11 Romantic Restaurants for Date Night in Chicago and the Suburbs

Romance isn’t dead — it just needs a little nudge now and then. Every year around Valentine’s Day, restaurants are full to bursting and couples feel the love on February 14. But on February 15, and beyond? Crickets.

This year, let’s keep that Valentine’s Day spirit going all year. So by all means, check out these oh-so-romantic bistros and boîtes for the big day, but keep them in mind year-round. If you want to really impress your mate — or your date — treat them to a romantic dinner in mid-March, late June or early September. You’ve got to feed the fire to keep it going, n’est-ce pas?

Aboyer/George Trois 

Salade Lyonnaise at Aboyer | Photo courtesy of George Trois Group

This charming French restaurant has been wowing the North Shore for over a decade, and now everyone in Chicago is in on the secret, thanks to the 2019 Jean Banchet Awards, where Michael’s tiny but mighty offshoot George Trois took Restaurant of the Year for their outstanding tasting menu experience. Chef/proprietor Michael Lachowicz, who is literally half the man he used to be after adopting a healthier lifestyle — and falling in love! — hasn’t lost a step when it comes to enlightened French cuisine. If you’re going deluxe, the George Trois Winter Truffle Menu (8 courses, $185) is an exquisite no-brainer, perfection from the Truffle-Parsnip Royale with Kaluga caviar to the Truffle-Lemon Madeleines. To my mind, no visit to the more casual French bistro Aboyer is complete without the Salade Lyonnaise ($15), breaking the poached egg to emulsify the dressing, and wiping the plate with a freshly made gougère. So few places even serve venison, let alone do it so well. Here, the Roast Saddle of New Zealand Venison ($44) is served with a blueberry sauce, sweet potato gratin, and chestnut purée. Among the classic bistro sweets offered is a Crème Brûlée with a sugary crust made to shatter.

64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka

Autre Monde

Romantic Restaurants: Autre Monde
Autre Monde’s Steak Frites | Photo by Christine Tully Aranza

What’s more romantic than a lovely Mediterranean bistro owned by not one, but two couples? Clearly there’s something in the air here. Owners Christine Tully Aranza and John Aranza met chefs Dan Pancake — yes, his real name — and Beth Partridge when they worked together at Spiaggia. Share a bowl of Falafel Fried Shrimp with Tahini Sauce ($18) and a Three-Onion Flatbread ($17), the house-made crust topped with creamy burrata, leek fondue, caramelized shallots, and a sprinkling of chives. Share a juicy Wood-Grilled Duroc Pork Chop ($34) gilded with roasted potatoes, fennel and olives while sipping from a voluptuous bottle of Garnacha. Now that’s a sexy meal.

6727 W. Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn


Whether you’re seated in the dark and pillow-strewn dining room or the high-ceilinged, garden-like front bar, this is a place where beautiful music could be made, especially if you score one of the booths along the wall. Romance will flourish as you feed each other bites of Tuna Crudo ($24) with avocado, jicama and turmeric vinaigrette. But nothing is quite as sultry as the Roasted Lebanese-Style Lamb ($89) to share; shreds of tender meat fall off the bone and into the warm embrace of house-made roti bread, to be slathered with pistachio tzatziki and pickled vegetables. To finish, the Sticky Date Cake ($14) with vanilla gelato, salted caramel and candied walnuts is finger-licking good. The big question: whose fingers to lick?

1604 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago


Romantic Restaurants: Brindille
Brindille’s Cherry Clafouti | Photo by Paul Strabbing

James Beard Award-winning chef Carrie Nahabedian’s perfect jewel of a restaurant was made for romance. The hushed and gorgeous interior is the perfect backdrop for you and your amour. Iced “Belle de Jour” Oysters ($27) garnished with Normandy seaweed-cider vinegar sorbet, finger lime and smoked trout roe, paired with the savory Tarte Tatin ($26), made with caramelized potatoes and onions, truffles and goat cheese, will get the meal started in just the right direction. The real European Dover Sole Meunière (MP), served with a perfect beurre noisette, is truly special, and the French Artisan Cheese Plate ($40) may just be the best in the city. If there’s anything that sums up a gorgeous French meal better than star pastry chef Craig Harzewski’s Warm-Baked Cherry and Almond Clafoutis ($23) topped with a generous dollop of Chantilly cream, I’ve yet to meet it.

534 N. Clark St., Chicago


Chef Trevor Teich was awarded his first Michelin star this past year, and it was well deserved. This intimate restaurant, tucked into the same small cottage that once housed Stephanie Izard and Takashi Yagahashi’s first restaurants, is going places. You’ve got two choices: the extravagant multi-course tasting menu, or the a la carte bar and lounge menu. The bar’s featured cocktails are inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, to be paired with Pâte en Crôute of wild boar and pistachio, or the steaming Mussels with Saffron and Mustard. The current Tasting Menu runs $285 per person for the 7-9 course meal, or $385 per person for the 9-11 course menu, plus “exciting twists and surprises.” Plan on staying awhile.

