Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any other winter festival, this definitely will be a holiday season unlike any other. Smaller family and friend groups are the norm for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean your holiday will be less merry. Bringing in a meal — even if you are on your own and celebrating with family over Zoom — will make the day seem special, and it will be doing a great service to our local independent restaurants and businesses, who have always depended on the big holiday season to cover the slower months. They need us now more than ever, and you won’t have to clean the whole kitchen after cooking the family meal, so it’s a win-win, right? While you’re at it, check out their New Year’s Eve offerings as well.
Happy Holidays to all of our Better readers, city dwellers and suburbanites alike, and to all the hard-working chefs, restaurateurs and restaurant workers out there. May all of your wishes come true.
Duck Duck Goat
857 W. Fulton Market, Chicago
This West Loop/Fulton Market resto, an integral part of the Boka Restaurant Group mini-empire, is James Beard Award-winning chef Stephanie Izard’s cheffed-up homage to the Chinese-American food she grew up eating — and craving. I’ve got my eye on the Christmas Peking Duck Dinner, which is all prepped and marinated for you to roast at home. You’ll also get Green Beans with Black Bean Sauce and Mushrooms, Veggie Fried Rice, Mashed Potato Spring Rolls and a few other goodies. Need dessert? Add Candy Cane or Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes ($16 for 4) from Izard’s newest “goat,” Sugargoat, and maybe a batched cocktail or two. Christmas Duck Dinner feeds 4, $175. Order for pickup Wednesday, 12/23 from 1-4 pm (12/24 pickup is already sold out).
El Che Meat & Provisions
845 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago
Chef John Manion is a master of the flame, but for Christmas this year, he’s entrusting the meat to you. Not to worry! His five-pound Chateaubriand Tenderloin is ready for your oven, and comes with the perfect seasoning to sprinkle on before cooking, and his famous green chimichurri sauce to serve on the side. All that, plus Twice-Baked Potatoes and Creamed Kale. Need dessert? Add on a whole White Chocolate-Vanilla Peppermint Cake ($60) or a Caramel & Spiced Pear Cheesecake ($40) to gild that lily. El Che Holiday Libations (Caramelized Rum Old Fashioned Kit, mayhap?) are highly recommended. El Che Christmas Roast feeds 4, $150. Place order for pickup on Wednesday, December 23 from 4-7 pm.
24 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
I miss going downtown, don’t you? One of my favorite wintertime jaunts involves the Art Institute, a walk through Grant Park, and lunch at this long-time Loop gastropub. So I say, bring on the MEAT for holiday dinner with their Truffled Beef Wellington Feast from chef Chris Gawronski. Start with Stuffed Dates, Whitefish Spread and House Smoked Salmon, Wild Mushroom Soup and Super Green Salad, then on to the main event with Twice Baked Potatoes, Creamed Spinach and Parker House Rolls with whipped European butter. Choose between three desserts: Sticky Coffee Cake, Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Pie, or Citrus Tart. Thinking bigger? Then opt for the Perfect Herbed Prime Rib instead. Truffled Beef Wellington for 2 ($215) or 4 ($430); Perfect Herbed Prime Rib Dinner feeds 6-8, $665. Order for pickup Wednesday, 12/23 from 11 am – 7 pm, or Thursday, 12/24 at 11 am.
Pastry Chef Kevin McCormick has put together some wonderful dessert choices for your holiday celebrations, including a Tahitian Vanilla Buche de Noel ($35) with vanilla bean sponge cake and cremeux, passion fruit curd frosted with vanilla bean mascarpone cream and decorated with white chocolate and coconut; Raspberry Chocolate Buche de Noel ($42) made with milk chocolate sponge cake, raspberry compote, chocolate raspberry cream and “frosted” with Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse; French Silk Pies with chocolate crust, dark chocolate cream, candied spiced pecans and vanilla bean whipped cream that come in 6” ($42) or 8” ($48) sizes. Jewel-like signature Good Ambler chocolates are also on offer in 9- or 16-piece boxes ($20/$32), and you can order breakfast pastries for your holiday breakfast, including a killer Coffee Cake with almond streusel and raspberry jam (serves 4-6, $25) or Quiche Lorraine with caramelized onions, bacon, and Gruyère (serves 4-6, $35). Other add-ons from different Sixteen on Center properties are also available to make your season bright, from charcuterie boards (Paulette’s Market) and tamales (El Oso) to Build-Your-Own Pizzas from Pizza Friendly Pizza. Order by Saturday, 12/19 at noon for pickup on Wednesday, 12/23 from 3-7 pm at El Oso in Hyde Park, Saint Lou’s Assembly in downtown Chicago, or Space in Evanston.
