The festive season is near, which means the pressure’s suddenly on to plan a night that’ll fill your colleagues or friends with holiday cheer. Need some inspiration? No matter your group’s size, interests or price point, there's a great holiday party option, from going on a brewery tour to taking in hockey game.
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Holiday party venues
Featuring tomato-red stools, graffiti and dangling electric-blue light fixtures, the decor alone will put your group in the mood to celebrate. Add brightly flavored bites like suzuki bass ceviche and chorizo-stuffed peppers to the mix (not to mention a margarita or two), and they’re likely to forget altogether that the weather outside is frightful. With three semi-private spaces as well as a full venue rental option, Bar Takito can accommodate groups from 25 to 150. Seated dinners here start at $55/person (including one drink); app and drink packages for cocktail-style parties start at $25/person.
Party-planning conundrum: On one hand, you’ve got the Old World–inflected charm and simple but beautifully executed fare of Dusek’s Beer and Board; on the other, the uncle’s basement vibe (Paneling! A decorative marlin!) and superb cocktail offerings of Punch House, its downstairs bar. Can’t choose between the two? Good news: Events at the Beer Cellar (max capacity 26 seated, 40 standing reception) combine the best of both worlds, allowing you to put together a party that marries bites from Dusek’s kitchen with boozy punches from its sassy subterranean sister. Want to keep the party going once your event ends? Pop, Batman-style, through the concealed door that links the Beer Cellar to Punch House. Holiday season minimums start at $1,500.
Fans of Asian barbecue and pop belters alike will be in their element in bellyQ’s Chef’s Quarters, a private space comprising a dining area and a karaoke lounge. (Lest the latter sound tacky, relax: The entire space is done up in totally tasteful, mildly futuristic neutrals accented with sleek, dark leather furnishings.) Though menus for cocktail-style events (60 guest max) and more formal seated dinners (45 guest max) can be tailored to groups’ tastes, representative bites include Bill Kim specialties like Korean Wagyu short ribs and Thai-style fried chicken. Holiday season minimums start at $1,000.
A wide range of private and semi-private event spaces and satisfying, seasonal cuisine would, in and of themselves, make this multistory River North spot a pleasant pick for a holiday fete. But this is the house that Alpana built (Master Sommelier/ex-Check Please host Alpana Singh, that is), so why not make its wine program the main event? The low, arching ceilings of the Wine Cellar (max 60 guests seated, 100 standing) aren’t just for show; the space also functions as the restaurant’s cellar. For an interactive experience, consider kicking off the evening with a guided tasting led by one of the house sommeliers ($150–$300 fee). Wine Cellar minimums start at $1,800.
A private box at the United Center sounds great and all, but unless Daddy Warbucks is bankrolling your holiday party, it may well be out of reach. Groups of hockey enthusiasts will find a more budget-friendly box experience just a few miles up I-90 in Rosemont, home to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Ten-person suites and 20-person “party decks” offer private game viewing, flexible catering and beverage packages, and even swag like hats. Holiday season suite and deck rentals, including game tickets, limited parking passes, decorations, and basic snacks and soft drinks are $660 and $1,200, respectively. Costs for bar packages and additional food vary, though most price points can be accommodated.
Events of all sizes are on the table at Fulton Market Kitchen, which offers full-venue cocktail receptions for more than 400; private, seated dinners for groups of 12; and just about everything in between. Details like candelabras and tufted banquettes lend a touch of luxury here, while polished concrete floors and quirky, large-scale artworks keep the ambience from feeling stuffy. The highly customizable food options reflect an outlook that’s high-spirited and global, while the cocktail list includes such winter warmers as the Old, Old Fashioned (the classic made with 10-year-old Henry McKenna Single Barrel) and the Bee’s Knees (a no-fuss blend of gin, lemon, and honey). Pricing varies widely based on date, menus and event style, though cocktail receptions start at around $60/person and seated dinners with drinks begin around $85–$100/person.
Rather have the party come to you? The website Kitchensurfing lets you choose a chef to cook for your house party. You can search by cuisine (everything from Italian to Nordic) to match a chef's sample menu to your party, or you can contact the Kitchensurfing Help Desk to put together a custom menu. Prix-fixe dinners are $50/person for parties of six to 12. If you're planning a bigger holiday party for 30 or more guests, you can also choose a passed-apps menu for $40/person. The best part: Chefs use all of their own equipment, clear plates and clean up afterward, so you get to relax and enjoy the party.
After dark, the West Loop’s butcher shop/cafe doubles as the private event space for its big sister, the Publican. PQM offers a range of multi-course, family-style dinners (38 guest max), and can accommodate up to 55 revelers for standing receptions. Solid options, sure—but for an event that’s truly different, consider an evening that revolves around PQM’s core: butchery. Gather your group around a whole hog or a suckling pig (12-guest minimum), or see how the sausage is made with a butchering demo followed by an intimate chef’s table meal (12-guest max). December private event minimums start at $2,000.
If your group’s more T-shirts and Chuck Taylors than neckties and sparkly clutches, why not forgo the formality this holiday season and instead gift yourselves the good-time vibes of this South Loop standby? Rent the entire exposed-brick-and-music-ephemera–bedecked space for relaxed gatherings of up to 110 (flexible room fee generally ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 applies), or just reserve a few tables. The food menu here encompasses unpretentious pub grub favorites like wings and sliders, while a 25-strong draft list provides all the liquid encouragement you need to get silly in front of the band. (Food packages start at $12/person, bar packages at $20/person.) Can’t commit to one location? Reggie’s also operates a collection of vintage party buses, many done up in metal motifs, which can ferry your group to an after-party spot or take you on an all-out pub crawl (rentals from $200).
Scads of dark hardwood and a crackling fire set a cozy tone for parties at the Brewer’s Lounge, the second-floor event space (capacity 130) at Revolution’s Logan Square brewpub. Multi-course food packages, featuring pub snacks like bacon fat popcorn paired with heartier fare like smoked brisket, begin at $40/person (50-guest minimum). Of course, the beer’s the main event; accordingly, drink packages (beginning at $30/person) let your group sample their way through Revolution’s iconic fist-shaped handles, while optional brewpub tours ($75/event) provide a peek behind the scenes.