6 super fancy restaurants that won’t break the bank

By Lauren Mandel

3 Arts Club Café

On those evenings where you find yourself feelin' fancy, a casual meal at home just isn’t going to cut it. Who says you need a birthday or anniversary to treat yourself? But then the big question becomes whether you can find a restaurant to deliver on your idea of fancy without a bill to match. You’re in luck: We've left no menu unturned to find a few Chicago spots where you can get the royal treatment without doing too much damage to your budget.

La Scarola
If you're looking for white tablecloths, knowledgeable Italian-born staff, and authentic yet refined dishes, head to La Scarola in River West. Each pasta dish here can easily feed two people, and most of them come in at under $15. Besides the savings on your bill, sharing dinner will also help you save room for some decadent tiramisu and a cannoli or two.

Café Spiaggia
Spiaggia is one of the country's finest Italian restaurants, but what many people don't know is that you can get a comparable dining experience at their next-door space, Café Spiaggia, for a fraction of the cost. Enjoy rustic Italian dishes from James Beard Award–winner chef Tony Mantuano; all the pastas are under $20.

Bistro Campagne
Anything that calls to mind Paris is by definition romantic and elegant, but it’s the restaurants in the City of Light that truly impress. While we can't get you all the way across the Atlantic, we can send you to Lincoln Square's Bistro Campagne. The interior of this authentic restaurant feels like the kind of corner bistro you might find in France, and the French onion soup here is some of the best in the city. Order a croque monsieur to go with it for just $12.

3 Arts Club Café
With soaring ceilings and crystal chandeliers—plus all the stunning furniture Restoration Hardware has to offer—the 3 Arts Club Café gives you one of the most unique dining experiences in Chicago. Turn your attention away from the décor long enough to focus on the menu—carefully curated by Brendan Sodikoff and team—and you’ll find that it’s filled with reasonably priced dishes. Don’t miss the truffled grilled cheese for $16.

This Streeterville restaurant offers valet parking, beautifully plated dishes, and a waitstaff that rivals any found in Italy. From the moment you enter the dining room, the authenticity of Volare will steal your heart. The kitchen uses only the highest-quality ingredients, so stick with simple dishes, and expect extraordinary delights. The gnocchi, fresh ricotta dumplings in a creamy vodka sauce, will make your night for just $18.

La Sardine
Chicago’s West Loop isn’t exactly synonymous with reasonably priced fine dining, but La Sardine is an exception. Mondays here mean half-priced bottles of wine, and for date night on Fridays you can get $1 oysters at the bar. Our favorite offering of all is at lunch: Get a starter, entrée, and your choice of dessert, all for just $30.

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