Cheap Chicago Valentine's Day
January 22, 2009 5:45 PM   Subscribe

What's the nicest + cheapest Valentine's day date in Chicago we could have?

Boyfriend and I have been off and on for more than a year, Super Serious Official for just two months. We're very, very poor grad students. We'd like to do dinner and something else special, but we don't know where to do either. We'd prefer to stay inside. What do you recommend?
posted by anthropomorphic to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
Why don't you cook something nice for each other, together, light some candles, and listen to some nice music? Cooking is actually pretty easy; and if you go for something simple, use high-quality ingredients, buy a nice bottle of wine, and set the mood right it will be infinitely nicer than fighting for a table at a restaurant and dealing with all the stress that v-day typically brings on when you go out.

I have done both, and I much much prefer the staying-in-and-cooking thing. Your mileage may vary, but even if neither of you is the cooking type, you could at least try to do it together and have fun with it.
posted by kdar at 5:50 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: whoops, meant to include this. we cook together 5-6 days a week, usually dinner and sometimes also lunch. we were actually looking forward to eating out for once.
posted by anthropomorphic at 6:02 PM on January 22, 2009

We'd prefer to stay inside.

But you'd be OK with leaving the comfort of inside to visit a restaurant, correct? If so...

Hot Doug's. Gourmet Hot Dogs. Cheap, but classy. Plus, V-day is a Saturday, and they have duck fat fries on Saturday!
posted by nitsuj at 6:16 PM on January 22, 2009

Do you have a car? This is not romantic in the strictest sense of the word, more of a good eccentric time, but how about going to a laser light show at Triton College's Cernan Earth and Space Center then stopping at Superdawg?

Superdawg's cheap and delicious. Metroid Baby and I caught the Halloween laser light show, and we were heartily entertained for cheap in awesomely reclined seats. I imagine they might have a Valentine's, too.

If you are not amused by crude animation rendered on a dome by colored lasers while They Might Be Giants and various oldies play, it might not work for you, though.
posted by ignignokt at 6:37 PM on January 22, 2009

The white castles in Ohio offer sit down service, with table cloths and flowers and the whole bit, on valentines day. If you like that kind of thing.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:52 PM on January 22, 2009

For dinner, Paramount Room. Very good food, very good drink, very reasonable prices, very close to the Milwaukee Subway Blue Line.
posted by eriko at 7:14 PM on January 22, 2009

I do love Hot Doug's, but they're only open until 4 p.m. and you might have to wait in line for upwards of an hour, which isn't much fun in the middle of February.

If I were looking to celebrate Valentine's Day cheaply (and my partner and I are also poor, poor graduate students, so I know where you're coming from), I think I'd probably celebrate it on the 12th or the 15th or something (nice restaurants tend to have special V-Day menus with jacked-up prices), and I'd go out for lunch instead of dinner.

For a restaurant, I recommend the Kendall College Dining Room. On weekdays they have a $18 three-course lunch special, and it's swanky food that will make you temporarily forget that you're a poor, poor grad student. It's not quite refolding-your-napkin-every-time-you-get-up-to-use-the-bathroom fancy, but then again I don't really like that kind of fancy.

There's also the White Castle thing that dpx.mfx mentioned, but that might only appeal to a very specific niche. It's certainly cheap, though!
posted by pluckemin at 7:44 PM on January 22, 2009

You could go to the Museum of Contemporary Photography in the afternoon if you're willing to go to the Loop. It's free and open till 5 on Saturdays. It's not the hugest museum but you could definitely kill some time in there.
posted by sugarfish at 8:00 PM on January 22, 2009

How cheap is cheap?

My husband and I are going to Medieval Times for Valentine's Day with a bogo offer. AKFB09 (online source code). Turned out that we paid $63 with tax which is much more than we ever pay for dinner and a movie, but also fits the festive occasion (and we don't feel like we have to do anything else on top of that).
posted by aetg at 5:35 AM on January 23, 2009

A dry-aged steak from the best butcher in town and lots of flowers, preferably the same as the ones in your wife's wedding bouquet.
posted by KRS at 5:58 AM on January 23, 2009

How about visiting the top of the Hancock building?

The secret is to skip the $10 viewing deck, and instead get $10 cocktails at their bar (located 2 floors up).
posted by susanvance at 6:16 AM on January 23, 2009

Time Out Chicago recently did a cheap eats article.

If you also browse the Time Out magazine for free in a bookstore, you can find a lot of free or cheap events (I find their website kinda lousy).

The Garfield Park Conservatory is warm, right off the Green Line, and will have chocolate samples on Feb. 14 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. for $2.

Chicago Cultural Center is haven of all things free. Take photos of yourselves under the Tiffany Dome and visit the art exhibitions.

The week of Valentine's Day you could check the library to see if any Great Kids Museum Passes are available (they're not just for kids!).

Keep your eye on the Chicago Reader Free Shit blog.

At night you could see a movie? The Gene Siskel Film Center is $7 for students — though you might want to get tix ahead of time.
posted by limeswirltart at 8:31 AM on January 23, 2009

Our favorite 'cheap date' day is going to Ann Sater's splitting breakfast (with cinnamon rolls, half an omlette/wrap is enough!) for about $20, wandering downtown doing one of the items above (second museum passes). Getting a snack at Garrett's popcorn or at the Ghiradelli chocoalte/ice cream (usually get a free sample at least), and then doing an earlier dinner at a byob. (My favorite food spots are more for taste since romantic ambience has never been my selling point, but yelp has good reviews and there's lots of previous threads on dinner in Chicago.)
posted by ejaned8 at 9:54 AM on January 23, 2009

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