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The Last-Minute Planner’s Guide to Valentine’s Day Dining

Attention, slackers: V-Day is Friday. You haven’t made a reservation? Try your luck at one of these walk-in options.

Picture the two of you, cozied up in a leather booth at Au Cheval—like you’d planned it all along.   Photo: Courtesy Au Cheval

Wait. Valentine’s Day. It’s Friday? As in, this Friday? Seriously? Crap.

A cursory glance at OpenTable will tell you it’s already too late to get a decent dinner reservation, unless you’re in the mood for a meal at 4:30. So what’s a besotted slacker to do to impress his or her paramour? We found a few places that don’t take reservations where you can still get food tasty enough to make your date think you’d planned it all along. (And just make peace with it now—there’s a fifty-fifty chance you’ll be going to Logan Square.)

Au Cheval

800 W. Randolph St., West Loop, 312-929-4580 
Classed-up diner food—burgers, potato hash, foie gras with scrambled eggs—in the sexiest setting possible. Plus, it’s proven wisdom that the couple that takes pickleback shots together stays together.

Avec

615 W. Randolph St., West Loop, 312-377-2002
If you know your lover will be disappointed with anything other than a fancy meal, try for Avec, and pray nobody else in Chicago has also been struck by a craving for slow-roasted pork shoulder with clams, braised greens, and linguiça sausage.

Billy Sunday

3143 W. Logan Blvd., Logan Square, 773-661-2485
One of our Best New Bars sets a perfectly romantic mood—flickering tea lights, dark wood, and killer cocktails and small plates. Plus, you can use the clever cocktail names as impromptu conversation hearts (who wouldn’t want to be told they’re the “Last of an Ancient Breed”?)

The Bluebird

1749 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown, 773-486-2473
Wine bars are like roses—they’re date-night staples for a reason. Go in for a bottle of cava and a charcuterie plate at one of our favorites and the romance will practically make itself.

Fat Rice

2957 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square, 773-661-9170 
You’ve always talked about traveling together. See how you’d fare over Macanese food—go in for the paella-like arroz gordo stuffed with salted duck, roasted chicken, clam, and prawns to test adventurousness, and judge how your love handles adversity with what will inevitably be a long wait.

Green Street Smoked Meats

112 N. Green St., West Loop, 312-754-0431
Early scouting reports on the newest jewel in the Sodikoff crown are good, so you can show off how in-the-know you are about Chicago’s dining scene over smoked brisket, slaw, and an expertly crafted Texas roadhouse vibe.

Parson’s Chicken & Fish

2952 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square, 773-384-3333
So you just started dating a few weeks ago—you need a meal that shows you’re interested but not too interested, something that errs on the side of coy rather than overly cuddly. Parson’s special Valentine’s menu—think skewered and grilled duck hearts, steak, and a Loved and Lost cocktail with beet mezcal and Luxardo cherry Morlacco liqueur—shows you put in a little effort without going over-the-top.

Scofflaw

3201 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square, 773-252-9700
You could also cook dinner at home and just go out for dessert. What could be more romantic than two spoons digging into a sundae with Luxardo hot fudge, Amaretto whipped cream, and almond brittle, washed down with two glasses of Lambrusco for $25?

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