RM Champagne Salon | Anthony Tahlier
Food & Drink

The Most Romantic Restaurants in Chicago

Updated On 02/12/2018 at 05:52PM EST
GT Fish & Oyster

GT Fish & Oyster

River North

A versatile date spot for seafood and plush seating
Ask to be seated in the back dining room, as the lighting and overall mood is more intimate and romantic, or go the casual date route by snagging a spot at the oyster bar -- East Coast oysters are the winners here. Order at least four oyster po-boys (because you’ll regret it if you don’t), shrimp bruschetta, and the Maine lobster roll, but only if you don’t mind being really spendy.

RM Champagne Salon

West Loop

Oysters and bubbly in an unpretentious atmosphere
This is the kind of surreal gem you won’t ever want to leave: a picture-perfect atmosphere with enough Champagne and amazing mini dessert selections to pretty much guarantee you leave in a bubbly mood. If you’re a bit hungrier, they have a full raw bar -- we recommend trying their raw bar sampler plate.

Le Colonial Chicago

Le Colonial

Gold Coast

Vietnamese cuisine with a romantic French twist
Don't let the French décor fool you: You'll be dining on delicious (and authentic!) pure Vietnamese cuisine (get the goi bun so, goi cuon, pho, bo sate, and ca nuaog), but you'll also be able to pretend you’re in the South of France sipping on wine. Snag a seat on the romantic patio upstairs if you and your date want to people-watch the notorious Rush Street, or stay inside under the calming shadows of glorious palm leaves. Either way, you and your date win.

Bistro Campagne

Lincoln Square

One of the most romantic patios in all of Chicago
Do you have a spot yet? You know, like your “go-to” spot that you only go to with a significant other? Well, now you will. Bundle up and request a seat at the beautiful gated garden patio, gleaming with hanging lights and planted flowers. As a bonus, the tables outside are far enough apart from each other to allow some private intimacy.

Kohl Murdoc


River North

Three floors of music, dancing, cocktails, and delicious food
Celeste is so darling and intimate, it's almost too perfect. There are three floors and all of them have a different menu and a slightly different mood -- there's 1) the downstairs, which is loud and energetic with good music, especially on the weekends, then 2) the glamorous, 1920s-style supper club in the Deco Room, which is softer and more sensual, making it the perfect dining spot (they don’t have too many tables up there, so it’s very personal), and finally 3) the garden rooftop, which is all kinds of luxurious. The drink menu is expansive and almost overwhelming, but we loved the Cryin’ in the Rain, Witchcraft, and Walk a Green Mile. Maybe do a date on each level?

Geja's Cafe

Lincoln Park

You can't go wrong with cheese and live music
Even though this place is small, you’ll immediately feel how special it is from the moment you take your seat. Focused on fondue with a side of sexy, Geja’s Café isn't just a fondue place, it's a fondue place with an acoustic flamenco guitar.

Tara White

Bavette's Bar & Boeuf

River North

A dark palace of protein straight out of Prohibition
Sexy. Unexpected. Intriguing. Everything from the atmosphere, to dinner, to dessert and drinks will win you over at Bavette’s. Kudos to changing the environment from the traditional steakhouse atmosphere (which is so boring and over). The ambiance feels dark and mysterious, with a speakeasy-esque, old Prohibition feel. You’ll delight over the Old Fashioned’s and glorious assortment of meats on the menu, and then you’ll go home and... keep talking about them.

Matt Haas


Gold Coast

Luxe Italian fare with a lakeside view
If you or your date ever get tired of Chicago's wonderful, iconic, timeless, romantic, perfect, architecturally acclaimed skyline, hit up Spiaggia, which throws down gorgeous views of Lake Michigan and Oak Street, which you can take in while downing classic cocktails, Italian beers, and expressive wines.

Piccolo Sogno

Piccolo Sogno

West Town

Homemade Italian pasta plates you can share
How the outside of Piccolo Sogno deceives! The food is good enough to keep you coming back year round, and the garden patio is one of the best in the city. This charming restaurant is perfection for sharing every course (so you can eat that much more) -- and they’ll even split the plates for you.



