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Romantic Dining in Chicago: Cocktails, Candles and Exceptional Cuisine



For decades, Chicagoans' go-to restaurants for romance involved stunning views (think Signature Room on the 95th Floor of John Hancock Center, Spiaggia and Everest). Or the old reliable Geja's Cafe for spinning melted Swiss or chocolate around a bread cube or a strawberry. All nice ideas, but they're everyone's ideas so book your table months in advance if you thinking of a Valentine's Day experience. 

Our list recognizes that for every couple that goes for a dark, hushed room another gets the fuse lit by an airy elegant space; and while oysters and chocolate are the de rigueur choices for friskiness, some have a shared affinity for anything but the expected. 

If you want to witness the physical incarnation of "connection," get to Artango  in Lincoln Square and feel the endorphins. Let's not forget about the animal magnetism of a nicely charred steak, either, whether a cowboy cut or a slab of cauliflower. GT Prime is refined and sexy steakhouse of the 21st century. Go through a travel portal at Marchesa and feel like you're in Europe. Beatnik on the River takes you to exotic locales through decor and cuisine with lovely river views. Bellemore manages to be simultaneously cheery and sultry.

Chicago has it all. 

 

 


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Like Geja's, it sits on most "most romantic" lists but there are good reasons. It's way up there (on the 95th floor), it's famous and the views are genuinely breathtaking. How's the food? Expect refined American cuisine from Executive Chef Cardel Reid such as Half Roasted Chicken (the meal Prince Harry and Megan Markle were nibbling when he proposed); an impressive seafood tower; an array of steaks; duck breast; and great sides. Take in the beauty across the table as well as all the city's stunning looks, with 360-degree bird's eye views. Spendy? Of course, but it's a destination and the epitome of old fashioned romance. You'd have to be on an aircraft to get such views and the company wouldn't be quite so charming. Climb up one more floor to the 96th and linger in the lounge with a nightcap and more glittering city lights.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Two-story windows insure wondrous sunsets and, frankly, you're dining in the sky.

Jacky's expert tip: The Signature Room also offers an Ultimate Romance Dinner Package throughout the month of February: a private dining experience for couples with Dom Perignon Champagne and live musical entertainment.

Read more about Signature Room at the 95th →




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 144,354 first dates and 16,561 engagements. Case closed.

Jacky's expert tip: Gluten free and vegetable broth options make Geja's a fond-do for everyone.

Read more about Geja's Cafe →




The casually romantic eatery serves truly authentic Italian food in the cozy dining area lined with white lights and candlelit tables. Best known for fresh pasta (which Chef Cameron Grant learned how to make in Langhe, Italy near the border of France), don't miss some of the other popular choices such as Piemontese New York strip; roasted sea bass with citrus saffron basil cream; veg options such as buttery cauliflower flan with fonduta and pie crumbles; or velvety risotto carbonara. Finish the meal with creamy panna cotta or chocolate hazelnut pie. There's a thoughtful selection of wine, cocktails and digestivif, too. Osteria Langhe is akin to visiting a neighborhood eatery in the Piemont region in northwest Italy.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Located in a culinary hot 'hood in the city, this spot offers candlelit tables, creative cocktails and a definitively intimate dinner experience.

Jacky's expert tip: Be sure to try the famous "plin," a rich, cheesy, hand-pinched ravioli made with fresh pasta.

Read more about Osteria Langhe →


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GT Prime feels like a film set with details like a crystal chandelier and soft faux fur upholstered chairs. You wouldn't be surprised if Allie and Noah from The Notebook were seated next to you. Even the chef's name, Giuseppe Tentori, evokes romance. He refashions traditional steakhouse fare by offering a variety of cuts of already sliced so you can share without mangling it at the table yourself. Culinary curious lovers can try caviar service; pasta like duck tortellini or white truffle tagliatelle; or Georges Bank scallops. There's a robust offering of sides (how about BBQ roasted carrots with harissa); starters from the ethereal (hamachi crudo) to the old timey (chicken liver mousse); small but impressive dessert menu; plus rare teas, La Colombe coffee and an extensive roster of grapes.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: It's the refined and sexy steakhouse of the 21st century.

Jacky's expert tip: GT Prime's only commandment is "Indulge. Imbibe. Explore." so try a variety of 4-and-8-ounce cuts of filet, ribeye, Wagyu, venison, and bison sliced and easy to share.

Read more about GT Prime →




Machine: Engineered Dining and Drink has Dirk Flannigan in the kitchen fashioning a Modern American menu of smoked mushrooms with crispy with chicken skins, Parmesan, chestnut crumbs and puffed wild rice; pillowy gnocchi with duck confit; lavender chicken; Scottish salmon; and pan-roasted Branzino. Cocktails are something to look at as well as ingest. Shareable sips include a fountain of six house-made wine shots. Desserts ideal for date night include Chocolate & Roses - chocolate custard and vanilla rose ice cream. Decor is inviting with tufted leather seats, concrete flooring and custom-made steel archways. Although that may sound cool and industrial, Machine boasts an in-house flower shop and tableside flower cart. You can pre-order bouquets ahead of a reservation or hand select stems from the roaming flower cart that delivers table-side during service.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The in-house flower shop makes Machine a good date choice. Choose flowers tableside and your bouquet adorns dinner, then you can tote it home.

Jacky's expert tip: Order a couple of the interactive cocktails (like Once Upon A Cocktail or Hey, Smash Me) which make date night giddy fun.

