3 preplanned, no-fuss date nights for Chicago couples

The month of February is touted as a month to celebrate love, but hitting up a packed, overpriced restaurant on V-Day doesn’t carry the sentiment that I crave. My suggestion? Pick another non-heart holiday evening this month, and take it easy with one of my preplanned date nights. 

P.S.: All of these restaurants are family owned and operated. Feel the love?

The Romantic

There is a hidden gem amongst Chicago’s ever-evolving dining scene and I am kicking myself for just discovering it. Prosecco recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, and this River North contemporary Italian restaurant offers some of the most incredible dishes and delicacies I have ever experienced. Chef Mark can be seen table-hopping amongst laughter and genuine smiles and his sis, Stefania, ensures everything runs smooth as butter. Insider tip: Order the Avocado Salad to start and end with homemade Tiramisu and a shot of their very own Limoncello. Keep the good times rolling with a stroll to the Flamingo Rum Club—you can’t miss the vibrant flamingo mural of Insta-fame on the exterior. It offers an array of entertainment from salsa classes to burlesque performances. 

What to wear: Cocktail dress that makes you feel fabulous (my secret weapon is Fox’s Designer Off-Price), heels and simple jewels.

The Casual 

Every year on my birthday my husband takes me to Half Shell in Chicago’s Lincoln Park for King Crab Legs and beer. We always have Anthony as our server, whose grandfather started this Chicago institution in 1968. You can’t beat the prices and cozy laid-back atmosphere. Insider tip: This no-frills restaurant doesn’t offer reservations or take credit cards, so bring cash, patience and an appetite. It is worth the wait. 

After dinner, head around the corner to Replay, a beer and bourbon-focused arcade. Best part? They have more than 65 vintage arcade games you can play for FREE, featuring classics like Donkey Kong, Skee-Ball and Tron Pinball. 

What to wear: Elevated sneakers, boyfriend jeans and a graphic T-shirt topped with a Moto jacket. 

The Fusion

Located in a secluded strip mall next to a liquor store, Mesa Urbana in Northbrook is as unpretentious as gourmet restaurants get. Step inside and be prepared to savor unique Mexican food with a modern, urban twist. Owner Moe Taleb is one of 13 children and if the restaurant gets slammed, siblings arrive within minutes, pitching in as needed. Insider tip: The Urbana Margarita is a must. All juices are fresh-squeezed, syrups are made in house and the house tequila is 100 percent organic.

Catch a play after dinner at the intimate 60-seat Oil Lamp Theater in nearby Glenview. Make sure to grab a bottle of your favorite wine or beer at the liquor store because the OLT is BYOB. February’s show is “Last of the Red Hot Lovers”—just right for the month of love!

What to wear: Jumpsuit, booties, a structural cuff and statement earrings.

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