Let’s face it, dining in Chicago can be tough. With summer right around the corner and an amazing dinner scene in almost every Chicago neighborhood, how do you decide on where your next dinner plans are going to be? You’d be lying if you said you’ve never had a “friendly” argument on where you should go to eat – whether it’s with friends, your significant other, or me on my lunch break 75% of the time.
Picking a restaurant isn’t the only struggle when it comes to dinner plans. In addition, you have the hour (on a good night) wait times or no availability at most restaurants in the city. That’s where OpenTable comes in. With over 1,000 restaurants to choose from in Chicago alone, I’m constantly searching the OpenTable website or mobile app to book my next reservation (and earn my dining checks).
I’ve rounded up 5 of my favorite date-night spots in the city. From Lincoln Park to the West Loop, there’s definitely something for everyone.
La Sirena Clandestina
Nestled at the end of Fulton Market is the romantic and cozy La Sirena Clandestina. Known for their empanadas, with a daily special each day and a packed menu of delicious cocktails; La Sirena is the perfect spot for your first date or 10-year anniversary dinner. With candles that softly light up the restaurant and a friendly staff, your dining experience will start from the moment you walk through the door. Make sure you order their grilled hanger steak with chimichurri and their La Bomba Rice with rapini, aged cheddar and pepitas – you will not be disappointed. If I leave you with one piece of advice: order the butterscotch pudding!
Located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, Gilt Bar is the perfect date-night spot for any occasion. Home of the best steak tartare I’ve ever eaten (I’ve had my fair share), Gilt Bar has the perfect romantic dinner and drinks setting. Whether you’re visiting on a Wednesday or Saturday night, you will fall in love with the beautiful décor and delicious food. I highly recommend their Ricotta Gnocchi and Andouille Sausage – two dishes I order every single time. Feel free to get cozy and share a handful of items off the menu as Gilt Bar has a great tapas style menu.
It’s time you and your date head to a true Lincoln Park gem for your next night out. After one visit to Balena, chances are you’ll be coming back for more very soon. If you’re really trying to impress your date, call ahead and ask to be seated at the chef’s table. Not only do you get to see the artistry that goes into creating the delicious food you are about to eat, but you get to experience one of the best seats in the house!
Looking for somewhere a bit more laid back to get to know each other? DryHop in Lakeview is the perfect spot for any craft beer lover. In addition to IPAs and Pale Ales, DryHop brews traditional, Belgian, and experimental craft beers. You’ll be in good company and won’t have to worry about being on a first date here! Most likely with one glance around the room, you’ll spot another couple in a similar place. A DryHop kitchen favorite? You have to try their Skillet Mac ‘N Cheese. Sunny-side up eggs anyone?
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
You didn’t think I’d forget the most important course of a date night dinner did you? A Chicago favorite, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate is one of my favorite restaurants to grab dessert. The warm brioche donuts with buttermilk glaze and milk chocolate sauce is one of my personal favorites. Something tells me I’ll be heading to Mindy’s for their Peanut Butter Glazed Candy Bar with milk chocolate peanut butter mousse soon.
PS: I thought this post was the perfect opportunity to include my favorite GIF: