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The holidays are officially upon us, as evidenced by the tautness of our waistbands and the prevalence of peppermint-flavored everything. Helping to put us in the festive mood and make the frigid temperatures a bit more tolerable are Chicago restaurants that go above and beyond.
RECOMMENDED: Christmas events in Chicago
The Lobbyand Shanghai Terrace
The Peninsula turns into a veritable North Pole this time of year, notably at the Lobby and Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula Chicago (108 E Superior St). Massive wreaths flank the windows of The Lobby, while Shanghai Terrace’s outdoor patio is transformed into the Peninsula Sky ice skating rink. The rink features heated lounges for spectators, along with snacks such as pretzel sticks and spiced nuts. And in line with the holiday spirit, 100 percent of the proceeds from the ice rink are donated to local children’s charities.
Osteria Via Stato
Fresh garlands and evergreen wreaths help give Osteria Via Stato (620 N State St) the Christmas spirit this season. The River North Italian temple is currently bursting with garlands inside and outside, with wreaths aplenty along the interior walls. Accents of white birch help to give the restaurant a decidedly woodsy, festive feel.
Bub City (435 N Clark St) does garlands, but with a bit more whimsy. The bustling barbecue haunt is studded with popcorn garlands throughout the space, along with glistening beer can lights and fake snow on the windows.
This season, Rodan (1530 N Milwaukee Ave) sets itself apart from the garland fray with an especially stunning holiday window mural, a nod to the restaurant’s artist-driven roots. Commissioned by Mike Lana, the mural features intricate renderings of reindeer, snowflakes and a piping hot toddy, which is appropriate considering Rodan's new hot toddy menu.
Speaking of murals, Delish Diner (2018 W Division St) boasts another impressive one. The throwback-y Wicker Park diner hearkens to the downtown Macy’s holiday windows tradition with its very own Macy’s-esque window design. Inspired by the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” the window depicts the local Wicker Park landscape, including images of Delish Diner lit up by the moon in the background. Inside, Delish channels It’s a Wonderful Life with a miscellany of vintage Christmas ornaments strung up along the ceiling.
Atwood Cafe (1 W Washington St) is a cozy haven of holiday cheer in the heart of the Loop. Decked to the nines with glowing wreaths, Christmas trees, massive bows and festive flowers, the quaint space is as inviting as Santa’s lap.
Dinkel's Bakery & Cafe
Leave it to a nearly century-old bakery to pile on the holiday charm. At Dinkel's (3329 N Lincoln Ave), the front window is decked out with a Christmas village of fluffy fake snow, cereal- and candy-adorned houses and barns, figurines and an electronic trolley track. There's even a frosting-covered replica of the Hancock Tower, with candy canes as spires. The adjacent cafe space sports a Christmas tree by the cozy fireplace, plus stockings dangling from the mantel.
Filini Bar & Restaurant
When it comes to Christmas decor, Filini Bar & Restaurant (221 N Columbus Dr) is the overachiever that makes everything else look pedestrian. Glass-blown ornaments deck the ceiling of the modern Italian restaurant in the Radisson Blu Aqua, while a collection of metallic spheres designed to replicate a Christmas tree light up the restaurant entryway. Also, expect plenty of vibrant blue lights as a nod to the hotel’s Blu brand.