Having casual Sunday night dinners at friends' homes is something we've been doing for awhile, and lately restaurants have been doing something similar. This spring, we started to notice many restaurants offering communal dinners, but then, as we began researching this story, several were abruptly cancelled. Maybe Game of Thrones was keeping people away?
Anyway, we forged ahead and attended five new dinners. While the idea—pay a flat rate and get a large amount of food to share with your table—is great, there were conceptual and execution issues at several of the dinners we attended. But for the good ones, it's a way to see your friends and have a great meal before the work week begins.
Each Sunday, a new region of Italy receives the spotlight at this Wicker Park restaurant. The table gets a salad, and the choice of two pastas, two entrees and two desserts for $23 per person. For our Puglia-themed dinner, we started with a salad of beets, strawberries and greens, followed by a perfectly al dente orecchiette studded with garlicky ground pork. The main, a grilled calamari steak, transported me to coastal Italy with each tender bite. A simple dessert of juicy strawberries doused with a sweet balsamic and sprinkled with mascarpone was a perfect cap to a thoroughly delicious meal. July's menu focuses on Tuscan dishes.—Laura Baginski
Four different $30 suppers rotate every Sunday, including an oyster roast and a fried chicken dinner. I tried the Lowcountry boil, a Southeastern staple of broth, corn cobs, potatoes and shrimp, served buffet-style. Unfortunately, Lowcountry boil is not ideal for sitting around: The shrimp had become tough and rubbery by the time I got to it. The cornbread, however, was sweet and moist, and the potato salad was better than most (I've never been a fan), but the cobbler was unremarkable.—LB
One Sunday per month, Floriole hosts a family-style three-course meal, which is comprised of the same kind of well-executed, seasonal dishes you always find at the Lincoln Park restaurant. I went to the April dinner and we shared a plate of springy pea crostini and a huge dish of milk-braised lamb shoulder with polenta, then each received our own bowl of nougat semifreddo with poached rhubarb. July's supper, held July 13, features four courses to celebrate Bastille Day. Expect pate, salad Lyonnaise, roast chicken and blueberry olive oil cake.—Amy Cavanaugh
You won’t find the Sunday fried chicken dinner special on Gemini Bistro’s website, or on its menu and, if your server is anything like ours, you’ll have to listen to a litany of other offerings and specials before this one is even mentioned. Gemini's Sunday supper comes in a five- ($28) or 10-piece ($48) dinner served with mashed potatoes and biscuits, though both the chicken and the sides are unremarkable and lacking in flavor. The chicken was cooked well—moist meat beneath a nice, crispy skin—but in a city now overrun by fried chicken restaurants it’s no longer enough to serve a chicken dinner that’s just OK.—Erin Delahanty
MK hosts Bistro Suppers in the bar area Sunday through Tuesday, and the menu changes weekly. Our server said the menus often include dishes the kitchen is testing for the dining room menu, and each of the plates at my dinner should find their way there. There was a bean and potato salad, with violet mustard vinaigrette and a load of tarragon; pan-fried chicken breast with teardrop tomatoes; and a warm peach cobbler. Each dish was perfectly cooked and delicious, and there was so much that my friend and I couldn't finish a single one.—AC