The 18 Most Romantic Restaurants in Chicago

River North rooftops, West Loop gens, and South Side surprises for your date night pleasure.

These days, it seems like nights on the town are more special than ever. Thankfully, Chicago has plenty of options to round out your romance itinerary, each of them monitoring the city’s COVID climate and planning accordingly—meaning all you two have to do is mask up, show up, and chow down (and, ideally, really dig each other). Whether it’s a first date or a decades-long anniversary, celebrate your company with any of these spots—all surefire bets for impressive eats, solid drinks, and intimate vibes.

NoMI Chicago
NoMI Chicago

Streeterville
For dinner with a view, it’s hard to beat NoMI, where tables line floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city’s famed Water Tower Place and Lake Michigan. Couple that vantage point with a menu of modern French dishes like Lobster Beignets, Poulet Roulade, and Aubergine Gratin, and you’re looking at a memorable night. And if all the window tables are taken, try for a (stellar) plan B by requesting to dine in the private cellar, where you’ll catch just a glimpse of the restaurant’s epic, globally sourced wine collection.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

BOKA
BOKA

Lincoln Park
Dreamy artwork, a lush living wall, and moody lighting all entice diners to this Lincoln Park destination, the first in the ever-increasing Boka Restaurant Group portfolio. And then, of course, there’s the food—chef Lee Wolen’s take on seasonal American cuisine, as evidenced by options like Kampachi Crudo, Grilled Spanish Octopus, and the date-night pinnacle: Whole Roasted Dry Aged Duck for two.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Sepia
Photo courtesy of Sepia

West Loop
Get swept away in the romance of this former 1890s print shop, which was renovated in an Art Nouveau style (complete with custom tiling and hand-crafted millwork). Travel back in time with a round of cocktails at the bar, classically inspired and served in vintage glassware, then journey through chef Andrew Zimmerman’s menu, a collection of carefully composed plates with plenty of French twists. Headliners include Berkshire Pork Confit with cherry mostarda and Country Fried Truffle Chicken with chanterelles.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Roka Akor Chicago (River North)
Roka Akor Chicago (River North)

River North, Oak Brook, & Old Orchard
Sharing is just easier with sushi—and it only gets better when said sushi is famously good. Track it down at this tri-location venue, where rolls like Crispy Spicy Tuna and Dynamite Scallop beckon guests alongside larger entrees like prime-cut steaks and Yuzu Miso Marinated Black Cod. For a splurge, opt for the multi-course omakase, and whatever you do, don’t skip out on the Ube Pot De Crème, a lush finale of smooth custard made with the strikingly purple Filipino yam that basically screams Instagram gold.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

GT Fish & Oyster
GT Fish & Oyster

River North
Book a seat on the sunny patio and prepare to dive headfirst into Chef Giuseppe Tentori’s enticing raw bar: East and West Coast oysters plucked fresh from the depths, tender tuna poke dressed with mango, cucumber, and black sesame, chilled mussels and clams, plump lobsters, juicy crab legs, and more (including some decadent seafood towers). Luxe caviar spreads and hearty mains (think seafood cavatelli and grilled swordfish) are on deck to round things out.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Bistro Campagne
Bistro Campagne

Lincoln Square
Had to cancel your romantic Parisian getaway this summer? Tout baigne—head over to this Lincoln Park gem and recreate the magic with all the trimmings of a traditional French bistro. Greenery-strewn patio strung with shimmering fairy lights? Check. Hefty Cheese Plate kicked off with violet mustard, house pickles, fruit preserves, candied pecans, pink peppercorn honey, and grilled sourdough? Check. The best Pomme Frites this side of the Seine? Double check. Bon appetit.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Bucktown
This innovative Bucktown stunner pairs expertly crafted tipples with all the comforts of American-style Chinese food prepared with cheffy know-how and ultra-fresh ingredients. Expect pillowy Crab Rangoon, Wontons stuffed with pork, ginger, garlic, Thai chili, and black vinegar, Crispy Tofu doused in housemade sweet and sour sauce, Dan Dan Noodles with ground pork and zesty Szechuan peppercorn, and all the warm Almond Cookies you can handle. Throw in a few stellar drinks and a dessert to split (e.g. the Chef’s Special Sundae), and you’ve got one hell of a date night.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Bavette's Bar & Boeuf
Bavette's Bar & Boeuf

River North
Sexy speakeasy vibes set the tone at this lauded chophouse, complete with classic cocktails, huge hunks of prime beef, mouthwatering traditional sides with a twist, and a dimly lit, uber-romantic space for all your date night needs. Snag a reservation online and go Dutch on a 22-ounce Dry Aged Bone-in Ribeye accompanied by a selection (or three) from the bar’s stacked Martini menu.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

