CHIGuide

The Best Chicago Restaurants For A Birthday Dinner

The best restaurants in Chicago to host your birthday get-together.
The Best Chicago Restaurants For A Birthday Dinner image

photo credit: Derrick Koch

One of the questions we get most is, “Where should I have my birthday dinner?” Let us guess, you’re looking for something “fun” but not formal, where you can get a table for six-to-ten people. Believe it or not, such restaurants do exist in Chicago.

So whether your idea of fun involves the potential for dancing on tables (ok, we can’t really help with that), a relaxed, come-and-go-whenever type of gathering, or something in between, we have ideas. You only celebrate getting older once a year—better make it good.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Jack Li

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Italian

West Town

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerDrinking Good Cocktails
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Provaré is a blast. This bright Italian and Creole spot in West Town has an R&B playlist that will remind you of the greatness that is '90s Usher, complimentary shots as soon as you sit down, and food that makes you put your hand up to silence the table so you can have a private moment with the housemade pasta. There are standout dishes like fried lobster tails, creamy chicken parmesan that’s the antidote to your scary Apple news feed, and juicy lamb chops that go perfectly with a side of spicy charred corn. The restaurant is busy but never chaotic, and there’s a good chance the chef will come out to drop off plates and make sure you’re having a good celebration. Plus, there’s a speakeasy hiding behind some very convincing shelves.


Daisies is a moderately upscale farm-to-table spot in Logan Square. And it’s the kind of place where your server will let you know not only where your lettuce came from, but its entire origin story, including when its birthday is, too. The menu here is mainly vegetable- and pasta-focused, but there are also appetizers like chips and onion dip (which is a must-order). Daisies pops up frequently on people’s “I’ve been meaning to go there” lists, so when you suggest it to your friends, it’s basically like a birthday present to them.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik

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Itoko in Lakeview is from the same team behind Momotaro, and has a similar aesthetic and Japanese fusion menu. Focus on the sushi, from standard nigiri to shareables like DIY handrolls where everyone will let you hog the caviar since it’s your night after all. Definitely save room for dessert— the orange kakigori or mochi donut with matcha semifreddo are excellent, and neither is as flammable as a sheet cake.


Goree is a spacious Senegalese restaurant on the border of Kenwood and Hyde Park, and it’s one of our favorite spots to roll up with eight people and not worry about having a reservation. Order one of their fantastic stews (our favorite is the vegetarian maffe made with tomatoes, peanut butter, and yams over rice) and entrees like the grilled red snapper or dibi chicken. The portions are so large that even if you split an entree with the group, you can plan on having leftovers. Just be prepared to argue over who gets to take them home.


Say “birth certificate be damned, I’m still 29 assholes” by having your birthday dinner at the best Italian restaurant in Chicago. Ok, please don’t say that. But every dish at Monteverde is fantastic, from the housemade pastas like cacio whey pepe and lamb tagliatelle, to the ragu alla Napoletana with perfectly-cooked pork shank, sausage, meatballs, and fusilli that is one of the most delicious plates of food we’ve ever eaten. Come here with a group, or just sit at the bar and celebrate by ordering every single pasta on the menu.


This casual BYOB Mexican spot in West Town feels like it’s one folding chair away from being a takeout joint. But Alegrias is a sit-down restaurant with incredible seafood, and the atmosphere feels like a constant party. It’s great for groups so what you’re going to want to order here is the family platter, which comes with crab legs, prawns, and stuffed lobster. Then just get to work cracking and peeling, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.


Obelix is located in a quieter part of River North where, instead of witnessing drunken couples arguing with bouncers, you can enjoy some fantastic French food in relative serenity. That said, while Obelix is upscale enough to have white tablecloths, it's not stuffy. They have a fun hip-hop playlist and friendly servers who are chill enough to crack a few jokes. This spot is from the same team as Le Bouchon, and while they have delicious staples, the most exciting dishes are the fusion-y ones that have an international spin. From their steak tartare with a spicy and pungent shio kombu, to their impressively complex foie gras taco (a.k.a. foie-co), the combinations of flavors are interesting and unexpected. 


