The 12 Best Restaurants in Chicago for a Romantic Date Night

When the calendar strikes February, and everywhere you turn there are cut-out hearts and teddy bears, it means it’s time to up your date game. Whether it’s for that special holiday or just because, dinner at a romantic restaurant is guaranteed to please.

What makes for a good date spot? A few things, actually: Dim lighting, cozy booths, maybe a dish to share for two. But most importantly, a good date spot should be memorable, and that means top-notch food, impressive beverages, and stellar service.

Chicago has plenty of options when it comes to where to go on your next date, whether you are looking for a casual evening of quiet conversation or a show-stopping display of culinary wooing. Go ahead and put down that heart-shaped box of chocolate.

Ada Street

Secluded, no-frills, plenty of moody candlelight — off-the-beaten-path Ada Street offers an ideal recipe for date night. It’s a neighborhood gem with sexy undertones, in the form of tender lamb ribs with crispy garlic and fluffy brioche doughnuts for dessert. Make an evening out of it with a show at nearby The Hideout.

Dining at the restaurant: Dinner is waiting at the end of a dimly lit corridor. The restaurant is on the smaller side, only seating a few dozen at two-tops and the bar. Whether or not you’re seated at the bar, don’t overlook the cocktails. In the summer, the restaurant opens its garage-style door to an enclosed backyard, although it’s currently undergoing renovations.

Takeout: Ada Street does not offer takeout at this time.

Alla Vita

Credit: Boka Restaurant Group

The newest jewel in the BOKA Group (BOKA, Girl & the Goat, Momotaro) crown is an Italian masterpiece in the West Loop. Chef Lee Wolen has designed a shareable menu that can be dressed up or down, depending on your mood. Looking to spurge? Order the Kanpachi crudo and Alba white truffle tagliolini. Keeping it casual? There’s a pizza for that. 

Dining at the restaurant: Due to its popularity, snagging a table at Alla Vita can be trickier than getting a quick burger at Au Cheval. Hopeful diners have been known to line up on the sidewalk before the restaurant opens to secure a seat at the bar. Reserve early to take in the splendor of the lush dining room, with its ceiling covered in elegant waves of fabric and wooden archways adorned in plants.

Takeout: This restaurant does not offer takeout.

Brindille

Fancy and French almost always go hand-in-hand, but Brindille takes upscale French to a new level with its sleek and sophisticated dining room. James Beard Award-winning chef Carrie Nahabedian offers an assortment of classics — from Dover Sole meunière to lacquered aged duck breast — served alongside a wine list that spans all the regions of France. The most difficult decision you’ll have to make all night will be whether to start with oysters or caviar. But this is a romantic occasion, so why not both?

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant has reduced the number of tables to allow for distance between diners. That means you’re getting an even more special dining experience — white tablecloth, superior service, the works. Brindille also regularly hosts afternoon tea with a selection of pastries, finger sandwiches, and specially priced Champagnes, which is excellent as a fun daytime date.

Takeout: Brindille offers its full menu for carryout as well as a few additional treats, such as boxes of chocolate and customizable ice cream.

The Duck Inn

If ’70s vibes in Bridgeport is your idea of a fun date night, look no further than The Duck Inn. Chef Kevin Hickey’s tribute to his hometown captures the charm of this historic neighborhood with a playful mix of bar fare and gourmet offerings. Enjoy fried cheese curds and cider-braised pork belly in the former home of a 100-year-old pre-prohibition tavern.

Dining at the restaurant: Choose your own romantic adventure at this popular restaurant and bar. Opt for a more laid-back evening of duck wings and local beer in the lounge or reserve a table in the dining room — its exposed brick and candlelight set the stage for a romantic evening of roasted duck paired with a bottle of wine.

Takeout: The Duck Inn offers carryout and delivery through its website or by phone, including its famous whole rotisserie duck.

Ema (River North)

Ema’s house-made straciatella | Credit: Jeff Marini

There’s something inherently sexy about Mediterranean cuisine. Maybe it’s all the dips, and honey, and hunks of seared meat. Chef CJ Jacobson’s take on Mediterranean-meets-California cuisine doesn’t skimp on any of these. At the airy River North restaurant you can start with housemade stracciatella before moving on to hummus with lamb ragu and honey pie. There’s also an extensive wine list with an emphasis on Greek and Italian wines by the glass.

Dining at the restaurant: Exposed bulbs strung from greenery covering the ceiling make for an intimate environment, despite its location in the middle of bustling River North. As much as this restaurant is known for its food and convenient location, where it really shines is with its friendly service.

Takeout: Ema offers carryout and delivery through its website or by phone.

