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18 Great Restaurants For New Year’s Eve That Don’t Require A Tasting Menu

Places to have a normal, a la carte meal.
18 Great Restaurants For New Year’s Eve That Don’t Require A Tasting Menu image

photo credit: John Ringor

Maybe you dodged the CTA Santa train this season, but New Year’s Eve can’t be avoided so easily. And while you want to acknowledge the holiday, you’d prefer to skip the prix fixe menus that build in an extra $100 for a “complimentary” glass of champagne, or bars that charge you to stand around surrounded by people desperately searching for someone they can kiss at midnight. Instead, follow our guide to 18 great restaurants where you can ring in another year of construction on the Kennedy, and order off the regular menu as you damn well please.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Italian

Humboldt Park

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerDate Night
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Segnatore has the vibe of a European cafe, candlelit and intimate, but still perfect for a solo celebration. Every dish at this casual Italian restaurant has some kind of creative twist. There are meatballs filled with melted scamorza offering the benefits of a Juicy Lucy without the risk of third-degree burns, or a deconstructed “lasagna” made with handmade garlic mafaldine, whipped ricotta, and mushroom bolognese. Post up at the bar, and plan to kiss your cheese-filled meatball at midnight.


If you’re craving dim sum this NYE, Minghin in Chinatown has you covered. It’s huge, with tons of tables, and it’s also open 365 days a year. It’s great for groups and is easy to walk in and get a table—even on holidays. Which is helpful to know in case all your friends from college are still in town, and you need a last-minute place to get together on New Year’s Eve.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsBirthdays
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For someplace that’s popular and busy but won’t be full of chaotic energy, check out Andros Taverna. This Greek restaurant in Logan Square is spacious, has great food, and is serving their regular menu on December 31st. You’ll find appetizers like the must-order kataifi cheese pie, mezze spreads, entrees like prawn saganaki in a rich tomato sauce, and the best spanakopita we’ve ever had.


Rooh is an upscale Indian restaurant in the West Loop, and they're serving their entire regular menu on NYE. You’ll find pretty versions of dishes like pork belly with fig and ginger sauce, avocado and chickpea bhel, and butter chicken. The large space has two levels, each with a different personality—the downstairs bar area is busy and loud, while the upstairs dining room is quiet and filled with comfortable velvet booths. They're also doing some later seatings that will have a champagne toast at midnight.


Anelya’s fantastic Ukrainian food and fun space will charm you into eating as slowly as possible just to stay a little longer into the new year. Flower-like lamps give the dining room a trippy colorful glow, and servers zip around the dining room with sparkling zakuski carts, hyping up dishes like they’re blind dates they want you to meet. And you’ll want to eat everything on the a la carte menu—from the rich potato and pork jowl varenyky to kovbasa with apricot and blueberry sauerkraut.


Bar Siena in the West Loop is where you take your Midwestern friends who would fall into the bonfire at parties. The space is loud and trendy, with a huge bar dominating the first floor and a larger dining area upstairs that’s perfect for groups. They have some specials for New Year’s Eve, but pastas and wood-fired pizzas make up most of the menu and they’re great. The gnocchi is pillowy and delicious, and the pizza is easy to share. It’s a good spot to get a little wild, and since it’s not downtown, you won’t risk losing your people in a sea of suburbanites.


Some spots are good for celebrations and special occasions without being obvious about it— meaning they aren’t full of neon signs you’ll want to take pictures under, or crowds of people holding plastic glasses of cheap champagne. Ema is one of those spots. Its menu of affordable Mediterranean small plates is designed for sharing, and the indie pop playlist is fun without making you feel like you need to do drugs in the bathroom.


New Year’s Eve or not, you can count on Aba in the West Loop to be a scene. It’s always crowded, the space is beautiful, and there’s a huge rooftop patio that’s perfect for hanging out over drinks (even during the winter). But the good news is that Aba has great food, and a regular a la carte menu available for the holiday. As with its sister restaurant, Ema in River North, a lot of things on the Mediterranean menu are meant to be shared.


This Argentinian steakhouse in the West Loop is fun and a little loud and has an open kitchen with a live-fire grill. Everything the grill touches is worth ordering—including, of course, the delicious steaks. They’re all served with a tasty chimichurri, and our favorite thing to get (and share with other people) is the 32-oz. bone-in ribeye. Make sure to order some garlic fries to go with it, and plan on not close-talking for the first two days of 2024.


Your New Year’s Eve dreams include eating enough seafood to put you on some sort of sustainability watchlist, and you don’t want to commit to a prix fixe menu. Go to Shaw’s in River North. This place is only serving their regular menu, so you can focus all your attention on the crab legs, salmon, lobster, crab cakes, and raw bar.


Joe’s is an old-school spot that has white tablecloths, jacket-wearing servers, and great food (some of which is prepared tableside). It’s also the kind of place that makes sure you get a bread basket, transporting you back to a time before you had to spend $9 for rolls made with hand-milled wheat and housemade cultured butter. PSA: it’s located in the section of River North that’s very close to Michigan Avenue, so definitely plan on taking the train, and you might want to consider eating at 3pm.


The bad news is that if you don’t already have a reservation at Bavette’s, you’re probably not going to get one for New Year’s Eve. Luckily, the bar is first come, first served, and the dining room always has some seats reserved for walk-ins. The food and ambience here are so enjoyable that it’s worth a try.


New Year’s Eve means it’s almost January, January means it’s cold, and the cold means wearing a coat that ruins any outfit you might have thoughtfully picked out. Try and trick yourself about this whole winter situation by grabbing NYE dinner at Summer House Santa Monica, where the plant-filled space does a good job of making you feel like you’re actually in California. Order fish tacos and kale salad, and (at your own risk) feel free to leave your coat at home.


GT Prime is one of Chicago’s steakhouses that arrived during the Great Steakhouse Rush of 2016. You’ll find animal heads on the wall, fuzzy bar stools, and oversized paintings of food dominating the room. The menu is very long, with steak, pastas, seafood, and lots of small plates. Everything is good, and it’s an ideal place to ring in the New Year with people who can’t make up their minds about what to get and want to look at a giant octopus painting while they decide.


Momotaro is another restaurant with an overwhelmingly long menu, full of delicious sushi and Japanese small plates. The menu is so long, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to make a quick decision. But if you come here on the evening of December 31st, your server can unironically ask you if it will take you all year to order, and you can say yes. Also worth noting is that if you do decide you want a party, their downstairs izakaya is having a NYE party starting at 6pm.


This guide is full of steakhouses, but so is Chicago. And if your 2023 resolution was to visit as many as possible and you’re one short, Swift & Sons in the West Loop has you covered. It’s a straightforward steakhouse with excellent food, and the menu has everything you’d hope for (like steaks, a wedge salad, and lots of potatoes), along with entrees like roasted chicken and fish. Make sure to grab something from the chocolate cart at the end of your meal.


The wait for a burger at Au Cheval already feels like it spans years, and if you come here on New Year’s Eve, you can make that a reality. But the legendary burger isn’t the only reason to wait three (or more) hours to eat inside this walk-in-only restaurant masquerading as a dark bar. Dishes like the roasted bone marrow with beef cheek marmalade are outstanding, the duck heart hash is fantastic, and the glazed chicken wings should be on your table, too.


This Lakeview spot is from the same team behind Momotaro and has a similar Japanese fusion menu. But Itoko is much quainter—the two-story restaurant is in what feels like a revamped house. Focus on the sushi, salmon, and definitely save room for dessert, like the refreshing orange kakigori. The full a la carte menu is available on NYE, plus some caviar-topped specials, which is bound to be better than whatever you ate at your last house party.

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