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Date Night Destinations: Highland Park

Local dining spots to start the weekend right.

Date Night Destinations: Highland Park Date Night Destinations: Highland Park Date Night Destinations: Highland Park Date Night Destinations: Highland Park

owner Bobby Dubin has jumped on two foodie trends with his new restaurant, Second Street Bistro: organic, locally produced food and BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze).

He's hoping both will make the bistro, which recently opened, a big hit in Highland Park and along the North Shore.

The food, described as "upscale American with a twist," includes dishes like shaved organic brussels sprouts, slow cooked beef short rib, herb marinated amish chicken and gluten-free quinoa spaghetti. The food is made with local and organic ingredients, whenever possible.

At the Zagat-rated Cafe Central, you might as well be in Paris' Opera district or at La Bastille. Get a slice of Parisian life--or at least a cut of duo petite filet mignon--at this gem of a bistro. From its canopied exterior, which conjures the image of an elegant street cafe in Paris, to its warm and cozy interiors, which include white-linen-covered tables, Cafe Central feels warm and welcoming. While waiting for your bouillabaisse and sipping a sauvignon blanc, chances are you'll be greeted by the gregarious owner, Adam Nieto, on behalf of his famous parents, Carlos and Debbie Nieto. If you come early, you can choose from an extensive list, which includes gourmet salads, seafood and simpler fare, such as omelets. If you are feeling adventurous, you could try the escargot or request the fresh fish of the day. 

When , they based most of it off of the dishes served at their previous restaurant, the now shuttered Forty One North. A growing gluten free menu sports dishes so delicious even people without dietary restrictions love them. They also decided to add some high end steaks to go with the fine dining décor, helping to make City Park Grill a place for special occasions.

Benjamin Restaurant is the product of two years of work that shows Brittsan’s impressive attention to detail. The space is designed by Tim Kitzrow, who also is responsible for Chicago’s Red No. 5 and Blue 13. The eclectic decor comes from around the world, including furniture from Malaysia and India and big lanterns from a Hungarian castle.

The restaurant offers seasonal contemporary American cuisine with ingredients from farms in Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.The drink menu will match the changing list of dishes. Benjamin offers Michigan wines and a small selection of locally produced beers from Goose Island and New Holland. As the weather gets cooler, diners will find more porters and heavier reds.

There is a reason why discriminating diners go the extra mile to get a table at Carlos'. In a 2006 review, Zagat praised Carlos' for its "very creative" French fare and its "fantastic wine list." For sure, Carlos' is an upscale restaurant, but its service is also known to be at par with the price.

Another unique attraction at Carlos' is the film night. Every second and third Friday of the month, come for an intimate evening of delicious French fare and great cinema. Just make sure you have a reservation.

The 30-year-old Highland Park fine dining establishment headed by husband and wife team Carlos and Debbie Nieto will close its doors on New Year's Eve so there's not much time left to enjoy it.

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