VDay's less than a month away. Score a table at any of these romantic spots and avoid the ridiculous prix fixe gougings that lead to a hefty tab, and a heftier date.
3868 N Lincoln Ave, at Byron; North Center; 773.327.3868
With comforting orange- and brown-textured walls and a partially raised dining room, sola specializes in "contemporary American cuisine piqued with Asian and Hawaiian flavors". The restaurant claims to boast noise-canceling acoustics for ease of conversation, which actually totally sucks.
Shine on at sola-Restaurant.com
1747 N Damen Ave, at Willow; Bucktown; 773.489.1747
Lined with dark exposed brick, this dimly lit dessert & hot choco den also serves up hearty farm-to-table American grub, wildly inventive drinks, and suds like Delirium Tremens and Old Rasputin -- who apparently had a giant penis, so make sure you tell your date.
More sweetness at HotChocolateChicago.com
2535 N California Ave, between Logan and Altgeld; Logan Square; 773.289.3800
Extensively mural'd with Old World countryside images, this quaintly charming, family-owned pan-Italian joint is housed in a former grocery store space, making it all the more frustrating when the waiter mocks you for flashing your Fresh Values card.
That's amore at Buona-Terra.com
Pops for Champagne
601 N State St, at Ohio; River North; 312.266.7677
This posh bubbly institution's serving up their typical seafood (caviar, oysters, lobster) and meaty delights (pork belly, lamb flatbread); after dinner, an extra $15'll get you into the downstairs jazz lounge for the Ava Logan Quartet, fronted by a duel-degree'd, Ivy League-educated veterinarian (her signature number, "A Pug Supreme").
Pop 'n lock it in at PopsForChampagne.com
17 E Monroe St, between State and Wabash; Loop; 312.917.3404
In the Palmer House, this luxe, soft-lit, Tiffany-lamped spot serves Italian & French influenced American fare from a chef who recently blogged about comparing mussels to vaginas (because you go after them with a tiny utensil?).
Check the menu -- and blog! -- at LockwoodRestaurant.com
844 W Randolph St, between Green and Peoria; Warehouse District; 312.491.0844
Vibrantly modern with yellow brick walls and a glass-enclosed oven, Veer will give your date the option of three levels of exotic daringness: American dishes prepped Indian style, authentic Indian, or classic Indian street food (betcha Gang-eat just one).
Hook it up at Veerasway.com
2030 S Wabash Ave, at Cullerton; South Loop; 312.842.8856
Armed with plush booths and a handcrafted ebony bar, this colorful Nuevo Latino bistro offers inventive grub (grilled rib-eye w/ mojo de ajo shrimp, purple Peruvian potato puree, and white truffle butter) and the shameful opportunity to dance to live Nuevo Latino bands.
Jump on it at Cuatro-Chicago.com
2020 W Division St, between Hoyne and Damen; Ukrainian Village; 773.862.8500
Mirai's divided into a sleek downstairs sushi den and a futuristic upstairs lounge serving a carefully selected but instructively divergent selection of sakes. Fish is flown in fresh daily, with the signature item being tuna served three ways: lean, medium, and fatty, just like your own progression the longer you stick with the same girlfriend.
Do it raw at MiraiSushi.com
1647 N Milwaukee Ave, at Concord; Bucktown; 773.342.2340
This intimate Italian/Mediterranean restaurant's known for both freshness and using every bit of the animal, with dishes ranging from tagliatelle w/ braised lamb & ricotta salata, to rainbow trout, to house-made cased meat like salami and copa. Sadly, there is no olive-loaf di casa.
Dig in at MadoRestaurantChicago.com
Tavern at the Park
130 E Randolph St, at Michigan; Loop; 312.552.0070
For a mere $199, this dark-wooded New-American restaurant's serving a champagne/vodka "Cloud Gate Martini" rimmed with edible silver and garnished with a Tiffany "bean" pendant necklace. So enjoy that Jack & Coke.
Peep the grub at TavernAtThePark.com