12 New Restaurants To Have Your Birthday Dinner
The most exciting new spots in Chicago to host your birthday get-together.
One of the questions we get most is, “Where's a new spot I can have my birthday dinner?” Let us guess: You’re looking for something “fun” but not formal, where you can get a table for six-to-ten people? Believe it or not, such restaurants do exist in Chicago.
So whether your idea of fun involves the potential for dancing on tables (OK, we can’t really help with that), a come-and-go-whenever type of gathering, or something in between, we have ideas.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Obelix is located in a quieter part of River North where, instead of witnessing drunken couples arguing with bouncers, you can enjoy fantastic French food in relative serenity. Obelix does have white tablecloths, but it's not stuffy. They have a fun hip-hop playlist and friendly servers who are chill enough to crack a few jokes. This spot is from the same team as Le Bouchon, and while they have delicious French staples, the most exciting dishes are the fusion-y ones that have an international spin. From their steak tartare with a spicy and pungent shio kombu, to their impressively complex foie gras taco (aka foie-co), the combinations of flavors are interesting and unexpected. Paired with an energetic rotation of hip-hop jams, it makes for a great place for birthdays.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Not only does this New Orleans-inspired Hyde Park spot have the best po’boys we’ve encountered in Chicago, but it’s also a blast. The spacious counter-service restaurant has a full bar, live music, and makes boozy hurricanes that aren’t too sweet. Along with the aforementioned po’boys (like fried shrimp, fried green tomato, and a peacemaker–fried oyster and roast beef) the menu has other classics. There are boudin balls and a rich seafood gumbo that has a great amount of heat, and a little crab claw poking out of it. We'd like to think it's wishing us a happy birthday.
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photo credit: Felton Edward Kizer
Sueños x Soho
Pop-ups are a little like restaurant one-night stands, and for that reason we rarely add them to our guides. But we're making an exception for Sueños in the West Loop. This great Baja-influenced seafood spot is operating out of Soho House until May of 2023, which means you have plenty of time to make reservations. And you should, because the food is delicious. The menu has plates like perfectly acidic snapper ceviche, smoky octopus skewers, and buttery garlic shrimp that are great for sharing. The busy space is upbeat, with a bass-heavy playlist, couples on dates, and groups grabbing dinner and drinks in the neighborhood.
photo credit: Maddie Cox
This Asian-fusion vegan spot is the rare plant-based restaurant where the food is really good and it's enough of a scene to earn its downtown address. The space is sleek, has a thump-y music playlist that may briefly make you consider going clubbing afterward, and the long menu is full of dishes that are objectively tasty—whether you’re vegan or not. There’s spicy tuna nigiri made with spicy dehydrated watermelon, jackfruit chicken wings that somehow mimic crispy skin, and firm udon noodles swimming in an unbelievably silky truffle mushroom cream sauce. The large space has plenty of seats, including enough big booths for a group of friends.
This Indian restaurant in River North definitely falls into the fine dining category. Its large dining room is full of staff bustling around in crisp jackets, and the menu’s dishes are plated artistically. But the restaurant doesn’t feel too formal. It’s energetic and busy, and the South Asian EDM playlist won’t make you feel like you’re eating in a library. Most of the food has some kind of French twist, so you’ll find things like eclair canapes filled with goat cheese and chutney, malai tikka formed into a terrine and sauced tableside, and a cute little potato pave accompanying the perfectly medium rare lamb chop. Right now Indienne offers an a la carte menu along with their seven-course tasting, and the former is the best choice if you're here with a group.
photo credit: Shoo Loong Kan
Shoo Loong Kan Hotpot
This Chinatown hot pot restaurant is part of a popular international chain, and considering it takes an hour and a half to grab a table, that popularity has followed it to Chicago. Shoo Loong Kan’s space is immersive, with decorative touches like ornate wooden lattice and red lanterns, plus large stone tables perfect for groups. They have a long list of premium ingredients, from A5 wagyu and lobster, to harder-to-find options like goose intestines and geoduck. There are four broths to choose from (the best is the house chili) and each table can order up to three.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Between its fantastic funk and soul soundtrack, delicious food, and long wine list, Bronzeville Winery is an ideal birthday spot. Plus, this American restaurant in Bronzeville has a great sidewalk patio, and we can't think of a better way to spend an evening celebrating than listening to Earth Wind & Fire with some caramelized watermelon with a glass of pinot grigio.
We like this River North spot for a birthday dinner because it's sleek and relaxed, and the space is so large that you can usually get last-minute reservations for a group. Liva is located inside the Chicago Winery in River North, so it's not surprising they have a great wine selection. But Liva’s pastas are also delicious, like the tender ricotta ravioli or lamb tagliatelle with rich squash sugo. The dining room is large and bright, and has a lovely fireplace that you can pretend is a giant birthday candle.
Chesa's Bistro And Bar
This gluten-free, Southern restaurant in Avondale serves the kind of comforting dishes that make us look forward to–or at least not hate—Chicago’s 30-degree days. The menu has short rib and grits (a beefy change of pace from shrimp that we didn’t know we needed), seafood gumbo with a gentle heat, and buttery wagyu sliders on buns we wouldn’t know were gluten-free if it wasn’t our job to know these things. The space is bright and casual, with a few TVs over the bar and a hip-hop playlist that makes you remember how much you like 2000’s Nelly.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
This guide exists specifically for places like Alla Vita—and let us count the ways. This new West Loop Italian spot is already incredibly busy and popular. It’s in the former Bellemore space (which is huge) and it’s decorated with hanging plants and a large overhead installation that looks a little like wavy gills. It’s from the same chef as Boka, which means the food is great. And while the menu isn’t going to blow your mind with creativity (it’s mainly pizza, pasta, and a handful of entrees) it is delicious. The cacio e pepe ricotta dumplings are now our reigning definition of “decadent.” The pizza has a chewy wood-fired crust, and the chicken parmesan stays crispy even while sitting in a rich tomato sauce. The bar is full of people dining solo, and the restaurant is buzzing with staff and everyone from couples to large groups. Right now reservations are few and far between, so plan on booking a month or so in advance, or snagging a seat at the bar right when they open.
Rose Mary is a West Loop Croatian spot, and reservations are (very) hard to get. But because you’re the kind of person who sets a calendar reminder to renew your city sticker, you will happily plan your birthday dinner three months in advance. And the fact that Rose Mary is very popular means that your friends will be so excited to hitch their wagons to your reservation-getting star, they (probably) won’t cancel last minute. Plus, the food is really good - with dishes like cevapi, delicious crni rizot topped with grilled squid, and some incredible pastas.
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. They have 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 the best spanakopita we’ve ever had. They also have a big patio, weather permitting.