West Loop

A super-popular fine dining wunderkind
Blackbird puts its highly rated Midwestern cuisine on display with artful presentations and small portions, and its food is pretty fantastic -- and actually filling. This urban joint screams city chic with a minimalist interior and terrific wine and food menus. The art in the restrooms might even serve as an aphrodisiac.

RL Restaurant


Unpretentious and design-forward date night spot
Classically Ralph Lauren in every way, this romantically traditional restaurant has a definite old-fashioned feel, but not in a stuffy-cigar-smelling-steakhouse-and-leather kind of way. It creates a sense of nostalgia from the paintings on the walls, to the standout fireplace and charming atmosphere. You’ll feel like you’re in a super well-designed living room where no one wears jeans, and everyone is happily drinking martinis. Come for lunch or drinks and lots of people watching.

Derek Richmond


West Loop

A great no-reservation date spot... if you can get in
This minimalist Mediterranean restaurant might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re an adventurous couple, it’s definitely worth the possible wait. (Avec doesn't do reservations, and it’s quite possible you won’t get seated right away at the single community-style table.) Break the mold with Avec’s famed dates, focaccia, and burrata pizza. Wine should be your drink of choice here. Pro tip: If you want to try it but really hate waiting, arrive at unusual hours (like early brunch or weeknights).



Perhaps the most romantic BYOB restaurant in Chicago
This forward-thinking spot is a high-end version of a BYO joint. Its multi-course tasting menus are super impressive even just to look at, let alone TO TASTE. The BYO definitely helps with the bill, since it is on the pricier end, but it makes for a chic and romantic night nonetheless. Guys, this could even be a propose-worthy spot, just saying. It’s creative, exclusive, and more than memorable. Make reservations well in advance. Pro tip: There’s a wine shop next door where they’ll help you pick something to bring along for dinner.

Maude's Liquor Bar

Maude's Liquor Bar

West Loop

A quiet spot specializing in meticulously crafted classic cocktails
The more relaxed, dim, and inviting upstairs of Maude’s Liquor bar is the perfect hideaway for a pre-, post- or just-dinner date spot. It’s got this sort of wicked, cloak-and-dagger vibe going that’ll definitely get you excited about your night. Huddle together in their upstairs room and deem yourselves do-not-disturb. When you come up for air, take a sip of the Mezcal Corpse Reviver, Boulvardier, or some delicious wine pours.

Gilt Bar

River North

A 130-seat cross between chic restaurant and laid-back tavern
The thoughtful, dark, candle-lit restaurant is super moody -- sort of a decadent romance situation. Also cool: the bar and dining rooms give off different ambiances (which is nice if you’re planning on spending some time there). The bar plays louder music, while the dining hall allows you to sink into seclusion with your date, enjoying the food and carefully crafted drinks. The bone marrow is something to order for sure, as are the gnocchi, charred Brussels sprouts, and chocolate cream pie. We recommend the Bee’s Knees, Bar Germaine. and Lion’s Tail for craft cocktails, too. Beware, the food is rich.

IO Godfrey

I|O Urban Roofscape

River North

A full skyline view from the heart of the city
Fresh air and crisp white sails make for a stunning forefront to a beautiful Chicago backdrop. This rooftop lounge lives up to its name -- it certainly takes your night to an escape-y place. Definitely try the signature cocktails -- where else can you have a chef design your drink? Nowhere, that's where else.


Noble Square

Fine local cuisine and microbrews in a vintage-chic space
TWO sources its goods from locally trusted Midwestern farms, and adds a unique twist when they arrive (so the Midwestern fare doesn’t get boring). This results in stuff like lamb belly, duck egg fettuccine, bacon jam, and bread pudding. This dining spot is quaint, impressive, and light-hearted to the core. Oh, and yes, the booze and microbrews follow the local theme, too.




Perhaps the best late-night menu in Chicago
Though Presidio’s extensive dinner and cocktail menus absolutely bear mentioning, we recommend strolling in fashionably late after catching a movie or show and partaking in their special late-night menu. If you’re planning on kissing anyone after dinner, though, you might want to forgo sampling their 12 different varieties of fernet.