El Che Steakhouse & Bar

Credit: El Che

Dinner and a show is on the menu at chef John Manio’s El Che Steakhouse & Bar, where your dry-aged ribeye is cooked on a custom 12-foot grill in the open kitchen. Take date night’s heat up a notch by watching the flames fly from a safe distance while sipping on a South American red wine.

Dining at the restaurant: A far cry from your typical steakhouse, the dark restaurant is filled with tropical plants and wood accents as a nod to its South American inspiration. The most beautiful seat in the house may be at the black marble bar, but if you want front row seats to the show, opt for the chef’s counter, which offers a ten-course tasting tour of Argentina.

Takeout: During the pandemic, El Che launched its Meat & Provisions line as an at-home option for diners. Steaks, sausages, sauces, and more can be ordered through its website.

Geja’s Cafe

For those who subscribe to the school of thought that the best date nights are slathered in cheese, then you’re probably already familiar with Geja’s Cafe. For those who are not, the old-school fondue parlor has been serving its signature fondue dinners — that’s Swiss Gruyere cheese fondue served with bread, vegetables, and fruits — for half a century.

Dining at the restaurant: As much as it’s known for excessive amounts of cheese, Geja’s is equally renowned for its opulent ambiance. The restaurant features a live flamenco guitarist four nights a week, secluded booths separated by curtains, and outdoor pergolas with fire pits.

Takeout: Geja’s Cafe offers carryout and delivery through its website or by phone.

Gibson’s Italia

Does Gibson’s Italia have a 20-page wine list, truffle lasagna, and massive platters of Alaskan King crab? Yes — and it’s all great — but what really wows are the views. Overlooking the Chicago River flanked by skyscrapers, this “modern steakhouse with an Italian accent” is a stunning setting for dinner for two. The only thing that could rival this view is a diamond.

Dining at the restaurant: Spanning three levels, it’s safe to say there’s not a bad seat in the house. The spacious dining room features plenty of white tablecloth tables ready for a romantic evening. There’s also a private dining area and enclosed roof deck.

Takeout: Gibson’s Italia offers carryout and delivery through its website.

Kumiko

Credit: Sammy Faze

There are cocktail bars, and then there are serious cocktail bars. Kumiko falls into the latter category. A “Japanese dining bar” by mixologist Julia Momosé, Kumiko is all about attention to details — in which drink lovers will delight — from the hand-carved ice to the delicate glassware. The food menu takes a nod from Japanese cuisine, with offerings such as the Wagyu katsu sando and toasted koji ice cream. Kumiko is the ultimate drinks date spot.

Dining at the restaurant: What Kumiko lacks in space, it makes up for in style. Consisting of a small seating area and intimate bar, the room is filled with elegant accents, such as geometric patterns in the wood partitions and brass screens on the bar, which each have their own hidden meaning.

Takeout: Kumiko does not offer takeout, but it does sell ready-to-drink Kumiko cocktails via its website.

Le Bouchon

Whether you are splitting a whole roasted duck for two or just digging into some of the best French onion soup in town, Le Bouchon knows how to make its diners feel special. The Bucktown restaurant has been serving French classics since 1993 alongside an extensive French wine list, and it all adds up to classic French romance.

Dining at the restaurant: Cozy and quaint, Le Bouchon captures the French bistro ambiance with closely spaced tables and a small bar. While it has one of those menus that just can’t go wrong, don’t miss some of the favorites, like the seared foie gras or steak tartare. 

Takeout: Le Bouchon does not offer takeout.

Rose Mary

Credit: Kinship

There are likely many perks that come with winning a season of Top Chef, and one of them has to be opening the restaurant of your dreams. Chef Joe Flamm did just that in 2021 when he opened Rose Mary in the West Loop. The restaurant pays homage to his Italian heritage and his wife’s native country of Croatia, translating to dishes such as beef burek, a flaky pastry filled with meat and cheese.

Dining at the restaurant: This new addition to the West Loop restaurant scene makes for a livelier date night. There are plenty of cozy corners to be found in this large restaurant, from the chef’s counter to under the many hanging plants to at the end of the wood bar. The entire space channels a Mediterranean escape, so go ahead and get away.

Takeout: Rose Mary does not offer takeout.

Sepia

One of the go-to fancy date night spots in Chicago has earned its reputation. Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s menu of contemporary American cuisine is stunning without being stuffy. Start with crab chawanmushi étoufée before diving into venison shabu-shabu or steelhead trout en croûte.

Dining at the restaurant: Sepia’s dining room may have been around since 2007, but it has timeless elegance down to a science. Dine under one of the crystal chandeliers or at the marble bar. There are plenty of secluded enclaves tucked within the exposed brick walls, which make for an especially romantic evening.  

Takeout: Sepia does not offer takeout.