It’s a Party: Takeout Meals Good Enough for Guests

You remember the dinner party, but this time around, don’t even pretend to cook.

Somehow, the dinner party morphed into an ordeal of menu planning, house cleaning, shopping, cooking and the final frontier—cleaning up until well past midnight. No wonder The New York Times is mourning the dinner party’s decline.

The Make It Better solution? Make it easy. We’ve given you a few great party ideas to get the ball rolling—now we’ve got great ideas on where to go for “the good stuff.”

1. Homemade Pizza Company, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Lake Forest, Winnetka

“Cutie pies” are 9-inch pizzas that are meant for kids, but why should they have all the fun? Take your guests’ orders ahead of time and pick up the individual pies ready to bake, or, for a more interactive experience, order the dough rolled out, plus an assortment of toppings to go, and let your guests mix and match their way to homemade pizza heaven.

2. The Noodle Small Plates and Market, Wilmette

Go Italian with a trip to The Noodle Café. Buy a pan of lasagna (each serves 6-9) and keep the crowd happy while it bakes with two-bite risotto cakes and crostini topped with spreads including chicken liver mousse, topped with a red wine cherry gelee. Dessert is as easy as a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a drizzle of Amaretto liqueur and a sprinkling of crushed amaretto cookies.

3. Mt. Everest, Evanston

For something different, try an Indian buffet. Tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala (marinated chicken in a tomato sauce) and palak paneer (spinach cooked with cubes of homemade cheese) are building blocks of your Indian feast. Add assorted samozas, rice, naan, raita (homemade yogurt sauce, perfect for dipping), and voila: You’ve created a buffet with something for everyone. Swing by the grocery store for some refreshing Haagen-Dazs mango sorbet and chocolate cookies for dessert.

4. Erickson’s Delicatessen and The Swedish Bakery, Andersonville

Erickson’s is the last remaining Swedish deli in Andersonville, and it’s a beauty. For your smorgasbord, you’ll want herring (I vote creamed), Swedish meatballs (6-8 per person) and a couple kinds of sausages (my favorite is the potato sausage that comes in a ring). Pick up a slab of Bond-Ost (a mild yellow cheese), some Danish Havarti, WASA crackers, a couple jars of red cabbage, pickled cucumbers, lingonberries and a package of gravy mix, and you’re good to go—just add mashed potatoes and a box of assorted cookies from the Swedish Bakery.

5. Foodstuffs, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview and Lake Forest

Pot pies are always a hit for a wintery dinner. Feature the flaky turkey pot pies from Foodstuffs, and while you’re there, grab a couple of large California Dreamin’ salads, with craisins, edamame and baby spinach. Splurge on some decadent cream cheese brownies and lemon squares, and you’re guaranteed to become the most popular host in your social circle.