Chicago is big. Buildings fill entire city blocks, some intersections take 10 minutes to cross, and Lake Michigan is basically an ocean. So when it comes to the seats in our restaurants, we don’t f*ck around. We have plenty of big booths for you to choose from. But which one is the best?
After countless hours of research in the field and sending fabric samples to the lab for testing, our results are conclusive. We’ve taken everything into consideration - from size and general aesthetics to plushness of seats, ease of getting up, and overall functionality.
Here are our Chicago Big Booth Power Rankings.
The red booths at Bavette’s check all the boxes, and that’s why they come in at #1. Their backs are high without making you feel closed in, and their puffy seats have just the right amount of spring, giving you a subtle but satisfying bounce when you get up and down. They’re large but not overwhelmingly so, and allow plenty of access to all the surface area of the tables. A real class act.
An outstanding view and incredibly soft leather make the booths at Gibsons Italia noteworthy. These are not plush booths - the leather is tightly stretched over the cushions, much like fabric on a trampoline. (FYI, it’s frowned upon to stand on them or jump up and down.) Each booth in the main dining room faces the large windows and their view of the Chicago River. However, the edges of the booths curve in quite a bit, so the people on each end might need to turn their heads slightly to appreciate the sights.
Soft, brown-colored leather booths with mohair accents are what you can expect at RPM Steak. One nice feature of these booths is that they’re all connected, with platform-like spaces between them that are useful for storing bags, coats, and any plates that might otherwise be hard to reach on the gigantic tables. Use them to keep those parker house rolls handy.
RPM Italian has the same low-backed leather and mohair booths as RPM Steak, but loses points for not also having those convenient storage platforms. The booths here are sleek, wide, and not too deep - perfectly sized for you, a date, your winter coats, and a few shopping bags from Water Tower Place. Be careful while eating, though - pasta sauce stains will not improve these booths.
This Italian restaurant has tufted leathery booths that sit on a dais and loom above the regular tables. The booths have a shallow “U” shape, giving you an excellent view of the dining room. Make sure to seat the thirstiest people (who will probably need to pee) at the end - repeatedly disrupting the whole group to leave your seat is a real buzzkill. As an added touch, the walls match the color and design of the booths exactly, making it hard to tell where your booth ends and the rest of the world begins.
It’s no surprise that a restaurant whose entire reputation is built around its booths delivers in the booth department. And while all the leather booths at this classic spot are nicely shaped, it’s the namesake “Booth One” that you’ll want to sit in. This is primarily because of its working rotary phone, which you can use to call Frank Sinatra’s ghost. But you can’t just waltz in and expect to be seated here - you need to arrange it ahead of time. Which makes this most appropriate for special occasions, not casual or spontaneous booth outings.
For a glamorous booth experience, consider this cocktail bar. Each of the second-floor booths comes with its own sheer curtain and chandelier. Some even face a mirror, giving you the opportunity to appreciate your booth from multiple angles. The curtain doesn’t close all the way, so you won’t have complete privacy, but that’s probably for the best - you don’t want your server to lose track of you and forget to bring the lemon-scented creme brulee.
The large booths at this pizza place fit in perfectly with its family-friendly atmosphere. Their backs crest - starting low on both sides, and getting taller in the middle. The best way to utilize this design is to seat the adults where the back is the highest, and position children up front. It’s like the opposite of a car.
The green fabric booths at this fancy Gold Coast steakhouse have the comfort of a recliner, but are covered in a velvety material that’s much more stylish. Each booth has room for you and seven reasonably sized friends. Please note - they have been known to cause static cling.
The booths at this Mexican restaurant have low seats, high backs, and sharp curves that will make you feel like you’re sitting in a teacup at Disneyland. One benefit of their semi-enclosed design is that your voice can travel easily from one side of the booth to the other. It’s kind of like that “whispering gallery” you saw on your trip to DC, except you have to speak at full volume. At least there are margaritas.
What the booths at this global small plates restaurant lack in luxury materials, they make up for in creative design. Their backs have two distinct textures - iridescent pleather on the sides, and a patterned fabric in the middle. The playfulness of this combination allows you the freedom not to take yourself, or your booth, too seriously.
Roots is home to a rare species: the inside-out booth. The backs of these booths are in the center (see photo below), ringed by an oversized bench-like seat. But this unconventional design doesn’t affect their functionality. The people sitting on the edge will get a good view of the TVs at the bar while they wait their turn to eat some pizza at the table. How groups choose to rotate this arrangement is up to them, but keep in mind that yelling “switch!” can be disruptive.
While many Chicago booths are plush and comfortable, the ones at Sushi-san are designed to build character. They’re made of wood, with sharp corners that can hurt the backs of your legs after an extended visit. But they also have a certain minimalist charm. If you’re really concerned, bring some kneepads and wear them backwards while you eat.
Pequod’s has three large booths, all on the first floor. And while we’re fans, we’ve deducted points because the tables they surround aren’t actually very big - so you might run out of room for pizza pans if your booth is at capacity. The solution to this is to keep your eyes on the amount of available space and adjust your pizza consumption speed as necessary. Note: in summer months, the vinyl can stick to the backs of your thighs, causing an unpleasant noise as you exit your booth. Consider wearing long pants.
The single large booth at this new American restaurant is striking, catching your eye through the window as you walk by. It’s tall, covered in brightly-colored fabric, and it surrounds an appropriately large table. This is perfect for large groups who want a fast-casual booth experience. You shouldn’t plan on lingering - it’s about as comfortable as a couch in the lobby of a Best Western. But the sheer size of it still makes it one of the more impressive booths around.