Read more about Machine →




In what once was a 1913 jewelry store, Beatnik on the River charms with colossal crystal chandeliers, tiled bar with Andalusian patterns, Persian rugs, Moroccan lanterns and pillow-topped Indonesian daybeds. Seating faces floor-to-ceiling windows revealing river views and water taxis gliding by. The colorful hand-painted glazed tiles and lush greenery throughout the restaurant bring warmth even on a December day. Have a drink at the brass back bar which was a vintage bakery rack from a Paris patisserie. The visual sensuality is matched by a compact but appealing menu of small plates (mezze) and sharable dishes. Launch with a spread like smoky baba ghanoush or pistachio tzatziki then sample curry meatballs, pan-seared wild mushrooms and fattoush salad. Chef Marcos Campos take you on a trip around the world with Lebanese roasted lamb, duck with red mole and pork cheek fried rice. There's plenty of culinary travel for veg lovers, too. Reggae, Middle Eastern, Brazilian and '60s French Pop add to the wonderful experience.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: What could be more romantic than travel? Beatnik on the River takes you to exotic locales through decor and cuisine with lovely river views.

Jacky's expert tip: The seasonal 80-seat riverfront terrace with Indonesian daybeds and Moroccan lanterns is a great place for a sangria and bites in summer.

Read more about Beatnik on the River →




Whereas intentionally "romantic" spots are dark, Bellemore is a bright, chic concept that may define modern romantic dining. Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos presents painterly American dishes that have already become Instagram famous i.e. Oyster Pie, savory oyster custard topped with caviar, a dab of creme fraîche and lemony green apple. Depending on your relationship, you may want to order a To the Point (Old Overholt rye whiskey, crema Earl Grey tea, Elixir of Life, orange and cinnamon); a glass of muscular red; or a mild mannered white. Forget Keto tonight - housemade Hawaiian Rolls with cultured butter, sea salt and saba are a must. Start with bracing oysters or ethereal Parmesan dumplings with mushrooms, lobster cream and sherry. Then, Arctic Char festooned with French lentils or Wagyu Strip with a little tongue - grilled beef tongue, that is. Dessert can be a cheese course or a rich chocolate pave.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Romantic flourishes include custom brass chandeliers; intricate vintage mirrors; and wood columns in shades of white.

Jacky's expert tip: Opt for the $85 tasting menu ensuring shared culinary surprises.

Read more about Bellemore →




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. Chicago native, Chef Matt Kerney ,helped Schwa and Longman & Eagle earn a Michelin star and now he presents two tasting menus at Brass Heart. Choose a nine or 12 course tasting that is downright exquisite - and one is an unheard of fully vegan tasting. Courses are seasonal, however, expect sultry omnivore items like blini of Spanish tortilla with Peeky Toe crab and black truffle; duck fat poached scallop with teasing Kimchi and bright Persimmon; and chocolate with Grand Marnier and huckleberry pate de fruit. Vegans can revel in ancho chile pozole adorned with avocado mousse, hominy and cabbage or fazzoletti pasta festooned with earthy dandelion greens and caramelized red onion. 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.

Read more about Brass Heart →




Artango Steakhouse and Bar exudes romance from the dimly lit, stunning atmosphere to its Argentinian chef-driven menu by Saul Roman. Located in historic Lincoln Square, the restaurant aims for a passionate, sensory experience through delicious South American food, sturdy South American cocktails and Argentinian wine, art, music and dance. Guitar virtuosos, cellists, Brazilian jazz groups and European cabaret artists check in on a regular basis as well as Flamenco and tango dancers. Learn the art of the passionate partner dance with free tango lessons weekly. Indulge in ceviches, empanadas, Argentinian grilled meats and seafood and grill flights and paella to share that offer good value and a nice introduction to Argentinian food. Desserts give the French a run for their Euro with options like chocolate mousse cake, dolce de leche ice cream, or a rustic pear and almond tart, accompanied by blackcurrant semifreddo, salted caramel sauce and candied almonds.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Artango is owned by married couple, Maria and Sebastian Casanova. Maria is a tango dancer and he is an artist who designed the restaurant.

Jacky's expert tip: Eggplant "caviar" is great for vegetarians and everyone should try one of the smoking cocktails. Be sure to check the web site for the live entertainment and dance lesson schedule.

Read more about Artango Bar & Steakhouse →




Named for Marchesa Luisa Casati, an Italian muse and patron of the arts renowned for hosting parties teaming with interesting people, food, wine and song - this is your romantic sweet spot. The Main Salon is inspired by the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice or dine in The Apartment modeled after a Parisian pied-a-terre. Start with European cheese and charcuterie, caviar service or medallions of foie gras for moments of sheer decadence. Fine entrees include simply perfect steak frites; boeuf Bourguignon; risotto with black truffle cream; and halibut. Fresh truffle available year round and a Champagne bar make you wonder if Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant are dining at Marchesa tonight. Or, at least, Becks and Posh Spice. The dessert menu is sugared with possibilities: authentic French creme brûlée and chocolate pot de creme or how about a savory cheese plate paired with dessert wine, sherry, port, cognac or armagnac?

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Marchesa is a breathtakingly beautiful restaurant offering dreamy cocktails, French cuisine and a decidedly European vibe quite unlike the rest of River North.

Jacky's expert tip: Have an adult bevvie downstairs in The Cave with music and self-assurance wafting through the air.

Read more about Marchesa →


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Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky

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