Crowd Pleasers: Great Group Dining in Chicago

You’re heading home to your beloved Windy City for the holidays. The flights and lodging are booked, the family gatherings all organized, but then someone throws a wrench in the plan: “Let’s go out to eat the last night we’re all in town.” Don’t panic. Plenty of Chicago restaurants can accommodate groups, whether you’re hosting (more extended than expected) extended family or getting your hometown squad together to catch up over delicious food and drink. To help narrow the field, we’ve rounded up nine spots that offer great group dining in Chicago.

For a wilder take on the holiday family dinner, feast on whole beast at this rustic West Town gastropub, which will delight and entertain far better than over-served relatives. Frontier’s whole-animal service feeds 12 to 15 with nose-to-tail (or fin) preparations of 10 proteins that range from smoked free-range pig to roasted goat or lamb, shrimp boil, salt-crusted whole salmon or even alligator stuffed with whole chickens. Beyond the game-focused menu, soulful sides like sweet cornbread, mac and cheese, and Caesar salad with polenta croutons hint at Executive Chef Brian Jupiter’s New Orleans roots. Pro tip: Book at least five days in advance. Reserve a table.

Group dining in Chicago

The most recent opening from acclaimed chef Bill Kim, this upscale take on Asian barbecue in an industrial-chic (mostly communal) interior is great for a crowd. You can book a grill table (for up to four) or the chef’s table (for up to eight), and grill your own marinated proteins, sides, and desserts – Korean BBQ-style. Otherwise, a la carte large and small dishes are equally inventive and shareable. Start with a shochu cocktail and a few passed plates of Thai fried chicken and yuzu-doused edamame, followed by tea-smoked duck breast and pork ribs slicked with housemade hoisin and topped with crumbled bacon with sweet coconut grits and zingy nuoc cham slaw. Save room for dangerously pop-able Vietnamese cinnamon donuts. Pro tip: Book three weeks in advance. Reserve a table.

Group dining in Chicago

Demera Ethiopian
Families who eat with their hands together stay together. Bond over communal Ethiopian fare at this cozy Edgewater restaurant. Dishes come family style, and, in place of utensils, you’ll find injera, the tangy, crepe-like flatbread used to scoop up the beef, chicken, lamb, seafood, and veggies piled on top. Can’t-miss options include tender chicken stewed in berbere sauce (doro wat), lamb cubes cooked in a spicy house sauce, spicy stewed red lentils, (ye-misir wot) and ginger- and jalapeno-laced collards (gomen). Wash it all down with a few jugs of traditional honey wine or carafes of house-roasted coffee. If you leave with saucy, stained fingers all around, you’ve succeeded. Pro tip: Book a few days in advance. Reserve a table.

Group Dining in Chicago

This inviting, dimly lit Spanish wine bar a few blocks west of the West Loop’s Restaurant Row will feel like home away from home for the holidays — if that home belonged to a husband-and-wife, chef/sommelier duo with a knack for real Spanish cooking and food-friendly wines and sherries. Executive chef Mark Mendez’s oft-changing menu is ideal for sharing, starting with sherry-friendly nibbles like rosy, funky Jamon Iberico, tomato-smeared bread, and vinegared boquerones (anchovies), as well as large plates including chewy, charred octopus tinged with pimenton; harissa-bathed lamb meatballs, and seasonal paella studded with chewy chorizo and shellfish. Easygoing servers will guide you through co-owner Liz Mendez’s unique global wine list. Pro tip: Book two weeks in advance. Reserve a table.

Group dining in Chicago

Maple & Ash
No Chicago visit is complete without steak and potatoes, and this posh Gold Coast newcomer stands out for its house-butchered cuts cooked on an open hearth (not to mention the unbeatable people watching overlooking State and Rush). Chef Danny Grant’s menu highlights include a fire-roasted take on the seafood tower loaded with crab, oysters, scallops, shrimp, clams, and Maine lobster, a hulking 40-ounce porterhouse fit for two (“The Eisenhower”), and a 28-day-aged bone-in rib eye. Steak sauces from classic béarnaise to decadent foie gras-truffle butter are playfully listed as “Arm Candy.” With a rotating list of boozy cocktails and thoughtful, surprising wines from James Beard award-winning sommelier Belinda Chang, drinking here is just as fun as eating. Pro tip: Book three weeks in advance. Reserve a table.

