2021 is about to bite the dust, and good riddance. A slight improvement over the dreaded 2020, but I know we can do better. So, let’s kick this year to the curb and welcome in a sparkling new 2022! Emphasis, of course, on sparkling. As in champagne. Many restaurants offering NYE specials and fun — whether enjoyed on site or hunkered down at home — also feature some form of the bubbly, symbol of hope and joy. Check out what these Chicago area spots are offering to help you ring in the New Year… but make sure to call to confirm as things are changing last minute due to the recent uptick in COVID cases. Fingers crossed!
Enjoy on Site
615 N Randolph, Chicago
James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Kahan and chef de cuisine Dylan Patel have a special five-course Mediterranean meal up their sleeves for the big night. Start with Seared Scallops with Fermented Garlic, then on to Shaved Brussels Sprouts Fattoush with Pickled Beets, Braised Mutton with Chickpea Hummus and Hearth-Baked Pita, and Roasted Duck Breast with Black Lentils. Finish up sweet with Chocolate Cremeux with Rose Ice Cream and Candied Walnuts, all for $115 per person. A warm welcome for 2022!
702 N Wells St, Chicago
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Chef Panos Chalikiopoulos is doing a five-course, ticketed prix fixe dinner beginning at 9 pm, from shared mezes through branzino or lamb entrée and dessert. Your $125 ticket includes entry to the “DJ in the Garden” party and a complimentary glass of sparkling rosé. Individual tickets for the party with DJ, dancing, midnight champagne toast, Greek bar bites, and party favors, are $25 on their own.
3640 N Clark St, Chicago
More fun from Paul Kahan’s One Off Hospitality: a special five-course meal featuring rare Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon and 3 Floyd’s beers paired with Big Star’s signature bold flavors. $145 per person gets you bragging rights among bourbon obsessives.
2165 N Western Ave, Chicago
This one is giving me big-time FOMO. The folks at Chef’s Special (including chef Jason Vincent of Giant) in Logan Square are hosting a black light & white party, so wear all white clothing and prepare to shine while enjoying their signature dishes (Chili Crisp Cauliflower, Walnut Shrimp, Twice-Cooked Pork, Kung Pao Tofu, and Dry-Fried Green Beans to name a few menu stars) while knocking back a few of their Lemongrass Gimlets or other tropical-forward cocktails. DJ Bubmac Joe will be spinning Latin dance and Afro-Funk tunes from 9 pm – 1 am. First come, first served. Everything is a la carte.
1005 Green Bay Rd, Winnetka
Live music by acoustic guitarist Augustin Alvarez, party favors, and complimentary glass of sparkling wine get your party started at this Winnetka favorite. A NYE special will be offered along with the regular a la carte Mexican menu.
616 N Rush St, Chicago
A tasty three-course dinner with your choice of Mushroom Bisque or Salmon Tiradito, Seared NY Strip au Poivre with Potato Gratin or Slow-Baked Maine Lobster with Sweet Potato & Black Truffle Gnocchi, and a lily-gilding Ice Cream Sandwich or Deep-Dish Chocolate-Chip Cookie will be on offer for $100 per person, with enhancements (like caviar) available for an additional fee.
8 W Maple St, Chicago
While upstairs patrons will be relishing their “I Don’t Give a #@$%” prix fixe menu ($250 – $300 per person depending on seating), all the groovy kids will be in the Courtyard celebrating NYE with a “Casino Royale” theme. Dress in your best James Bond duds, paint yourself gold, and dance the night away with passed bites, caviar bar, carving and sushi stations, and more. Open bar, DJ, classic casino tables and games, and a midnight toast will set you back $300 per person, but what a way to go!
155 N Peoria St, Chicago
This celebration is two-fold: an eight-course menu at Nobu Restaurant (think sushi, Lobster Tempura Truffle Amazu, and Miyazaki A5 Wagyu Flambé) for $175 with champagne and caviar upgrades available, or head up to the Rooftop at Nobu Hotel Chicago where you can dine indoors with tunes from a live DJ and an impeccable view of the Chicago skyline with a minimum food and beverage spend of $200 per person.
108 E Superior St, Chicago
Throwback to old-school glamour at the NYE Gala in The Lobby with a welcome cocktail at 6 pm, followed by five-course dinner and dancing at 7 pm with a live band. Midnight countdown and party favors to do it up right, and black-tie is optional; the price is $205 per person, with an additional $95 for wine pairings. Feeling a little less formal? The Z Bar Soirée has copious passed hors d’oeuvres, open bar, midnight champagne toast, and a rockin’ DJ for $195 per person.
