The only thing better than a special meal shared with family and friends is one that you don’t have to cook yourself — or clean up after. These clever city and suburban restaurants serve up that most elusive of all combinations: a killer private room or space for personal dining, plus swoon-worthy food.
You’ll find this industrial geek-chic spot — it is named for Albert Einstein, after all — in River North’s Hotel EMC2. For smaller gatherings, they have a chef’s table that seats 12, and the 800-square-foot Emmy Noether Room (named for a famed German mathematician!), which is great for seated dinners up to 30 or so. Executive Chef Larry Feldmeier’s menu is all about globally inspired foods with high technique and big flavor.
The longtime Winnetka favorite has a secret weapon when it comes to private dining: the Wine Room, which seats up to 15 at a long wooden table. And when that table is laden with Greek meze (their signature Shrimp Tourkolimano baked in a beautifully spiced tomato sauce with feta cheese, panfried tomato fritters with yogurt-dill sauce, little Thessaloniki meatballs) and Chef/Owner Louie Alexakis’ divine braised lamb, all is right with the world. And be sure to check out the private dining room at their brand-new Avli Taverna in Lincoln Park, a light and bright room that will remind you of sunnier climes.
Even a sultan would be impressed. This West Town restaurant is a celebration for the eyes, so it’s only fitting that the semiprivate space is part of it, separated from the main dining room by a row of potted palms. Two long tables flanked by plush velvet dining chairs can seat up to 30 for dinner, with enormous chandeliers hanging above. And what a feast! Chef Marcos Campos’ appealing dishes are veggie-forward with Middle Eastern flavors. Try the large-scale plates to share, like the whole fish with green harissa, herb salad, and pickled red onions.
Emitting cool West Loop vibes from the Ace Hotel, chefs Jason Vincent and Ben Lustbader know how to bring the delicious at City Mouse. The Eaves space seats up to 18 people for a private meal at one long table. You’ll love their Skuna Bay salmon with dill beurre blanc and everything spaetzli, or the wagyu flank steak with beef fried rice and broccoli. A big thumbs-up for the inventive craft cocktails from star mixologist Caitlin Laman.
If “hygge,” the Danish concept of coziness, appeals to you, this warm and inviting space is just the ticket. Chef/Owners David and Anna Posey welcome up to 24 guests for a sit-down dinner in their second-floor dining room. Choose from four-, five-, or nine-course super-seasonal options, which might include roast leg of venison with roasted beets and ricotta, or celeriac “risotto” with hazelnuts and apple. The West Loop never felt so good.
Two rooms here will fit the bill for your private event: the semiprivate Library space, which seats up to 28, or the Salon, a completely private space that can handle up to 50 seated guests (and has AV equipment to boot for those embarrassing family videos). Owner Amy Morton and Chef Bradford Phillips welcome you to their Evanston “flexitarian” restaurant with three-and four-course family-style meals that you can supplement with passed hors d’oeuvres.
Downtown Glencoe is the setting for this lovely American bistro. Whitewashed brick, tufted banquette seating, and a wall of paned glass add up to a stylish semiprivate dining space that can seat up to 34. You and your guests will relish the far-ranging menu with a seasonal flair. Think crispy fritto misto of calamari, rock shrimp, lemons, and zucchini with garlicky lemon aioli, whole branzino with butternut squash and coconut puree, or braised short rib with roasted root veggies. Save room for dessert if you can!
River North meets L.A. at Katana, where both the physical space and decor are highly dramatic. A series of separate dining suites on the mezzanine can seat from 12 to 48 guests for lunch or dinner, although I’m partial to the Dragon Room on the main floor, all floating candles, uplit stone walls, and generally groovy vibe. Known for their gorgeous sushi and sashimi presentations and charcoal-grilled robata dishes, meals are served family style.
Chef/Partner Andrew Zimmerman’s West Loop stunner offers a private dining room that seats 16 comfortably in a lovely space curtained off from the main dining room. Enjoy global street food dishes such as elotes (sweet corn) tempura-style, a shrimp- and pork-stuffed Vietnamese crêpe with chili jam, or grilled young chicken with cilantro pesto and sweet/spicy tamarind-chili sauce, all served family-style.
The Gold Coast is known for its hidden secrets — the wealthy do like their privacy — but the Regatta Room, a space on the second floor of the Boka Group’s glamorous Somerset restaurant, is a well-kept one. You and your guests (up to 22 people) will be seated at a long “captain’s table,” ensconced in a comfortable leather chair. Don’t let the yacht-club trappings distract you from Executive Chef Lee Wolen’s glamorous food, especially that aged, roasted duck breast with a fall cornucopia of prunes, fennel, and turnips. The chocolate layer cake, glazed with deep, dark fudge ganache and served with the umamiest miso-caramel ice cream, is a revelation.
The best thing to hit Lincolnwood in forever, the newest offering from the Stefani Restaurant Group is a winner. The interior is a mix of urban chic and neighborhood comfort, with colorful and contemporary artwork scattered about. The private dining space seats up to 40, but can still have a cozy feel, especially when you’re digging into Italian family favorites like antipasto platters (the prosciutto slicer is something to see), chicken Vesuvio, and fettucine with mushrooms and fondue cream mixed in a giant wheel of cheese. The prime steaks are a meat lover’s dream, so if you are a family of carnivores, prepare yourself appropriately.
As you come together with family for your holiday meals, take a moment to remember that not everyone is so easily able to enjoy such fabulous food. Feed your stomach, then your soul by joining the fight to end world hunger.
Julie Chernoff, Make It 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 sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre.