Where To Book Your End-Of-Year Team Dinner
The best spots for a celebratory dinner with your coworkers.
It’s holiday party season, and you’ve been charged with finding the perfect spot for an end-of-year team dinner. This may seem like an impossible task—you know from experience that your coworkers can be difficult to please. But you already spend more time with these people than your real friends, so you need to make this as enjoyable as possible. Here are 18 places great for eating, drinking, and watching in amusement as your colleagues try to bond over something other than who’s responsible for that science experiment growing in the fridge.
Galit is a hard place to make a reservation. So hopefully you’re one of those companies that do end-of-year dinners in January when places are (usually) easier to get into. Either way, the Middle Eastern food here is good enough to consider moving it just to make coming here a possibility. All of the food is fantastic—from the creamy hummuses to the crispy Tunisian-style fried fish and rich and spicy shakshuka. And the variety of small plates makes it ideal for groups. So send out an email to see if everyone would rather eat here at 5pm on a Tuesday, 10:30pm on a Wednesday, or at a reasonable time in January of 2023.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
With plenty of long tables, loud jazz music, and a busy space, Daisy’s in Hyde Park is the ideal casual spot for a fun team dinner. Their specialty is po-boys (though they also make excellent gumbo and fried chicken), and all eight sandwiches at this casual New Orleans-inspired restaurant are fantastic. They come in varieties like fried shrimp, roast beef, fried green tomato, and all come on crackly bread imported from Louisiana. Plus, ordering their boozy Hurricanes will guarantee a good time.
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Booking a reservation at Rose Mary is tough to begin with, let alone for a group. But if you book a month in advance, you have a shot. This West Loop restaurant has plenty of space for larger parties and is perpetually buzzing with energy from the packed dining room. Plus, their great shared Croatian and Italian food might even be able to lure coworkers who you’ve only ever met remotely. There are all sorts of fantastic dishes like creamy stracciatella, smoky cevapi, and perfectly-cooked housemade pastas, as well as a long wine list.
Whenever we eat at RPM Steak, we look up at the mezzanine level and wonder which of Chicago’s professional athletes is having dinner there with Justin Bieber. Turns out that anybody can reserve an upstairs table and pretend to be Anthony Rizzo for the night. Consider RPM if you and your coworkers want go all out and celebrate a year of crushing your corporate rivals. Or if you just like eating really great steak in a sleek and upscale spot. Either motive is acceptable.
This Ethiopian staple in Uptown is the perfect spot for a large team dinner—there are tables easily seating eight or more people, and the food is meant to be eaten family-style. The best thing to order is the chef’s messob, a dish that’s only available for a group of three or more. It comes with a delicious spread of stewed meats, seafood, and vegetables all on a bed of spongy injera. Cancel next month’s three-hour-long team-building all hands and come here instead.
If you’ve always wanted to pretend that you work for a bootlegging operation instead of an accounting firm, first of all, congratulations on the power of your imagination, and secondly, Gilt Bar probably has the ambience for you. It’s dark and feels like a speakeasy, to the point that we have yet to locate a single window or back door - but we’re pretty sure these must exist thanks to fire codes. The menu has lots of stuff you smear on bread, like bone marrow and roasted garlic, plus housemade pastas—and there’s even a cheeseburger that’s similar to the famous one at Au Cheval (which makes sense, since both restaurants are owned by the same team).
This upscale Southern spot is our favorite restaurant in Hyde Park. Not only is the food great, but we like sitting in the airy dining room that’s always packed, but never feels claustrophobic. The menu has small plates like biscuits and pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and entrees like creamy shrimp and grits. It isn’t the lightest food in the world, so make sure everyone knows that the following day’s dress code is “stretchy pants casual."
San Soo Gab San
A foot of snow and perpetual darkness makes a backyard BBQ unfeasible for an end-of-the-year get-together, but that same energy can be channeled at San Soo Gab San. This casual Lincoln Square KBBQ spot is great for a party. Not only because there’s plenty of room in its hazy interior, but because of their incomparable display of over 25 banchan. Regardless of how large your group is, there’ll be plenty to snack on while you grill cuts of bulgogi and galbi. And if no one in your group feels comfortable cooking, the attentive staff will make sure you don’t end up barbecuing your boss.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
The first time we went to this laidback, upscale Bronzeville restaurant, we saw the fully costumed cast of the Bridgeton Experience having a great time. But luckily for your group (and the general public), powdered wigs and waistcoats aren’t a part of Bronzeville Winery’s dress code. There’s plenty of space, an upbeat funk soundtrack, and it’s never so loud that you’ll resort to Slack to chat about how much you like your gnocchi or seared watermelon.
