Think beyond River North, downtown, Fulton Market and the Mag Mile and you'll be rewarded with an elegant, intimate 22-seat spot in historic Uptown that's a culinary union of grace and taste. Executive Chef, Norman Fenton, helped Schwa earn a Michelin star and now he presents two tasting menus at Brass Heart. The 12-course tasting is downright exquisite - and one is an unheard of fully vegan tasting. Courses are seasonal, however, expect sultry omnivore items like Ora King Salmon with cucumber and Yuzu; foie gras with mole poblano, cacao and raisin; and a riff on Dippin' Dots with Pandan leaf, ginger and lemongrass. Vegans can revel in ravioli filled with spring pea, or confit eggplant festooned with earthy celery, green apple and horseradish. Cocktails and mocktails are equally inspired.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Brass Heart is an intimate, elegant spot offering creative tasting menus - one of which is a fully vegan.
Jacky's expert tip: Bras Heart is very near the iconic jazz club, Green Mill, a perfect post-dinner foray.
Romantic restaurants used to be all about candlelight, hushed tones, soft music, private nooks, Chateaubriand and Champagne. Restaurateurs and lovers themselves have expanded the notion of a romantic night out so even a busy River North location that witnesses celebrity sightings stirs feelings of excitement and anticipation - precursors to romance. Enter Sunda New Asian. Expect a sexy vibe, pops of red decor amid dark wood and food and beverages perfect for a date - sharable sushi and dim sum, sparkling drinks like the exceptional Peared Sake cocktail, and heat-inducing offerings from spicy edamame and Szechuan chicken to Crazy Rice dotted with Ghost peppers. The cross-cultural Asian menu allows couples to have a culinary adventure in the Philippines (lumpia, Chicken Inasal, and Pancit Canton); try Korean chicken wings and bulgogi tacos; Japanese tempura and myriad fresh signature sushi; and exceptional entrees like miso Black Cod and and Hainanese Salmon. There are gluten-free and vegetarian menus, too, so every palate can enjoy romantic food, drink and ambience at Sunda.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Couples can explore cross-cultural Asian cuisine, an extensive sake roster and seductive environs at Sunda New Asian.
Jacky's expert tip: Staff will help navigate the extensive sake list from the "unique and playful" to "elegant and aromatic" - sounds like some of your ex-lovers, eh?
Consider booking a table at a sensual new restaurant in the heart of River North, Fame Supper Club. The dining room's sleek, lacquered floors, elegant chandeliers and sumptuous seating lend an intimate ambience. Unlike the supper clubs in Wisconsin that offer heavy, old-fashioned Midwestern fare, count on modern American dishes like smoked Medjool dates stuffed with chorizo and Manchego cheese presented in an applewood smoked cloche; Tomahawk Prime Ribeye sliced tableside; and Cacio e Pepe finished in a Pecorino-Romano cheese wheel at your table. The menu features seafood, pastas, steaks and lovely desserts by Pastry chef Rychelle Jean-Simon - some flambeed tableside in true supper club style. Fancy cocktails and wine by the glass or bottle add to the experience. Live music courtesy of local jazz performers and other artists is played during dinner service every evening completing the romantic rendezvous.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Chicago has a sexy new supper club for year-round romance featuring a collection of local art and a globally inspired menu.
Jacky's expert tip: Have an adult beverage in the second floor nightclub if you'd like the evening to last a little longer.
It's not the whirlpool suite at the airport motel that was named the "Ultimate Romantic Dipping Place in North America" (by Food Network) - it's Geja's Café, the fondue sharing cavern that finds its way on many "romantic" lists from OpenTable to USA Today's reader polls. Relationship is all about sharing and fondue is an interactive, fun culinary adventure that you can undertake ala carte or full dunk dinner by way of a Premier option: cheese fondue, salad, a choice of meat or seafood combinations with assorted vegetables, eight dipping sauces, flaming chocolate dessert fondue and coffee Low lighting, small booths and tables with swaths of fabric, live classical and flamenco guitar fan the flames.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Geja's has been the site of over 150,000 first dates and nearly 17,000 engagements. Case closed.
