While there’s nothing wrong with a prix fixe by candlelight, restaurants are getting a lot more creative in the name of romance. Some of the best spots around town bring your dinner to life — and get you out of your chair — with everything from hands-on cooking classes to impromptu dancing. If you want to give your next date night some spice, start here.
This cute little pasta shop/restaurant looks like something you’d stumble across strolling the streets of Florence. Yep, that’s fresh pasta being hand-rolled right in the front window. Grab your date and you, too, can try your hand at the cooking in private or semiprivate pasta-making classes (above). Create, roll, and shape four different varieties with head sfoglina (pasta maker) Alex Mulgrove right there in the window. Your hard work pays off afterward with a family-style feast of handmade pasta and platters of seasonal vegetables, olives, and focaccia, plenty of wine and dessert. Take home your creations and some extra dough for a bonus date night later that week. $125 per person, held Mondays and Tuesday evenings. 1746 W. Division; tortellopasta.com
The corner of 18th and Allport in Pilsen is where all good choose-your-own-adventure date nights begin under the same roof. Grab a beer and dry-rubbed mussels at Dusek’s Board & Beer, or sing-along in the intimate piano bar, the Tack Room. You also can’t go wrong starting the night at Punch Room, a cozy basement bar that, unbeknown to many, offers sharable pots of fondue ($25), accompanied by housemade pretzels, tempura veggies, and cured meats. Afterward, catch a show upstairs at Thalia Hall, one of the city’s coolest restored music venues, where you can see the stage from pretty much wherever you stand. 1227 W. 18th; 312-526-3851; punchousechicago.com; 1807 S. Allport; 312-526-3851; thaliahallchicago.com
Want to up your cocktail game? Listen as experts drop knowledge and walk you through the basics in a Violet Hour mixology class. Start with “101” classes, which cover general cocktail building, or dig deeper in themed classes like “How Bitter Is Your Love?” The moody lounge has plenty of dark corners in which to enjoy the three or four cocktails you create ($100-$150). We won’t tell if you end the night down the street at Stan’s, eating a doughnut to soak up the spirits. 1520 N. Damen; 773-252-1500; theviolethour.com; 1560 N. Damen; 773-360-7386; stansdonuts.com
This is a little taste of South America in Lincoln Square. Meat eaters, take note: The most popular offering is a signature steak flight of grass-fed steaks that come straight from Argentina. Think prime cuts of cap of rib eye, New York strip, and sirloin ($55) that are best paired with a Mojito or Caipirinha ($10). Work up the courage to follow dinner with a beginner tango lesson (Tuesdays at 8 p.m.; $15) or ,if you prefer to watch the professionals grace the dance floor, go for a tango show (Fridays from 8:30-9:30 pm; no cover). 4767 N. Lincoln; 872-208-7441; artangosteakhouse.com