Food & Drink

The 20 Most Romantic Restaurants in Chicago

Published On 05/18/2015 Published On 05/18/2015
RM Champagne Salon
RM Champagne Salon | Anthony Tahlier/RM Champagne Salon

You know that scene in Lady and the Tramp where Lady and Tramp accidentally kiss while eating pasta and it's the most romantic thing ever of all time? Well, turns out it WASN'T the most romantic thing ever of all time since it didn't happen at one of these: the 20 most romantic restaurants in Chicago.

 

GT Fish & Oyster

GT Fish & Oyster

River North

Ask to be seated in the back dining room, as the lighting and overall mood is a little sexier and more romantic, if you catch our drift (ha!), 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

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 bubbly mood.

Le Colonial Chicago

Le Colonial

Gold Coast

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 be able to pretend you’re in the South of France sipping on wine. Snag a seat on the romantic patio upstairs and you'll be overlooking the notorious Rush St in Gold Coast, or stay inside and you'll find yourself under the calming shadows of glorious palm leaves. Either way, you and your date win.

Bistro Campagne

Lincoln Square

Do you have a spot yet? You know, like your “go-to” spot that you only go to with a significant other? No? Well, now you will. This quaint garden patio gleams with hanging lights and planted flowers and features tables outside that are far enough apart to allow some private intimacy. The three most important words, though, when it comes to Bistro Campagne: Sunday summer brunches.

Celeste

Celeste

River North

Just stop it, Celeste. STOP IT. This space 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's loud and energetic with good music, especially on the weekends, then 2) the glamorous, 1920s-style Deco Room, which's 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's all kinds of sexy. The drink menu is super expansive and almost overwhelming, but we loved the Gold Rush, Diamond Back, and Hemingway. Maybe do one on each level?

Pump Room at Public Chicago

Pump Room

Gold Coast

Every now and then, it’s nice to surprise your special lady or man friend with an evening that’ll remind them of why they wanted to sex you. Do it at the extra glamorous Pump Room (ask for the Frank Sinatra Booth for bonus points). Oh, and ask your server for a little history lesson on who's sat at your table before. $20 says it'll include some big names.

Vivo

West Loop

Here's what you do: call ahead of time (they ask for three weeks notice) and ask to speak to someone about booking Table 70 at Vivo (one of the most sought-after tables in the city). This absolutely charming, secretive little spot sits in an old elevator shaft above the rest of the (already) romantic restaurant. It’s perfectly secluded, but not too removed, and you can have all the privacy you want. This curtain-covered dining arrangement will for sure have you falling in love all over again. To add to it all, the outstanding five-course menu is only $65 per person -- and (hint hint HINT HINT) you’ll be getting a lot more than just food for that price (like super romantic special touches they add that will pretty much blow you away). They’ll even personalize the menu for you if you ask, or add any other little touches you might need. Just go. Warning: if you’re not already married your significant other might think you’re proposing, because it’s Just. That. Cute.

Geja's Cafe

Geja's Cafe

Lincoln Park

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.

Bavette's

Bavette's Bar & Boeuf

River North

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 is dark and stormy (like its lovely cocktail), with a speakeasy-esque, old Prohibition feel. You’ll get lost in each other as you delight over the glorious protein and Old Fashioned’s, then you’ll go home and... keep talking about them.

Spiaggia

Gold Coast

Because sometimes you get tired of Chicago's architecturally acclaimed skyline* (*lie), hit up Spiaggia, which throws down gorgeous views of Lake Michigan and Oak St, which you can take in while downing classic cocktails, Italian beers, and expressive wines.

Piccolo Sogno

Piccolo Sogno

West Town

How the outside of Piccolo Sogno deceives! The food is good enough to keep you coming back year round, but 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.

Blackbird

Blackbird

West Loop

Highly rated, with artful presentations (and small portions), the food is pretty fantastical -- and actually filling. This urban joint screams city chic and is romantic in a sexy way only. The art in the restrooms might even serve as an aphrodisiac.

RL Restaurant

Streeterville

Classically Ralph Lauren in every way, this romantically traditional restaurant has a definite old-fashioned feel, but endearingly so. 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 (with everything RL label), where no one wears jeans, and everyone is happily drinking martinis. The service and drinks are above par, with a special call out (again) to the famous martinis. Come for lunch or drinks and lots of people watching.

avec | Derek Richmond

Avec

West Loop

This minimalist Mediterranean restaurant might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re an adventurous couple/pair of daters, 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 at this spot. Pro tip: if you want to try it but really hate waiting, arrive at unusual hours (like early brunch or weeknights).

Goosefoot

Ravenswood

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. Tip: 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.

