We all agree that 2020 was an epic dumpster fire of a year. Plague? Check. Political firestorm? Yup. All sorts of general malarkey? You bet. Now if we can just make it to 2021 without a Lake Michigan tsunami, I’ll count it as a win.
But before January 1, 2021 comes New Year’s Eve, sure to be drastically different in this year of masks, social distancing and home isolation. Unless, like me, you gave up on big NYE parties and dining out with the masses long ago, in which case, this year won’t be THAT different. We will order in something delicious from the following list of restaurants, wear our fanciest jammies, and tune in to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve (this year with JLo, so I’m all in). When in doubt, crank up the Ella Fitzgerald. <<cue music>> “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?”
Indulgence is an apt descriptor of chef Michael Lachowicz’ stunning NYE dinner for two, from the Golden Osetra Caviar Service with Warm Corn Blini and Crème Fraîche-Chive Mousse starter, through the Paupiette of Dover Sole and King Crab Mousse in Lemongrass-Ginger Crème and the Filet of Beef Tenderloin with Truffle Mousse en Brioche topped with Perigord Truffle Sauce and Spinach Souffle. Dessert is a Napoleon of Sauternes-Poached Pear, Truffled Crème Legère and Hot Buttered Rum. Now THAT is how you ring in the new year, and worth the drive to Winnetka! NYE Dinner feeds 2, $199. Order soon for pickup on Thursday, 12/31 from 4-9 pm.
Tapas are a great choice for a grazing New Year’s Eve, and this River North hot spot is a go-to for its Spanish small plates. You’ll feast on Mushroom Pintxos, Pan con Tomate, a Spanish Ham & Cheese Combo Board, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Lamb Meatballs, Garlic Shrimp, Pastry-Wrapped Butifarra Sausage, Iberico Ham-Potato Croquette, and a sweet treat of Cheesecake with Spiced Cranberry. You can add on pitchers of White, Red, or Rosé Sangria ($50 each), and a Holiday Spritz Kit ($50), and why not! A toast to 2021. New Year’s Eve Spanish Feast feeds 2, $100. Order by Tuesday, 12/29 at 2 pm for pickup or delivery on Friday, 12/31 between 1-6 pm.
An exciting collab coming your way from Ravenswood’s (and maybe Chicago’s) only Cuban-Filipino restaurant and the North Shore’s best cocktail bar, Ward Eight. You’ll start with a Cheese & Charcuterie Board, then bites of Camaron Rebosado (shrimp with sweet & sour sauce), Bocaditos (bites) de Jamon (smoked ham, pimento, cream cheese), Pan con Bistec (bread with shaved prime rib, crispy shallots and mojo aioli), Pork Belly Make (with garlic rice and adobo), and a Crab-Salad-Stuffed Deviled Egg. There are Lobster Palabok rice noodles for long life, fragrant with fennel, saffron and lemon, and Fried Sweet Banana & Chocolate Eggrolls and Casava Cake Bites with coconut and dulce de leche. They’ll even include “midnight grapes” for good luck! And of course, you’ll want to add on one of Ward Eight’s fabulous batched cocktails, and I highly recommend the Mother-in-Law batched cocktail ($30) to serve 4. New Year’s Eve Grazing Table feeds 2, $130; cocktail order will vary. Order soon for pickup on Wednesday, 12/30 at either Bayan Ko or Ward Eight.
Three-star Michelin chef Curtis Duffy is bringing the luxe for NYE with several packages, each featuring a bottle of Laurent Perrier Brut Rosé NV. The marquis event is the NYE Dinner for Two ($395), which includes rich Truffle Tagliatelle with Pecorino, Prime Ribeye with Smoky Grits and Maitake Mushrooms, and classic Crème Brûlée, plus a morning-after care package of Sausage, Egg and Cheese Sandwiches and Laurent Perrier Mimosas. Champagne and Charcuterie ($140) includes four meats, four cheeses, lavash, olives, whole-grain mustard, cornichons and grapes, plus house-made brandade with Jamón Ibérico potato chips; Champagne and Caviar Tasting ($350) includes three one-ounce tastings of Caviar with blinis and all of the garnishes. Price varies per package as noted above. Order by noon on Monday, 12/28 for curbside pickup on Thursday, 12/31 from noon to 2 pm.
NYE has always been an especially celebratory evening at Frontera Grill. This year, it will be a four-course Moveable Feast from chef Rick Bayless’ group of restaurants, and what an experience it will be! Xoco’s “half and half,” half Guacamole and half Pumpkinseed “hummus,” to start, served with fresh tortilla chips and crunchy veggies for dipping. Next up is Bar Sótano’s Lobster Paella (half a lobster!), then Frontera’s slow-cooked Beef Short Rib in Oaxacan Black Mole with Grilled Green Beans and Queso Añejo Mashed Potatoes. Top off your meal with Topolobampo’s astounding 13-layer crêpe cake with Dark Chocolate Mousse and Brovo Amaro-Poached Pears. The Topolo Margaritas ($35, serves 3) or Mezcal Margaritas ($70, serves 6) will pair beautifully with the meal. Moveable Feast, $75 per person. Order soon for pickup on Thursday, 12/31 from 11:30 am on.
