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A dim restaurant dining room with mirrors and red booths.
Parisian chophouse Bavette’s is one of the most romantic restaurants in the city.
Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf [Official Photo]

The Most Romantic Restaurants in Chicago

20 spots that create a special world for two

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Parisian chophouse Bavette’s is one of the most romantic restaurants in the city.
| Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf [Official Photo]

Romance is different for everyone. For some of us, it’s a quiet meal at home. For others, it’s a pizza on the couch with the person they love best. White Castle fulfilled an unexpected craving when it introduced its special white tablecloth Valentine’s dinners. But many are still traditionalists: romance is an experience outside the ordinary, either extraordinarily luxurious food, or an extravagant setting that provides an opportunity for two people to be alone in public. Or, preferably, both these things. Here are 20 Chicago restaurants that fit the bill.

As of January 3, the city has mandated that those ages 5 and up be fully vaccinated and masked at public places indoors while not actively eating or drinking. For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Superdawg Drive-In

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Please, name a place that is more private and romantic than the front seat of a car. This is the very definition of American romance, immortalized in countless pop songs. At Superdawg, that’s the dining room, just you and your sweetie eating hot dogs, sipping one shake through two straws, watched over by Superdawg’s founders and high-school sweethearts Maurie and Flaurie Berman, reimagined as hot dogs eternally in love. Is that not paradise by the dashboard light?

Little Madrid Tapas-Café

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For those who equate romance with dim lighting, Little Madrid may be the most romantic restaurant in Chicago: a tiny storefront dining room illuminated only by tabletop candles. But the tapas, pintxos, and paella are all exquisite; the wine is abundant; and the service is friendly and makes you feel cared for, all the things necessary for romance to flourish.

Bistro Campagne

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This spot on Lincoln Avenue has one of the most exquisite patios in the city, shaded by abundant trees during the day and lit up by twinkling fairy lights after dark. The intimate indoor dining room is lovely, too, and the menu offers a selection of reasonably-priced French bistro classics, from French onion soup to tarte au citron, with cassoulet and steak frites in between.

Tango Sur

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This festive, candlelit neighborhood restaurant on Southport is famous for serving hunks of Argentinian steak, especially the parillada for two, a selection of five meats, delivered on a tabletop grill. But there’s also seafood and vegetarian items, plus a full range of empanadas.

Wherewithall

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Led by chef Tayler Ploshehanski, who took over last summer when founders Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark stepped aside to concentrate on raising their children and preparing to reopen their first restaurant, Parachute, this intimate Avondale spot updates its four-course prix fixe menu weekly, complete with wine pairings, based on which ingredients are available. But the dishes that show up on the table are invariably beautifully composed and delicious.

North Pond

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A trip to North Pond requires a stroll into Lincoln Park, green in the summer, snowy in the winter, always with a view of Lake Michigan. Inside, windows let in light and views of the park, and fireplaces keep diners warm. The menus, both dinner and brunch, change with the seasons, but tables are always reserved and attire is always business casual, which certifies this as a special occasion restaurant.

Kyōten

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Some believe there’s no better way to prove one’s love than by dropping $1,000 on dinner. For those people, there is Kyōten, the eight-seat, reservation-only Logan Square sushi bar. Chef Otto Phan supplies plenty of bang for the bucks, though, with wild fish imported from Japan and a rare varietal of sushi rice assembled into a 20-course omakase meal.

a piece of sushi on a marble slab on top of a wooden counter
Chef Otto Phan of Kyoten prepares his sushi with rare and precious ingredients imported from Japan.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

The flagship of one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurant groups serves a rotating seasonal menu, devised by James Beard-nominated chef Lee Wolen, in a luxurious dining room, lined with greenery and whimsical portraits, or on a lovely tree-shaded patio. Boka pivoted to tasting menus only during the pandemic, but it will resume a la carte service in mid-February.

Beatnik West Town

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Romance doesn’t just mean love and courtship — it can also be a fantasy, or a yearning for far-away places. Beatnik in West Town, an homage to the hippie trail of the 1950s and ’60s, is opulently furnished with antiques and green plants. The Mediterranean-inspired menu similarly evokes a time and place that’s warmer, more colorful, and romantic than the present.

Shanghai Terrace

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Located in the luxurious Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai Terrace has an outdoor patio with views of the Chicago skyline. The indoor dining room isn’t too shabby, either: a recreation of a 1930s Shanghai nightclub. The menu, meanwhile, is filled with food from all over China, but with a focus on Cantonese cuisine.

Gene & Georgetti

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Gene & Georgetti’s old-school atmosphere is the real thing: it’s been serving steak and chops and red-sauce Italian classics in its wood-paneled dining room in River North for more than 80 years. There’s probably no better restaurant in Chicago to re-create the spaghetti-slurping scene from Lady and the Tramp.