4229 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Opened during the pandemic, they’ve recently (finally!) opened their dining room showcasing executive chef Rob Shaner’s dégustation menu and pastry chef Cati Molnar’s delectable breads and seasonal desserts, and it was well worth the wait! Join them for Lièvre à la Royale — the whole shebang for $205 per person, or a condensed version for NYE at $130 per person. A wine and cocktail-pairing menu can be added for $90, and a spirit-free version for $70.
4901 Main St, Skokie
It’s a very “Happy Brew Year” at this ticketed event with DJ Corey Bless’ cool beats, dancing, and fresh-brewed beer. All this, and BBQ too! Soul & Smoke favorites will be available for purchase from their food truck. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 day-of and include entry and a first pint. After that, it’s up to you!
1146 Wilmette Ave, Wilmette
Do it up in downtown Wilmette this year with a $125 prix-fixe dinner at Sophia Steak. You’ll start off with an Ahi Tuna Tataki amuse bouche, then move to the first course — choose from Maine Lobster Bisque, Carpaccio, Grilled Spanish Octopus, or Seared Foie Gras. Entrée choices include Black Truffle Tagliatelle, Filet Mignon à la Oscar, Dover Sole with Shrimp Mousse and Grilled Jumbo Shrimp, or a Prime 14-ounce NY Strip. Room for dessert? Choose between a Chocolate Buttermilk Cake and Caramel Cremeaux. Includes a champagne toast! Sounds dreamy.
177 N Ada St, Chicago
Pre-order your NYE meal when you make your table reservation at this swanky bar beneath Smyth in the West Loop. They charge a $125 deposit per person, but you’ll know you’re in for a delicious time. Starting bites are a French Onion Éclair, Broiled Oysters, or Deviled Eggs; followed by the “Petit Plats” of Crispy Pork Salad, Smoked Sturgeon, or Beet Tartare. Entrées are Gnocchi Parisienne, Turbot Veronique or Côte de Bœuf, and then your choice of Vacherin, Chocolate and Hazelnut Opera Cake, or Fig Leaf Crème Brûlée for dessert. Add on supplemental courses like a Seafood Tower, black or white shaved truffles, and caviar.
10 W Hubbard St, Chicago
Chef/owner Rohini Dey and her team are celebrating 18 years of Vermilion with a blow-out meal on NYE. Five Indian-Latin courses for $75 at early seating, $100 at second seating — and if you opt for take-out (pickup noon-3 pm on 12/31), it will run $75 per person, with an all-vegetarian option available as well. The pièce de la resistance for this woman-owned restaurant? The Ceiling Smasher dessert (flourless chocolate cake and hibiscus sauce topped with spiced cotton candy and poured molten spiced chocolate) celebrating “limitless aspirations for 2022.” I like the way this woman thinks!
Enjoy at Home
I63 W Grand Ave, Chicago
It’s a NYE TOGO-makase at this River North sushi stalwart. Chef Kaze will highlight pristinely fresh fish from Japan and other global locations in a very limited offering, so you’ll want to get on this quick. $98 per person and ONLY available for pickup on 12/31. Add-ons include sakes, champagne, and wines by the bottle, or splurge for a champagne party kit.
1701 Maple St., Evanston
Snuggle with your loved one at home while enjoying this NYE dinner for two ($85) — including a bottle of Prosecco for your own personal midnight toast! Meal is fully cooked and ready to reheat with warming instructions, with pickup 12/31 from 3 – 7:30 pm. Housemade Focaccia, a quart of Lobster Bisque, Fresh Burrata with Tomato-Peach Jam, your choice of Slow-Braised Short Ribs, Chicken Marsala, or Salmon Piccata, Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes au Gratin, and Flourless Chocolate Cake. This is a serious bargain.
1520 N Damen Ave, Chicago
Here’s an idea when you aren’t up for a crowded bar but want to share that experience with your loved one or bestie. The Violet Hour is offering NYE Drinks for 2 for $150, available for pick-up the last week in December. The kit includes 2 full servings of 3 favorite Violet Hour cocktails, plus 2 mini bottles of bubbles. All you need to do is refrigerate and then serve when you’re darn well ready!
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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.