Has Friday night become your designated date night? While some people may enjoy cooking together with a bottle of vino, there are others who love the idea of leaving the confines of their home and finding a romantic spot for two. After all, you cook all week long. Leave the cooking to the experts tonight! If you think you’ve exhausted all of your options when it comes to surprising your sweetie with the ultimate dinner out, then it’s time you added these romantic Illinois gems to your list.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Cannova’s Italian Restaurant, Freeport
If you are in the mood for a little Italian with a side of amore, then you’ll want to head to this family-owned restaurant that offers live piano music on Fridays and Saturdays. Enjoy being serenaded by the soothing white ivories while noshing on generous portions of mouthwatering pastas, juicy steaks or even award-winning pizza by candlelight. Treat yourself to a bottle of wine and a little dessert (it’s date night; you deserve it!).
1101 W. Empire Street, Freeport
2. Orom Restaurant, Dixon
While the storefront might not scream “romantic,” the meal you’re about to enjoy will prove otherwise. This quaint little bistro tucked away in this western Illinois city is a fine dining experience you and your honey won’t soon forget. Through passion, soulfulness and camaraderie the chef’s goal is to create a magical evening (after all, Orom is Hungarian for “Joy”) of epicurean wonder with tempting Mediterranean salads, seared duck breast with caramelized cherry glaze or a smoked lake trout on a bed of creamy mascarpone risotto.
308 West 1st Street, Dixon
3. Francesca’s Fortunato, Frankfort
With a stunning bar, a cozy fireplace, and a beautiful meal, you are sure to impress your love when you head to Frankfort for your next dinner outing. With impeccable service, delicious drinks and gorgeous plates such as tortellacci tartufati (cheese-filled pasta with tomatoes, garlic parmesan cream sauce, and a kiss of white truffle oil) this place is sure to become your new favorite place. Weekends can be busy here at Francesca’s Fortunato, which can make for a boisterous dining room. So if you and your sweetie want to enjoy a rousing conversation over dinner you may want to choose a weeknight or ask for a table that’s more secluded.
40 Kansas St., Frankfort
4. Gravina 801, Bradley
Facebook/Gravina 801 Italian Cuisine
Another incredible Italian dining experience, Gravina 801 offers exquisite meals like fettuccine with homemade Alfredo sauce or shrimp and lobster ravioli. Can’t make up your mind? Now you don’t have to with the pasta sampler or La Davina Combo (fettuccini Alfredo, chicken parmesan and lasagna with hearty marinara). With bottomless pasta bowl specials on Tuesdays and half-price appetizers on Wednesdays, any night can become date night.
801 W. Broadway St., Bradley
5. RM Champagne Lounge, Chicago
Facebook/RM Champagne Salon
Nothing screams romantic like champagne, so what better way to celebrate a lovely Friday night or perhaps a special occasion than at a bonafide champagne bar? Tucked away behind industrial buildings and lofts within West Loop, at first glance you may be confused by the wonderland-esque cobblestone alley that leads you to this restaurant, but what you will find is nothing short of magical. During the summer months sip champagne under a sky full of twinkle light. Nibble on plates of beautiful creamy cheeses, charcuteries or—dare we say it—the lobster deviled eggs (go on; you know you want to). Enjoy a wintry evening inside surrounded by Elizabethan-style furniture, tapered candles and elegant chandeliers.
116 Green St, Chicago
6. Dancing Marlin, Frankfort
If you are a professed seafood lover and never been to Dancing Marlin then you are missing out on a true gem. While decked out in pure nautical theme enjoy tapas American-style by ordering a few dishes to share with your sweetheart; however, romance doesn’t always mean having to share and if your stomach is ravenous choose from stunning entrees like seared Ahi tuna, crab-stuffed peppers or delicious comfort foods like shrimp and grits. Wash your meal down with one of the 18 different wines that they serve on tap or choose from one of eight handcrafted cocktails.
