Chicago area restaurants serving up Valentine’s Day dining options in style
Restaurant owners hope Valentine’s Day can serve as a much-needed stimulus for their pandemic-weary Chicago eateries.
For Chicago restaurant owners and managers, COVID-19 and the cold winter months are a waiting game — and they hope special occasions like Valentine’s Day will help speed up the clock.
Christopher Sullivan, owner and chef of Twilight Kitchen in Rogers Park, operates a flexible kitchen that specializes in catering, food delivery, special events and pop-up dinners. The restaurant veteran opened the kitchen last November and made sure to adapt it to fit the times, constantly restructuring and figuring out what works in a pandemic-era restaurant industry.
Still, he said, the impact of COVID-19 has been “brutal.”
Sullivan, and many other restaurant owners, hope Valentine’s Day can serve as a much-needed stimulus for their pandemic-weary Chicago restaurants.
Unlike most Chicago restaurants, Sullivan is hosting an anti-Valentine’s Day dinner, aptly titled the “I HATE LOVE!” dinner. The meal will be a multi-course, family-style feast. “It’s a place for anybody that wants to go to have a fun dinner and bring wine with their friends and not think so much about what they may or may not be missing out on if they’re not in a relationship,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he saw business dip as COVID-19 cases rose with the omicron variant, and even had to cancel a New Year’s Eve event. This holiday, he hopes to see a rebound.
Consumers are still wary about returning to dine-in restaurants: Just 43 percent of those celebrating plan to dine at a restaurant, compared to 69 percent who said the same pre-pandemic, according to a recent survey by the Morning Consult.
“Valentine’s Day is always a big week for us,” said Adam Guillaume, director of operations at Geja’s Cafe, a Lincoln Park spot known for its romantic atmosphere.
“We’re a celebratory place as well so people still celebrate anniversaries and birthdays and things of that nature,” Guillaume said. “So we’re still getting business on the weekends, but as far as the weekdays, we see a big drop off.”
Enrique Torres, manager at Gemini, a modern American bistro in Lincoln Park, said his restaurant is doing better lately.
“I think people were scared at first,” Torres said, adding that the mask and vaccine mandates seemed to put a bit of a damper on business. “But as of late, it’s been pretty normal — how it is at most restaurants around this time of year.
“We’re just trying to make it as special as we possibly can, in a tough pandemic that we’re living in.”
Here’s are some of the Valentine’s Day dining options from area restaurants. The menu item descriptions have been provided. Many of the eateries require reservations, so check websites before arrival.
Aba: The West Loop Mediterranean restaurant is offering a four-course mezze feast for two, featuring halloumi with spicy turmeric cream and grapes, grilled shawarma spiced shrimp kebab with fennel and herb salad, crème brûlée pie and a bottle of Giuliana Prosecco, for $139.95, plus tax and tip. The feast will be available Feb. 12 -14 beginning at 4 p.m. The restaurant is also offering to-go meal kits available for pick-up or delivery the whole weekend that include dolmas with coconut rice and pomegranate, beef tenderloin kebab with lemon dill basmati rice and Isot double chocolate cake. 302 N. Green St., abarestaurants.com/chicago
Andros Taverna: Chef Doug Psaltis is offering a la carte Valentine’s Day specials Feb. 12-14. Dishes are designed to be shared between two people and include oysters and caviar, seafood orzotto, black truffle biftekia or a show-stopping whole roasted xinomavro duck cooked crispy over open embers and slow roasted in Greece’s most robust red wine. 2542 N. Milwaukee Ave., androstaverna.com
BLVD Steakhouse: Enjoy a three-course menu and special Champagne offerings in a romantic, Hollywood-inspired dining room. The Valentine’s Day dinner menu is $80 per person and features course options like Chef Johnny’s Onion Soup Fondue with caramelized onion, veal stock, gruyere cheese and crostini; lobster bisque with sweet sherry cream and puff pastry; or an 8oz butcher’s cut filet mignon. Choose either strawberry cheesecake sticky toffee pudding for dessert. 817 W. Lake St., blvdchicago.com
Bhoomi Modern Indian Grill: The Loop restaurant is offering a three-course prix fixe menu, available to-go, featuring two Biryani options. The first course will features a spiced sweet potato and pomegranate salad, main course of either traditional goat Biryani or morel mushroom Biryani (vegetarian option). Dessert options include the choice of mango-coconut cake or red chili flourless Belgian chocolate cake. The three-course menu will cost $100 for the goat option and $125 for the morel mushroom option. Menu pick-up will be available on Feb. 12 and Feb. 14. Orders must be placed 48 hours in advance by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. 15 W. Washington St., inside Urbanspace, eatbhoomi.com
