French food is considered the ultimate in dining by many people throughout the world. French cuisine is often considered the most refined and elegant style of cooking in the world. There are actually many styles of French food. The French style of cooking that we like associate with France is ‘Haute Cuisine”. Haute Cuisine is the classical, and fancy, style of meal that is reserved for the most special of occasions. Even in France, most people don’t eat Haute Cuisine on a daily basis.
There are many regional differences in French cooking, depending on the styles of the area and regional availability of ingredients. Whatever the region, French cooking is a highly developed art form. Following are some of the ingredients used in regional variations of French cooking. that you might find on a French restaurant menu:
Northwest France: butter, cream and apples.
Southwest France: duck fat, foie gras, porcini and gizzards
Southeast France: olive oil, herbs and tomatoes
Northern France: potatoes, pork, endives and beer. Shows Flemish cuisine influences.
Eastern France: lard, sausages, beer and sauerkraut. Shows German cuisine influences.
In addition to these regional specialties, there are styles of cooking, such as Loire Valley cuisine, Alsace cuisine, Basque cuisine and Roussillon. Regional French cooking uses locally grown vegetables, fruits, meats and seafood.
The French cuisine that we most likely find in American restaurants is “Haute Cuisine”, although there may be regional influences. Dining in a French restaurant is a special treat and perfect for a romantic dinner.
Following are some of the most romantic French restaurants in Chicago. Dining in a French restaurant tends to be on the expensive side. Where available, I have listed the price range for the main entrees. There will likely be several additions to the main course, such as, appetizer, salad or starter, side courses, dessert and wine. The prices listed are not the total by any means.
2300 North Lincoln Park West
Chicago, Illinois 60614
Located in Lincoln Park, this French Restaurant has a sophisticated, romantic atmosphere. The award winning restaurant is known for it’s ambiance and style. Ambria has received a Four Star Rating from Chicago Magazine, The Chicago Tribune and Mobile Travel Guide.Ambria has also received the prestigious Five Diamond Award from AAA. The wine cellar has also been recognized by Wine Spectator, Gault Millau, and The Best of Chicago in Zagat’s. Price $31 to $50.
1954 West North Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60622
Cafe Absinthe, in Wicker Park, offers contemporary French and Mediterranean food in romantic casual atmosphere. Excellent food is made with high quality ingredients and served with friendly, professional service. Entrees $16 to $29.
1846 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60647
The chef and proprietor of Cafe Matou is Charlie Socher,l who was trained in Paris. The ambiance is comfortable and welcoming, with rustic brick walls and warm woods. The restaurant’s logo and the dining room’s unique wrought iron chandeliers are animated with cats walking on the spiral. The cats reflect the cafe’s name. Matou means “tomcat” in French. Cafe Matou has a full service bar and a eclectic wine list. There are wine offerings from small French producers at affordable prices. Entrees $18 to $25.
Chicago Stock Exchange
440 South LaSalle Street, 40th Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Located on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, with spectacular sunset views, is one of the country’s premier dining rooms. The chef and proprietor is J. Joho. Chef Joho specializes in personalizing the cuisine, which is influenced by his Alsace France origins. Chef Joho’s signature touch is the side-by-side pairing of aristocratic and working class ingredients. The French cuisine and wine list have earned many prestigious awards. .Everest has been recognized for it’s excellence by Chicago Magazine, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune. Gourmet,Chicago Sun Times, Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, Saveur and International Herald Tribune.
222 East Ontario Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Les Nomades is located just off of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile,in a charming brownstone. The smoke free restaurant is located in the vicinity of some of Chicago’s finest hotels. The French cuisine is exquisite. Les Nomades has been recognized by Mobil Travel Guide, AAA, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, North Shore Magazine,Zagat and Wine Spectator. Les Nomades offers a Prix Fixe meal of four courses for $90, or five courses $105.
900 North Franklin Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
Kiki’s Bistro is located in the River North area. The restaurant has a warm, rustic atmosphere with wood plank floors. The menu offers an extensive selection of delicious French food.
1958 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60647
Le Bouchon, at Armitage and Damen, is a companion restaurant to La Sardine. Entrees $18.
111 North Carpenter
Chicago, Illinois 60607
La Sardine is a French bistro on the near West side. The restaurant is a companion to Le Bouchon. Entrees $18 – $20.
Dine at one of Chicago’s fine French restaurants for a romantic dinner.