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 20 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.
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.
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.
Unlike Etta, 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 2020.
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.
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”.
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.
Pacific Standard Time is a large, busy restaurant in River North that feels a little like a mall atrium. And all the glass and tile in the space means this place can get loud - not great for a romantic date, but ideal for people who have spent the past 364 days listening to their co-worker’s office chatter and nose whistles. The menu has a broad range of tasty shareable dishes, from seasonal vegetable plates and wood-fired pizzas, to skirt steak and polenta. Whatever you order, make sure to get something that comes with the delicious (and potentially noise-canceling) housemade pita.
Come here for an end-of-year dinner that’s a party. On the surface, Siena Tavern has all the traits of a typical (terrible) River North spot: it’s trendy, always crowded, it has giant booths, and there’s a celebrity chef who may or may not actually be in the kitchen. 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. Whoever is actually cooking in the kitchen is doing a fine job, thank you very much.
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.
RPM Italian looks like a giant sea of black tables and big white booths. But hidden like Easter eggs around this place are multiple private dining rooms. Like RPM Steak, this is an upscale option, with high-end Italian food including excellent housemade pastas, antipasti, and steak and seafood entrees. So get a little dressed up and enjoy the moment your boss pulls out her corporate card to pay for everything.
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).
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 pescetarians 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 meat-centric food like pate, ham samplers, and sausage. And ghosts, we’re pretty sure.
Booking a team dinner here won’t win you any cool points - the Italian food at Formento’s is solid but not particularly exciting. Not every team wants to eat cutting-edge experimental dishes, though, and being distracted by a menu can take away from time you’d rather spend relaxing. Plus, you can’t go wrong with crowd-pleasing Italian food served family-style. Consider this your team dinner safety school.
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.
You’re crammed next to each other in an office all day, so maybe the last thing you want is to be trapped next to one another at a formal seated dinner. At Oyster Bah, you can feel like you’re hanging out in a bar rather than a restaurant - because while there are tables, it’s still really casual. The seafood shack food (think East Coast staples like fried clams and lobster rolls), which is the inspiration behind this place’s terrible name, is delicious. And also, incidentally, great for soaking up alcohol.
This upscale Italian restaurant in the Gold Coast does have a few private rooms, but if your team is on the smaller side, you can also make a reservation (for a maximum of six) in the main dining room, where you’ll be able to see the open kitchen. Nico’s food is Northern Italian, with a general seafood focus, and the menu is perfect for sharing.
This is not the place for a “getting wasted on the company’s dime while double-dipping your shrimp in the cocktail sauce” type of get-together. This is for the more refined office. Marisol in the MMA is (unsurprisingly) arty, with a huge wall mural and colorful furniture. Food-wise, you can expect super seasonal small plates and pastas. The whole place is elegant but low-key, so come here with a team that’s on its best behavior.
This spot is incredibly popular (it’s the OG of Chicago Top Chef restaurants, and in a city where there are approximately 1,543 and counting, that’s saying something) - so it’s also absurdly hard to get into. But it’s worth planning ahead, because the global small plates (like goat empanadas and the aggressively named “pig face”) are f*cking fantastic and great for sharing. If you’re really on top of it, you can even have your dinner in Girl and the Goat’s private downstairs room. It will probably be the only time you can eat here without having to shout your conversation, and that in itself will be something to celebrate.