Jacky's expert tip: Gluten free and vegetable broth options make Geja's a fond-do for everyone.
One could argue that there has to be at least one Italian restaurant on a romantic dining list. For robust, homemade Italian-American comfort food in a casual, warm setting, consider River North's il Porcellino. Dark woods, checkered tablecloths and walls of wine add to the the "dove si mangia bene" (where you eat well) tone. Start with Italy's signature cocktail, Negroni, done in any of four ways, an icy Peroni or Chianti to drive home the old-school Italian vibe. Freshly baked bread is a must - hot garlic butter is poured on ciabatta loaf tableside. Prime beef meatballs simmered in marinara until tender or Di Stefano burrata with marinated roasted tomatoes and sea-salt crostini are flavorful appetizers or share a delightful green chopped salad of kale, olives, pepperoncini, avocado and pistachio. There's a pasta for every palate from orecchiette with crumbled Italian sausage, kale, fresh garlic, tossed in a Calabrian chili broth to beloved spaghetti and meatballs. You'll see old-timey favorites like eggplant and chicken Parm and Chicago's own fragrant chicken Vesuvio. Homer's spumoni is a sweet finish - pistachio, cherry, and chocolate ice cream swirled, and finished with Luxardo Maraschino cherries and toasted pistachios.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The River North restaurant turns out outstanding Italian-American fare that is affordable in a casually romantic atmosphere.
Jacky's expert tip: Request table seven for its Prosecco button. Push it and a red light above the table signals staff to bring you bubbles pronto!
If you can't spend a winter night under the Northern Lights or a summer rendezvous during the "Midnight Sun" of Scandinavia, Elske's got you. The modern American restaurant with Scandinavian influences from chef-owners Anna and David Posey takes its name from the Danish word for "love." Whereas intentionally "romantic" spots are dark, Elske is a sunny concept that may define modern romantic dining. Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows allow for views of the patio and the open-kitchen with a wood-burning fireplace adds to the "hygge" ambience. Pillar candles glow on each table and lovely art lends a romantic setting. The outdoor patio also boasts a wood burning fireplace as well as seating lined with faux furs. Almost everything touches the wood-fired hearth at Elske, especially during the chillier months. Choose a set menu with a wine or juice pairing or dine a la carte on painterly items such as Delice de Bourgogne (French triple creme cheese) and roasted lobster with kabocha squash and fried garlic. Do not miss Anna Posey's luscious desserts that pin the needle on the love meter at a perfect "10."
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Elske earned the Jean Banchet Award for Chefs of the Year in 2020 and a Michelin star three years in a row.
Jacky's expert tip: Order Elske glögg, an ideal sip to have by the outdoor fireplace in winter, or Schnapps made-in-house with seasonal flavors like pear or smoked apple.
If you've read this far, you may as well have a French lesson. Brindille, pronounced "braun-DEE", translates to "new growth" in French and Chef/Co-Owner Carrie Nahabedian has been making culinary connections since opening Michelin-starred Nana more than 20 years ago. The River North restaurant presents a menu of sophisticated Parisian dishes that land upon exquisite china amid French linens. Order iced Beau Soleil Oysters from New Brunswick or Russian Sturgeon Caviar to get your various juices flowing. Try Tarte Tatin or a nice Butternut Squash Soup and Nutmeg Cappuccino for more warmth. Stellar entrees include whole roasted European Dover Sole Meuniere; lacquered aged duck breast and grilled Prime Sirloin. Pastry Chef, Craig Harzewski, rises to the romantic challenge with very French and seasonally tweaked selections such as warm Lemon Madeleines baked to order; Gâteau Opera Cake; and ethereal profiteroles. Or go Gallic with a cheese course accompanied by seasonal fruits and anise seed bread. Cognac, Calvados, Grappa or French Absinthe also make a grand conclusion.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Elegant decor, cozy banquettes and wonderful French food and drink will have you whispering "Je t'aime" in no time flat.
Jacky's expert tip: Take a look around. Brindille won a James Beard Award for its "gem jewel box" interior design.
