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—everyone needs 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 date night combo, which 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 throw 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. Walk-ins start on Saturday at 5:30pm, so you should be fine getting in if you dropped the ball and forgot to make a weekend reservation.
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. Somerset is open all day, so you can even arrange a mid-day lunch date. If it is dinner you choose, start with the crispy corn and 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 on Somerset's rooftop bar before or after dinner for a cool view of the Windy City.
From the subway tile to grandiose chandeliers, Maude’s feels effortlessly Parisian. Its mood lighting and undeniable sex appeal makes it a great date spot. 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 and your hot date 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.
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. Bavette’s embraces the essence of an old-timey steakhouse with a modern spruce-up, all while 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 as its ambiance convinces you of the place’s stylishness.
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 Chef Grant Achatz of the 3-Michelin Star spot Alinea. The warm and inviting 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 and 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.
Newcomer to the Chicago scene Pacific Standard Time is nailing the recipe for creating a perfect restaurant. The large space 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 wood-fired pita bread served with delicious toppings, to much heartier entrees like roasted ribeye. Drinks match the food in quality and diversity, making this a great place to start, end, or spend your evening.
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. More seating opens up on the cozy patio in the summer, making for a more available al fresco experience.