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Jan 3, 2013 12:32 PM

Romantic Anniversary Dinner

Hi. I'm looking for a Tapas/Fondue type romantic place in Downtown Chicago preferably a restaurant that offers special dessert/coffee. I'm looking for a formal place (think dressed up but not stuffy) but I'd prefer to not spend a lot.

I really want it to be special and I'm new to the area so any suggestions would be great. Thanks!

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  1. There are a lot of ideas floating around in your post, and some of them contradict others. For example, the places with formal attire are all quite expensive. And it's not clear what you're looking for. For example, what constitutes "romantic" - a place with a view? A relatively quiet place? A place that isn't too crowded? And when you say you'd prefer to not spend a lot, what do you mean - a place that costs $50 a person with a drink and tax/tip, or $100, or $200?

    I'll describe a few places that might or might not fit what you're looking for. Then maybe you can say what you do or don't like about these places, to give us a better idea of what might fit your needs.

    TRU is a high-end restaurant, with formal attire (jackets required for gentlemen), very elegant, contemporary decor, creative and delicious food, and exquisite service. Among other things, they offer a dessert tasting. Expect to spend $200-250 per person including moderate alcohol and tax/tip.

    North Pond is a short cab ride from downtown. It is romantic in part because of its exquisite setting, in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself, not the adjacent neighborhood of the same name). It faces its namesake pond, with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore. One of the two dining rooms has huge windows looking out over the pond. The renovated building formerly served as a warming shelter for skaters on the pond in winter. Business casual attire prevails. The cuisine is contemporary American, from James Beard Award winner Chef Bruce Sherman. Expect to spend $100-130/person inclusive.

    Mercat a la Planxa is a tapas (Spanish) restaurant in the Loop. It has a large dining room on the second floor with high celings, and a lively night club-like atmosphere. Attire is generally business casual or slightly more casual. Typical checks are $70-85/person inclusive.

    Sable is in the Hotel Palomar. They have a couple of dining rooms, the main one featuring an open kitchen. Decor is minimalist contemporary, with big windows facing the sidewalk outside. The menu features contemporary American cuisine in a small plates format; most of the dishes are available in half portions so you can try a lot of different things. They also offer craft cocktails from one of the best barstaffs in the city. Attire is "anything goes" and you'll see casual attire at a table next to another with people dressed up. Expect to spend $50-70/person inclusive.

    If you like, you can check out the menus for these places on their websites, to help you decide what sounds good to you:

    With a bit of feedback from you, we can probably provide more suggestions in addition to these.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      I thought of yet another possibility, so I'll throw it out there for you to reflect on how it might fit. Again, we really need feedback from you on what you're looking for, especially on your desired price point.

      La Sardine is a French bistro in the West Loop, just west of the Loop. The atmosphere is lively bistro, with brick walls and a partition separating the bar side of the room from the dining side. The food is traditional French bistro fare. They accept reservations over the phone and on their own website, but not on Opentable. Dinner entrees are in the low twenties and you can expect to pay $40-55 per person, inclusive. They have half-price bottles of wine on Mondays, and a prix fixe special on Tuesdays with any three courses for $27.50.

      1. re: nsxtasy

        La Sardine can get quite loud so that might interfere with the "Romance" :)

    2. Cranberrysauce, if you don't want to spend a lot (and I'm not sure what "a lot" is for you), Tru and North Pond are probably not for you.

      Sable is not expensive, but (certain poster's protestations not withstanding) it is primarily a bar - a great bar with a menu that has chapters. The food is mostly small plates, much of it is good and often creative bar food. Is that romantic for you? Only you can say.

      You asked about a tapas or fondue type place. Mercat does fit the bill. For less costly tapas in the downtown area (albeit probably not as romantic a spot) you might consider Cafe Iberico.

      If you want to go outside of the downtown area, Gejas cafe is a pretty small, romantic spot that has been serving fondue for as long as I can remember (and that's a long time!). It's a little north of the downtown area. Their menu says prices range from $23/person for cheese and chocolate fondue to $52/ person for a combination fondue and lots of options in between.

      Not far from Gejas is Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba which is similarly small and romantic and tapas-based. The pricing would be similar to Iberico in a nicer location, just not in the downtown area.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        >> Sable is not expensive, but (certain poster's protestations not withstanding) it is primarily a bar

        We continue to endure the repeated protestations of a certain poster who argues endlessly over semantic distinctions. The fact is, Sable is a great restaurant with great food, a place I continue to enjoy for dinner (as well as the occasional lunch and brunch). Like many restaurants, you can get drinks at the bar (and also food, if you like), and you can get food in the dining room (and also drinks, if you like). Whether it's what you're looking for in a romantic place, you will have to decide for yourself.

        >> You asked about a tapas or fondue type place. Mercat does fit the bill. For less costly tapas in the downtown area (albeit probably not as romantic a spot) you might consider Cafe Iberico.

        Be aware, Cafe Iberico does not accept reservations, and waits can be lengthy, especially on weekends. The other places mentioned here - TRU, North Pond, Mercat a la Planxa, Sable, and Geja's - all accept reservations, over the phone as well as at

        1. re: chicgail

          I have to agree with chicgail's response, especially in regards to skipping Sable for a romantic anniversary dinner- much better for cocktails and maybe an app or two. Also, if you want fondue, I agree, Geja's is a really neat old-school place - dark, underground, live music, good food, a real "experience" kind of place.

          For tapas, I personally wouldn't consider anything but Mercat a la Planxa- much better than the others, I think, for both food and atmosphere.

        2. Happy Anniversary! It would be helpful to know your budget, and if it includes drinks, tax, and tip or not, as "a lot" means very different things to different people. Please also clarify where you mean by "Downtown Chicago," as to some it is only within the Loop, primarily a financial district, some add River North, Mag Mile, West Loop, etc, and I had a friend who lived in Deerfield who called my Lakeview apartment "downtown"! You might also tell us other places you've been, here or elsewhere (Hounds do tend to travel to eat, you know), you have enjoyed.

          1. If you are able to drive...perhaps Michael in Winnetka or Quince in Evanston?

            1 Reply
            1. re: ChicagoKorean

              Both Michael and Quince are also within walking distance of public transportation from downtown Chicago which operates well into the evening. Michael is half a block from the Indian Hill stop on Metra's UP-North Line. And Quince is half a mile from the Davis Street stop on both Metra's UP-North Line and the CTA Purple Line.

              That being said, there are plenty of good choices in the city, too, so you don't *have* to travel outside the city.