Answers from Our Experts (4)
With so many fine dining options in Chicago, it might seem daunting to choose just one for a romantic evening out. The options are truly endless in this dynamic dining city, but here are five of the best:
1. Cafe Absinthe's dimly lit atmosphere is the perfect backdrop to the seasonal, American-oriented menu. Be sure to share the dark chocolate lava cake infused with Grand Mariner liqueur and served with prickly-pear sauce with your special someone at this Wicker Park gem.
2. North Pond goes one step further, being that it's situated in the middle of a pastoral setting in Lincoln Park. Its gorgeous Prairie-style building overlooks a small pond and provides a stunning view of the Chicago skyline. Almost as impeccable is chef Bruce Sherman's sustainable-minded fare.
3. When you think of a romantic restaurant in one of the biggest cities in the country you're probably envisioning something like Signature Room, which is located atop the John Hancock Center. Though it has a more corporate feel than, say, North Pond, the dazzling views make up for it. Start off with some craft cocktails in the Signature Lounge and then head to the dining room for dishes like shellfish risotto and grilled New York strip steak.
4. Appropriately located on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Everest's magnificent city views (framed by floor-to-ceiling drapes) are a perfect companion for chef Joho's highbrow Alsatian cuisine. Served by an exceedingly polite waitstaff clad in suits, the menu includes a filet of wild sturgeon wrapped and roasted in cured ham, and venison served with wild huckleberries and braised pear. It's safe to say that a night at Everest will leave you and your date feeling, well, on top of the world.
5. Sixteen is similar in that the views are fantastic, as it's located on the 16th floor of Donald Trump's hotel and boasts floor-to-ceiling windows. The hosts dress like they're about to walk down a Paris runway, and the food is unforgettable. Chef Frank brunacci meticulously crafts entrees like duck breasts in a date-and-kumquat chutney with black cumin, and pork with creamed corn, warm potato salad, collard greens and grilled peaches. But the menu changes daily.
Romantic restaurants abound in Chicago, where the heart and stomach are inextricably linked. For the height of luxurious, romantic dining, head directly to Sixteen in Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago. The stunning panoramic views of the city pair with gourmet dishes perfectly to create an intimate dining experience that is truly special and unique. For a still-incredible view from a different angle, head to Lincoln Park’s romantic North Pond restaurant. Home to an award-winning chef, this restaurant utilizes only the freshest and local ingredients and serves dishes in a small, 1912 home designed in the Arts and Crafts tradition.
Located not far from North Pond is Geja’s Café, an exquisite example of the romance of fondue. The room, primarily lit by candles, will reveal dozens of couples sharing a romantic evening. Geja’s Café is a very popular engagement location. On the opposite side of town on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange is Everest. Known as one of the premier dining destinations in the city, it is as equally well known for its renowned art collection. Lastly, made famous by its chef’s appearance on Top Chef: Masters, is Spiaggia. Known for its traditional yet innovative dishes, it is a true Chicago landmark in Italian cuisine.
Some of the most romantic restaurants in Chicago include The Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower, Geja’s, Chez Joel, Bistro Campagne, Merlo on Maple, Il Mulino, Le Nomades and Prosecco.
My favorite romantic dining room is RM Champagne Salon, on Randolph Street in the West Loop (aka Restaurant Row). Focused on grower champagnes, RM is more of a lounge than a sit-down restaurant, but it’s perfect for date-night drinks, with the opportunity to jumpstart dinner with oysters and small bites like tartine and frites, or stop in after dinner for a sweet ending thanks to a massive selection of petit fours.
Just down the street is Maude’s Liquor Bar, the most feminine of the stellar restaurants in restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff’s mini-empire. A true French bistro, the ground floor’s exposed brick and patinated mirrors offer a romantic backdrop for bistro tables crowded with seafood towers and steak-frites. Upstairs, the lights and music are dimmed further, for romantic effect.