Piccolo Sogno

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With its marble-topped bar and sunny patio, Piccolo Sogno evokes an Italy of long, lazy afternoons on the piazza, perhaps followed by a ride through the city on a Vespa. The food continues the mood, with antipasti, salads, pizzas, and pasta, though there are also heavier meat and fish entrees for the colder months.

Bavette's Bar & Boeuf

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Bavette’s dim lighting, marble-topped tables, cozy red-leather booths, and gilt-edged mirrors are an entire mood, one that calls for rich, fatty bone marrow and steak and one of the extravagant seafood towers, all washed down by a bottle or two from the extensive wine list — and one of those bottles must be Champagne, and yes, Bavette’s offers many choices.

In the summertime, Aba’s leafy rooftop terrace with its view of the Loop skyscrapers is one of the loveliest places in the city. The lamplit dining room is almost as lovely, even without the views. The Mediterranean-California small plates encourage closeness among diners: everything is meant to be shared.

Duck Duck Goat

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Chef Stephanie Izard’s tribute to Chinatowns around the world is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chicago, and the menu contains all the usual suspects: dim sum, mapo tofu, and a seasonal special Peking duck.

The Darling

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Hidden speakeasy-style behind a flower shop entrance, the West Loop cocktail bar the Darling offers drinks, dinner, and a show. Visitors can sit at the bar or recline in on a red velvet couch and watch the drag queens, dancers, magicians, and puppeteers, or maybe just play a game of Scrabble.

Sepia takes its heritage as a former print shop seriously: the space is filled with antiques and old prints. But chef Andrew Zimmerman’s prix fixe four-course menu is thoroughly modern, offering new interpretations of the classics.

Chez Joel Bistro Francais

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Yes, the stereotype of a romantic restaurant is a French bistro, but stereotypes exist for a reason, right? This French bistro is located in Little Italy; run by a Moroccan-born chef, the eponymous Joël Kazouini; and it specializes in the cuisine of southern France, though if you must have the coq au vin, that’s there, too.

Chef Stephen Gillanders named his restaurant after his wife, Seon Kyung Yuk, who also helped him pick out the location in Pilsen. That’s a romantic gesture right there. The menu is billed as American, but it encompasses influences from all over the world. And the dining room is lined with tables for two.

Virtue Restaurant

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Many of the restaurants on this list were designed to take diners somewhere they’ve never been. Virtue is about where chef Erick Williams has already been: the American South. Williams’s menu pays homage to his mother, his grandmother, and his aunts, and the whole tradition of Black cuisine. Which isn’t romance, exactly, but it’s love.

Three tables in front of a banquette with sepia drawings on the wall
The dining room at Virtue.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Superdawg Drive-In

Please, name a place that is more private and romantic than the front seat of a car. This is the very definition of American romance, immortalized in countless pop songs. At Superdawg, that’s the dining room, just you and your sweetie eating hot dogs, sipping one shake through two straws, watched over by Superdawg’s founders and high-school sweethearts Maurie and Flaurie Berman, reimagined as hot dogs eternally in love. Is that not paradise by the dashboard light?

Little Madrid Tapas-Café

For those who equate romance with dim lighting, Little Madrid may be the most romantic restaurant in Chicago: a tiny storefront dining room illuminated only by tabletop candles. But the tapas, pintxos, and paella are all exquisite; the wine is abundant; and the service is friendly and makes you feel cared for, all the things necessary for romance to flourish.

Bistro Campagne

This spot on Lincoln Avenue has one of the most exquisite patios in the city, shaded by abundant trees during the day and lit up by twinkling fairy lights after dark. The intimate indoor dining room is lovely, too, and the menu offers a selection of reasonably-priced French bistro classics, from French onion soup to tarte au citron, with cassoulet and steak frites in between.

Tango Sur

This festive, candlelit neighborhood restaurant on Southport is famous for serving hunks of Argentinian steak, especially the parillada for two, a selection of five meats, delivered on a tabletop grill. But there’s also seafood and vegetarian items, plus a full range of empanadas.

Wherewithall

Led by chef Tayler Ploshehanski, who took over last summer when founders Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark stepped aside to concentrate on raising their children and preparing to reopen their first restaurant, Parachute, this intimate Avondale spot updates its four-course prix fixe menu weekly, complete with wine pairings, based on which ingredients are available. But the dishes that show up on the table are invariably beautifully composed and delicious.

North Pond

A trip to North Pond requires a stroll into Lincoln Park, green in the summer, snowy in the winter, always with a view of Lake Michigan. Inside, windows let in light and views of the park, and fireplaces keep diners warm. The menus, both dinner and brunch, change with the seasons, but tables are always reserved and attire is always business casual, which certifies this as a special occasion restaurant.

