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Jan 18, 2009 07:57 PM

River North for Valentine's Day

Hi there. This is my first post. I've spent all day reading the posts here and now my brain is fried and I still don't know what to do!

The deal:
Husband and I are headed to Chicago for the weekend (first getaway w/o the kids in 3 years--woo hoo!). We are staying in River North and because we only have about 48 hours in the city we don't want to travel too far to eat Saturday night. My first thought was a steakhouse but I'm rethinking that. Honestly, I'm not sure I would enjoy myself spending major bucks on a piece of meat. I'd rather put the money toward another glass of wine. So good atmosphere (cozy a plus), not too expensive (say under $150), and not too far from River North. Ability to make a reservation would also be nice, since it's Valentine's Day and places will be packed. I'm not opposed to something ethnic as long as the atmosphere worked. We do have plans to go to Lao Sze Chuan Sunday night for hotpot though. Had it in China 2 years ago and can't find it where we live.

I'm intrigued by Cafe Iberico, Cafe Spiaggio and Quartino's. Quartino's seems like it might be too loud though. Cafe Spiaggio might be borderline too pricey? Thought about hitting the Signature Lounge for a cocktail before dinner, just for kicks. Is this a good idea or maybe there's a nice wine bar in the neighborhood we should go to instead?

Would love any other suggestions and thanks in advance. We love good food but aren't such gourmands that we need to be super impressed. It will be such a treat just to go out by ourselves that we're going to be happy no matter what!


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  1. I think Cafe Spiaggia is a great idea. No, it's not too pricey! In fact, it's one of the more reasonable mid-priced Italian restaurants in the city, as well as possibly the best. Entree prices are in the mid twenties. You can view the menu, with prices, on their website at The only downside may be that the distance depends on where you are in River North. It's at the north end of the "Magnificent Mile" of North Michigan Avenue, which puts it very close to the Signature Room for that before-dinner drink. As an alternative, if you're staying closer to the river, such as at Hotel Sax or the Marriott, you could do the before-dinner drink at Bin 36 ( ), the wine bar at Marina City, and then head a few blocks west to Coco Pazzo ( ) or a few blocks east to Coco Pazzo Cafe ( ). The latter is slightly less expensive than Cafe Spiaggia, the former is somewhat more expensive than Cafe Spiaggia. Quartino is also a good choice and their "small plates" format tends to be slightly less expensive also. Within this group, I consider Cafe Spiaggia the best, with Coco Pazzo a very close runner-up.

    I would not recommend Cafe Iberico on a weekend, especially Valentine's Day weekend, unless you're going at an off hour, since they don't accept reservations for parties smaller than six people, and you can encounter long waits for a table.

    If you'd like to consider contemporary American food rather than Italian, you might want to consider Aigre Doux, also in River North. It's one of our very best such restaurants (excluding the super-fancy super-expensive places). As another possibility, if you'd like a French bistro, Brasserie Jo is in River North.

    Two caveats about Valentine's Day itself. One is that some restaurants serve a "special" menu that day, with prices that are higher than usual. The other is that, since it's on a Saturday night this year, it's going to be very busy, so reservations are a must - and you should be doing so NOW. All of the restaurants mentioned here other than Cafe Iberico accept reservations on and you can also find information on special Valentine's Day menus there, at (That web page shows only the special menus for Valentine's Day; go to the main Opentable page to make reservations at any of their 400+ restaurants in the Chicago area.)

    Feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!

    1. Valentine's Day is one of the most difficult days to get a good reservation and a night when you can expect nice -- and not so nice restaurants -- will be slammed.

      I recommend that you act quickly. You might want to use to locate a place in River North or the Gold Coast/Streeterville neighborhoods that will work for you. If you're not familiar with it, Open Table does include approximate prices ($, $$, $$$, $$$$). Give your price point and interest in "another glass of wine," I wouldn't go above the $$ designation, but those are not always accurate and it depends on how you order. A shared appetizer, two entrees and a shared dessert is something we often do.

      Now to get to your suggested options: Iberico is causal fun -- tapas, easy to get into and manage cost. Cafe Spiaggio is certainly the best food. Quartino's is ok Italian, a little noisy.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        The Signature Room is so nice but may be way too pricey for you. Check it out. It's on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building.

        1. re: LadyintheKitchen

          If you just go for a drink and the (free) view, it's not all *that* pricey...

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Thanks everyone for all the great recommendations. I had looked into most of those but your mention of them helps me narrow down the choices. I think I've got it down to Aigre Doux, Cafe Spiaggia and Coco Pazzo. (Brasserie Jo looks great but we had a "bistro" dinner here in town recently so I'd like to do something different.) I think I'll refer the hubbie to the websites and let him pick. Hope to make a reservation today....and if we can't get one, we'll just switch to Sunday. Neither of us cares whether we're actually dining on V Day or not. In fact, it occurred to me that the Sign. Lounge (for drinks only) and all these places might be such a zoo that night that we're better of dining Sunday. I will let you know how it goes!

      2. I love Quartino's, but it is definitely loud and not very romantic.
        Coco Pazzo is very good and more romantic, but definitely pricier than Quartino's.

        I think the Signature Lounge is always a fun idea--that way you don't have to pay to go up the elevator, although you'll pay dearly for drinks! But, it's fun. The view from the women's bathroom is the best in the city.