Crab Cellar: The restaurant is offering an unlimited steamed Maine lobster, blue crab dip and cocktail shrimp meal from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 14; $95 per person, plus tax and tip. 1962 N. Halsted St., crabcellar.com
Demera: The Ethiopian restaurant offers a flavorful, per-person three-course Valentine’s Day menu Feb. 11-14. It comes with options for vegans. 4801 N. Broadway St., demerachicago.com
Ema: Dinner specials all Valentine’s Day weekend include filet with truffled garlic yogurt, and to-go options including whipped feta with pistachios and Aleppo pepper, filet mignon with red wine sauce and truffle butter, chocolate chip halva cookie dough, plus choice of still or sparkling rose; $139.95. To-go orders must be placed by 5 p.m. Feb. 10. 74 W. Illinois St., emachicago.com
Found Kitchen + Social House: A prix-fixe menu for two, $68.95 per person (plus beverages, tax and gratuity), will be served from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Feb. 13-14. The menu boasts a cucumber-yuzu Fanny Bay oyster shooter; roasted red beet and rapini with bagna cauda, shaved fennel and citrus salad (pink grapefruit, cara cara oranges and mint); choice of entree from basted monkfish with spiced squash puree, black garlic brown butter and pickled walnuts, or baked whole Japanese eggplant with yogurt tahini, lemongrass oil, kefir, mint and sesame seeds; or braised lamb shank, fondue potatoes in gruyere, fontina, melted with white wine and garlic; and for dessert (to share) panna cotta, Klug Farm Cherry and graham cracker crumble. 1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, foundkitchen.com
Geja’s Café: This Lincoln Park fondue cafe offers a romantic, candlelit atmosphere complete with sounds of flamenco and classical guitar. The Valentine’s Day package menu is $130 per person and includes cheese fondue, entree choices of beef tenderloin, Australian lobster tail and gulf shrimp, and, for dessert, Belgian chocolate fondue. 340 W. Armitage Ave., gejascafe.com
Grapes and Grains: An intimate dining room of exposed brick, vintage chandeliers, chesterfield couches and dim lighting is the setting for a three-course menu for two Feb. 11-12 Included are a champagne toast, hand-crafted charcuterie plate and chocolate-covered strawberries. Reservations are $50 per person. 858 W. Lake St., ggwestloop.com
Gemini: The Lincoln Park eatery is offering a three-course, pre-fixe menu, $85 per person, featuring kushi oysters, wagyu beef tataki, lamb shank, Alaskan halibut, in addition to the a la carte menu. 2075 North Lincoln Ave., geminichicago.com
il Porcellino: An a la carte menu of Italian-American comfort food, featuring prosciutto Involtini with aged balsamic and arugula, lobster tortellini with smoked ricotta and tomato cream sauce, barolo-braised short rib with garlic whipped potatoes, and strawberry cheesecake. Prices vary for dine-in options. To-go menu also available. 59 W. Hubbard St., ilporcellinochicago.com
Kinzie Chophouse: The iconic steakhouse is celebrating on Feb. 14 with a five-course, prix fixe menu, $120 per person, featuring Fruit de mer (oysters, shrimp cocktail, salmon sashimi & accessories); butternut squash Velute with ginger and cardamom aromas, served with goat cheese bruschetta; duck and quinoa cake, beetroot textures, port/blackberry jus; plus a main course option (choose one) of beef tenderloin broiled with Xinomavro red wine glaze; or beef cheek braised in Xinomavro red wine served with smoked eggplant puree, onion jam and cumin baby carrots; or black cod fish fillet in tangerine Mio served with leeks/fennel and potato confit with sauce persilade; or ceal tagliata “au poivre” with fresh mushrooms and sage sauce, grilled broccoli and potato/Parmigiano foam. Dessert includes passion fruit mousse, dark chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, biscuit crumble and kirsch liquor, Reservations required. 400 N. Wells, kinziechophouse.com
Lardon: A charcuterie cheese board for two, $85, which includes five meats, four cheeses and comes with housemade macaroons and chocolate truffles. Boards are available for pick up Feb. 11, 12 and 14. 2200 N. California Ave., lardonchicago.com
Mon Ami Gabi: A special three-course, prix fixe French feast is available for dine-in and carryout Feb. 10-16. For $65, enjoy a menu of lobster bisque, braised beef short rib with celery root puree, butternut squash and gala apple, and raspberry macaroons for dessert. 2300 N Lincoln Ave., monamigabi.com/chicago
Osteria Via Stato: A multi-course dinner Feb 12-14, in a candlelit dining room or a personal heated greenhouse. The meal features Italian speck with pecorino Toscano and Bosc pears, hand-rolled gnocchi with sage and brown butter, prime beef tenderloin, butterscotch budino, and more for $74.95 per person plus tax (gratuity not included). For take-home options, place your order by 5 p.m. Feb. 10. 620 North State St., osteriaviastato.com
The Press Room: The restaurant offers a prix-fixe Valentine’s Day indulgence developed by Chef Noah Zamler. At $75, per person, guests can select from an la carte menu or add a wine pairing for an additional $50 per person. Select from heart-shaped beet ravioli, a seafood tower, dry-aged duck breast and much more. 1134 W. Washington Blvd., pressroomchicago.com
