Restaurants with Great Communal Tables & Bars
Valentine’s Day sucks if you don’t have a date. And this year, Valentine’s Day also happens to be on a Saturday. If you want to go out, but don’t want to deal with a cheesy prix fixe or rose-topped tables, a seat at a communal table or a deep bar is generally a sound, reservation-proof choice. In fact, if you’re single, please grab a seat at that communal table and then tell us what happens @goop #goopinlove and we’ll regram our favorites.
High Five Ramen112 N. Green St., West Loop | 312.754.0431
According to High Five Ramen, a good bowl of ramen boils down to the broth. Their version is creamy and miso-y with a nice kick. Thanks to generous helpings of chiles and pepper—as the warning on the menu suggests—the restaurant’s signature namesake dish is guaranteed to set your mouth on fire. If you like your noodles a little less intense, try the no-spice version or the “Special” ramen. Though there are only sixteen seats, the wait is reasonable and the cavernous feel of the space is weirdly romantic. The alcohol offering is pretty skimpy, but the spiked coconut painkiller slushy is really all you’ll need.
Dove’s Luncheonette1545 N. Damen Ave., Wicker Park | 773.645.4060
A working jukebox, padded stools, and counter seating…aesthetically speaking, everything about this smallish Wicker Park restaurant screams retro luncheonette. The menu, on the other hand, is the farthest thing from greasy diner food. Chef Tom Carlin turns out an impressive selection of Southern-inspired Mexican comfort food (red chile enchiladas, grits, and a bunch of yummy chicken dishes) and a tequila-heavy drink menu to match. The seating situation is a tad unconventional and doesn't really accommodate large groups comfortably. That said, it’s ideal for a low-key one-on-one.
Avec615 W. Randolph St., West Loop | 312.377.2002
Avec is one of Chicago's enduring food destinations. It boasts a sleek all-wood interior, and rows of communal tables that aren't exactly comfortable, but do the job (particularly because long lines dictate that you shouldn't exactly linger). It’s technically a wine bar, so there’s an extensive wine list in addition to a selection of beers and cocktails. Food-wise, the menu is broken up into shareable plates that range from charred octopus to stuffed dates, and large plates like confit chicken paella and whole roasted fish.
Au Cheval800 W. Randolph St., West Loop | 312.929.4580
Exposed brick, leather banquettes, and mood lighting make this the ideal date spot—whether it’s of the romantic or friendly variety. They don’t take reservations, so we suggest cozying up at the bar for a classic burger (many say it’s the best in town) and a cold beer (there are tons of domestic and international options). The brunch shouldn’t be missed—the fried house-made bologna sandwich with a side of hashbrowns is the restaurant’s most popular order.
Eataly ChicagoThe Shops at North Bridge, 43 E. Ohio St., Magnificent Mile | 312.521.8700
Just like the NYC outpost, and the dozen or so locations all over Italy (as well as recent offshoots in Japan, Dubai, and Istanbul)—Eataly Chicago is a foodie wonderland. The sprawling space is packed with imported sauces, beers, sweets, and so much more. There’s even a selection of housewares and books. Stalls offering house-made breads, pastas, and cheeses are scattered throughout—we recommend doing a lap to get the lay of the land first before committing to any one spot. For more formal dining there are several restaurants that are pretty efficient about taking walk-ins. No big surprise, but they have great gelato.