Eric Kleinberg


Lincoln Park

An unforgettable, affordable culinary date in leather seating
So you can’t afford to take your date to a $300 dinner at Alinea? No worries. Head next door to Lincoln Park’s Boka. The brick-walled interior, leather seating, and amazing dishes (Order the beef tartare and seared scallops or regret it forever) will have the one-percenters envying you for once.



River North

High-end Italian food and wine nestled right in the heart of River North
Don’t overlook this River North gem. The decor is a nice mix of modern and classic, and is surprisingly inviting for a fancier Italian restaurant -- especially downtown. We highly recommend the beef tenderloin carpaccio, as well as the orecchiette tartufate. Just remember to pay your date some attention in between your gigantic mouthfuls of pasta and swigs of wonderful Italian wines.

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Chicago's Best New Restaurants That Opened in 2017

Published On 11/13/2017
A s 2017 winds down, it's time to take stock of the myriad restaurants that opened (and closed: rest in peace, Charlatan, Katsu, Ruxbin, et al.) this year. We saw West Town's food scene shift from under-the-radar to culinary hotbed, highbrow Mexican restaurants flourish, Michelin-starred chefs go casual, and the demand for -- and commitment to -- local produce and meats rage on. No group of restaurants better exemplify these trends than the following 10 stunners. From a 20-seat fine dining destination in (you guessed it) West Town, to a pasta spot with a penchant for all things Midwestern, these are the best restaurants that opened in 2017.

Mi Tocaya Antojeria

Logan Square

Elevated Mexican food in a space filled with art and kaleidoscopic tilework
This springtime arrival has garnered tremendous praise since its opening -- earning a spot amongst Thrillist's Prime 13 best new restaurants of the year -- and for good reason: chef and owner Diana Davila's elevated Mexican cuisine is the stuff that open-minded food enthusiasts' dreams are made of. If you're looking for free, bottomless chips and basic margaritas, look elsewhere. Here, the margs are infused with ingredients like serrano chilis and bitters or elderflower and citrus, and the wildly popular peanut butter y lengua starter sets the tone for the rest of the meal. Charred butternut squash tacos with chile, beans, and corn crema make for an outstanding vegetarian option, while pork albondiga en nogada will satisfy those with a carnivorous habit.

Bonci Pizzeria

West Loop

Pizza literally straight from Rome, with the flavors to prove it
This Roman import brazenly defied the "when in Rome..." adage upon its arrival to Chicago, because another deep-dish joint, it is not; instead, it's serving its iconic al taglio (sliced to order and sold by weight) pizza, which boasts a signature, focaccia-like crust that is at once substantive and airy. This outpost is the brand's first in the United States, and promises topping combinations ranging from prosciutto cotto and mozzarella to potato and mozzarella and meatballs and Parmesan. Pro tip: due to popular demand and inevitable lines, try to plan your visit at off-hours.

Paul strabbing


West Loop

Amazing seafood served in Sunset Boulevard style
The 1950s Hollywood glamour and modern Chicago dining culture collide in stylish fashion at this debut concept from Sancerre Hospitality. The space is unapologetically luxurious, with cozy booths, twinkling chandeliers, and some of the poshest restrooms in the game (continuity of design matters, folks), while the menu serves luxury in the form of champagne, spendy caviar service, a seafood tower, and filet mignon served with foie gras, truffles, and brioche. Punctuate a meal with mini malt milkshakes or a "Holiday" hot fudge brownie sundae topped with bourbon-soaked cherries, caramel pretzels, whipped cream, and sprinkles for the full "treat yo'self" experience.

Paul Strabbing


West Loop

Street food from around the world in a vibrantly designed space
It may not brandish the numerous accolades that Sepia has accumulated over the years, but the Michelin-starred restaurant's little sister is no less impressive. A playful, modern design ethos echoes executive chef Andrew Zimmerman's globetrotting menu of street food-inspired eats, complete with black, white, and cerulean geometric tiles in the bar area and an expansive open kitchen. Tempura-fried elotes with dehydrated lime, shaved Parmesan, and Kewpie mayo have become a fan favorites since the restaurant debuted in June; the coal-roasted oysters with ssamjang butter and fried fish collars with Thai garlic-chili sauce are equally can't-miss.

