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Feb 6, 2007 07:26 PM

Group Meal Near Convention Center

I apologize as an out-of-towner and someone who is trying to sift through the piles of "group" meal posts and not really finding any responses that seem to fit.

I am interested in finding a place that is within reasonable cab distance of the Convention Center/McCormick Place for about 15-20 people at around $50/person. Preferrably with a relaxing atmosphere (alcohol) since we'll be working like crazy. We have some picky eaters, so something like a steakhouse, Italian or New American would probably be preferrable, but am open to suggestions.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Here are several recommendations; all are a short cab ride from McCormick Place, and Cuatro is just a few blocks away.

    1. Cuatro
    2030 S. Wabash Ave.
    Tribune Review:

    Cuatro is very hip and the food is excellent. The food type is "Latin fusion" so I'm not sure that your picky eaters would like it, but it will really impress the foodies.

    2. Custom House
    500 S. Dearborn St.
    Tribune Review:

    Custom House is a local treasure by culinary genius Shawn McClain, who has several local restaurants, all outstanding. This one might appeal more to your "picky eaters" as the food is more American, using local ingredients where possible. It might exceed your price target, though.

    3. Opera
    1301 S. Wabash Ave.
    Tribune Review:

    I haven't been there, but reports have been mixed; some people love it, others don't. Also they have a mid-week bargain three-course dinner for $25.

    4. Edwardo's Natural Pizza Restaurant
    521 S. Dearborn St.

    Chicago-style stuffed (double crust) pizza.

    5-8. Here are four places that I haven't been to, but I've heard good reports. (The last three share the same ownership.)

    Gioco (Italian)
    1312 S. Wabash Ave.
    Tribune Review:

    Zapatista (Mexican)
    1307 S. Wabash Ave.

    Chicago Firehouse Restaurant (American)
    1401 S. Michigan Ave.

    Grace O'Malley's Restaurant-Pub (American)
    1416 S. Michigan Ave.

    9. The Bongo Room
    1152 S. Wabash

    Bongo Room is ONLY open for breakfast or lunch, but it's a good place for those meals.

    10. NetWorks Restaurant
    Hyatt Regency McCormick Place
    2233 South Martin L. King Drive
    312 567 1234

    I haven't been here and don't know anything about it, other than that it's right IN McCormick Place, so you can't beat it for convenience and proximity.

    11. Also, all of Chinatown is VERY near McCormick Place, and there are lots of excellent Chinese restaurants there (Three Happiness, Phoenix, etc).

    BTW, everybody calls it "McCormick Place". Nobody calls it the "Convention Center" (even though that's what it is, of course).

    7 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      P.S. To give you a sense of how far each of these restaurants is from McCormick Place... Chicago is laid out on a grid, with house numbers (and, on the South Side, street numbers) varying by 800 for each mile. McCormick Place is located on the lake at 23rd Street, so it is approximately three miles south of the center of the Loop (the downtown Chicago commercial center). All of the above restaurants are located on north-south streets, so you can use the addresses to tell how far they are from McCormick Place. Those with addresses in the 1100-1300 range are roughly a mile and a half north of McCormick Place, and those with addresses in the 500s are another mile north of that.

      (Usually you have to take east-west distance into account, too, but all of these places are roughly in one line, north to south.)

      1. re: nsxtasy

        Couple of notes on the above:

        1). Cuatro, still my restaurant of choice in the South Loop. Check out their menu; I'm sure even picky eaters can find what they want there, and there's not much "fire" in any of the dishes.

        2). Custom House. Terrific restaurant, but unlikely to make it near $50/head, particularly if you're including alcohol.

        3). Firehouse. This is where Mayor Daley took George Bush when he was last in town, so if you want "center-of-the-road," this is the place.

        4). Opera, Gioco, Zapatita are all owned by the same organization, I believe, and all have high standards with a lot of style. Be sure to check their menus, tho, and prices.

        5). Grace O'Malley's--Bar/pub food with an Irish flavor. Can be uneven, but ok if you're looking for hamburgers and shepherd's pie. Not expensive

        1. re: jbw

          Thanks for the additional info. I agree with you, I would be happy to take any group (even picky eaters) to Cuatro. I think it's the best bet for the OP, which is why I listed it first.


