10 New Chicago Holiday Party Venues

By Jenny Berg November 9, 2011, 10:20 AM EST


Photo: Mike Hari/FadeoutFoto.Com

With the holiday season coming up, these new and recently renovated bars, lounges, restaurants, bakeries, private rooms, and more—even a heated courtyard—in and around Chicago can accommodate corporate groups small and large for company holiday parties of every type.

1. Benjamin Restaurant opened this fall in Highland Park. Chef Benjamin Brittsan, who co-owns the venue with his father, Dave, oversees the menu of seasonal American fare. Items include roasted marinated olives, Amish chicken pot pies, and bison-brisket sloppy Joe sliders. A mezzanine area has a baby grand piano and a private booth surrounded with sheer black drapes. The booth can seat five guests, and the whole mezzanine area can host 20 for seated dinners and receptions for 30. If bought out entirely, the restaurant can host receptions for 125, and staffers can lead guests through wine tastings or cooking classes.

2. Magnolia came to the Loop in October. The New York-based bakery, famous for its cupcakes, also serves banana pudding, cookie bars, cakes, and brownies. With pastel walls, lace curtains, and aprons and egg beaters serving as decor, the homey venue can host dessert receptions or cupcake-frosting parties after 9 p.m. The space can hold 100 guests.

3. Melt Sandwich Shoppe specializes in grilled cheese and artisan sandwiches Open since October, the Bucktown eatery has classroom-inspired decor complete with chalkboard walls, child-size desks, and pull-down school maps. A cafeteria-style table allows for communal eating; there are also smaller satellite tables. Available for buyout, the venue can seat 35 and host receptions for slightly larger groups.

4. Saranello's Ristorante Italiano opened in the Westin Chicago North Shore in late October. The Lettuce Entertain You restaurant serves hand-crafted pizzas and pastas, prime steaks, and seafood dishes. With reclaimed wood tables, filament lighting, and exposed brick walls, the Wheeling venue seats 175 in its main dining room and 100 at its 50-foot bar. A large private dining room seats 50. Two smaller rooms can host meetings or private dinners for 25.

5. Roka Akor, an upscale Japanese grill, came to River North in July. Offering 75 kinds of sake, the venue has several spaces for private and semiprivate gatherings. The Omasake table, just off the main dining room, can seat 16. Another semiprivate space, the Shochu lounge, can seat 60 or host cocktail receptions for 150. Tthe chef's table can host group dinners for 12. With its own sound system, a TV, and a projector, the private Akai room can seat 40 or hold 60 for cocktails. Menu options include prime beef filet with chili-ginger sauce, robata-grilled pork belly with marinated beet roots, and banana cake with chocolate-ginger sauce.

6. Barn and Company, a restaurant specializing in barbecue-style fare, opened in Lincoln Park in August. With a 504-inch-wide by 84-inch-tall video wall, 10 personalized touch-screen TVs, and 23 53-inch high-definition TVs, the entire venue is available for buyout and seats 250. The Video Wall room, which offers views of the open kitchen, can hold 50 to 100. The Greenhouse room, a heated and glass-enclosed courtyard, has its own private meat smoker and can hold 40 to 80 guests. Special party packages include a pig roast for 12 to 15 guests or the Barbecue Extravaganza buffet. Stocked with items such as baby back ribs, mac and cheese, and coleslaw, the buffet can feed 15 to 200 guests.

7. At the base of Lake Point Tower in Streeterville, 120 Ultra Lounge soft opened in September, and hosted its grand opening in October. The intimate, one-room lounge has areas that can be roped off to host semiprivate events for 30, 50, or 75 guests. The space can also be bought out to host groups of 150. With a DJ booth and an LED lighting system, the venue offers champagne and bottle service and a list of specialty cocktails. A menu of shareable small plates includes almond-stuffed dates and spiced chicken lollipops.

8. Michael Jordan's Steak House Chicago opened in late August in the Intercontinental Chicago Magnificent Mile. The  6,300-square-foot venue has two private dining rooms that seat 18 guests each. The main dining room seats 160, and decorative touches include walnut flooring, leather and velvet seating, and blown-glass light fixtures.

9. Open in River North since late September, Patron's Hacienda has a private dining room with its own bar and seating for 100. The colorful Mexican restaurant serves steaks and chops, tacos, and street-food-inspired specialties such as corn on the cob with mayonnaise, cheese, and chili powder. The bar serves 56 kinds of tequila, and 15 specialty cocktails incorporate fresh herbs and seasonal fruits. Adjacent to the main dining room, a sports bar has 18 55-inch flat-screen TVs.

10. Billed as a “bordello meets burger bar,” Los Angeles-based restaurant 25 Degrees opened a Chicago location in August. With chandeliers and French toile wallpaper, the River North venue is available for buyout and can host receptions for 120. A build-your-own burger menu has toppings that include sixteen types of artisanal cheeses, house-made sauces including pesto and lemon-dill, and extras such as fried eggs and jalapeno bacon. The bar offers wine served in jugs and spiked milkshakes and sodas.

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