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Dec 25, 2007 08:53 PM

The perfect place to celebrate an engagement

My good friend is planning on proposing to his girlfriend while visiting us in Chicago. Since my husband & I are very new to the area, we would love some recommendations as to some consistently excellent, somewhat romantic restaurants in the moderate to high range (not too high, Alinea is definitely out!) to take them out to celebrate afterward. Perhaps French, continental, American, or Italian--I'm not so sure they're exotic-friendly.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. I don't know what "exotic friendly" means.

    There are several restaurants in Chicago that while pricey, can serve two couples a memorable meal with wine for less than $75/per person. If you want a fantastic view/romantic atmosphere you should consider Everest, Spaggia, Tru or NoMI. Of course you could easily spend 2 or 3X that at these places if you go crazy with their (pricey and extensive) wine list and/or order some fantastic de gustation, but you did ask about the "perfect place to celebrate an engagement"...

    BTW At any of these places you should expect small portions, refined flavors, and restrained service. If you or your friends don't appreciate those things you will likely be disappointed. I don't think that you can get the huge portions and in-your-face tastes of a Cheesecake Factory in any of the 'high rent' properties with fantastic views.

    NoMI -- eclectic fusion/French
    800 N. Michigan Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60611

    Tru -- eclectic 'haute cuisine'
    676 N. St. Clair St.
    Chicago, IL 60611

    Spiaggia -- innovative Italian
    980 N. Michigan Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60611

    Everestt -- mostly classical Alsatian/French inspired
    440 S. La Salle St.
    Chicago, IL 60605

    Two other places that have outstanding views (though in the winter you are mostly looking at the dark expanse of Lake Michigan of tiny twinkles of light far below) are the 95th and Cite. Neither has truly awful food, but neither would they exist if not for the uniqueness of their views...

    Cite -- closest to Cheescake Factory menu
    505 N. Lake Shore Drive
    Chicago, IL 60611

    Signature Room at the 95th -- mostly "continental" cuisine
    875 N. Michigan Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60611

    10 Replies
    1. re: renov8r

      I read the original post several times and I'm still not sure where the OP requested anything remotely "Cheesecake Factory" like. It appears that the OP was requesting romantic places that weren't too expensive and possibly not too "exotic". The OP also helpfully listed cusines that would work.

      I would recommend:

      North Pond - many posts about this place. Seems to be very romantic and beautiful as it is on the pond in the Lincoln Park Zoo.

      Chef's Station - just ate there on Saturday and it was fantastic. It's in Evanston under the Metra stop which I know doesn't sound appealing but it was a lovely space, and you couldn't hear the trains. Plus downtown Evanston is fun place to hang out after for a few drinks after dinner.

      Fiddlehead Cafe - I had an excellent meal there a couple of weeks ago. It's in Lincoln Square and again that area is very nice to walk around in afterwards.

      OP - It may help if you mention what areas you are willing to travel to. Many neighborhoods have their own niches and it would be easier to recommend based on that.

      1. re: lbs

        Just to be clear, I did not mean to denigrate the OP, their friends or Cheesecake Factory fans. Clearly a great many people really really like Cheesecake Factory. When some worries about "exotic" I tend to think they are looking for "mainstream" and that would be squarely in the CF wheelhouse...

        BTW I have eaten at Fiddlehead Cafe.I've enjoyed it. It is very close to my sister's house and while it is good food I would characterize it as "moderately priced, neighborhood appropriate, wine friendly" but NOT a "special event" place AT ALL. And while walking around Lincoln Square is pleasant enough in the fall or spring, there is nothing about doing so in the dead winter. Sadly there is not much that would fit the bill -- maybe if the Park District was a little more adventurous they might try lure a restaurant near one of the conservatories, that might be a dream location for winter romance...

        What is fun about downtown Evanston?

        1. re: renov8r

          "When some worries about "exotic" I tend to think they are looking for "mainstream" and that would be squarely in the CF wheelhouse..."

          I don't know why you would think so. there is a lot of space between mainstream and CF, IMO.....

