A Guide To Chicago’s “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurants To Catch Up With A Few Friends” guide image

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A Guide To Chicago’s “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurants To Catch Up With A Few Friends”

Where to find a “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurant To Catch Up With A Few Friends.” You’re welcome.

The Infatuation is built on the idea of “Perfect For” categories, catering to assorted restaurant needs. Dinner With The Parents? Date Night? Impressing Out Of Towners? We got it.

But occasionally, we field requests that don’t quite fit into any of The Infatuation’s predetermined categories. And there is one such genre of restaurant that comes up over and over again—at parties, on social media, in the yoga classes we don’t actually attend. It’s what we have come to call the “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurant To Catch Up With A Few Friends.”

After considerable research (i.e. hearing this request repeatedly), we’ve broken down the core attributes of the Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurant To Catch Up With A Few Friends (SCRPRTCUWFF). In general, SCRPRTCUWFFs are:

  • Kind of quiet.

  • But not super boring.

  • Relatively small in size, or at least not huge.

  • With plates around $20.

  • Generally not located in neighborhoods with party trolleys rolling by.

You have our list—now go ahead and plan that Tuesday night dinner.

THE SPOTS

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If the prospect of catching up with people you haven’t seen in a while causes you anxiety, go to Khmai. Not only does this relaxed Rogers Park spot have great Cambodian food (like juicy beef skewers or tangy tamarind short rib soup) but the convivial atmosphere will instantly melt away any awkwardness. The staff welcomes you with a Cambodian greeting when you arrive, setting the tone for the rest of the meal. They’re always excited to chat about the bi-weekly rotating menu, and at some point the chef might even check in and joke about how her mother (who also works there) refuses to let anyone else make savory crepes because she makes them the best. So don’t be surprised if the charming atmosphere not only helps rekindle pre-existing friendships, but also causes you to befriend everyone who works there.


Maybe it’s the inviting, mellow low lighting. Or maybe it’s the two CBD seltzers we often find ourselves ordering. But whether it’s your first or 20th time at Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant in North Center, you can always count on feeling at ease here. They have a mix of smaller plates and entrees served with rice, all of which are meant to be shared. Make sure to get the sizzling pork sisig, grilled prawn with bagoong butter, and delicate trout sinigang with a tart tamarind and burnt tomato broth (the friendly staff will verify that this is a strong order). Plus, since their tight menu only has four short sections, you don’t have to spend most of your dinner deliberating about what to get.


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Lula is a neighborhood spot that’s been serving farm-to-table food in Logan Square since 1999. The small space is split into two separate rooms with a tiny connecting corridor in the middle, and the people and artwork inside will remind you of your favorite coffee shop in college. Unlike that place, Lula is a full-on restaurant serving seasonal dishes like cauliflower risotto, roasted squash, and duck breast. The menu changes, but it’s always excellent.


All Together Now is a useful all-day spot that’s right on the border of West Town and Ukrainian Village. It’s both a restaurant and a market, with a few tables set up for small groups. The food is very good—we like the well-seasoned lamb meatballs and juicy roasted chicken with black garlic bread pudding—and this place is great for a casual weeknight dinner. If you don’t get enough time to fully catch up, you can always grab a few bottles of wine on the way out and go hang at whoever has the nicest apartment.


When it comes to Dove’s in Wicker Park, the “FF” part of SCRPRTCUWFF is particularly important—most of the first-come, first-served seating at this Mexican and Southern diner is counter space. So unless you want to play a game of side-by-side telephone, or you somehow snag the only table in the triangular space, showing up with three people at most is ideal. That way you can still catch up while eating fried chicken smothered in chorizo gravy or slices of massive vegetarian tlayudas. Though Dove’s is typically a breakfast-lunch spot, they also have a Monday-only dinner service, Dove’s After Dark, which has a rotating menu of dishes like a patty melt with chiles toreados.


Daisies is temporarily closed while they move into a new space down the street. An updated review is coming soon.

Daisies is a fantastic vegetable-focused and also “Midwestern pasta-focused” restaurant. This basically means that every dish uses fresh, seasonal ingredients, and what that means is that you can eat a big bowl of pasta here and still feel pretty healthy. There are always two non-pasta mains like chicken, beef, or fish, and while those are good, you should mainly be coming here for the pasta. While you’re at it, try to sit on the quiet back patio.


Though their perpetually shut blinds don’t scream “Welcome to Jibek Jolu”, there are plenty of reasons why you’ll want to stay awhile at this Lincoln Square restaurant. For starters, the Kyrgyz food is delicious and affordable, and this place is BYOB. And when it comes to catching up with friends, the squarish yurt-like interior (complete with fake smoke hole), is cozy and quiet enough that you can chat without shouting. The servings are large and meant for sharing, so showing up with friends is the best way to enjoy garlicky pelmeni, smoky kuurdak, or hand-pulled noodles cooked with a spicy soy sauce.



This small Latin American restaurant in Wicker Park has a fun atmosphere and great food with complex flavors. For example, you’ll find chicken skewers served in a spicy huancaina and a goat cheese ravioli in an oxtail stew. Almost everything on the menu is between $8-$20, and perfect for sharing. Come here to catch up with your friends about their recent vacations—which might have something to do with the fact that they’re choosing to split a $6 order of fried plantains for dinner.


Middle Brow in Logan Square is a brewpub that’s decorated like a DIY wedding (with tea lights, reclaimed wooden picnic tables, and decorative plants in birdcages), and basically feels like a Pinterest board that came to life. It also happens to be perfect for small groups of friends. Get anything that involves the housemade bread (like the toasts and spreads), plus the pepperoni pizza, and order plenty of their light and hoppy beers.


Head to Bar Roma for rustic Italian food, and/or to pretend you’re on the set of a cooking show. The space has a lot of wood and distressed furniture, plus bags of flour lying around. And the food is good, with a variety of meatballs (there’s a whole section of the menu devoted to them), in addition to great pasta. Definitely get the cacio e pepe, and probably a few more to share.


If you’re like us and want to spend all of your time hanging out in quaint French bistros, then Le Bouchon is your friend. We’ve considered moving in here, but ultimately it seemed awkward. This place is classically decorated, small, and perfect for catching up with a few friends over cassoulet or poulet roti. In other words, it completely fits the definition of SCRPRTCUWFF.


Good sushi can get pretty expensive. But Raisu, a small, low-key restaurant in Albany Park, has high-quality fish that’s still affordable. Focus on the nigiri and sashimi, and get a roll or two to share. There are non-sushi entrees available as well, in case someone in your group wants to go that route.


Beatrix is on the larger side, but it checks off all the other SCRPRTCUWFF boxes. Plus, it’s kind of healthy, and close to Whole Foods if you need to grab a few groceries on the way home. It’s the kind of place where you can meet a few friends after work (or a workout), then continue with the errands that seem to take up most of your waking hours.


Looking to meet up in Lincoln Park? You won’t need to look very hard, because Pasta Palazzo has everything you need. The pasta-filled menu is affordable and has something for everyone, including a “healthy” pasta section (with no butter or cheese), creative options like jalapeno gnocchi, and salads if butter-free pasta isn’t good enough for you.


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