Not only does this New Orleans-inspired Hyde Park spot have the best po’boys we’ve encountered in Chicago, but it’s also a blast. The spacious counter-service restaurant has a full bar, live music, and makes boozy hurricanes that aren’t too sweet. Along with the aforementioned po’boys (like fried shrimp, fried green tomato, and a peacemaker—fried oyster and roast beef) the menu has other classics. There are boudin balls and a rich seafood gumbo that has a great amount of heat, and a little crab claw poking out of it. We'd like to think it's wishing us a happy birthday.


Rose Mary is a West Loop Croatian spot, and reservations are (very) hard to get. But because you’re the kind of person who sets a calendar reminder to renew your city sticker, you will happily plan your birthday dinner three months in advance. And the fact that Rose Mary is very popular means that your friends will be so excited to hitch their wagons to your reservation-getting star, they (probably) won’t cancel last minute. Plus, the food is really good—with dishes like cevapi, delicious crni rizot topped with grilled squid, and some incredible pastas.


Since the dawn of time, pizza parties have been one of the best ways to celebrate turning another year older. But at a certain point, you outgrow the deluxe Little Caesars bundle. Enter Spacca Napoli. Not only is this bright, welcoming Ravenswood Italian restaurant one of the best pizza spots in the city, but it’s one of the best restaurants in Chicago. And since the Neapolitan pizzas range from $16-$20, you can share a few different pies and some wine without worrying about your friends ghosting you after they see the bill.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik

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This casual sit-down spot is one of only two Cambodian restaurants in the city (Hermosa being the other). And we like coming here for a chill birthday dinner because of the friendly staff, relaxing atmosphere, and incredible food. We haven’t had a single miss yet, and the servings are large, making this a great spot for a family-style group meal. Plus, the restaurant is spacious and has a cute disco ball hanging above the front of the dining room. They can accommodate large groups, but plan on making reservations.


Bavette’s is one of our favorite restaurants for a special occasion, but unless you want to celebrate your birthday at 4:45pm on a Tuesday, good luck reserving a table for more than two people. Fortunately, Gilt Bar is right next door, has the same speakeasy feel (meaning dark with ’20s jazz playing), and is owned by the same people. It’s much easier to get into and the food is pretty similar too (including the same tenderloin tartare you can get at Bavette’s). There’s even a downstairs area called The Library that can be reserved if you realize you have more friends in your 30s than you realized.


The convivial energy of this Ethiopian staple in Uptown will make you happy to hang out while your friends (lovingly) roast you on your special day. Tables easily fit large groups, and the food is meant to be eaten family-style. The long menu is full of delicious dishes, like the shirro, and the misserana bowmia with perfectly cooked lentils. And the best thing to order is the chef’s messob, which is only available for groups of three or more. It comes with a delicious spread of stewed meats, seafood, and vegetables on a spongy bed of injera, which is made fresh daily. 


Sushi-san is huge and (if the poop emoji by the bathrooms is any indicator) doesn’t take itself too seriously. And while that irreverent attitude is perfect for a relaxed birthday celebration, it doesn’t extend to the excellent sushi, which they take very seriously. You can’t go wrong with anything you order here, whether it’s the nigiri (order a “San-set” to try a bunch of different things), the rolls, the small plates, or the very fluffy pancakes topped with matcha butter and black sugar—a.k.a. the only birthday cake you’ll need.


We go to Maple & Ash when the average Chicago steakhouse just doesn’t feel quite special enough. There’s nothing understated about this Gold Coast steakhouse. It has chandeliers, candelabras, and a $200 tasting menu called “I don’t give a f*ck,” where the kitchen decides what you eat. Plus, it’s surprisingly versatile—it can support a large group or a quiet dinner for two. This is where you should eat when a birthday calls for going all out, and you want to do so in a space that feels like you’re in the November Rain music video.


photo credit: Sun Wah

$$$$Perfect For:Big Groups

Like a secret password, saying “duck dinner” to your server at this Chinese restaurant in Uptown will unlock one of the best birthday meals in Chicago. Sun Wah is a barbecue spot that specializes in Peking duck, which is actually an off-menu item. It’s carved tableside and served first with bao, then as a rice or noodle dish, and finally as a soup. This large two-story restaurant is always busy, but it’s usually easy to make a reservation, or just walk in with a group.


