Grab Your S.O.: 16 Cozy Date Spots For Rad Romance

So, you've put together a killer ensemble and booked that blowout. Now, where to go with that hot date of yours? While Chicago certainly has its share of sublime restos and bars, not all of them are conducive for budding love. And, since we know you're busy (primping, of course), we've pulled together 16 of our favorite date spots that are ripe for romance—meaning, the heat you'll feel all evening won't just be coming from the kitchen.
From candlelit watering holes to cavernous nooks where you can share a dinner for deux, our list is our gift to you for, uh, getting off to a good start. As for what's after dessert, well, you're on your own.
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Thanks to its lively rooftop, this watering hole opened with a bang during the summer. While you’ll have to wait until next year to check it out, the sexy indoor lounge has plenty to offer in terms of romance. With oversized leather furniture, intricate lighting fixtures, and wood-paneled walls, the decor is reminiscent of a ritzy penthouse. Consider it yours on loan for the evening — just ignore all those other people.

Drumbar, 201 East Delaware Place (between Michigan Avenue and Dewitt Place); 312-924-2531.

Photo: Courtesy of Drumbar
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Bistro Voltaire

Chicago has its fair share of amazing French bistros, but there’s something about the classic charm at Voltaire (checkered floor, glittering chandeliers, plush red banquettes) that feels Parisian-chic. As soon as you’re done consuming your 5,000-calorie meal of escargot in puff pastry and steak frites, sit at the candlelit bar for a sipper — rather, a digestif like Calvados — to keep you from going into a food coma on your date.

Bistro Voltaire, 226 West Chicago Avenue (between Wells and Franklin Streets); 312-265-0911.

Photo: Courtesy of Bistro Voltaire
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Cru Café & Wine Bar

Not that we didn’t like Feast, but we’re really glad one of our fave date spots made a recent comeback. A flickering fireplace, romantic vintage ambiance, wine flights galore — what more could you ask for? If you said something to eat, we love Cru’s “snacks,” like stolen dates (chorizo stuffed medjool dates, wrapped in bacon, romesco sauce), fritto misto (calamari, shrimp, artichokes, lemons, capers, lemon aioli), or just a good ol' robust cheese platter with all the appropriate accoutrements.

Cru Café & Wine Bar, 25 East Delaware Place (between Wabash Avenue & State Street); 312-337-4001.

Photo: Courtesy of Cru
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The Bedford

Even if your date disappoints you, the atmosphere at this sexy drinking and dining spot most certainly will not. Upon entering a door off of Division Street, you'll descend a wraparound staircase to an 8,000-square-feet cavernous den — except you won't find a mallard duck or cherry wood shutter in sight, but rather a tasteful use of terra-cotta, marble, and terrazzo materials.

If you want to feel like a refugee, hang in the bank's original vault room filled with floor-to-ceiling lock boxes. Or, if you're looking for an experience more reminiscent of the living room of some eccentric artist, pony up to the bar or position yourself in one of the plush, elevated booths in the back (hello, date spot!). While you can have a cozy dinner for deux by the two-sided marble fireplace (everything from burgers to pork chops), The Bedford is a great place for a late (read: I don’t want the date to end) nightcap — it’s open until 3 a.m. on Saturdays.

The Bedford, 1612 West Division Street (between Ashland and Marshfield avenues); 773-235-8800.

Photo: Courtesy of The Bedford
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Ada Street

Don’t let the industrial area scare you — or your date. Just think of it as part of the speakeasy charm of Ada Street, right down to the incognito unmarked entrance. A short stroll down a dark hallway opens up into a dining room bathed in candlelight. We suggest you skip heavy mains like sirloin and opt to graze over tasty bites and libations instead — you just might want to swap the crispy garlic potatoes for polenta fries if you catch our drift. Don’t miss an opportunity to sit in the super-cozy wine library. Instead of vino, send a subliminal message to your date with one of the specialty cocktails, such as the Tangled Up In Blue.

Ada Street, 1664 North Ada Street (at Concord Place); 773-697-7069.

Photo: Courtesy of Ada Street
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Aside from being one of the hottest new tables in town, the ambiance is killer (unique lighting fixtures, marble tables, subdued color scheme) and the eats — progressive Asian cuisine — are satisfying without making you feel heavy and in need of a nap after dinner.

Embeya, 564 West Randolph Street (between Jefferson and Clinton streets); 312-612-5640.

Photo: Courtesy of Embeya
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Le Colonial

Not that we don’t love the 1920s Saigon-inspired dining room, but the sultry lounge upstairs in this classic French Vietnamese resto is reason enough to keep returning time and time again. Plush sofas, low tables, antique furnishings, oriental rugs, and potted palms transport you to a place that feels far away from the hustle and bustle of Rush Street below.

