Group Dinners - Fun, Moderate or less
We have a group that will be in Chicago in August, most of whom don't spend significant time in Chicago. While the core of the group knows each other, we'll have some new faces with us and have been know to 'recruit' random strangers that looked like they needed some fun.
We're looking to designate a place to meet up for dinner on Sunday and Monday nights. We already plan to go to Kamehachi for sushi on Friday. We've come up with a short list of possibilities. Our priorities - a Chicago experience, fun, drinks, fun, a place that won't care if we get loud, moderate pricing, ease of getting to - Hotel Sax is home base, good food, fun.
Osteria Von Strato
Vong's Thai Kitchen
Heaven on Seven
What do the chowhounds think?
Any thoughts on post dining would also be appreciated. We're looking at:
House of Blues
Bowling at Lucky Strikes
Red Head Piano Bar
Howl at the Moon
Iberico is a great place for groups. I have taken large groups there twice and the experience was great, since you can pass stuff around, order more of the hits, and drink lots of sangria. Around the corner is a small, fun little bar called Clark St. Alehouse (great jukebox), and next door is a nice blues club with live music. If you do this on a Friday night, Big Time Sara is usually playing there, and her band smokes.
Red Head Piano Bar is kinda fun, too, but the drinks are pretty expensive.
re: Pete Oldtown
I second the rec of Greektown. The area is compact, centered at Jackson and Halsted about 3/4 of a mile from the Sears Tower, to give a point of reference. Costa's and Santorini are the top-end places. In the reliable middle are Greek Islands, Pegasus, Athena, and Parthenon. As mentioned above, one can get loud in these places, especially Parthenon and Greek Islands, and these Hellenic restauranters excel at serving large groups. You could traipse from one restaurant to another, progressive dinner style. Of special note are Artopolis, a new-school cafe-bar-bakery, and Venus, which serves Cypriot food. Pan Hellenic Bakery is worth a look see, as is Athens Grocery. And Athenian Candle Co. at Jackson and Halsted is the place for Orthodox and voodoo wares. Every place I've mentioned is on the west side of Halsted. On the east side of Halsted are bars ranging from trendy to divey.
I would suggest going to Greektown. Parthenon (my favorite restaurant in Greektown) would be cheaper and more fun than most of the places you listed. The food is good and relatively cheap, plus you get the theatrics of flaming cheese and occasionally a suckling pig paraded through the dining room.
Of the places you listed, I would go to Cafe Iberico or Osteria Via Stato. Iberico is fun, although you will wait a long time to be seated. Osteria Via Stato is going to be a little more expensive than most of the other places you listed - the best deal there is a $35/person family-style prix fixe where they bring out several appetizers, several pastas, and then each diner picks an entree.
I like VTK, but I don't think it has the boisterous atmosphere you're looking for.
I HATE PJ Clarke's. I will only go there when I am forced to by moviegoing companions (it's right next to a giant movie complex). The food is mediocre at best. You are crammed in with tons of other people trying to make it to a movie and the service is usually slow.
Ed's is definitely more of a kid/family place.
I hosted a group dinner at Feast in Bucktown that was really fun, and Mondays and Tuesdays they have 1/2 priced wine! http://feastrestaurant.com/index.html
My other choice for a group would be Club Lucky http://www.clubluckychicago.com/ It's a great place to share food and they are used to dealing with big groups.
As for post-dining activites, Chicago is full of them, what age range is the group? And what do you like to do for fun?
The age range of our group will be 20's - 50's, with the majority right in the middle. So, we're not going clubbing. We've been known to wind up singing karaoke, catching some games in a sports bar, or just finding a place to drink and converse. We have at least a couple of jazz/blues fans, so I'm thinking we'll do that one night. It's a mix of men and women, but usually has a female majority.
I'd skip Ed Debevic's since no one in your group is under 12. I didn't like VTK. PJ Clarke held my HS reunion and was fun. Food was good. Plus in a decent area for carousing afterwards. Can't say anything about the other 3.
House of Blues has food. Not sure if it's good. Howl at the Moon was "eh" fun but beware of the bachelorette parties. Andy's has pretty decent food and great jazz.