CHIGuide

Where To Have Dinner With Your In-Laws

You’re going out with your in-laws, and they’ve asked you to pick the place. Here are 17 great options.

Even if you really like your in-laws, picking a place for dinner with them can be stressful. There’s a lot to consider: the restaurant should be nice but not ultra-expensive, plus quiet enough that they won’t need to shout when asking you, for example, whether you’ve finished up your wedding thank-you notes. Of course, the food and service also have to be good. Don’t get overwhelmed. Pick one of these 14 spots.

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The Spots

If you’re looking for a leisurely spot where you can all commiserate about your wedding photographer, or discuss important topics like Aaron Rodgers’ contract, book a table at Dear Margaret in Lincoln Park. This charming French-Canadian restaurant has tasty dishes like foie gras terrine with fluffy milk bread, duck breast with lentils, and a friendly staff who will leave you alone while you get to the bottom of how Aaron and Shailene met. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of place where you will want to take extra time to order some dessert.


No matter what your mother-in-law overheard you say right before you swore you hung up the phone, dinner at Galit can smooth things over. That’s because the food at this Middle Eastern restaurant in Lincoln Park is fantastic. It’s all good - from the creamy hummus (the one topped with brisket is a standout), to turkey shawarma, to tender lamb sausage. And right now they’re serving a four-course prix fixe dinner for $65. And even though the space is large and crowded, it’s never so loud that you can’t hear what’s being said at the table. So, at least here you know she’s listening.


For someplace 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. Plus, that busy-ness means that the entire restaurant won’t hear your in-laws discussing the exciting new facts they learned on Facebook. In terms of food, you’ll find 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 some of the best octopus we’ve ever had.


We wouldn’t normally recommend going to a tasting menu spot with the in-laws, but Wherewithall is an exception. First off, it’s a $85 four-course tasting menu, so it’s relatively affordable, and the meal will be short enough that no one will have time to ask about having kids. And the food is delicious - it’s from the same team as Parachute (one of our favorite Chicago spots) and you’ll find everything from cornmeal beignets to duck breast with cauliflower and currants on the daily-changing menu. Plus, the space is small and cute, and the lampshades look like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter.


Chicago is the fifth location of this casual Spanish restaurant that opened in D.C. back in 1993, so there’s a chance your in-laws ate here during the Clinton administration. And while at first the brightly lit, busy River North space might give you definite chain restaurant vibes, that concern will soon disappear thanks to the attentive service and great food. The menu includes tapas, paellas, sangrias, and a long list of Spanish wines. And the crowd - while a mixed bag of tourists - is clearly having some fun. It’s contagious, so even if you come here in a bad mood, you’ll be joining them soon.


This Italian restaurant in the West Loop is just perfect for people who just want to have a conversation. It’s large without feeling cavernous, tastefully decorated in soothing neutral colors, and the service is efficient without being obtrusive. More importantly, the food is good. The focus is on handmade pastas, which include things like a fantastic bucatini cacio e pepe, pici with ragu, and paccheri mancini prepared tableside. And while Gioia is in one of Chicago’s busiest neighborhoods, it’s still easy to book a reservation. Plus, there’s a large bar area that’s great for hanging out after dinner.


​​This new West Loop Italian spot is from the same chef as Boka, which means the food is great. And while Alla Vita’s menu isn’t going to impress your in-laws with creativity (it’s mainly pizza, pasta, and a handful of entrees) it is delicious. The rigatoni is perfectly al dente, the pizza has a chewy crust, and the chicken parmesan stays crispy even while sitting in a rich tomato sauce. And this restaurant is buzzy and popular - it’s in the former Bellemore space (which is huge) and it’s decorated with hanging plants and a very cool fabric wave ceiling. Right now reservations are few and far between, so plan on booking a month or so in advance.


This North Center restaurant has a menu full of hits, from starters like mushroom kulcha and tamarind-glazed sweet potato chaat, to creamy lamb gustaba and smoky eggplant bharta. Not only is the food really good, but this place works well for a bunch of situations - including having dinner with two people that still make you slightly nervous. They make great cocktails, and have a bright, spacious dining room Oh, and there’s a covered sidewalk patio. So unless you just don’t like eating delicious things, there are very few scenarios where Basant isn’t a good option.