Le Colonial, 937 North Rush Street (between Walton and Oak streets); 312-255-0088.

Photo: Courtesy of Le Colonial
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North Pond

What was once a warming shelter for skaters back in the early 1900s morphed into one of Chicago’s most romantic restaurants. Nestled in the lush environs of Lincoln Park on the pond with views of the skyline, this Chicago classic should not be dismissed simply because it isn’t the newest kid on the block. As long as you’re here, we suggest the seasonal tasting menu (using fresh market ingredients from local farmers) with wine pairings.

North Pond, 2610 North Cannon Drive (between Fullerton Avenue and Lake Shore Drive West); 773- 477-5845.

Photo: Courtesy of North Pond
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Lula Café

You know (and love) Lula Café for brunch, but have you tried it as a late-night date destination? Seriously, its cozy, candlelit bar is open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday — and 1 a.m. on every other night but Tuesday. Trade your usual omelet and mimosa for some beet bruschetta with whipped goat cheese and a glass of vino. The only thing missing? The insane crowds.

Lula Café, 2537 North Kedzie Boulevard (between Altgeld Street and Albany Avenue); 773-489-9554.

Photo: Courtesy of Lula Cafe
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Maude’s Liquor Bar

If you’re looking for a see-and-be-seen dating destination, Maude’s fits the bill. The French-inspired bar-resto may pay homage to forgotten French dive bars, but it’s anything but divey — especially with an impressive list of 1920s-inspired cocktails and fois gras pate on the menu. If you are looking to escape some of the downstairs madness, head to the cavernous (and extremely romantic) upstairs respite.

Maude’s Liquor Bar, 840 West Randolph Street (between Green and Peoria Street); 312-243-9712.

Photo: Courtesy of Maude's
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If you’re looking for a cozy, romantic Italian restaurant that isn’t all about checkered tablecloths and Frank Sinatra, head to Prosecco. The decor is Venetian-inspired, completed with golden walls, a mother-of-pearl-colored ceiling, wooden Italian wall sconces, and silk damask curtains. Before or after you feast on a meal of epic proportions (all the stick-to-your-ribs Italian faves are represented and then some), take a seat at the 35-foot bar — reminiscent of 18th century Venetian furniture — for a glass of bubbly.

Prosecco, 710 North Wells Street (between Superior and Huron streets); 312-951-9500.

Photo: Courtesy of Prosecco
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The Library Bar at Public

We love this hotel bar — and not just because it’s one of the hottest in town. It has all the criteria for sizzling date: a roaring fire, oversized couches, dim lighting, and a good stiff drink worth the buck. It can get crowded on the weekends though, so if you want that coveted fireside spot, arrive early — or go during the week.

The Library Bar at Public, 1301 North State Parkway (at Goethe Street); 312-787-3700.

Photo: Courtesy of Public
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Sepia is everything a high-end restaurant should be. It has insanely beautiful decor (check that lighting fixture!), cozy tables for two, delicious, modern food (bring on the crispy skate wing with black garlic gnocchi), and out-of-this-world cocktails — like the apricot old-fashioned — that you could sip with your date all night long if you didn’t have to worry about the result the next morning.

Sepia, 123 North Jefferson Street (between Washington and Randolph streets); 312-441-1920.

Photo: Courtesy of Sepia
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Take a trip to Greece at this cozy Wicker Park restaurant — but just don’t look for the flaming cheese. The owner created an incredibly authentic menu (don’t miss the green lentil soup) based on his Greek heritage and expansive travels throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. As for the ambiance, there’s plenty. Byzantine-style light fixtures, an intricate carved ceiling, and arched doorways create an exotic atmosphere we’d like to call cozy.

Taxim, 1558 North Milwaukee Avenue (between Damen and North avenues); 773-252-1558.

Photo: Courtesy of Taxim
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The Gage

Truth: This place gets packed, but if you’re doing the after-work date thing, its proximity to the Loop (and soon-to-be ice skating in Millennium Park) is perfect. With dark-mood lighting and sectioned- off seating with deep leather booths and banquets, every seat has a feeling of privacy and intimacy — which you might want when slurping down those mussels with your Guinness.

The Gage, 24 South Michigan Avenue (between Madison and Monroe streets); 312-372-4243.

Photo: Courtesy of The Gage
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Whether you sit at a table or the candlelit bar, this is one cozy, little spot, thanks to features like dark wood paneling and cool lighting fixtures that impart a soft glow. It’s also a great pick if you’re not ready for the whole dinner thing but still want to nibble on a little something (cheese, oysters), so that carafe of wine doesn’t go straight to your head — not a good way to make a first impression.

Telegraph, 2601 North Milwaukee Avenue (between Logan Boulevard and Kedzie Avenue); 773-292- 9463.

Photo: Courtesy of Telegraph