694 Vernon Ave., Glencoe
Go big AND go home with this super-luxe Christmas Dinner Package from Guildhall. The centerpiece is a D’Artagnan Family Farms Herb-Crusted, Bone-In Rib Roast weighing in at 8 pounds and served with Beef Jus, Mustard Cream and Homemade Horseradish Sauce. Surrounding it will be Butternut Squash and Apple Gratin, Creamed Spinach and Tuscan Kale, Haricots Verts with Roasted Mushrooms and Crispy Shallots, Whipped Potatoes with Black Truffle Butter, and to top it off, Yorkshire Pudding! You’ll need a nap after this one. Add-on dessert options are Publican Quality Bread’s Panettone or Patisserie Coralie’s Buche de Noel ($36 each). Or you could just sit around in a meat stupor… your choice. Christmas Dinner Package feeds 6, $570. Order by 12/20 for pickup Wednesday 12/23 or Thursday, 12/24 from 2-6 pm.
1733 Central St., Evanston
One of Chicagoland’s very best bakeries is doing their best to make the holiday pleasant for all of us! Fresh off some killer Hanukkah sufganiyot, master bread baker Ellen King is serving up ready-to-bake Brie en Croûte, Gougères, Morning Buns, Croissants and Baguettes for you to bake fresh for your family. Want it ready-made? Her crusty sourdough loaves, freshly baked Cherry or FEW Bourbon Pecan Pies, Panettone, and Peppermint Whoopie Pies are also on offer.
Prices vary. Order by Sunday, 12/20 at 10 pm for pickup Wednesday, 12/23 or Thursday, 12/24.
The Peninsula Hotel
108 E. Superior St., Chicago
Although all of life seems like a Staycation lately, the Peninsula Hotel off the Mag Mile is offering truly special holiday packages for when you’ve finally reached your nesting limit with in-room holiday decorations, a Christmas movie library, dessert for four delivered to the suite, daily American breakfast for four, and a virtual welcome and storytelling by Santa Claus. Not up for a hotel stay? Bring the Peninsula home with one-on-one meal donations via Shanghai Terrace and The Lobby to-go menus and give back to the community. For every meal purchased, a meal will be donated via The Greater Chicago Food Depository. The Peninsula Chicago is expecting to donate 20,000 meals by the end of this year, and that’s certainly something to celebrate. Merry and Bright Package, starts at $1,250 for Junior Suite.
59 W. Hubbard St., Chicago
The Italian American tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve lives on at this River North Italian ristorante from Lettuce Entertain You. Their version includes Seafood Salad, Shrimp Piccata, spicy Mussels fra Diavolo, Linguini & Clams, and Branzino Siciliano. I’d add a Negroni ($90) or Aperol Spritz ($45) cocktail kit in keeping with the theme to toast the holiday! Feast of Seven Fishes feeds 2, $100. Order by 4 pm on Tuesday, 12/22 for pickup Thursday, 12/24 from noon- 6 pm.
565 W. Randolph St., Chicago
Why put yourself into the same holiday meal box year after year? Time to branch out! Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s Christmas Package is an Asian Feast for two, starting with steamed Black Pepper Pork Dumplings, Shrimp and Lemongrass Soup. Next, Stone Bass with Fresno Chili, Grilled Chinese Eggplant Salad, Roasted Kabocha Squash, and Jasmine Rice, and a custardy Vietnamese Coffee Flan to finish. Proxi Christmas for 2, $140. Order through 12/18 for pick up on 12/23 or 12/24 from 10 am – 4 pm.
Robert et Fils
4229 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Chef-owner Rob Shaner grew up eating game meat caught by his father, so this year, he is celebrating the holiday with a popular European tradition: Roast Goose. Admit it… you would never cook this yourself, but it’s a great alternative to turkey, much more flavorful. Savory a la carte offerings include foie gras, pâté en croûte, and chicken liver mousse, and complete your meal with his country sourdough brioche with cultured butter and a gorgeous Buche de Noel. Price varies with order; for goose, call restaurant directly at 773-687-9179 (limited quantities). For pickup on Wednesday, 12/23.
