CHICAGO 1. Rockit Ranch Productions opened Sunda in River North in March 2009. With a cocktail lounge, a sushi bar, and a private dining room, the Asian restaurant can host seated dinners for 126 and receptions for 300. For smaller groups, two communal tables offer seating for 14 to 32. The lounge can accommodate receptions for 30; and the private Veranda Room seats 30.
2. New-York-based Mexican restaurant Mercadito opened a Chicago outpost in River North in September. Spanish for “little market,” the restaurant offers traditional and mango guacamole, six kinds of ceviche, tacos, and specialty margaritas. With a maximum capacity of 120, the festive venue houses a tequila lounge with seating for 24 and a lantern-lit communal table for 14.
3. Bilevel tapas restaurant Eivissa opened in Old Town in late May. Available for full buyout, the venue has a 400-guest capacity indoors, and its patio seats an additional 45. The first-floor bar, where bartenders shake up unusual cocktails such as absinthe-spiked sangria, can be rented out for receptions for 70. Upstairs, a private dining room holds 250.
4. Tiki-themed restaurant chain Trader Vic’s opened a Gold Coast location in December 2008. With a menu that offers Cantonese steamed sea bass, macadamia nut mahimahi, and 76 fruity cocktails, the restaurant can seat 80 in its private function space. Dubbed the Office, a semiprivate area can host dinners for eight; and the Mai Tai bar area can accommodate cocktail fetes for 100.