          1. re: renov8r

            What's so fun about downtown Evanston?

            I like that you can walk around and grab a nightcap at a variety of places. That's what I like about Lincoln Square area as well. And I didn't mention Andersonville but that's another neighborhood in the same vein.

            For me, if I was celebrating a special event I'd like to go to restaurant in an area where I could continue the celebratiion after dinner if I so chose to. Thus my recommendations.

            1. re: lbs

              For me, special event means downtown Chicago. If afterward I wanted drinks and maybe some piano jazz I might head to the

              Redhead Piano Lounge
              16 W. Ontario St.
              (312) 640-1000


              Zebra Lounge
              1220 N. State Pkwy.
              (312) 642-5140


              Coq d'Or
              140 E. Walton St.
              (312) 787-2200

              The Backroom
              1007 N Rush St
              Chicago, IL 60611
              (312) 751-2433

              or maybe one of the other 9 dozen or so great spots for a nightcap in the Gold Coast -- all within walking distance of NoMi, Spiaggia, Tru and the 95th...

              1. re: renov8r

                Thank you for the list of places! I rarely go out to eat in downtown Chicago even for special events unless I'm with clients but I'm going to print out that list in case I ever do.*

                *ETA: I sound sarcastic and in all honesty that's NOT how it sounded at all in my head. I wanted to clarify because writing does not provide a lot of wiggle room when it comes to tones. I do appreciate the list because I tend to stick with the areas I grew up in and live in now(Edgewater/Uptown/Lincoln Square) and it's always good to have more places especially for higher-end places. FWIW, I consider Fiddlehead on the more expensive end of things so that's where I'm coming from.

        2. re: renov8r

          Just a note:

          Tru, Everest, and Spiaggia are all wonderful restaurants, but I think you'd really have to cut corners to come in under $75/person, particularly if you include wine, tax, and tip. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's often not very romantic to look for the lowest priced options on the menu and keep the course count down (no chocolate dessert!), and this is what you would probably need to do to come in at even under $100/couple

          1. re: jbw

            $75/person is very doable at NoMI & Spiaggia, might have to go higher at the others.

            Here is link to NoMI's honest on-line menu --

            And Spiagggia:

            1. re: renov8r

              I didn't say you couldn't do it, but to come in under $75 at Spiaggia, you'd have to order the one antipasto under $20, one of the 3 primi under $20 (and those aren't Maggiano-sized primi), and keep your drinks/wine under $40. No secondi, no dolci, no coffee. Nient'altro. Congrats on your engagement.

              1. re: jbw

                Thank you for the recommendations, everyone! We decided on Trattoria No. 10 for dinner, based on other posts about it, and drinks at Coq d'Or afterward to continue the celebration. My friend's girlfriend doesn't have a clue! I feel so sneaky... :)

        3. As far as what you are looking for, I really don't think you should consider Tru or Everest. These restaurants can be as expensive as Alinea. I agree that Nomi and Spiaggia could be done more reasonably, but I have been to these restaurants where the bill was as expensive as some dinners at Tru. Let's be reasonable, if you both order an appetizer, entree, and dessert, as well as a nice bottle of wine, the price at these restaurants can easily escalate. When I think of romantic, I think of a restaurant that is inviting, quiet, and refined.

          To me, going to the most expensive, fanciest restaurant is not always the most romantic. I personally would not want my boyfriend to propose to me at Tru, Charlie Trotter's or Alinea. And, definitely don't go to the Signature does not get anymore cliche than that!

          So, where would I like my proposal to take place. I would say not in a restaurant at all, but, everyone is different. So, my recommendations:

          Copperblue -
          Romantic, small, and they will treat you like you are royalty. To me, this is a perfect proposal restaurant.

          Les Nomades -
          In my opinion, one of the most French romantic restaurants in the city.

          Shanghai Terrace -
          An elegant and beautifully decorated Chinese restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel.

          Yes, these would definitely be my top 3 choices in the city. Keep in mind, these restaurants are not cheap, but it's an engagement afterall. You can get out of all three of these restaurants for under $200.