just a drink or stick around for food if you’re actually having fun.