CHICAGO From a cozy cocktail lounge to a boutique that hosts private shopping events, here are eight new venues that can accommodate holiday parties.
1. Earlier this month, Double A cocktail lounge opened on the lower level of River North's Mercadito. Outfitted with dark wood paneling, a DJ booth, and brown leather banquettes, the intimate venue can host receptions for 60. At the center of the space, mixologists work at an exposed cocktail station, whipping up specialty drinks. Offerings include the “Daisy Lighting,” made with whiskey, curacao, hibiscus, egg whites, and flamed chili sugar, and the “Shuga Daddy,” which blends rum with spiced syrup, orange bitters, kumquat puree, and champagne. Bottle service comes with an unusual roster of mixers and preps, with options such as vanilla sugar, strawberries, and orange syrup.
2. Pelago Ristorante opened in the Gold Coast's Raffaello Hotel in September. Co-owner and interior designer Kimberly Mafrici decked the space with blue damask banquettes and porcelain chandeliers; her Italian husband, Mauro Mafrici, oversees the menu. Options include homemade flour dumplings with sausage ragout and pecorino cheese, swordfish carpaccio with Sicilian caponata, and monkfish osso buco with saffron risotto and sautéed marsala carrot. Available for buyout, the space can seat 65 guests for dinner or host 100 for cocktails and passed hors d'oeuvres. At the back of the space, a semiprivate room with a mother-of-pearl fireplace can seat 10.
3. Havana popped up in River North in September. Available for full buyout, the Cuban restaurant can seat 120 amid shell-covered lanterns, black leather banquettes, and slowly whirring ceiling fans; a private dining room on the lower level provides seating for 40. Three set dinner menus are available for private parties, and offer items such as calamari with chipotle mayo, chicken empanadas, and poblano peppers filled with cheese and pomegranate-walnut cream sauce. A list of tropical drinks includes peach daiquiris, watermelon martinis, and guava mojitos.
4. Fix, a West Loop boutique that sells men's and women's clothing and accessories, opened in August. The store now hosts private shopping events that last two hours and can accommodate 50 guests. Though there are no rental fees for the space, hosts must commit to purchasing $1,000 worth of merchandise or gift cards. The boutique has a wet bar on its lower level and lists Catering by April as a preferred vendor.
5. In October, Atrium Wine Bar opened in River East gourmet grocery store Fox & Obel. Overlooking Ogden Slip, the space can host seated dinners for 50 or receptions for 70. The wine bar has its own dinner menu with seasonal entrees such as braised beef stew, ginger-spiced chicken breast, and pumpkin-and-roasted-duck risotto. Hosts may also opt to order off the grocery store's catering menu, which includes holiday specialties such as baked wheels of brie and mini cupcakes with seasonal decorations.
6. Sushi Taiyo opened just off the Magnificent Mile in late October. The Zhang family—owners of local sushi spots Rise and Shine—oversee the venue. House specialties include the Kinomi roll, which blends super white tuna with raspberries and raspberry sauce; the Harvest maki, with pumpkin tempura, Kobe beef, and fresh salmon; and spicy stir-fried lobster. Outfitted with reclaimed barn wood, the venue is available for buyout and can host seated dinners for 65. In mid-December, owners plan to expand the restaurant by adding an upper-level restaurant and lounge, which will host receptions for 250.
7. Specializing in regional Greek cuisine, Taxim opened in Wicker Park in April. Decked with hanging lanterns, Byzantine paintings, and pillow-strewn banquettes, the space is available for full buyout and can host seated dinners for 75. Smaller semiprivate spaces scattered throughout the main dining room can accommodate groups of 15 to 50. Menu options include spit-roasted duck gyros with mint yogurt sauce and pomegranate reduction and oven-roasted sea bass with dandelion salad.
8. Restaurateur Jerry Kleiner opened Il Poggiolo in downtown Hinsdale in August. A 10-minute drive from the corporate headquarters of companies such as McDonald's and Ace Hardware, the Italian restaurant offers a balcony area that can host events for 40. In a former silent movie theater, the eatery is spruced up with red velvet banquettes and oversize silk light fixtures. Banquet packages can include assorted bruschettas, a carving station with Black Angus filet mignon and gorgonzola-cream sauce, and farfalle pasta with smoked salmon.