Ah, aphrodisiacs. 'Tis the season to coyly slurp oysters and slice into figs with a wink and a nod. These foods and others are said to possess arousing properties perfect for date nights and wooing partners. Regardless of how potent these things actually are in that department, they're undoubtedly delicious, so we'll take it. Here are some top spots in Chicago for indulging in aphrodisiacs.
Oysters: Without question, oysters are the most famous aphrodisiacs, with zinc-heavy components that endear them to increased romance and even fertility. Plus I'm sure the act of slurping a raw oyster in front of your lover is a bit saucy-looking. One prime spot for oysters in Chicago is Pearl Tavern, a downtown ode to the bivalve in all shapes and forms. Not only are they readily available raw, but you can even drink your oysters in the form of the Dirty Pearl Martini, complete with freshly shucked oyster and oyster brine in lieu of olive juice.
Figs: Eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, figs are said to represent sexuality with their supple ripeness and seed-packed "fertility." All that is well and good, but if you're looking for a place to consume figs without any risk of being smiter by a god, head to FIG & OLIVE (naturally). With not one, but two aphrodisiacs right in its name, the Gold Coast restaurant is a perfect fit for V-Day dining and wooing. Inspired by the French Riviera, the menu includes crostini with Manchego, fig, and Marcona almonds, cheese plates with fig jam, Jamon Iberico with fig and goat cheese, and more.
Chilies: Not only are chili peppers red-hot and vibrant, but they elicit endorphins that create bodily reactions similar to being aroused (read: speed up heart rate and make you sweat). And the spicier the better. One killer dish indicative of chili pepper heat in Chicago is the dry chili chicken at Lao Sze Chuan. Pro tip: only order at the Chinatown location, as other spin-offs seem to have tempered the chili heat. This dish is heaven; crispy chicken morsels lightly breaded and fried, strewn with a boatload of fiery chili peppers. It's masochism to eat this dish, and delicious masochism at that. Like S&M for your mouth.
Avocado: The heart shape and innate richness inherent in avocado is what helped the fruit rise to aphrodisiac levels as far back as the Aztec empire. Today, nutritionists recognize that its high Vitamin E content also help maintain energy and stamina. Of course, you're never far from a good bowl of guacamole in Chicago, but another nifty way to ingest this lustrous ingredient is via the avocado toast at The Winchester. This humble-sounding dish helped put the restaurant on the map (and stay there), as its refined simplicity turned out to be the epitome of the restaurant's ethos. Mashed avocado is heaped over whole-grain toast points with a delicate smattering of grapefruit segments and chilies, which actually makes this dish an aphrodisiacal double whammy.
Honey: Considering that honey is made through pollination, it's a symbol of procreation. Additionally, the viscous ingredient contains boron, which helps regulate testosterone and estrogen levels. Honey is even more potent and energizing when it's harvested on-site and applies to both sweet and savory dishes. Such is the case at Lockwood, where rooftop hives on the Palmer House Hilton beget honey for dishes like Italian Burrata splashed with honey or even the restaurant's signature brownie (the hotel is said to be the birthplace of the brownie) gets a drizzle of honey on occasion.
Chocolate: Speaking of cocoa, we can't forget one of the most important aphrodisiacs of all. One of the most sensual and alluring foods of all, chocolate's taste, texture, and aroma set it apart as a Valentine's essential. When it comes to narrowing down that essential chocolate destination, options are dizzying. But there's just something so sensual about dipping freshly fried and sugared churros in thick Mexican drinking chocolate that helps make XOCO a must-visit. The casual Mexican street food spot has lots of spicy-savory dishes to pour over, but don't miss their standout sweets. Dipping the crispy, crackly, cinnamon-y churros in the pudding-rich chocolate is what gustatory romance is all about.