Forget the age of Aquarius, it’s the age of Tinder—long live the swipe! Or for those of you still doing it the old fashioned way of meeting people at work, or dare we say, in bars—we all need good date night spots. What constitutes a good date night place? Ample people watching (in case the conversation stalls and you need material), good lighting, and nothing too noisy—no one likes close-talking and shouting when you aren’t that familiar.
In Chicago, there are ample options that have perfected the perfect date night combo, and also serve great food and drinks.
Avec is a work of culinary magic, spinning midwestern ingredients into Mediterranean showstoppers. The restaurant bears a slightly less formal feel than other major foodie favorites, though it stays right on par in terms of cuisine. Mix up small plates like the Roasted Butcher’s Steak with European cheeses and charcuterie, and round out the night with the lauded Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder. Though avec is anything but low-brow, it still feels like the kind of spot where you can at least loosen your tie before you kick back a few glasses of wine. The restaurant is wrapped in head-to-toe cedar with five communal tables spanning its mere 1,500 square feet. They start walk-ins on Saturday at 5:30pm, so you should be fine getting in if you dropped the ball and forgot to make a weekend reservation.
Photo courtesy of avec
Ritzy and glamorous decor alongside outstanding American fare make this Gold Coast restaurant a great date night option. Its casual in nature and the food is approachable even if the decor tells a different story. This is a meal you will think about long after the date, and they are open all day, so you can arrange a mid-day lunch date here as well. If it is dinner you choose, start with the Crispy Corn & Salt Cod Fritters, or the Beef Tartare. The entrees are divided into pastas and mains; split one of each and don’t skimp on the amazing side dishes like the Grilled Broccoli or the Crispy Brussels Sprouts. You can also get a drink before or after dinner up on their rooftop bar and have a cool view of downtown Chicago.
Photo courtesy of Somerset
Maude’s feels effortlessly Parisian, from the subway tiles to grandiose chandeliers. It’s great for a date with its mood lighting and undeniable sex appeal. Enjoy feel-good French comfort food and maybe some of the European country’s absinthe to play the part. Don’t let your opinion of heavy French food allow you to judge Maude’s too harshly before trying. Maude’s plays off traditional French cuisine while updating their menu with an “Almost French” section, which includes favorites like Roast Farm Chicken and French Onion Fondue. You won’t be alone either, most nights the majority of the dining room feels like Coupletown, USA, with many Chicago couples taking advantage of this perfect romantic setting.
Photo courtesy of Maude’s Liquor Bar
Nothing says sex appeal like leather booths and dark lighting. This moody haunt draws a fun nighttime crowd, and proves Brendan Sodikoff has perfected the restaurateur recipe for dim lighting alongside updated classic fare—from embracing the essence of the old-timey steakhouse with a modern spruce-up, to making French cuisine feel less stuffy (see Maude’s). Mirrors and low-lights fill the steakhouse space, and the downtown crowd leaves you feeling cozy and not corporate or outdated. Let Bavette’s exceed your Grade-A Beef expectations, and let its ambiance convince you of the place’s stylishness.
Photo courtesy of Bavette’s
Roister is a place for people to gather around a fire and indulge in heartier eats than most foodie-centric menus offer. This is the more “casual” restaurant from Grant Achatz (chef of the 3-Michelin Star spot Alinea), that is warm and inviting. The 64-seat Roister features an open kitchen hearth and plenty of rustic touches. Splurge and go for the nine-course Chef’s Tasting Menu for $85-$95 or order dishes like the Whole Chicken & Chamomile, or the Maple Poached Salmon. Of course, there's also the added bonus of enjoying food created by the best chef in America. Just make sure you book a reservation.
Photo courtesy of Roister Restaurant
We don’t want to jump the gun here, but newcomer to the Chicago scene, Pacific Standard Time, kinda feels like it is nailing the recipe for creating a perfect restaurant. The space—which is huge—is beautifully designed, giving off some seriously laid back feels (this is California-inspired cuisine, so…) while still feeling high-end and sexy. The menu ranges from raw plates to fresh baked breads and dips to much heartier entrees. Drinks match the food in quality and diversity, making this a great place to start, end, or spend your evening.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Standard Time
What Giant lacks in space (the compact dining room seats about 40), it makes up for in flavor. The vegetable-heavy menu has pasta-lovers covered, with a trio of handmade noodles, which pair nicely with the curated wine list. Seafood also gets its due at Giant, where more adventurous palates can try the deep fried Super Uni Shooter while taking in the casual elegance of this tucked away spot. In the summer, more seating opens up as the cozy patio makes for a great outdoor dining option with more availability.
Photo courtesy of Giant