20590 South La Grange Road, Frankfort
7. The Princess Café, Beecher
If you want the love of your life to feel like a princess for the evening then what better place to make a delicious pit stop than the Princess Café? With just one bite of the melt-in-your-mouth beef tournedos and your romantic evening will surely blossom. For a special occasion, consider sharing the Chateaubriand for Two to commemorate your evening together. But don’t forget to save room for turtle cheesecake, Italian lemon cream layer cake or creamy tiramisu.
502 Dixie Highway, Beecher
8. Koi Asian Bistro, Bourbonnais
If you and your significant other think a romantic evening entails an exotic meal, then Koi Asian Bistro is sure to delight. Enjoy a cocktail at the sleek illuminated bar while indulging in expertly prepared sushi rolls. If sushi isn’t your style, you can find an array of Thai and Chinese cuisine that is sure to get the tastebuds humming and leave you satisfied. Plus, with a beautiful relaxing atmosphere to boot, this might become your new favorite date night spot.
906 N. Convent St, Bourbonnais
9. Nick and Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse, Springfield
Facebook/ Nick and Nino’s—Penthouse Steakhouse
If a steak dinner screams romance, then what’s more perfect then the refined Nick and Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse? With around 898 reviews and an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars on OpenTable, you are sure to have a memorable and elegant evening. Located in the Wyndham Springfield City Center, take in beautiful views of Springfield from 30 floors up while enjoying a fine Cabernet or Pinot Noir with your hearty, luscious filet.
700 E. Adams St., Floor 30, Springfield
10. Bimbo’s Italian Restaurant, McHenry
We know that a lot of upscale Italian restaurants are gracing our presence on this list but can you blame us? Clearly the Italians know how to make an evening unforgettable. What is more romantic that enjoying from-scratch pasta with your sweetie over a hearty glass of red wine? Enjoy country rigatoni with pancetta and Italian sausage in a decadent tomato cream sauce or lobster-stuffed ravioli with toasted walnuts. Just don’t forget to save room for the homemade carrot cake slathered in Bimbo’s famous cream cheese frosting (you won’t be sorry!).
1318 N. Riverside Dr., McHenry
11. The Newell House, Carbondale
Facebook/The Newell House
If the crooning of live jazz gets you in the mood then head to this casual yet unique restaurant that caters mouthwatering American fare like succulent prime rib, veal scallopine or crab cakes. Once your feast is done the fun isn’t over. Head down to the Grotto Lounge (open Tuesdays through Saturdays) and enjoy live jazz music on Thursdays or other live bands throughout the weekend. Relax and unwind with a lush cocktail and hold on to your lover’s hand while listening to some sultry jazz tunes.
201 E. Main St., Carbondale
12. EDGE, Peoria
A 2015 Diner’s Choice winner from OpenTable, it won’t take long to discover why they won this award. The decadent farm-to-table preparation coupled with eclectic pizzazz is sure to tempt your palette. You’re getting a home cooked meal without all the work (or kitchen mess to clean up), as about 90 percent of everything on the menu is from one of the 75 local farms in the area. Find yourself riveted by the poached salmon swimming in a sea of thyme cream sauce or the ribeye pan roasted to perfection and drizzled with red wine reduction.
5832 N. Knoxville Ave, Peoria
13. STK, Chicago
This swanky joint boasts the highest quality seafood and steaks while enjoying a romantic evening in the Windy City. Start the night off right with a Manhattan or top-shelf martini. For you steak lovers out there, choose from delectable toppings like truffle butter or lobster with your mouthwatering filet, or enjoy other delicious favorites like Chilean sea bass or grilled lobster Rockefeller.
9 W. Kinzie St., Chicago
14. The Country Mansion, Dwight
This beautiful and historic Victorian home will welcome you to your next date night extravaganza. After all, this is a popular location for weddings and anniversary, so it has to know how to do a romantic evening right. You will feel like love is in the air when you enjoy a perfectly seasoned parmesan-baked tilapia or a bacon-wrapped beef tender (because what says love better than bacon?).