1952 W. Damen Ave., Chicago

Duck Sel

Duck Sel
Photo via Instagram/@duck_sel

For me, one of the best meals of 2022 was a complete surprise. I knew that Michelin-starred Chef Donald Young was talented, but I didn’t realize that he was so playful. It’s rare to see that side of a highly trained, serious chef, but it was so welcome, and our dining experience was all the richer for it. You can have this experience in your own home, or for a few days each month, in a secret location in the Uptown neighborhood. The 15-course tasting menu ($225) is BYOB, and though it changes with the seasons, you can count on duck being on the menu. He has a bit of a duck obsession, and you will be the beneficiary of that. BTW, if you want to follow him on Instagram, you’ll find him @DonaldDuckConfit.

Uptown location shared with reservation.

Geja’s Café

This Lincoln Park stalwart — open since 1965 — consistently ranks as one of Chicago’s most romantic restaurants, because what better way to show your love and trust of another individual by allowing double dipping when you’re sharing a fondue? That’s old-school romance to the core. Given these reasonable prices, you should definitely opt for one of their Premier Fondue Dinners, which range from $48 per person for the Vegetarian Delight to $79 for Prince Geja’s Combination (a mix of beef tenderloin, lobster tail, shrimp, sea scallops and chicken breast). All dinners include cheese fondue, a café salad, eight gourmet dipping sauces, fresh bread and a flaming chocolate dessert; a gluten-free option is available as well. If you have (ahem!) plans for after dinner, you may want to opt for the Cheese & Chocolate Fondue ($45), which includes Geja’s Salad, imported Gruyère cheese fondue, and orange-liqueur flamed chocolate fondue with fruit and sweets for dipping. The sacrifices we make for love!

340 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago

North Pond

This arts-and-crafts stunner delivers romance from every angle: Chef César Murillo’s lovely and creative menu; the gorgeous interior; the impeccable service and the outstanding view of the cityscape from within the actual Lincoln Park. Murillo’s devotion to seasonality shines through in every dish on the four-course seasonal tasting menu, which may include dishes like the Golden Gazpacho with Busan Crab Salad and Tempura Crab Legs, or the Pierogi and Rabbit dish with house-made potato pierogi, bacon-wrapped rabbit loin and sauced with a smoked onion soubise. It isn’t often that you see Parsnip and Huckleberry paired together — here with a brown-butter éclair, the huckleberries are pickled and the secretly sweet parsnip is made into both ice cream and a cremeaux. Inspired!

2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago


Photo via Instagram/@oriolechi

The entrance of this two Michelin-starred restaurant is unprepossessing at best. In the back of a building in the West Loop, off Lake Street just east of the expressway, is a loading dock. Walk through the door into one of the most magical culinary experiences in town — and in Chicago, that’s saying something. Yes to romance; yes to deliciousness. At $295 per person — which buys you 14 courses of near-perfection — the price is steep but provides an all-star list of ingredients: golden osetra caviar, Maine sea urchin and lobster, prawns, foie gras and Japanese A5 wagyu beef among them. Executive Chef and Owner Noah Sandoval presides over the kitchen, while the front of the house runs like a fine Swiss clock. If you’re looking to impress, this is the place.

661 W. Walnut St., Chicago

Sushi Suite 202

Photo by Julie Chernoff

Everyone loves a secret, especially if it’s delicious. Sushi Suite 202, tucked inside a small hotel suite on the second floor of Lincoln Park’s Hotel Lincoln, fits that bill. It’s like a tiny speakeasy, with a cocktail bar that seats just a few people, a small lounge area and a sushi bar that seats six, where a timed omakase gets you in and out in only 75 minutes. Every one of the 17 courses — don’t panic, each one is a small piece of sushi or sashimi for the most part — is made while you watch. The sushi rice is warm, the wasabi is the real thing and the fish is absolutely pristine. You can opt for the Date Night Package with a craft cocktail flight ($170 inclusive) or the regular omakase without cocktails ($155 inclusive) but there are no bad choices here. And let’s face it… sushi is sexy.

Hotel Lincoln, 1816 N. Clark St., Chicago


Rick Bayless’ fine dining Mexican restaurant is even more vibrant these days, filled with colorful artwork and flower arrangements, Latin music in the background, copper accents gleaming. All of your senses are engaged and heightened in anticipation of the meal to come from this multiple James Beard Award-winning chef, along with Chef de Cuisine Meagan O’Connor and Pastry Chef Jennifer Melendrez. The tasting menu ($165 per person) takes you on a delicious journey focused on a specific area of Mexico, one of the world’s great cuisines. The Riviera Maya Beach Vacation menu runs through February, while the Greetings from Chiapas runs in March and April. Wine and/or agave pairings ($85) are spot-on, traveling through Spain, Italy, France, Oregon, Austria, Portugal and even Mexico itself. Every bite or sip is an adventure.

445 N. Clark St., Chicago

More from Better:

Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz ScaggsRick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre

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