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.
A bunch of new Italian restaurants have recently opened in Chicago, but Senatore is the best for a casual date night. The Humboldt Park restaurant has the vibe of a European cafe, and is busy—filled with people laughing and probably pretending they’re on vacation. But the main reason we love this place is because of the excellent food. Every dish has some kind of creative twist that makes it interesting. The meatballs are filled with melted scamorza, offering the benefits of a Juicy Lucy without the risk of third-degree burns. Their “lasagna” is deconstructed into a pile of handmade garlic mafaldine, whipped ricotta, and a mushroom bolognese that would win in a steel cage death match against any meat version. We can’t promise that your date will be impressive, but your meal here definitely will be.
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 duck confit or steak frites.
Nothing helps a budding romance like purple lighting and pizza-filled potstickers, both of which you’ll find at The Way Out in Logan Square. OK, we don’t really know if purple lighting will add much to your evening, but you should still check out this new bar for a fun date night. They play (mostly) punk music, there’s a pool table, and you can get Sapporo by the pitcher. Plus there’s a tasty food menu with things like the aforementioned potstickers, burgers, wings, and nachos. It’s cool, a little retro, and ideal for a date where talking about Mario Kart 64, The Smiths, and pizza rolls can bring you closer together.
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.
This Vietnamese restaurant is perfect for a date where you are 100% confident eating in natural lighting. Sochi has garage-style windows that brighten up the large dining room, and the space is nice but won’t make you feel underdressed. Plus, the food is really good. There are options like a refreshing seared duck salad that’s delicious. There’s also a great bánh mì (which had an excellent ratio of pâté and pork loaf to crunchy bread), and bigger entrees like phở and cơm chiên. And after being BYOB for months, they now serve cocktails, wine, and beer.
Is hot pot a good date food? It depends on the spot, and when it comes to Qiao 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 new cocktail bar in Humboldt Park is versatile. It has both a cute indoor and outdoor space. There’s a cozy wood-burning fireplace inside, and a large partially-covered heated patio. The menu is divided into “hi” (with strong, boozy cocktails) and “lo” (lower ABV options for when you don’t want to get accidentally drunk). Unlike a lot of Chicago bars, Hi-Lo is open seven days a week, and on Friday through Mondays it opens at 2pm. In the afternoon it feels like a coffee shop (but for booze—there is no coffee on the menu). At night the crowd is a little livelier, though you’ll still get the impression that it’s filled primarily with the kind of laid-back people who host game nights. Which is fine by us.
Provaré is a bright Creole and Italian spot in West Town with an R&B playlist that will make you realize how much you enjoy ’90s Usher. It’s a fun spot—you’ll get complimentary shots of one of their house cocktails as soon as you sit down. The menu is short (just a few appetizers and mains), but really good. Standout dishes include cheesy spinach and artichoke dip filled with shrimp and crawfish, shrimp Hennessy scampi, and bone-in lamb chops with corn maque choux. Oh, and in case you didn’t read your date’s profile carefully, they have a couple of vegan options, too—like Impossible Meat bolognese and brussels sprouts topped with vegan parmesan.
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 burgers from Space Cow, and Korean snacks like bibimbap and tteokbokki from 2 Korean Girls.
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.
This is a new cocktail bar in Portage Park with great drinks and tasty food. Moonflower has creative options like the Seeing Green (matcha, condensed milk, soju, and vodka) along with classics like Manhattans. Plus, they have also have stuff like fries topped with bolognese, grilled cheese and tomato soup, and patty melts. The space is dimly lit and full of plants, which will give you talking points about all your pandemic houseplants that kept you company during quarantine.
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.
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.