Julia Weeman


West Town

The most high-end flavorful chicken nuggets you'll find
Executive chef/owner Zoe Schor (of former Ada Street fame) kept 2017's West Town dining renaissance rolling with her quaint, neighborhood-y tavern. Familiar and comforting American flavors shine in dishes like baked potato-inspired gnocchi, which comes packed with house bacon, sour cream, Hook's five-year Cheddar, and crispy potato skins, soul-soothing chicken nuggets with tangy honey-mustard for dipping, and like-Grandma's-but-better angel food cake teamed with seasonal fruit and Chantilly cream.

Matt Haas / Thrillist


North Center

Midwest-sourced ingredients meet home-style Japanese cuisine
The latest from Michelin-starred chef and foraging genius Iliana Regan of Elizabeth employs both locally procured ingredients and homestyle Japanese cooking techniques to create a signature cuisine that is traditional in approach and modern in execution. Chawanmushi with wild mushrooms and white fish plays well alongside nori sourdough with salmon poke and egg yolk, house-made nettle ramen with shio mushroom broth and crudité, and Japanese whisky-glazed doughnuts, while brunch offerings like okonomiyaki and "baoscuits" with pork cheek gravy and a fried egg make for a far from average Sunday outing. Read why we picked Kitsune as one of our Prime 13 best new restaurants of the year.

Courtesy of Quiote


Logan Square

A mezcaleria-meets-Mexican-small-plates wonderland
Casual yet stylish, Quiote is a lesson in seemingly effortless balance. The bi-level Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient is airy and inviting, and provides a lively atmosphere for imbibing mezcal-based cocktails, like the Hotel Victoria (mezcal, arrack, lemon, aji, and pineapple cordial), alongside shareable bites like decadent bone marrow topped with avocado, cilantro, and salsa macha on supremely crusty toasted sourdough, esquites fundido comprised on sweet corn, cotija, crema, and serrano, and a crab tostada with mustard seed, hot sauce, radish, and punchy black lime for a hit of acidic brightness. No visit is complete without a visit to the subterranean mezcal bar, either pre- or post-meal.

Stephanie Zhao


West Town

An ever-changing tasting menu pulled directly from an on-site hydroponic garden
Adventurous eaters with expensive taste, this one is for you: Chicago's small circle of tasting-menu-only fine dining restaurants gained this tiny yet notable addition this year. Sleek, sophisticated, and sustainability-minded, 20-seat Temporis serves just a single, evolving, eight-to-10 course tasting menu each night -- which is flush with hyper-local ingredients grown in the restaurant's on-site hydroponic garden. The menu changes at the seasons' whims, but has recently featured courses like A5 Miyazaki wagyu with kombu, blueberry, and chanterelle, capellini with mushrooms and gooseberries, and peach with cinnamon, brown butter, and lemon verbena.

Jason Little



Husband-and-wife team brings unbeatable Vietnamese food to Pilsen
Perhaps the most feel-good restaurant story of 2017 is that of Thai and Danielle Dang, the resilient husband-and-wife team who overcame tremendous adversity (including a lawsuit against their former boss at Embeya) to bring authentic Vietnamese fare to Pilsen. HaiSous was worth the wait, with a concept that offers both a la carte and prix fixe brunch and dinner services. Both are loaded with traditional items like roasted duck stuffed with kaffir lime leaves, corn with toasted coconut, scallion confit, and fried garlic, and even fried chicken wings with sticky-sweet caramelized fish sauce and crispy garlic.

Neil Burger


Logan Square

Midwest-inspired pasta served in an exposed-brick dining room
Pasta is the name of the game at this 52-seater, where traditional Italian preparations are pushed aside in favor of locally grown ingredients and a uniquely Midwestern sensibility. Delve into the region's bounty by way of tortellini with lentils, kale, and pork sausage, tajarin with pole beans, garlic, and chicken cracklin', and stracci tossed with braised lamb, broccoli, and pecorino. Balance all those noodles with starters like carrot rillettes with duck fat and fennel and a glass of tequila-spiked Daisy Sangria, which is rounded out with tea, apple, and white wine.