This Italian steakhouse on the edge of Fulton Market is working hard on channeling mid-century-era glamour, complete with servers in jackets and a humidor. But Fioretta is a celebration spot that delivers on style and substance. Yes, this is a place where you order negronis poured tableside from miniature gas cans. It’s also a place with great steak—like an olive-fed wagyu New York strip so tender you’ll wonder whether that cow had a personal masseuse. A bottle sparkler will absolutely make an appearance (birthday or not) and every table is full of shout-talkers fighting to be heard. There’s a lot going on and Fioretta can get loud. But when you’re looking for a slightly unhinged semi-opulent night, it’s perfect.


Remember when you were little, and kids with summer birthdays got to have pool parties? This place doesn’t have a pool, but you can channel the same energy with a backyard BBQ-style get-together. Plan to start off at the huge bar in the center of the restaurant (since you can’t make a reservation). Once you secure a picnic table, get in the cafeteria-style line, which moves quickly. Then, you’ll have all the time in the world to eat ribs and be glad you’re not relying on your drunk friends to oversee the grill.


A birthday at Ummo feels like having a party at a friend’s loft apartment—if your friend also made fresh pasta. This fun Italian restaurant in River North is full of groups sharing giant dry-aged steaks, piles of pasta, and playful tomato-shaped desserts. Framed posters cover every inch of the walls and there’s an energetic funk and soul soundtrack. And when you throw in a second floor with a DJ, pool table, and lots of couches for lounging, there’s no reason the party has to stop after the cacio e pepe.


Thanks to the colorful murals, fantastic hip-hop soundtrack, and occasional live music, this place feels like a party. It also doesn’t hurt that they have fantastic food (with dishes like enchiladas, tacos, flautas, and quesabirria) and pitchers of great margaritas. And let’s face it, tacos and margaritas are a birthday gift that you owe yourself.


Spend your birthday ordering way too much at Daebak, a Korean BBQ spot in Chinatown. It has a fun industrial atmosphere with K-pop music videos projected all over the walls, and it works for a wide range of group sizes. The attentive servers are very good about turning your meat over the gas grill, which is a relief, because birthdays are no time to DIY. Get plenty of refills on the excellent banchan and don’t leave without ordering a kimchi pancake–maybe put a candle in it too.


You don’t want to celebrate your birthday in a neighborhood where someone could get run over by a party trolley, but you still want a spot where you and your friends can catch a bit of a party vibe. Etta, in Wicker Park, is a useful workaround. The busy space has a lot of round tables and booths that are perfect for groups of all sizes, and you have the option to guzzle drinks from a porrón if you choose. Plus, the menu has delicious housemade pastas and pizza, plus other wood-fired dishes like vegetables and pork shank.


From the guy wearing an earpiece at the elevator to the dressed-up people, there’s no mistaking that Aba is a scene. There are also two busy, large bars, and a huge rooftop patio. But it’s a scene with great food. Most things on the Mediterranean menu are meant to be shared, so you can come here with friends and split six types of hummus, plus five varieties of kebabs.


K-pop music videos blasting from TVs will welcome you at Yeowoosai in West Ridge. The party atmosphere of this always-busy Korean restaurant is what makes it great for any big night out. Plus, Yeowoosai has massive servings and pitchers of soju cocktails. Their crispy popcorn chicken or seafood pajeon are perfect drinking snacks, but we also like splitting a huge plate of Hawaiian-style kimchi bokkeumbap. After dinner, head next door to U-Star Karaoke.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik

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$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsBirthdays

For a place that’s popular and busy but not full of chaotic energy, check out Andros Taverna. This Greek restaurant in Logan Square is spacious, has great food, and you can usually get same-week reservations. They have appetizers like the must-order kataifi cheese pie (shredded filo layered with cheese, baked, then topped with honey and pistachios), mezze spreads, entrees like prawn saganaki in a rich tomato sauce, and the best spanakopita we’ve ever had. They also have a big patio, weather permitting.


Nothing is quite as perfect for a big birthday dinner as a dim sum feast with your friends. And MingHin is large, has several locations, and is open 365 days a year. So if you’re one of the unfortunate souls whose birthday happens to fall on a day like December 25th or January 1st, you have a viable option to guilt trip your friends with. They have tasty entrees like lo mein and rice dishes, but we recommend focusing on the dim sum—especially the pork buns and dumplings.

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