Quality Crab and Oyster Bah: Enjoy a New England-style seafood meal this Valentine’s Day weekend with a four-course dinner, dine-in or carryout, that includes oysters, shrimp cocktail, tuna poke, cucumber caesar salad, Alaskan king crab legs, coconut cake. The prix-fixe special for two is priced at $139.95, plus tax (gratuity not included). An optional four-course wine pairing with your dinner is $39.95 per person, plus tax. 1962 N Halsted St., qualitycrabandoysterbah.com
Roka Akor: A four-course sushi dinner that includes toro tartare prime beef tataki, a sashimi platter, lobster tempura and wagyu filet, with a chocolate lava cake for dessert. The special is available Feb. 13-14 and is $124 per person, with an option to add a wine flight. Reservations required. 456 N Clark St., rokaakor.com
RPM Italian: RPM Italian will serve a la carte dining specials on Feb. 14 along with the regular menu, with specials like blue fin tuna carpaccio and juniper-smoked venison. Carryout and delivery also will be available. 52 W Illinois St., rpmrestaurants.com/rpm-italian-chicago
RPM Seafood: Join Master Sommelier Jill Zimorski to discuss the champagne selections from Veuve Clicquot expertly paired with dishes such as cured salmon carpaccio and winter black truffle risotto. Tickets are available for 7 p.m. Feb. 12 and Feb. 14 at $225 per person, plus tax (gratuity not included). Additionally, RPM Seafood will be open for regular dine-in, carryout and delivery. 317 N. Clark St., rpmrestaurants.com/rpm-seafood-chicago
Summer House Santa Monica: The Lincoln Park restaurant is featuring an a la carte menu available Feb. 11-14. The menu includes a prime beef honeymoon roast for two featuring truffle bordelaise, crispy roasted artichokes, caramelized onion, and mashed potatoes for $149.95, plus tax (gratuity not included). 1954 N Halsted St., summerhousesm.com/chicago
Sushi-san: A “Sushi is for Lovers” meal kit for $165, plus tax (gratuity not included). The menu includes roasted edamame, coal-roasted lobster, six-piece nigiri set, and ten pieces of maki. This kit is available for pick-up from Feb 11-13; orders must be placed at least 24 hours in advance. The regular menu for dine-in, carryout and delivery is also available. 63 W Grand Ave., sushisanrestaurant.com
Tallboy Taco: The restaurant is offering its traveling Taco Bars for two or four, with choice of proteins, hand-made corn and flour tortillas, toppings, house-made salsas, guacamole, corn fundido, and tortilla chips. Prices start at $59.95, plus tax. Available noon to 9 p.m. Feb. 12. Orders must be placed at least one hour prior to pickup or delivery. The regular menu will also be available for dine-in and to-go. 676 N. St Clair St., tallboytaco.com
Sepia: Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Chef Kyle Cottle will serve up a four-course dinner on Feb. 14, $115 per person. The menu includes items such as foie gras eclair with pickled huckleberry, kanpachi crudo with winter citrus and baby turnip, truffle-fried chicken with dumplings and sauce perigord, or the smokey dry-aged squab with black vinegar, chestnut and salsify. Enjoy crėme fraiche ice cream for dessert. 123 N Jefferson St., sepiachicago.com.
Staytion Market and Bar: Located inside the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, the restaurant is serving up an elevated Valentine’s menu Feb 11 and 12. Guests can choose between the truffle and mushroom bisque or the beef tartare, and either pan-seared coho salmon or whipped burrata ravioli for the main course. Dessert features tiramisu with orange whip and raspberry puree. 1 W Wacker Dr., marriott.com/en-us/hotels/chisr-renaissance-chicago-downtown-hotel/dining/
Twilight Kitchen: The newly opened Rogers Park kitchen is offering a unique spin on Valentine’s Day with its “I HATE LOVE!” dinner. The special multi-course, family-style meal is BYOB. Bring all your single friends and get ready to eat, drink and trade worst-first-date stories. $85 per person, tickets must be purchased by Feb. 10 for the Feb. 14 dinner. 7135 N. Clark St. twilightkitchen.com
Raised Bar Chicago: Dine with breathtaking views of the Chicago River and city skyline. A special menu features balsamic-roasted beet soup and shrimp brochettes, signature entrees like ahi tuna tataki and seared magret duck breast. Rich dark chocolate entremet is available at the rooftop bar. Open seating is available, but reservations and $350 deposit is required to dine in a special heated winter greenhouse. 1 West Upper Wacker Dr., raisedbarchicago.com
Rose Mary: Chef Joe Flamm, winner of “Top Chef” Season 15 is featuring a four-course menu at $75 per person, offered alongside Rose Mary’s regular a la carte menu. The four-course menu includes tuna crudo with crispy capers, shallot-beef fat vinaigrette and veal aioli, or his wild striped bass with braised cannellini beans, charred escarole, bagna cauda duck, plum glaze, cabbage and caraway. 932 W Fulton St, rosemarychicago.com