Cité

Cite

Streeterville

Steak tartar with a 360 view on the 70th floor of Lake Pointe Tower? Why not. This ultra-classy establishment features seriously unreal views, which make it seriously swoon-worthy as soon as you walk in. With the tables spaced out nicely to allow for personal conversations, the amuse bouches are fresh, and the palette cleansing sorbet’s a lovely touch. The a la carte and tasting menus are both top-notch, but the tasting menu might be the more economical choice. Go for that.

Gilt Bar

River North

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). The bar plays louder music while the dining hall allows you to sink into seclusion with your date, enjoying the food and carefully crafted mixology 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.

Maude's Liquor Bar

Maude's Liquor Bar

West Loop

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. Ultimately mystery is sexy, and Maude’s upstairs venue is the sexiest. Sit close, huddle together, then deem yourselves do-not-disturb. When you come up for air, take a sip of the Mezcal Corpse Reviver, Boulvardier, or some deliciously sexy wine pours.

IO Godfrey

IO Urban Roofscape

River North

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.

TWO

Noble Square

TWO sources its goods from locally trusted Midwestern farms, and adds a unique twist when they arrive (so Midwestern doesn’t get boring) resulting 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.

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Danya Shaikh is contributing writer for Thrillist, who moved to Chicago to dabble in graphic design, fashion, and journalism. In short, to basically take the city by storm. Follow her at @directedbydanya.

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1. GT Fish & Oyster 531 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654 (Near North Side)

Helmed by Michelin-starred chef Guiseppe Tentori, this fine dining restaurant in River North is the place to go for anything seafood-related. GT serves fish shack-style eats like lobster rolls, fish and chips, and oyster po' boys alongside way more luxurious items like caviar and seafood towers. The beautifully-designed space includes a date-worthy oyster bar and a private dining room with a whale mural. Though Friday and Saturday nights are GT's peak hours, the restaurant has stellar weekday lunch and weekend brunch service.

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2. RM Champagne Salon 116 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

This secluded alleyway bar/restaurant in West Loop is a prime spot for sipping bubbly, slurping oysters, and devouring luxurious cheeses. The French-inspired menu is filled with sharable plates and classic brasserie mains like croque monsieur and steak frites. If sparkling wine isn't your thing, don't worry, the bar serves its fair share of craft beers and cocktails. RM's picture-perfect interior features chandeliers, a cozy fireplace, and white tablecloths, and the secluded outdoor patio is a prime spot during the warmer months.

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3. Le Colonial 937 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611 (Gold Coast)

Traditional foods get the fine dining treatment at this Vietnamese-French fusion restaurant in the Gold Coast -- Its bowl of pho is on the smaller side (be sure to supplement it with a few appetizers or an entrée from the main menu), but is absolutely worth ordering. The oxtail broth lends an elevated yet authentic flavor and the paper-thin slices of beef tenderloin are perfectly cooked.

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4. Bistro Campagne 4518 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (Lincoln Square)

Get your French fix at Bistro Campagne. Check it out with a date for a romantic dinner, or go for the mimosa-fueled brunch menu. Pick from crepes filled with caramelized brandied oranges, duck confit over potato hash, and brioche French toast with peach compote. As you'd expect, they keep the champagne flowing but there's also a Bistro Bloody Mary with Bordelaise sauce to be had.

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5. Celeste 111 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654 (Near North Side)

Every floor at this River North cocktail bar has a different vibe. On the first floor, The Bar is loud and bustling with good music. The upstairs Deco Room is more glamorous and sultry, aka perfect for a date. Finally, the garden rooftop is like a cozy urban oasis with ivy-covered walls and Victorian-style seating (tables are available first come, first served). Expect craft cocktails, beers, and fine wine on all levels, plus upscale bar bites.

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6. Pump Room 1301 N State Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60610 (Gold Coast)

Reinvented for the modern era at the Gold Coast's swanky Public Hotel, the fabled Pump Room is one of the best hotel bars AND most romantic spots in Chicago. The best seat in the house is the glamorous Frank Sinatra booth in the '30s/'40s supper club-style dining room, and your waiter will surely give you a history lesson of the iconic people who've sat at the same table. The food and drink taste like old-school glamour -- think Maine lobster, filet mignon, and classy cocktails like the Scotch- and crème de cacao-based Queens Boulevard.

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7. Vivo 838 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

Here's what you do: call ahead of time and ask to speak to someone about booking Table 70 at Vivo. This absolutely charming, secretive little spot sits in an old elevator shaft above the rest of the romantic restaurant. It’s perfectly secluded, but not too removed, and you can have all the privacy you want. To add to it all, the outstanding five-course menu is only $65 per person -- and you’ll be getting a lot more than just food for that price. They’ll even personalize the menu for you if you ask, or add any other little touches you might need.

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8. Geja's Cafe 340 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

This Lincoln Park resto is one of Chicago's most romantic, because what could be more romantic than soft lighting, live music, and fondue?!

