Love is in the air (and on the plate) at Chicago restaurants, as Valentine's Day draws near. From couples' menus to romantic prix fixe tastings, here are some of Chicago's top spots for Valentine's Day dining.
Sable Kitchen & Bar (505 N. State St.)
Let's cut right to the chase. When it comes to Valentine's Day dining, you need multiple courses and multiple cocktails. Sable Kitchen & Bar is a deserving destination, seamlessly fitting the bill for both cravings. The restaurant is serving a five-course tasting menu for Valentine's Day weekend (both February 13 and 14), with optional cocktail pairings. The food menu features a first course of oyster with caviar and Champagne Sabayon, followed by crispy Brie with pine nut, arugula, fig, and honeycomb. Third if scallop with potato puree, truffle, and vanilla, and beef short rib is next, adjoined by wild mushrooms, black garlic, coffee, and chili. For dessert, it's banana soufflé with chocolate and rum. The food menu is $55 per person, with an extra $45 for cocktail pairings, which have been specially created for the evening by head bartender John Stanton.
Piccolo Sogno (464 N. Halsted St.)
Piccolo Sogno Due (340 N. Clark St.)
Italian food is an apt direction to go in for Valentine's Day, considering the sheer innate romanticism of dishes like risotto, pasta, and sea salt-crusted whole fish. All of these items can be had at sister restaurants Piccolo Sogno and Piccolo Sogno Due this year, with the former serving up heartwarming specials like zuppa di crostacei (shellfish and tomato soup with garlic crostini and poached shellfish), salmone affumicato (hand-tossed pizza with smoked salmon, caviar, and dill), and risotto all'Aragosta (lobster risotto with brandy, tomatoes, and tarragon). Piccolo Sogno Due, meanwhile, will be featuring its own Valentine's Day menu with items like ostriche al forno (wood-roasted St. Anne oysters with garlic, breadcrumbs, and white wine), cuori di salmone auffmicato con aragosta (heart-shaped pasta stuffed with smoked salmon and mascarpone cheese), and pesce intero (Sicilian sea salt-crusted whole turbot with braised fennel and citrus-caper reduction).
Osteria Via Stato (620 N. State St.)
In other savorous Italian news, Osteria Via Stato has an alluring menu all its own this year. Available all weekend long for dinner, chef David DiGregorio will feature a four-course tasting affair along with a complimentary toast of sparkling rosé. The menu consists of antipasti like house-marinated olives, Italian vegetable salad, 'nduja-stuffed dates, and mini veal meatballs. Then it's a pasta course of tortiglioni with roasted tomato cream, basil, and Grana. For the main course, guests select their preferred dish from options of beef tenderloin with wild mushrooms and Marsala, seafood stew, chicken Mario, short rib with roasted tomatoes and red wine sauce, crispy polenta with beluga lentils and local root vegetables, and Maine lobster and truffle risotto. Finally, dessert options include extra bittersweet chocolate truffles with candied orange or housemade wild cherry stracciatella gelato. The cost for the tasting menu is $85 per person.
Boka (1729 N. Halsted St.)
One of the most romantic restaurants in town, Boka is a great spot to keep in mind for Valentine's Day dates. Especially when this year's menu features a seven-course degustation filled with the likes of crab with cauliflower, sea urchin with apple, black winter truffle with ricotta gnudi, and grilled beef short rib with bitter greens, chestnuts, and celery root. The cost is $125 per person, with option wine pairings for $55.
Everest (440 S. LaSalle St.)
Another supremely romantic destination in Chicago is Everest, the French-accented gem located 40 stories above the Loop. Here, the sweeping views of the iconic Chicago skyline are matched only by the impeccable cooking of chef Jean Joho. Don't miss the special Valentine's Day menu on hand February 13 and 14, wherein Joho's dexterity and skill will be on full display via a multi-course chef's tasting menu for $185 per person.
South Water Kitchen (225 N. Wabash Ave.)
South Water Kitchen is opting to keep things (refreshingly) affordable this year, with a three-course tasting menu for two at just $80 per couple. This also includes a bottle of Prosecco. Dishes for two include lobster tortellini with lobster cream, shaved black truffle, and micro chives; seared sea bass with beluga lentils, Wagyu short rib ragout, and charred baby carrots; and red velvet churros with vanilla sugar and bourbon-cream cheese glaze. The menu is available both February 13 and 14.
Bohemian House (11 W. Illinois St.) (NOW CLOSED)
Go Eastern European this Valentine's Day with a tasting of Bohemian House's swoon-worthy holiday specials. The River North restaurant will be cooking up "Chef's Cellar" lobster egg noodles with black trumpet mushrooms, carrots, pistachio, and brandy cream, perfect for sharing with a loved one. Or opt for the burger for the "lonely hearts," available at the bar. Ideal for diners eschewing Valentine's Day date traditions, the burger is made with a potato bun, Emmentaler cheese, sauerkraut, fried egg, and horseradish cream. Said specials are available for dinner February 12 through February 14.
David Burke's Primehouse (616 N. Rush St.)
