CHIGuide

8 Chicago Bars & Restaurants That Are Great During The Holidays

When you want great food with a side of festivity.
8 Chicago Bars & Restaurants That Are Great During The Holidays image

photo credit: C|Louise

Ah, December in Chicago. When days fluctuate between one and 46 degrees, tourists manage to break OpenTable with too many requests for dinner at The Walnut Room, and holiday pop-ups appear on every corner. There are plenty of mediocre bars and restaurants with over-the-top decorations that can only be described as the Grinch’s seventh circle of hell. But sometimes, you just want a reasonable level of festivity. Head to one of these spots for good food and some holiday spirit that doesn’t involve a Wrigleyville bar during TBOX.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Armitage Alehouse

American

Lincoln Park

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For old-timey holiday ambiance head to Armitage Alehouse. It’s reminiscent of a Victorian-era English pub, with a wood-paneled dining room decked out in strategically placed garlands woven with white string lights. There’s even a stately Christmas tree that your Downton Abbey-obsessed aunt would approve of. Armitage is from the team behind Bavette’s and Gilt Bar, so expect attentive service, great food, and for it to be busy. Get a pint of ale and settle in with one of their comforting rotating pot pies in front of the charming fireplace.


Union is always packed but never feels chaotic, and there are just enough garlands and red bows to put you in the spirit without feeling like you walked into Frosty’s. And while this Logan Square spot is technically a bar, the dishes all have little twists that make them stand out from the usual drinking food suspects—like juicy lamb and pistachio meatballs swimming in caper salsa verde, and a burger topped with crispy onions and bone marrow aioli.


When it’s CTA Holiday Train season, you can expect nonstop car ads featuring couples not on the same financial page, and invitations to dinners with friends trying to avoid their families. For the latter, there’s Club Lucky in Bucktown. This old-school Italian spot feels like a supper club with large portions great for groups. But it’s especially fun during the holidays. The loud, crowded dining room, string lights, and an entire elementary school’s supply of paper snowflakes hanging from the ceiling really sell the idea that this is a wonderful time of year.


photo credit: C|Louise

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The holidays always bring about a strong sense of nostalgia, and not just the kind that involves problematic Christmas songs. Frontier, a pioneer-themed restaurant decorated like an 1800s cabin, is determined to take us back when buffalo check plaid was worn unironically. And it succeeds—the large wood-burning fire on the festive all-season patio provides a perfect backdrop for the game-heavy menu, with dishes like braised elk shank, or wild boar with pineapple giardiniera.


Scofflaw is the ideal winter bar—dark without being depressing, home to two large and very cozy fireplaces, and serves a perfectly charred smashburger. Plus it has boozy gin cocktails (and gin tastes like pine trees, and pine trees make us think of sleigh rides through the woods). There are free fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies after midnight, and you don’t even have to be Santa to enjoy them.


Maple and Ash is a steakhouse that’s reminiscent of the castle from Beauty and The Beast—including chandeliers, plenty of velvet, and candelabras of the non-talking variety. This commitment to over-the-top aesthetics extends to the holidays. The massive garland-covered entrance is topped with a red bow that’s perfect for the meet-cute every holiday rom-com says is your seasonal destiny. The inside is full of wreaths and Christmas trees, silvery ornaments dangling overhead, and 40oz tomahawk steaks. Even if your date lives in Gurnee (and not the Gold Coast as they said on their profile) you can still find solace in a fantastic piece of meat.


This piano bar is a great option if you want to listen to live music and drink seasonal cocktails in a space that's only a little more "tastefully" decorated than that apartment across the hall from yours with the inflatable Santa at the door. Tack Room is part of Thalia Hall and shares a kitchen with Dusek’s, which means there are tasty things like confit duck leg, cavatelli with candied garlic, and a late-night menu.


The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel is home to one of the best cocktail bars, one of the darkest restaurants in Chicago, and an annual pop-up called Happy’s that’s like an ugly Christmas sweater party with everyone who works in the Loop. Skip the kitsch and make a reservation at Cindy’s instead. It’s open year-round, but in December you’ll get an unbeatable panoramic view of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park decorated for the holidays. The crab cake sandwich and potato gnocchi won’t blow you away, but the cocktails and atmosphere make up for it.

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