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9. Bavette's Bar & Boeuf 218 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

More a promise than a clever name, Bavette's Bar & Boeuf unapologetically delivers an abundance of whiskey and slab-after-slab of expertly prepared meat. Bavette's 24 oz. bone-in ribeye may be the best piece of meat your money can buy in Chi-town, but, if steak's not your thing, they also offer fresh oysters, Southern-style fried chicken, and double-cut Berkshire pork chops. And because nothing goes together better than a rare steak and a fine whiskey, Bavette's offers more than 50 whiskeys to stir into classic cocktails like mint julips, rye Old Fashioneds, and modern alternatives like spicy picklebacks.

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10. Rustic House 1967 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

From the duo that brought you Gemini Bistro, Rustic is an intimate 80-seater that lives up to its name, going so far as to throw farm-themed paintings from local artists all over its walls of weathered barnwood and burlap, which doesn't give you license to start shot gunny-ing drinks.

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11. Piccolo Sogno 464 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60642 (Warehouse Dist)

Piccolo Sogno in River West checks all the boxes for a great Italian restaurant. From homemade pastas and hand-tossed pizzas to a thorough, Italian-only wine selection some 400 varieties strong, the rustic menu is approachable and intriguing enough to keep you coming back for more. The eponymous ravioli, stuffed with four cheeses and tossed with pine nuts, butter, and Marsala glaze is a house signature. As for ambience, the garden patio is one of the best in Chicago.

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12. Blackbird 619 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661 (West Loop)

Blackbird is the foundation upon which James Beard Award-winning Chef Paul Kahan’s One Off Hospitality Group was built. The West Loop fine dining staple boasts elevated and creative Midwestern cuisine through dishes crafted using simplistic techniques and carrying complex flavor. The space itself mimics the menu with a minimalist approach to design and stark whites to boost its already vibrant energy. The cocktail and wine lists are well-rounded, thoughtful, and complementary to the menu. Blackbird is open -- and bustling -- for lunch Monday through Friday, and reserves its focus for the highly sought-after reservations on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

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13. RL Restaurant 115 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611 (Streeterville)

Classically Ralph Lauren in every way, this romantically traditional restaurant has a definite old-fashioned feel, but endearingly so. 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 (with everything RL label), where no one wears jeans, and everyone is happily drinking martinis. The service and drinks are above par, with a special call out (again) to the famous martinis. Come for lunch or drinks and lots of people watching.

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14. Goosefoot 2656 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (Lincoln Square)

Don’t be fooled by Goosefoot’s BYOB policy: the 30-something-seat Lincoln Square restaurant is a true fine-dining destination. Rooted in France, the multi-course tasting menu gets a modern look from classically trained Chef Chris Nugent. If you’re at a loss for what to drink, next door is Goosefoot Food & Wine, with a wine selection (and cheese, chocolate, and other dry goods) to pair with that night's menu (the salesperson will point you in the right direction). The tasting menu changes seasonally, but always ends with a parting gift from the Goosefoot chocolate lab.

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15. Cité 505 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60611 (Streeterville)

Steak tartar with a 360 view on the 70th floor of Lake Pointe Tower? Why not. This ultra-classy establishment features seriously unreal views, which make it seriously swoon-worthy as soon as you walk in. With the tables spaced out nicely to allow for personal conversations, the amuse bouches are fresh, and the palette cleansing sorbet’s a lovely touch. The a la carte and tasting menus are both top-notch, but the tasting menu might be the more economical choice. Go for that.

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16. Gilt Bar 230 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

From a guy whose resume boasts names like The French Laundry and The Ritz Paris, Gilt's an 130-seat blend of fine dining techniques and laid-back tavern style (plus price points), decked out with salvaged tables and mismatched chairs.

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17. Maude's Liquor Bar 840 W Randolph, Chicago, IL 60607

A second installment from the Gilt Bar folks, Maude's is a two-level gastro-tavern that feels like a lived-in Parisian dive, with mismatched chandeliers, candles in vintage jars, and weathered, "electric blue" metal chairs, fortunately the type of electri

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18. IO Urban Roofscape 127 W Huron St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

This seriously sleek rooftop spot is perfect for our 100 days of Summer. A lounge with swanky drinks and serious eats, this is the place to be when the weather's nice.

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19. TWO 1132 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

TWO sources its goods from locally trusted Midwestern farms, and adds a unique twist when they arrive (so Midwestern doesn’t get boring) resulting 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.

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20. Avec 615 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661 (West Loop)

With celebrity chef Paul Kahan at the helm of this tiny West Loop restaurant, it's not a surprise that Avec continues to draw crowds of devoted regulars, first-time tourists, and everyone in between. The Mediterranean menu is all about small plates, and the chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates are a perennial crowd favorite that hopefully will never come off the menu. Everything works and tastes beautifully with the comprehensive wine list featuring selections from Southern France to Portugal.

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