For the steak-loving set, you're in the right town for it. Among the best destinations for Valentine's Day steak cravings, David Burke's Primehouse fits the bill with special cocktail and Champagne options to round out its regular menu of dry-aged steaks, oysters, lobster scrambled eggs, and other decadent steakhouse dishes. Featured beverage specials available February 12 through February 14 include Mauve Violette cocktails made with Champagne Henriot and creme de violette; Henriot Brut Souverain Champagne by the glass of bottle; Ruinart Brut Rosé Champagne by the glass or bottle; Jean Lallement et Fils Brut Epernay by the bottle; and much more.
The Betty (839 W. Fulton Market)
The Betty takes a most interesting approach to thematic Valentine's Day dining this year. Considering how love "makes the world go round," the Fulton Market restaurant and cocktail Mecca is featuring a four-course menu centered around "round" foods, like four-cheese arancini, housemade spaghetti with meatballs, and others. The cost for the menu, available through Valentine's weekend, is $49 per person.
Ada St. (1664 N. Ada St.)
Another offbeat inspired option is Ada St., which is taking a cue from the "Netflix and chill" pastime. Especially apt during the winter months, the casual tradition lends a sense of homey comfort to a duo of four-course menu options February 13 and 14. Popular takeout fare like Italian and Chinese beget inspired tasting menus courtesy of chef Joanna Stachon. Dishes include Peektoe crab rangoon; housemade mozzarella sticks with spicy marinara; General Tso pork belly fried rice; and housemade fettuccini with rabbit sausage, grilled rapini, and pesto. Both menus are $40 per person, with optional wine pairings for $20 apiece.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken (3361 N. Elston Ave.)
The couple that slurps together stays together. Or so it goes at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, which keeps things casual this year with their limited time special of Honey Butter Fried Chicken Ramen served with pimento cheese dashi, fried chicken, candied jalapenos, and noodles for $10. The special is available February 12 through February 14 for dine-in or takeout.
Tanta (118 W. Grand Ave.)
Since Valentine's Day is all about hearts, it makes sense to cook up some literal hearts for the holiday. For the adventurous, Tanta's chef Jesus Delgado has some heart specials on hand February 11 through February 14, including corazon anticucho (chicken heart with aji amarillo, scallion sauce, fingerling potatoes, and anticuchera) and "heart-artare," which is beef heart tartare with anticuchera aioli, cured egg yolk, avocado mousse, arugula salad, garlic chips, and huacatay sauce. To drink, guests can order the heart-free La Guapa, a cocktail made with CH Lavender Gin, rhubarb, lemon, and Anna Codorniu Brut Rosé.
Shaw's Crab House (21 E. Hubbard St.)
Considering seafood's innate proclivity for aphrodisiacs, it would be smart to hit up Shaw's Crab House for a nautical romantic feast this Valentine's Day. The restaurant has both dinner and brunch offerings in order, with a four-course tasting menu for dinner on February 14 and a special Valentine's Day buffet earlier that day. The dinner menu, priced at $80 per person (or $120 with optional wine pairings), features a chilled seafood platter for two; choice of lobster bisque or mixed greens salad; choice of grilled New Zealand Ora King salmon, 10 oz. filet mignon with Bearnaise sauce, or Alaskan king crab legs with drawn butter. For dessert, pick between ricotta cheesecake or triple layer chocolate cake.
Kinmont (419 W. Superior St.)
With a menu inspired by Frank Sinatra, you know the "Beyond the Sea" menu at Kinmont is bound to be romantic. The intimate seafood haven presents a four-course prix fixe for $65 per person, with dishes like bay scallop ceviche, shrimp bisque, seared salmon in creamy beurre blanc, and key lime pie. Beverage pairings will be available for an additional $25.
Ruxbin (851 N. Ashland Ave.)
At Ruxbin, guinea fowl takes the stage for a special Valentine's Day dinner menu like no other. Using poultry sourced from a small farm in California, the kitchen goes whole-bird with a multi-course degustation consisting of liver pate, dark meat crepes with hoisin, and breast meat with duck jus and sweet potato puree. There will also be a seasonal dessert and a "take-home" course wherein the kitchen packs up the carcass with a jar of mirepoix, herbs, and a recipe card for stock.
The Violet Hour (1520 N. Damen Ave.)
The Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
Lastly, if drinking craft cocktails are more your priority this Valentine's Day, The Violet Hour and The Whistler have you covered with two unique offerings. The former, which just so happens to be a candlelit oasis of romantic ambiance, is hosting a ticketed event with a special cocktail menu and table-side Champagne cocktails. Seatings are available at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., priced at $75 per person. Contact email@example.com to reserve your spots.
For something a bit more musical, The Whistler will welcome Brasstax for a special DJ set called "Lovers/Loners" on February 13. The first session is "LOVERS" from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., featuring slow songs and candlelit cocktails. This then transitions into "LONERS" from 10:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m., which gets upbeat with a dance floor and energizing music. Then on Sunday night, another special musical evening will take place called "Milk Pleasures: My Bloody Valentine's Day," with live music by Ganser and live performing acts by music writer and photographer Meagan Fredette.
Cover photo: Boka, by Eric Benjamin Kleinberg
Photos: Sable Kitchen & Bar, Everest, David Burke's Primehouse, Tanta