Kyōten

a piece of sushi on a marble slab on top of a wooden counter
Chef Otto Phan of Kyoten prepares his sushi with rare and precious ingredients imported from Japan.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Some believe there’s no better way to prove one’s love than by dropping $1,000 on dinner. For those people, there is Kyōten, the eight-seat, reservation-only Logan Square sushi bar. Chef Otto Phan supplies plenty of bang for the bucks, though, with wild fish imported from Japan and a rare varietal of sushi rice assembled into a 20-course omakase meal.

a piece of sushi on a marble slab on top of a wooden counter
Chef Otto Phan of Kyoten prepares his sushi with rare and precious ingredients imported from Japan.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Boka

The flagship of one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurant groups serves a rotating seasonal menu, devised by James Beard-nominated chef Lee Wolen, in a luxurious dining room, lined with greenery and whimsical portraits, or on a lovely tree-shaded patio. Boka pivoted to tasting menus only during the pandemic, but it will resume a la carte service in mid-February.

Beatnik West Town

Romance doesn’t just mean love and courtship — it can also be a fantasy, or a yearning for far-away places. Beatnik in West Town, an homage to the hippie trail of the 1950s and ’60s, is opulently furnished with antiques and green plants. The Mediterranean-inspired menu similarly evokes a time and place that’s warmer, more colorful, and romantic than the present.

Shanghai Terrace

Located in the luxurious Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai Terrace has an outdoor patio with views of the Chicago skyline. The indoor dining room isn’t too shabby, either: a recreation of a 1930s Shanghai nightclub. The menu, meanwhile, is filled with food from all over China, but with a focus on Cantonese cuisine.

Gene & Georgetti

Gene & Georgetti’s old-school atmosphere is the real thing: it’s been serving steak and chops and red-sauce Italian classics in its wood-paneled dining room in River North for more than 80 years. There’s probably no better restaurant in Chicago to re-create the spaghetti-slurping scene from Lady and the Tramp.

Piccolo Sogno

With its marble-topped bar and sunny patio, Piccolo Sogno evokes an Italy of long, lazy afternoons on the piazza, perhaps followed by a ride through the city on a Vespa. The food continues the mood, with antipasti, salads, pizzas, and pasta, though there are also heavier meat and fish entrees for the colder months.

Bavette's Bar & Boeuf

Bavette’s dim lighting, marble-topped tables, cozy red-leather booths, and gilt-edged mirrors are an entire mood, one that calls for rich, fatty bone marrow and steak and one of the extravagant seafood towers, all washed down by a bottle or two from the extensive wine list — and one of those bottles must be Champagne, and yes, Bavette’s offers many choices.

Aba

In the summertime, Aba’s leafy rooftop terrace with its view of the Loop skyscrapers is one of the loveliest places in the city. The lamplit dining room is almost as lovely, even without the views. The Mediterranean-California small plates encourage closeness among diners: everything is meant to be shared.

Duck Duck Goat

Chef Stephanie Izard’s tribute to Chinatowns around the world is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chicago, and the menu contains all the usual suspects: dim sum, mapo tofu, and a seasonal special Peking duck.

Related Maps

The Darling

Hidden speakeasy-style behind a flower shop entrance, the West Loop cocktail bar the Darling offers drinks, dinner, and a show. Visitors can sit at the bar or recline in on a red velvet couch and watch the drag queens, dancers, magicians, and puppeteers, or maybe just play a game of Scrabble.

Sepia

Sepia takes its heritage as a former print shop seriously: the space is filled with antiques and old prints. But chef Andrew Zimmerman’s prix fixe four-course menu is thoroughly modern, offering new interpretations of the classics.

Chez Joel Bistro Francais

Yes, the stereotype of a romantic restaurant is a French bistro, but stereotypes exist for a reason, right? This French bistro is located in Little Italy; run by a Moroccan-born chef, the eponymous Joël Kazouini; and it specializes in the cuisine of southern France, though if you must have the coq au vin, that’s there, too.

S.K.Y.

Chef Stephen Gillanders named his restaurant after his wife, Seon Kyung Yuk, who also helped him pick out the location in Pilsen. That’s a romantic gesture right there. The menu is billed as American, but it encompasses influences from all over the world. And the dining room is lined with tables for two.

Virtue Restaurant

Three tables in front of a banquette with sepia drawings on the wall
The dining room at Virtue.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Many of the restaurants on this list were designed to take diners somewhere they’ve never been. Virtue is about where chef Erick Williams has already been: the American South. Williams’s menu pays homage to his mother, his grandmother, and his aunts, and the whole tradition of Black cuisine. Which isn’t romance, exactly, but it’s love.

Three tables in front of a banquette with sepia drawings on the wall
The dining room at Virtue.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Related Maps