Smyth + The Loyalist
177 N. Ada St., Chicago
Star chef couple John Shields and Karen Urie Shields have been shining brightly in the West Loop for a few years now, and their holiday meal offerings reflect their commitment to seasonality and fine technique. You can opt for a Lasagna Bolognese Supper (house-made pasta with rich pork ragout and bechamel sauce, Chopped Italian Salad, Potato & Garlic Ciabatta and Karen’s delectable Tiramisu) or the Whole Crown of Duck with Preserved Citrus Chutney, Butter-Glazed Challah, Potted Duck Leg Paté, Spiced Carrots, Chestnut Soup with Truffle and Crème Fraîche, Chicory Salad with Goat Cheese, and the pièce de resistance: Crêpes Suzette with Orange-Rum Butter. Add Sticky Buns ($25) and a Breakfast Casserole ($30) for Christmas morning. Oh, my. Lasagna Bolognese Supper feeds two ($75) or four ($150); Whole Crown of Duck feeds two ($165) or four ($240). Order for pickup on Wednesday, 12/23 from 4-7 pm.
1146 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette
This new downtown Wilmette steakhouse is coming in hot for the holiday with their 2020 Christmas Feast. Bill’s Caesar Salad, Lobster Bisque and Parker House Rolls with Whipped Butter are the precursor to the star: Standing Prime Rib Roast with Beef au Jus and Horseradish Cream, with Potatoes au Gratin and Brussels Sprouts Amandine along for the wide. They’ve even included a whole Double Chocolate Peppermint Cake for you to devour — if you can find room. If not, save it for a breakfast of champions! 2020 Christmas Feast feeds 4-6, $475. Order for pickup Wednesday, 12/23 from 10 am – 8 pm, or Thursday, 12/24 from 10 am – 2 pm.
Terra & Vine
1701 Maple Ave., Evanston
Christmas is a bountiful bargain from Terra & Vine, where you can one-stop shop Christmas Eve Dinner and Christmas Morning Brunch in one fell swoop! The prix fixe for two includes Cream of Mushroom Soup, House-Made Focaccia, Mashed Potatoes, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, and your choice of two entrees: Braised Short Ribs, Chicken Piccata, Salmon Piccata, Roasted Cauliflower, or Shrimp Scampi Linguine. Add on Housemade Tiramisu or Flourless Chocolate Cake to complete the meal, and perhaps one of Alpana Singh’s wonderful wines to accompany it all. For breakfast, the Take ‘n’ Bake Egg Casserole ($18, serves 2-3), French Toast Casserole ($17, serves 3-4), or Lox and Bagel Platter ($24, serves 2) will make your life THAT much easier. Holiday Prix Fixe feeds 2, $49. Order by Tuesday, 12/22 for pickup Thursday, 12/24.
Travelle at The Langham
The Langham, 330 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago
If you’re looking for an indulgent holiday, Chef Jeff Vucko and his dedicated Travelle staff have got you covered. How about a 32-Ounce Salt-Crusted Prime Bone-In Tomahawk Steak, a luxe Caviar Package with proper accoutrements, or a Seafood Bouillabaisse Kit? If you’re feeding the family, check out the Christmas package, which centers around Apple-Glazed Kurobuta Ham and Braised Short Ribs with Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach and Garlic Tortelloni. Tuscan Kale Salad, Parker House Rolls with Herb Butter and Baked Cauliflower Au Gratin are able partners, and end with a Sticky Toffee Gingerbread Cake. Christmas Feast, $94 per person and must be ordered by Tuesday, 12/22 for pickup on Friday, 12/25. Pull up to valet station at hotel entrance and pick up your to-go package.
720 N. State St., Chicago
What’s more festive than Christmas in Mexico? Bring that feeling into your home with this artful Christmas Dinner from chef Carlos Guaytan. Start with Acapulco-Style Shrimp Seviche and Bacalao, progress to Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine Reduction, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Chorizo and Cherry Tomatoes. End on the sweetest note with his take on Buche de Noel accented with cranberries and rosemary. Feliz Navidad, indeed! Christmas Dinner feeds 4-6 people, $325. Order for pickup on Thursday, 12/24 from 12-6 pm.
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- Chicago Talk Show Host Whitney Reynolds Lands National Syndication Deal, Bringing the Stories of Extraordinary Chicagoans to a Wider Audience in 2021
Julie Chernoff, Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.