S.K.Y is on this guide, and Apolonia, a mostly Mediterranean restaurant in the South Loop, is from the same team. But while its sister restaurant feels like a sexy basement, Apolonia is bright and airy, with tall windows and high ceilings. There are dishes like mussels on toast, a buttery truffle puff bread, and fiorentini topped with a rich pork sugo. There aren’t a lot of upscale restaurants near the McCormick center, and this understated, minimally-decorated place is where you go to catch up with visiting in-laws who spent the day touring the Museum Campus.


One of your in-laws is vegan, gluten-free, and/or trying out a raw food diet. Luckily this doesn’t need to be a problem because you can take them to Althea. It’s an upscale plant-based restaurant with dishes like a surprisingly satisfying “cacio e pepe” made with kelp noodles, spicy udon with tempeh, and a vegan cheese plate that’s somehow not terrible. Better yet, this place is located on the 7th floor of Saks Fifth Avenue on Michigan Avenue, which is perfect because your MIL really loves shopping the Clinique bonus sale.


If your in-laws like lots of different types of food, try S.K.Y. in Pilsen. The menu here doesn’t fall completely into any one category (you’ll find a range of things like lobster dumplings, cornbread madeleines, and foie gras bibimbap), but all of it is great. The space is dimly lit, but not to the point that everyone will struggle to see what they’re eating, and indie music plays at a reasonable volume. It’s a fun spot for a night out, no matter who you’re with.


You love Avec in the West Loop, but know that the cramped, communal seating situation is going to make your mother-in-law complain the entire meal. So go to Avec River North instead. It’s much larger than the original Avec, isn’t shaped like a shoebox, and everyone gets their very own seat. Plus, it has a longer menu full of Avec classics (like the chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates and taleggio flatbread), along with a lot more small and large plates, pastas, and pizza.


When parents from either coast are visiting, take them someplace that exemplifies the Midwest without just stuffing them full of deep dish pizza (they can take care of that at the airport). The menu at Daisies is based on produce sourced from local farms, so vegetables play a big role in the food here, including in the excellent housemade pastas that make up the majority of the menu. And if you still want to make sure your visitors get the required dose of dairy while they’re here, just order the onion dip as an appetizer.


HaiSous is a Vietnamese restaurant in Pilsen with extremely friendly service and tasty, well-prepared food. Most of the dishes are shareable, and the space is set up comfortably for small groups. You’ll find things like papaya salad, crispy chicken wings, and mussels in a fantastic coconut broth. Or get the affordable family-style tasting menu - for $40-$65 per person, you get seven courses that the whole table can share.


If your in-laws live in Chicago and like Italian food, chances are they’ve already been to Monteverde - probably more than once. But if they’re visiting from out of town (or are afraid of change), it’s always a good choice. This reliable West Loop spot serves some of the best pasta in the city - in particular the cacio e pepe, which is a menu staple. But the non-pasta is great, too (try the stuffed cabbage appetizer or the pork shank), and the atmosphere is lively but still quiet. In other words, Monteverde is a great place to sit and talk about whether you guys are going to keep wasting your money renting, or finally buy something.


Ema is perfect if you’re terrible at making small talk. That’s because everything on the Mediterranean menu is meant for sharing. So a lot of the dinner conversation can center around passing things around the table, and whether or not people need more bread. Because the food comes out as it’s ready, this is bound to continue throughout the entire meal. And incidentally, everything you’re passing around will taste really good.


Dinner at a classic Chicago steakhouse is a great choice for anyone in from out-of-town, and it’s likely that at least one in-law enjoys steak. But there are about one million steakhouses across Chicago, and many are mediocre. This West Loop spot is not. You’ll find great steaks and service here, and while it’s in a modern-feeling revamped warehouse space, there are still plenty of classic touches, like drink and dessert carts rolling around. Take full advantage of both.


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