RPM Seafood
RPM Seafood

River North
Meet Lettuce Entertain You’s nautical gem, a glistening waterfront seafood emporium where the neighborhood’s see-and-be-seen crowd slurps down chilled oysters laden with tart yuzu granita and other oceanic delights—not to mention choice steaks, pastas, and cocktail—while basking in the fall breeze and admiring the lapping river below. Sounds like the perfect afternoon escape? We thought so.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

avec
avec

West Loop & River North
This long-revered Mediterranean-influenced fixture from One Off Hospitality has held it down as one of the area’s go-to date night spots since opening its minimalist doors back in 2003, well before many of us could even define romance. And the hits just keep on coming—avec got busy during the throes of the pandemic, adding a massive and gorgeously appointed new outpost in tony River North to the family, coupled with an incredible rooftop patio with all the fixings. Regardless of location, the wine list is still spectacular, the Chorizo-stuffed Medjool Dates are still iconic (not to mention addictive), and a reservation for the all-weather roof deck, complete with dazzling downtown views, has never been more coveted.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Piccolo Sogno
Piccolo Sogno

West Town
Neighborhood folks in the know have long flocked to this West Town charmer, beloved equally for its seasonally driven lot of fresh, hand-formed pasta dishes and rustic secondi courses (hello, String Cut Black Spaghetti with Mussels, Clams, Shrimp, and Calamari) and its dreamy garden patio. And thanks to carefully spaced tables, Piccolo’s picture-perfect al fresco experience is even more intimate these days. Take full advantage of this bizarre pandemic silver lining and make your reservation ASAP.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Streeterville
If you thought Ralph Lauren only sold polo shirts and teddy bear sweaters, think again. This handsome Streeterville classic has been around for ages, supplying wayward shoppers with the fuel they need to keep those credit cards swiping. Much like the prep-centric brand, the sidewalk patio here is comfortably upscale with a hint of old-school class—white tablecloths, navy blue garden chairs, champagne flutes brimming with White Peach Bellinis, and overstuffed Maine Lobster Rolls centered proudly on elegant dishware.
How to book: Reserve via SevenRooms.

Aba Restaurant
Aba Restaurant

West Loop
Armed with one of the most pristinely decorated and spacious rooftops in town, this Mediterranean-inspired eatery from Top Chef alum CJ Jacobson and Lettuce Entertain You was more than ready for their all-star post-shutdown comeback. Share in the spoils of success with crave-worthy mezze plates like Crispy Short Rib Hummus, Ahi Tuna with Watermelon, Chicken Kebab, Grilled Skirt Steak, and plenty more, all washed down by one of cocktail maven Liz Pearce’s brilliant creations.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Bridgeport
This celebrated Bridgeport gastropub’s serene backyard is the stuff dreams are made of... especially if said dreams generally involve chef Kevin Hickey’s unbelievably rich signature Duck Inn Dog, a combination of beef and duck fat smothered in Chicago-style fixings and served with appropriate gusto on a poppy seed brioche bun. The covering of leafy green trees, stately tables, and twinkling fairy lights only add to the ambiance.​​
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

West Loop
This ever-evolving fine dining experience from the multi-Michelin-starred Alinea Group has all the makings of a special night out. Always creative and dependably delicious, the ticketed prix-fixe menus highlight culinary traditions, trends, and curiosities from around the globe. The team is currently serving its 10th Anniversary Menu, a compilation of the restaurant’s favorite courses over the past decade from heavy-hitters like Silk & Spice, Childhood, and The French Laundry (no big deal).
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Virtue Restaurant
Virtue Restaurant

Hyde Park
Chef-owner Erick Williams seriously upped Hyde Park’s restaurant game when he opened this welcoming, sophisticated outpost back in late 2018. The sprawling sidewalk cafe is the optimal setting upon which to explore Williams’ thoughtful menu, following along as he traipses through Southern cuisine’s multi-faceted history while also managing to throw in a few modern touches. Case in point: Liver & Onions, a cheeky ode to the family-friendly fixture featuring chicken liver mousse topped off with sweet onions and bacon.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Nobu Chicago
Nobu Chicago

West Loop
After six full years of bated breath and hungry bellies, this iconic celebrity-endorsed restaurant and hotel has graced Chicago with its presence—and yes, the wait was worth it. While the indoor restaurant features equally date-worthy environs and fare, revel in the late-summer temperatures while you’re able with a visit to their rooftop, where you’ll find an assortment of delectable small plates drawing on Japanese and Peruvian influences (two words: Nobu Tacos), an expertly curated sake collection, and service on par with Tokyo’s poshest hotel bars. And while the delicately carved Sashimi and Miso-marinated Alaskan Black Cod might initially steal your attention, don’t sleep on the cocktails—namely the Japanese Old Fashioned (Kikori Whisky, Luxardo Cherry, demerara, and Angostura served over hand-carved ice).
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

River North
This all-too-often overlooked gem has been quietly peddling a steady stream of refined Italian comforts alongside a Bible-thick list of top notch vino since 2007. Grab a coveted patio seat and ready your tastebuds for an intoxicating, Eat Pray Love-esque journey through the rolling hills of Tuscany, the canals of Venice, and the manicured vineyards of Piedmont by way of River North.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.
Meredith Heil is a Senior Cities Editor at Thrillist.