One of my favorite Ukrainian Village hangouts is this gem, and their New Year’s “The Entertainer“ package reflects all the Eastern European (and classic French) goodness for which they’re known. You’ll get three dozen oysters with shucking kit, Beet Cocktail and Giardiniera Mignonette, Smoked Trout Dip, Pimento Cheese, Wihpped Eggplant-Ricotta Dip, Heritage Black Bread with house-made chips and pickles, Escargot-Stuffed Mushrooms with Lobster Cream Sauce, Foie Gras and Mushroom-Stuffed Beef Wellington, and the pièce de resistance: a tasting of four Polanco Caviars with all the Trimmings. You’ll also get a magnum of Laurent Perrier Brut Cuvée NV, and an Elysian Nymph Cocktail Kit with Cognac, Grand Marnier, and Blanc de Blancs. Whew! Now, that’s a party. The Entertainer feeds 4, $650. Order soon for pickup on Wednesday, 12/30 or Thursday, 12/31 from 11 am – 7:30 pm.
Hit the Zoo Lights at nearby Lincoln Park and then pop in to pick up your Parisian NYE Dinner Package at this Lettuce Entertain You stalwart. The meal includes crunchy French Baguette with Sweet Cream Butter, Winter Root Vegetable Soup with Black Pepper and Crème Fraîche, Baby Gem Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Walnut Vinaigrette, Roast Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream, Thyme-Roasted Vegetables and Yukon Gold Potatoes, Chocolate Pecan Bars with Chantilly Cream, and Orange Blossom Rice Pudding with Caramel Sauce. You can add on their New Year’s Day Pajama Brunch in Bed for two for an additional $50. Parisian Dinner Package, $65 per person. Order by Tuesday, 12/29 at 5 pm for pickup on Thursday, 12/31 from 4-9 pm.
Chef Tony Priolo is offering his modern take on classic Italian dishes this NYE. The Nonnina carry-out package is a four-course feast with choices in every category, so vegetarians and gluten-intolerant folks can feel seen, too. Appetizers are Italian Shrimp Cocktail with Horseradish Panna Cotta and Lemon Marmalade or Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Kale, and Radicchio Insalata with Squash, Goat Cheese and Toasted Walnuts; the pasta course offers a Lobster and Corn Ravioli, Homemade Rigatoni with Wild Mushroom and Cauliflower “Bolognese,” or a Fennel Sausage and Rapini Risotto. Generous entrée portion offerings are Pan Roasted Red Snapper with Escarole and Cannellini Beans, Roasted Boneless ½ Chicken with Wild Mushrooms and Focaccia Pudding, or Grilled NY Strip Steak with Pepperonata Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes. Finish up with your choice of sinfully rich Tiramisu or Chocolate Budino, and raise a glass with a split (187 ml) of Moet Champagne for each guest. $79.95 per person, includes split of champagne. Please call 312-822-0077 to place your order for pick up on Thursday, 12/31.
Even if it wasn’t a tremendous deal, I’d still include this surf & turf menu for the nomenclature alone: I give you the “Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Ass, 2020!” menu from Prairie Moon in downtown Evanston. A Niçoise Salad with Grilled Ahi Tuna and Haricots Verts gets you started, followed by Grilled Colossal Prawns with Lobster Sauce over Lobster Risotto, and Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Maître d’Hôtel Butter, Creamed Spinach, Portobello Mushrooms and Bacon. Either way, you’ll get Buttercrumb Sourdough Bread & Butter and Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake to amp up the carb intake. Add on a batch of festive Cranberry Margaritas or Cranberry Moscow Mules ($18), and you’re good to go (or get it delivered for free!). DLTDHYITA2020 Dinner $65, feeds 2. Order soon for delivery or carryout on Thursday, 12/31 from 4 – 8:30 pm.
This sparkly new Lettuce Entertain You winner is offering a Virtual NYE Dinner that is definitely a cut above! Pick up your four-course meal (Bigeye Tuna Crudo, Black Truffle and Shaved Fennel Salad, Prime NY Strip & Roasted Maine Lobster Surf and Turf, and Chocolate Mousse with Pistachio and Coconut), open the included bottle of Charles Heidsieck “Brut Réserve,” and tune into a live 8 pm NYE Zoom session with RPM Wine Director Richard Hanauer and Charles Heidsieck’s U.S. Ambassador Philippe André. RPM Seafood’s Virtual NYE Dinner, $155 per person. Order soon for pick up on Thursday, 12/31 from noon – 5 pm.
I’ve got my eye on chef Erick Williams’ NYE Dinner, and not only because he offers a choice of a Whole Fried Chicken or Whole Branzino for the entrée, because everyone knows it’s all about the sides. His flavor-packed dishes include Black Eyed Peas with Spinach, Brussels Sprouts and Apples, and the best Cornbread in town. Pair that with a kick-ass house-made Chocolate Cake and a bottle of Canard Duchen Brut champagne, and we are talking PARTY. You can even add on Vegetarian Lasagna ($28), a cocktail or three, and a Sweet Potato Pie ($30) — trust me, you want some of that. NYE Fried Chicken Dinner, $150 feeds 2. Order by Monday, 12/28 for pickup or delivery on Thursday, 12/31 from 2 – 10:30 pm.
If you’re looking for a Michelin star-worthy meal, chef Mari Katsumura has just the ticket: her interpretation of Osechi Ryori, the traditional New Year’s Day foods of Japan. The dishes are all packed in jubako boxes, similar to the now familiar bento box. Dishes include Crab or Lobster Motoyake with Crispy Potatoes and Caviar, Kombu-Wrapped Smoked Trout, Chawanmushi with La Belle Farms Foie Gras, Hokkaido Uni, Concord Grape and Celery, and glorious desserts like Coconut Mochi Cake and Red Bean Dorayaki. A Sake Trio Pairing ($200) is available, as well as other a la carte beverage options. $150/$300 depending on menu option. Call 312-265-1008 or email [email protected] to order a minimum of 48 hours ahead of pickup on Wednesday, 12/30 or Thursday, 12/31 from 2-6 pm.
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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.