          > Opera, Gioco, Zapatita are all owned by the same organization,
          > I believe, and all have high standards with a lot of style.

          Close. These are owned by two organizations, although it's easy to get them confused.

          Gioco and Opera are indeed both owned by the same organization, KDK, which also owns Red Light and Marche, in the West Loop.

          Zapatista, as I previously mentioned, is owned by the same group (Mainstay Hospitality) as Chicago Firehouse and Grace O'Malley's.

        2. re: nsxtasy

          I omitted Opera's website from the above list. It's

          1. re: nsxtasy

            In the above post, I should probably have put more emphasis on Chinatown, because it's walkable from McCormick Place, maybe 3/4 mile away, down Cermak. My favorite restaurant in Chinatown is Lao Sze Chuan, at the southwest end of the Chinatown Mall.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              I recently tried Double Li, another Szechuan restaurant in Chinatown, and enjoyed it very much. The decor and service are a step up from Lao Sze Chuan, and the food is comparable.

              For details on these and other Chinese restaurants, see

            2. re: nsxtasy

              For fans of Chicago deep-dish pizza of the single-crust "pizza in the pan" variety, Lou Malnati's recently opened a location in the South Loop:

              Lou Malnati's
              805 S. State Street
              Chicago, IL 60605

              As with all of our deep-dish places, you can call ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

            3. Thanks for the recs! I'll have to look at the menus. I suppose I should have mentioned the $50 doesn't include the alcohol. So if you guys had any additional recommendations outside of those for that range, I'd love to hear them. Cheers!

              1 Reply
              1. re: synaesthesiadc

                The list above is a fairly complete summary of nicer places on the near south side. Of course, there are many, many more just a bit further away.

                The one place listed above whose price might now be within your budget (thanks for the clarification) is Custom House, which is an excellent fine dining destination. They show prices on their website. Most of their entrees are in the mid to upper twenties. They also offer a three-course pre-theater menu for $46 at 5:00 and 5:30.

                If you're looking for a "celebration" type dinner, where everyone gets dressed up on the last night of a project, another place to consider is Everest. It's really a "splurge" type place, one of the very best restaurants in Chicago, and it's at the south end of the Loop, at the top of the Chicago Stock Exchange building. It's expensive (figure forty dollar entrees, and a "tasting menu" around $100) but worth it - and if it works for you, they have a special three-course pre-theater dinner for $50 at 5:30 every night they're open except Fridays (also at 5:00 on Saturdays).

              2. It's a little further from McCormick Place than the other suggestions, but Coco Pazzo (300 W. Hubbard) is a wonderful Italian restaurant that does a great job with big groups.

                Catch 35 is a really good option for seafood (they also have some non-seafood options).

                Zest - in the Inter-Continental on Michigan Avenue has good, American food. I think they also have a party room, but don't actually charge you for the room if you have a big enough group.

                Keefers - Keefers is a steakhouse, but, speaking as someone who doesn't eat steak, offers very good non-steak options (I'm partial to their chicken piccata). It might stretch your budget though.

                Also, if your group is willing to branch out a little bit from the cuisines you listed, most places in Greektown do a fabulous job of accommodating large groups and are significantly less expensive than $50/person without alcohol. Personally, my favorite restaurant in Greektown is Parthenon, but most of them could do the job.

                1 Reply
                1. re: SuzMiCo

                  There are dozens - heck, make that HUNDREDS - of great restaurants in Chicago. The ones previously listed here are the ones closest to McCormick Place, which is south of the Loop. These new suggestions are west and north of the Loop, so the travel distances are further. If you're interested in considering traveling further like this, there are so many additional places that it's virtually impossible to mention all of them in this topic. Nothing wrong with those other places, but your original question was about places a short ride from McCormick Place, and as you can see, there are already plenty on the near south side to choose from.

                  If you want to consider places beyond those nearby, let us know what you're interested in (location, type of cuisine, etc) so that we can make recommendations that best meet your needs. Don't forget to look at topics already here on Chowhound, including recent discussions about best Greek restaurant in Greektown, best steakhouse, best Italian, etc.