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Where to Celebrate or Escape Valentine’s Day Without Reservations in Chicago

Don’t stress about booking these five spots in advance

A tray of fried chicken with corn muffins and honey butter.
Skip the reservations and keep V-Day simple.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken [Official Photo]

Valentine’s Day is not the best day to dine at a restaurant. When the holiday becomes more about stress (choosing gifts and cards, planning proposals, and nailing down a table at a pricy restaurant) versus showing appreciation for a partner, perhaps it’s time for a different approach. This year, spend more time on the relationship and less time (and money) on dinner with Eater Chicago’s five no-reservation recommendations for Valentine’s Day 2020. Chosen with affordability and diversity of both cuisine and location in mind, these spots are ideal for snuggling up and digging in free of pressure and white tablecloths.

Restaurants are listed in alphabetical order.

A burger on a plate on a wooden table.
Boathouse Cafe is a cozy Humboldt Park retreat.
Boathouse Cafe [Official Photo]

Boathouse Cafe

This cozy Humboldt Park cafe overlooking the lagoon offers lovely views, even in winter. It’s inside the Chicago Park District’s boathouse and offers a tight selection of burgers and salads, as well as fried chicken pieces accompanied by fries and a slice of cake.

Cafe Istanbul

This Mediterranean and Turkish neighborhood spot is warm and welcoming, and features what critics call a “magnificent and dramatic” Cağ kebabı with juicy lamb shoulder and saddle. Top it off with a Turkish coffee or sweeten the deal with baklava or honey cake. It’s also the 2020 Jean Banchet award-winner for Best Heritage Restaurant. They do take reservations, so check to be safe.

A tray of fried chicken with corn muffins and honey butter.
Love, like chicken, doesn’t have to be complicated.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

A hearty meal of fried chicken served with luscious honey butter from this casual Eater 38 hotspot is an effective way to express the depths of one’s passion. A trip to this Logan Square restaurant may involve a little time standing in line, but true love waits — especially for great chicken.

Abuelita Tres Leches @ 1735 W. 35th St. Chicago #tresleches #treslechescake #chocolateabuelita #postresartesanales

Posted by Kristoffer's Cakes on Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Kristoffer’s Cakes

An adored Pilsen landmark, Kristoffer’s has all the sugary delights any hungry pro- or anti-Valentine’s day customers could desire: the cafe’s famous tres leches cake is not to be missed (it comes in a variety of flavors) and flan fans are in luck too. This isn’t a dinner spot; they close at 5 p.m. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t have to be about dinner.

Original Soul Vegetarian

This legendary South Side vegetarian restaurant makes for a comfortable retreat from winter bluster regardless of ones affinity for meat. Show appreciation for a partner and the planet with animal-free dishes like the tangy soybean seitan “BBQ Twist” and a pile of seasoned fries. There’s also an assortment of vegan cakes, pies, and other desserts.

The Boathouse Cafe

1301 N Humboldt, Chicago, IL 60647 (872) 817-7000

Cafe Istanbul

2014 West Division Street, , IL 60622 (773) 661-9487 Visit Website

Original Soul Vegetarian

203 East 75th Street, , IL 60619 (773) 224-0104 Visit Website

Kristoffer's Cakes

1735 West 35th Street, , IL 60609 (773) 801-1831 Visit Website

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

3361 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (773) 478-4000 Visit Website