101 W. South St., Dwight
15. The Maine Course, Quincy
Within Illinois’ very own “Gem City” is a hidden gem of fine dining known as the Maine Course. Maine Course prides itself on going out of its way to fine the highest quality ingredients, whether they are locally grown or half way across the globe. With a minimalist style that’s still warm and inviting you can choose from a plethora of tempting cocktails while savoring every morsel of your sous vide pork chop, duck confit burger or vegetarian couscous.
626 Maine St., Quincy
16. Andria’s Countryside Restaurant, Edwardsville
If you love the idea of a cozy down-home atmosphere then you will love what Andria’s Countryside Restaurant has to offer with its five acres of wooded bliss at the edge of Edwardsville. Andria’s is the first restaurant in the country to be licensed to serve USDA prime-certified Angus beef. Provided by Niman Ranch in San Francisco, you can trust that the steak is hormone and antibiotic free. If vegetables are what’s for dinner, then you’ll enjoy the freshest of ingredients from their very own 500-square-foot garden. Start with the baked Brie cheese or crab-stuffed mushrooms before moving on to the Delmonico steak served with signature sauces like the Sophia sauce, which boasts sautéed shrimp and Portobello mushroom blanketed under a rich crab cognac cream sauce.
7415 State Route 143, Edwardsville
17. Opera House Bistro, Red Bud
Even though you won’t find the tables covered with white linens you will find that this adorable little country bistro is still the perfectly romantic setting to complete your next date. Right in the heart of lovely downtown Red Bud, this delectable restaurant offers favorites like the macadamia nut-encrusted chicken or the roasted duck. Enjoy from artisanal salads, local favorites and even homemade breads. Finish out your beautiful evening with the luscious s’mores pie.
102 S. Main, Red Bud
18. Gallagher’s Restaurant, Waterloo
Just one glance at this gorgeous old-fashioned building will have your date swooning. Bring the fainting salts with you and enjoy all of life’s little comfort foods like fried chicken served up in a warm, cozy environment that will make you feel right at home. Boasting the best fried chicken in the St. Louis area, what’s not to love? And if fried foods don’t tickle your fancy, then may we tempt you with bacon-wrapped strawberry shrimp for starters followed by a smoke-cured pork chop with maple Dijon glaze? Who says romantic evenings have to be stuffy and pretentious? Enjoy classic down-home meals that remind you of all the creature comforts of home.
114 West Mill St., Waterloo
19. Monte’s Riverside Inn, Ottawa
Dine in intimate, old-fashioned ambience at this LaSalle County restaurant with its red, romantic walls, damask curtains and glowing chandeliers. The low-lit rooms will make for a lovely evening for two. What sounds better than generous seafood platters and other American classics like prime rib or their chicken Parmesan that is swimming in a sea of mozzarella cheese (just as promised)? And if your date night now includes the kiddos, Monte’s also has an array of kid-friendly foods to make your lovely family evening a success.
903 E. Norris Dr., Ottawa
20. Lonzerotti’s Italia Restaurant, Jacksonville
Rated the number one restaurant in Jacksonville on TripAdvisor, this laidback dining experience offered in a former railway station tempts with delicious, tantalizing Italian cuisine like wild mushroom risotto with lobster or seafood lasagna that marries cheeses and Italian spices with crab and shrimp. Top the evening off with traditional butterfat ice cream or Italian gelato.
600 E. State St., Jacksonville
21. Brandys, Peru
Whether you are celebrating an anniversary or just a night away from the kids, dine in style when you come to Brandy’s for a night of delicious spoiling. With over 100 different martinis from which to choose, the cocktail connoisseur will be on top of the world. Enjoy bacon-wrapped scallops with béarnaise sauce, a wild-mushroom-and-cognac-marinated filet or seafood Alfredo amongst the stunningly cozy brick-walled environment. Seats fill up fast, particularly on weekends, so don’t forget to snag your reservations.
1519 Water St., Peru
Have you taken your sweetheart to any of these lovely restaurants already? Is there a place that isn’t on the list that is the epitome of romantic dining? If so, share your delicious recommendations in the comments below.