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Date Night: Cyrano's Bistrot

By Caitlin Klein in Food on Apr 4, 2011 9:00PM

As if dating in this city isn't treacherous enough, finding a restaurant with the right "romantic night out" feel complicates matters even more. Luckily for you, Chicagoist is always on the lookout for intimate spots that will sweep you and your hot date off your feet. Cyrano's Bistrot is one of those rare spots that provides a foolproof date night. It was warm, it was cozy, they had live music, and the food was fantastic. Paris might be the city for lovers, but Cyrano's makes us believe that Chicago has at least a fighting chance.

The Atmosphere. The lighting is warm and low in Cyrano's, and plush cushions line the walls along the booths. Large, colorful French posters fill up almost all of the wall space. Cyrano's has two levels; a restaurant upstairs, and a cabaret/live music space downstairs. The windows overlook Wells Street; the only real downside to sitting near the window is that the big neon sign from neighbor Anichini Brothers’ Meats casts a reddish glow through Cyrano’s windows. Cyrano’s plays both popular and classic French music over the speakers; some of the selections aren’t great, but none of it is bad. In the restaurant, the music is soft enough to have a normal-volume conversation with your date. Which is a good or a bad thing, depending on how the date is going.

The Food. You’re too busy courting to have time for bad food. Cyrano’s has French classics, like escargot, cheese, foie gras, and rabbit fricassee. And, for the less adventurous, pommes frites with garlic butter and parmesan, coq au vin, and ratatouille. The soupe a l’oignon is the best this foodie has had, perhaps ever. The gruyere topping the soup was browned perfectly and was salty and nutty like a good gruyere should be. The house specialty is a rotisserie half-chicken; a very safe date choice, but not the highlight of the meal. Try ordering off the specials board, which changes regularly. We tried the chardonnay-braised short rib, and it was wonderful, falling off the bone and tender. Be sure not to skip dessert. The crème brulee is a thing of beauty. Try coming in for a late date - we had a 9:00pm reservation, and things had slowed down enough for each table to be graced by a visit from Chef Didier Durand. He just wanted to know if we liked the food. Cool.

The Wine and Service. The service at Cyrano’s is attentive and knowledgeable, although perhaps a little condescending, if you happen to be a young woman out on the town. (Read: if you ask for wine recommendations, prepare to be underestimated and pandered to a bit. Our server seemed to assume that I’d want a very sweet wine because I’m a woman, even though I asked for nothing of the sort. Is that a French thing, or just a restaurant industry thing?) Our server was kind enough to bring us tastes of wine before we settled on a glass, but be forewarned that they may not do this during peak hours. The wine list carries lots of good French selections, running from about $8-12 for a glass. We appreciated the pace of the kitchen; in a three-course meal, everything was timed perfectly without rushing us from one plate to the next, or leaving us with awkward pauses between courses.

Fear the date night no more. We recommend giving Cyrano's a try for a romantic night out.

Cyrano’s Bistrot is at 546 N. Wells.