Group dining in Chicago
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Announcing the 2015 100 Best Restaurants for Groups in Canada

Best Restaurants for Groups in CanadaThe holidays are here — and you know what that means: family, friends, and food! Because we know Canadian foodies are going to be dining out in larger party sizes than ever to celebrate all month long, we’re excited to unveil the first ever 2015 100 Best Restaurants for Groups in Canada. The results reflect the combined opinions of more than 275,000 restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 1,600 restaurants in Canada.

The list features restaurants from seven provinces which OpenTable diners have ranked as favourites when dining in groups of five or more. Ontario leads all provinces with 57 winning restaurants including Momofuku DAISHŌ in Toronto. Alberta follows with 17, such as The Italian Farmhouse in Bragg Creek, British Columbia with 16 like Bauhaus Restaurant in Vancouver, and Québec with six such as ONoir in Montreal. The 2015 100 Best Restaurants for Groups in Canada are…Continue Reading

Picky Eater’s Paradise: Restaurants to Please a Crowd #friendsgettogether

You’ve been there before. You’re planning dinner with out-of-town guests and you have to find a venue. You don’t know everyone’s personal dietary restrictions or preferences, and, more important, you don’t have time to make inquiries. You just need to find a place that is going to serve delicious food that will satisfy each guest – a tall order given the number of possible considerations there are around what people choose to eat.

You’ll want to steer clear of single-cuisine (or single-dish!) restaurants, but fusion and seasonally focused eateries typically have expansive menus that can both satisfy the finicky and wow the adventurous. To help you plan a get together with any number of picky eaters, here are five types of restaurants to please a crowd.

The Dazzler: FT33, Dallas, Texas
The menu is a head-turner, but the first thing that will catch your group’s collective eye is the restaurant itself. The Dallas Design District darling has a modern, rustic feel with a crisp open kitchen and a farmhouse-meets-industrial design aesthetic. Chef Matt McCallister creates artistic dishes featuring fresh ingredients from the restaurant’s personal garden as well as local purveyors. The oft-changing menu is broad and exciting — think chicken liver and onion sausage with potato porridge and black truffle, and smoked potato with maitake, pictured. The chef’s tasting menu, available Tuesday through Thursday with advanced notice, will create long-lasting memories for you and your out-of-town guests.

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The Casual-Yet-Cool Catch-All: Fig Tree Café-Hillcrest, San Diego, California
A quick glance at the menu for Fig Tree Cafe reveals a cornucopia of offerings that includes short ribs, pork belly, pork chops, pizza, ravioli, jidori chicken, crispy eggplant, and much, much more. The short-rib flatbread, pictured, and meatloaf hash are persistent favorites in this relaxing venue with a fresh-air vibe. Gorgeous boards of cheese and charcuterie will whet your appetite for more, and a broad list of drinks both soft and hard will rejuvenate your group any time of day. Try one of the antioxidant juice shots (açai, mangosteen, or goji) or a flight of all three! Or, throw caution to the wind and settle in with a pomegranate Bellini or strawberry mojito.

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The Hotspot with the Broad Menu: Essex, New York, New York
From oysters and tacos to veggie burgers and seared ahi tuna, pictured, this Lower East Side Sunday brunch favorite has the goods and the space to make your group meal a winner whatever day of the week it is. If you’re a drinking crowd, you’ll want to hit their wallet-friendly happy hour for $1 oysters and half-price drinks Sunday through Friday.

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Tweet of the Week: We’re Seriously Good for Groups

Brunch is serious business in most major cities — and everywhere, come to think of it. After all, who doesn’t want to celebrate the weekend with a midday cocktail and sweet and savory eats? Brunch also brings out folks in large numbers, especially if you’re popular like @TroyPayne. Did you know you can find tables for up to 20 people on OpenTable? You can! For breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner — any meal. You can find availability for large groups through a basic search, or you can also consult your local Diners’ Choice listing for Good for Groups. Thanks for the shoutout, @TroyPayne. Enjoy what we hope is an epic brunch!