Can't fly to France? Indulge in a one-of-a-kind tasting menu experience from Chef Rob Shaner at Robert Et Fils. You'll take a culinary adventure together during a traditional fine-dining experience like you would have in France where the chef makes the choices for you so there's a surprise in every course - from the first cocktail and bread to the the final dessert course. The seven to ten-course tasting menu changes bi-seasonally with a flow of flavors that complement each other. Bread lovers will appreciate Pastry Chef Cati Molnar various creations throughout the menu incorporating ethereal bread to start followed by heartier versions as dishes become richer. Her innovative French pastries and desserts are memorable. The multiple-course French-inspired tasting menu offers an optional beverage pairing (wine, cocktails, or spirit free), too. The ultra intimate experience (the restaurant seats up to 20) in quaint surroundings is a special one that any couple would cherish.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The multiple-course French-inspired tasting menu in a charming, intimate setting is a remarkable night out with your paramour.
Jacky's expert tip: Dinner is served Friday and Saturday and Thursday is Bar Night for cocktails and and light bites for a more casual evening.
If pandemic necessity is the mother of invention, some Chicago restaurants are veritable Thomas Edisons by erecting igloos, domes and greenhouses to keep our respiratory droplets to ourselves. An added bonus - they're intimate and romantic - and RPM Seafood's location on the river makes it even more so. Add cocktails, wine and oysters and it's getting hot in there. A private greenhouse with views of lights sparkling on the river is an ideal setting for a night of fresh seafood. Launch with vintage Champagne or a signature agave cocktail and go light with delicate Citrus-Cured Salmon or hand-cut Hamachi crudo or order a seafood tower of prawns, Maine lobster, Alaskan King Crab legs and East and West Coast oysters. Peekytoe Crab de Jonghe is a warm, lush riff on the shrimp dish and the RPM Crab Cake is a thing of beauty. RPM Mixed Seafood Grill is a dramatic date night choice with King Crab, Spanish octopus and Blue Prawns flamed table-side. Globally inspired fish dishes include Miso Black Cod, Charcoal-Grilled Black Bass with Moroccan Spices and Dover Sole in the form of fish and chips. There are also house-made pastas and signature cuts of beef. Fab endings include Blood Orange Creme Brûlée and Banana Cream Napoleon.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Fresh seafood, deep wine roster (including bubbles) and gorgeous views are just some of the reasons RPM Seafood should be on your date-night list.
Jacky's expert tip: For a very special date night, consider the new Sommelier Experience available Tuesday - Saturday at the private sommelier table. The pre-fixe tasting menu (typically 8-courses) changes daily and is curated to your taste and dietary restrictions, with expertly paired pours.
Inspired by Sunset Blvd. and the mystique of Old Hollywood, BLVD owns the most beautiful steakhouse space in the city. Bathed in tones of taupe and mauve with sparkles from crystal chandeliers, BLVD is like Grace Kelly - a cool, elegant knockout. Even the bathrooms are stunning. The restaurant evokes a fondness for the past through thoughtful service, jazz tunes, some forgotten recipes (Lobster Thermidor, anyone?) and reimagined classics. If you sense the scent of Palo Santo, it's because diners are ordering "Churchhill's Breakfast," a cocktail comprised of Bank Note 5yr. Scotch, Carpano Antica, Palo Santo and Cinnamon. There are plenty of other retro and reimagined drinks as well as a deep roster of grapes by the glass or bottle. Choose caviar service, seafood tower, briny oysters, shrimp cocktail or a light hamchi crudo if you want to save your appetite for some Lobster Bisque or Onion Soup Fondue. Of the filets, a 14oz bone-In is supreme - but you may be feeling A-5 Wagyu or a hefty 32oz Porterhouse. Scallops, Branzino, and a Kilgus Farms Berkshire pork chop are worthy contenders. Executive Chef Johnny Besch manages to make his side of cauliflower, roasted and piqued with thinly sliced chilis, stand out from all the others in the city.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Nothing can beat the celebratory experience of a night at a great steakhouse and BLVD supplies the seductive atmosphere and deftly seasoned steaks and seafood.
Jacky's expert tip: Thursdays, Beverage Director Ted Rink selects vintage wines from distributors, inventory and wine auctions to offer wine by-the-glass to guests at cost.