Unless you’re a professional roller coaster rider or Tom Brady, no one wants work obligations interfering with their weekend so most team dinners happen during the week. This means running the risk of feeling useless the next day, but Funkenhausen, a German-inspired restaurant in West Town, is a fun spot that’s still pretty low-key. The menu is pork-heavy and changes often—but you’ll typically find delicious things like housemade weisswurst, a twist on spaetzle, and (if you’re lucky) schnitzel. Plus, it’s not surrounded by clubs and 4am bars, so people will really have to make an effort if they want to go out afterward.
We look for every opportunity to order Sun Wah’s Peking duck feast—it comes with baos, a choice of fried rice or noodles, and a light soup made with the bones from the carved duck. Eating this is a group effort, so what better excuse than an end-of-the-year team dinner at this casual Chinese spot in Uptown. There’s plenty of room for groups in their bright two-story dining space, and sharing a whole roasted duck is an ideal incentive for learning to compromise.
Etta is a BCR (Big Chicago Restaurant), which means you can expect it to be busy pretty much all the time. But it’s somehow still easy to get a reservation here, and this place works well for groups of a lot of different sizes. There are two large bars (one on the first floor and one upstairs), and the dining room has a mixture of booths and tables. Order a variety of housemade pasta and pizzas or the pig picnic (basically a deconstructed pig roast) for everyone to share.
After a year of conference room pizza and celebrations with sheet cakes from Costco, your office wants a real party. When that’s the case, go to Aba in the West Loop. This place is fun and kind of a scene, but also has some fantastic food. It’s always crowded, but it’s a beautiful space and there’s a huge rooftop patio with fire pits. Most things on the Mediterranean menu are meant to be shared, and (most importantly) almost everything comes with the delicious housemade pita bread, which can fit in everyone’s purse—like a party favor.
At the end of the year here in the Midwest, we have about three hours of sunlight a day and that time is spent in the office. So if your team is battling a vitamin D deficiency, consider going to Cabra. This place is on the roof of the Hoxton Hotel, and the space is bright and plant-filled. The menu is Peruvian-inspired, and the best things here are the ceviches (the bass with leche de tigre and the duck are both standouts), the tender and spicy skewered beef heart, and the crispy pork shank.
Come here for an end-of-year dinner that’s a party. On the surface, Siena Tavern has all the traits of a typical River North spot: it’s loud, always crowded, and has giant booths. But despite all this, it’s actually a really good Italian restaurant. The large tables will give you and your coworkers plenty of room to share great pizzas, pastas, and softball-sized meatballs.
Dinner at The Publican works if you and your colleagues don’t mind strangers listening in on your conversations (save the trade secrets for another time). The gigantic U-shaped wooden communal table has plenty of room for sharing big platters of food, like their porchetta or their excellent whole roasted chicken with fries. And don’t let this place’s pork-heavy reputation steer you away—the menu has just as much space dedicated to vegetable and seafood dishes as it does to pork. Because vegetarians and pescatarians get to celebrate the end of the year, too.
Dusek’s in Pilsen is in a huge, refurbished, very possibly haunted building from the turn of the century, and it has a couple of spaces for private dinners. In the basement is the “Beer Cellar,” a private room you access through a revolving bookcase (yep, that’s right)—and next door is the “Tack Room,” constructed over an old stable. Wherever you choose to eat, an event at Dusek’s will get you a lot of history, as well as dishes like pork chops, roasted sweet potato, and mussels. And ghosts, we’re pretty sure.
So you want to have a sort of steakhouse-y experience, but think your coworkers deserve something better (or at least more interesting) than swimming in a vat of creamed spinach with a baked potato life raft. GT Prime has all the quality meat you could want, but with shareable dishes (like rabbit confit and brie and mushrooms) you won’t find on a traditional Chicago steakhouse menu. And since this place does have plenty of giant Chicago steakhouse-style booths, it’s easy to make a larger reservation.