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I visited the most romantic restaurant in the US. We spent $126 on a delicious dinner for an amazing value.

I visited the most romantic restaurant in the US. We spent $126 on a delicious dinner for an amazing value.
  • I went to Penumbra, which was named Yelp's most romantic restaurant in the US for 2024.

  • The Latin-inspired steak house in Chicago had an elegant, intimate ambiance.

  • Our $126 meal, which included wine, scallops, shrimp, and steak, was worth the price.

As a self-professed foodie, I had to visit Penumbra when Yelp deemed the Latin-inspired steak house the US's most romantic restaurant in 2024 ahead of Valentine's Day.

The Chicago-based restaurant is known for its steak, seafood, and wine bar. I went for dinner with my boyfriend, and we spent $126 for our whole meal.

Here's what my experience at Penumbra was like.

From the outside, Penumbra looked underwhelming.

Brick building with windows with red curtains hanging in them. Blue signs say "restaurant, Penumbra, and wine bar"
The windows were covered with curtains, so I couldn't see inside Penumbra.Lara Walsh

Penumbra was located on a block of brick apartments, so my boyfriend and I initially drove past the entrance.

From the outside, the storefront looked small and unassuming. Maroon curtains and twinkly lights prevented outsiders from seeing inside the windows.

When we entered, the restaurant's interior had an elegant, intimate feel.

A dimly lit bar and dining area. A print of the Chicago skyline and blue chairs and a table sit in the entryway
I loved the cozy, dimly lit entryway.Lara Walsh

The vibe inside the restaurant was a complete 180, with dim lighting, sultry Latin jazz music, and sheer blue draping and fairy lights along the ceiling.

The entrance had a charming waiting area with bottles of wine, candles, fresh bouquets of flowers, and couches. Prints with quotes about love hung along the wall.

We arrived right after Penumbra opened, so the hostess immediately seated us in the mostly empty dining room.

Penumbra's dining room had a romantic vibe and plenty of privacy between tables.

A dining area with dim lighting, curtains hanging from the ceiling, and tables with tablecloths and tulips
Gold curtains hanging around the dining area separated the tables.Lara Walsh

Many of the dining tables were separated by sheer gold curtains, which added a romantic vibe and some privacy. Customers could reserve those completely private tables in advance.

Gold curtains didn't surround our dining area, but I appreciated the bouquet of pink tulips on the table.

Except for one family, the diners at Penumbra were mainly couples who looked like they were celebrating a special occasion or on a date night.

We started the meal with wine and soup.

Table setting two water glasses, a glass of red wine, a small cup of green soup, and tulips in a vase
We drank wine and ate soup while we browsed the menu.Lara Walsh

My boyfriend and I ordered glasses of red wine for $14 each and browsed the online menu, which we pulled up via a QR code on the table. I usually hate looking at menus on my phone, but this one had helpful pictures and detailed descriptions.

The menu included appetizers like shrimp and bocaditos, main courses like steak, lobster, and salmon, and a few vegetarian options.

As we browsed the menu, our waiter brought us complimentary soup made with roasted poblano peppers and potatoes. It tasted creamy, like corn chowder, but had a hint of spice.

We ordered seared scallops, which was one of my favorite dishes.

A plate of four scallops with guacamole, a slaw with mango, and a lemon wedge sit on a white rectangular plate
The scallops and mango salad balanced heat with sweetness. Lara Walsh

The perfectly seared scallops were topped with a spicy green serrano-avocado sauce and came with a mango salad.

They tasted fresh and paired well with the spicy sauce, mango salad, and acidic lemon. The scallops cost $19.

Next, we tried the bocaditos appetizer.

Bright-orange quesadillas with cheese and chicken oozing out of them and a brown sauce drizzled on a plate next to them
The bocaditos were topped with dollops of avocado crema.Lara Walsh

I was surprised by how much I liked the bocaditos, a quesadilla-style tomato-basil tortilla stuffed with tangy white cheese, scallions, parsley, and diced peppers.

The avocado crema on top of the bocaditos perfectly complemented the otherwise garlicky dish. This appetizer was $14.

For our entrée, we split a surf-and-turf platter.

A filet of steak with a chimichurri, shrimp covered in brown seasonings, a salad with cucumber, tomatoes, and beans, and potatoes
The platter came with shrimp, steak, salad, and potatoes.Lara Walsh

Based on our waiter's recommendation, we ordered a 10-ounce medium-rare rib-eye steak and shadow shrimp, which cost $53. However, the steak, shrimp, potatoes, and salad platter weren't plated as nicely as the appetizer was.

The succulent, juicy jumbo shrimp was brushed with garlic butter and seasoned with spices that reminded me of Old Bay. I just wished our dinner had come with more than six pieces of shrimp.

Penumbra is a Latin-inspired steak house, so I had high expectations for our rib eye. It was good, but the meat wasn't as flavorful as I'd hoped, and it needed more chimichurri sauce drizzled on top.

The sliced roasted potatoes were OK, but nothing about them stood out. However, we enjoyed the house salad made with a fruity vinaigrette, apples, clementines, and cheese.

We felt we got a great value, especially in an expensive city like Chicago.

The writer, wearing a green dress, smiles and holds a glass of red wine in front of piece curtains and a multicolored art piece
I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experience at Penumbra. Lara Walsh

Throughout dinner, I fell in love with Penumbra's ambiance. The restaurant was unlike any other steak house I'd been to. I liked how the curtains and strategic decor created little pockets of privacy.

Our meal, including tax, cost $126. It felt appropriately priced, especially since we got a big steak, two appetizers, wine, and complimentary soup. I thought the steak could've been better, but it was still tasty.

Overall, this dining experience was a good reminder not to judge a book by its cover. I feel like I stumbled upon a hidden gem, and my boyfriend and I will definitely return for an affordable date night.

Read the original article on Business Insider