Valentine's Day is almost here, a time for love and romance and chocolate and fondue for two. When it comes to romantic dining in Chicago, there are plenty of options, from nautical aphrodisiacs to heart-shaped pizzas and more.
The Purple Pig (500 N. Michigan Ave.)
Champagne may take the crown as the beverage of choice for New Year's, but red wine reigns supreme on Valentine's Day. The robust elixir is said to be the most aphrodisiacal of all alcoholic beverages, and it's in great supply at The Purple Pig, a restaurant so passionate about vino that its name derives from the hue of red wine. The all-European wine list features reds from France, Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Spain, perfectly matched with the Mediterranean menu of seasonal antipasti, salads, charcuterie, cheese, and grilled share plates. After all, nothing is quite as romantic as sharing plates and drinking red wine with your lover.
Pearl Tavern (180 N. Upper Wacker Dr.)
Oysters are the quintessential aphrodisiac, said to instill passion and romance in ardent bivalve-lovers and seafood-slurpers. One of the best destinations for oyster obsessives is Pearl Tavern, an opulent American oyster bar new to the Financial District. With a design inspired by the golden era of the 1950's, Pearl Tavern sets the foundation for a truly romantic dining experience, highlighted by an ever-changing roster of East and West Coast oysters. Along with a seafaring menu of fish tacos, salmon burgers, mussels, and swordfish, diners can partake in oysters by the half dozen or dozen, depending on your desired romantic stamina.
Katherine Anne Confections (2745 W. Armitage Ave.)
Valentine's Day and chocolate go together like Cupid and arrows. And when it comes to Valentine's chocolates, one surefire way to outdo the typical heart-shaped box of chocolates is with any of the decadent truffles at Katherine Anne Confections. The Logan Square chocolate shop is a Wonka-like wonderland of chocoholic desires, exhibited in outre truffles such as passion fruit-ginger, raspberry-rose, cherry-Earl Grey-caramel, and candied carrot-caramel. These flavors comprise Katherine Anne's current roster of Valentine's Day truffles, but you can't go wrong with any of their daily offerings, from thick-as-pudding hot chocolate topped with housemade marshmallows to treacly caramels and housemade s'mores. It's chocolate euphoria.
Graham Elliot Bistro (841 W. Randolph St.)
This Valentine's Day, Graham Elliot Bistro goes all out with the heart theme. Romaine hearts, beef heart, hearts of palm, and artichoke hearts are a few of the "hearty" ingredients rounding out the masterful V-Day degustations at the West Loop eatery. The restaurant is offering two different tasting menus for the holiday, but rest assured that each will be just as heartwarming. Wine pairings and cocktails are also available.
tesori (65 E. Adams St.)
Nothing warms the heart quite like cheese-laden comfort food, especially when said comfort food is shaped like an actual heart. Cue the heart-shaped pizzas at tesori, the Loop's preeminent destination for Italian cuisine. The upscale eatery is revered for its top-notch pizzas, and for Valentine's Day the restaurant skews romantic by shaping the dough into hearts and topping it with the likes of truffle mascarpone béchamel, mozzarella, truffle pecorino, and arugula. One killer variety features a sweet-and-savory medley of strawberries, mascarpone béchamel, mozzarella, arugula, and chocolate sauce.
Mercadito (108 W. Kinzie St.)
Pomegranates are the love fruit, and they're at their loveliest when steeped in tequila and rum. Enter Mercadito. Love Potion Number 9 is a special cocktail designed for Valentine's Day by beverage partners The Tippling Bros. Along with pomegranate, the drink features tequila reposado, dark rum, brown sugar syrup, lemon, and lime. This alluring potable is available on Valentine's Day only, so grab someone you love and get drinking.
Photos: The Purple Pig, Pearl Tavern, Katherine Anne Confections, tesori