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Thoughts on these choices for a group dinner?

I'm going to be in town with a bunch of colleagues for a meeting in a couple of weeks. We'll be working all day Friday, then having a group dinner Friday night. We will be 15 people and are working/staying at the Seneca Hotel at 200 E. Chestnut. My constraints are:

- within walking distance of the hotel
- not super expensive or high end (Tru is out)
- fun (so we can be loud and not be out of place)
- able to accommodate different taste preferences

Given these criteria, I've come up with a short list and a maybe list. I would love to hear opinions on these! You'll notice that I don't have any steakhouses on the list (except for Wildfire, which I would consider a borderline steakhouse, but with plenty of other options). I'm hoping for something with a bit of flair and interest, and in general, I find steakhouses rather boring.

Short list:
- xel-ha
- quartino's
- café iberico

Not so sure list:
- osteria via stato
- heaven on seven on rush
- wildfire
- kamehachi

Thoughts? Other options? Thanks in advance!

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  1. You can remove Xel-Ha from your list. It has closed.

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Bummer, thanks for the update. Any good Mexican within walking distance?

      1. re: TorontoJo

        Su Casa is not that far from your hotel...my Mexican friends like it very much. It's an old, established restaurant. Good tamales and overall good quality, but not too innovative. You're not that far from Bayless' restaurant.

        Sayat Nova (Armenian) is close to you as well, as is Coco Pazzo, Bice and many others. Cafe Iberico on your list is a bit of a hike. It's loud but we love it. Be sure to get the potato salad.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          The more creative Mexican places, such as Salpicon, Topolobampo, and Frontera Grill, as well as Su Casa (which is more conventional) and some of the other places you've already listed, are 15-20 minutes walk away. That's really a bit far for a working group, when you really don't want to spend a lot of time walking (and especially since you have lots of other kinds of places nearby).

          The Saloon is a steakhouse right in your hotel. I know you find steakhouses boring, but it's very good and maybe the convenience outweighs the other factors - www.saloonsteakhouse.com

          Also, Cafe Spiaggia is excellent for Italian, and Bistro 110 for French bistro food. Both are close by and excellent. Both websites are at www.levyrestaurants.com

          What about Hugo's? It's a seafood place (sister restaurant to Gibson's, the steakhouse next door), loud so your group would be okay, etc. Those who don't like seafood can have a steak there. www.hugosfrogbar.com

          You also might discuss your needs with the concierge at your hotel. They're always familiar with what's close by, and can help with reservations etc (which are not always easy for a larger group). In particular, a group your size may benefit from a private dining room, and the concierge will know which places in the area can do that for you.

      2. Quartino's and Cafe Iberico both have good food and are lots of fun for groups, but they each have downsides. I don't love sitting inside at Quartino's, it gets VERY loud, to the point where its hard to hear the person sitting next to you. Even with a reservation at Iberico (they only take reservations for big groups), you will often end up waiting 30 min or more. That said, both are good options.

        On your not so sure list:
        - Osteria Via Stato - lots of fun, very good food, great for groups. It might be more expensive than you are looking for, though. The best way to go for a group there, is to have everyone do the $35 pp prix fixe. They bring out lots of appetizers and pastas family style, and then each person gets to order an entree. The atmosphere is lively and fun.

        - Kamehachi - I haven't been to the location in Streeterville (the one near your hotel), but I go to the Wells St. location all the time. They have good food, but it is not special or out of the ordinary.

        1. Could you say more about your limits on price and distance? Almost everything is going to be less expensive than Tru!

          If you are thinking about Mexican and the budget can handle it, you might inquire about the private room at Frontera. Otherwise there's almost no possibility of getting 15 people into Frontera (or Topolo, probably).

          Here's the website about the private room at Frontera:

          1 Reply
          1. re: Amata

            Yes, I love Frontera Grill. I'm keeping it in my back pocket, in case I can convince 15 people to walk more than 10 minutes. :)

            My budget is around $50/person. There's a bit of wiggle room there, so it's not hard and fast. But I'd like to keep it around that price point (so Topolo is out, but Frontera is in).

          2. I think Kamehachi is pretty good! They do serve your typical Japanese food but it's delicious, gorgeous and reasonable! I would highly recommend it.

            Also, Bandera on Michigan Avenue is fun. It may be a bit of a longer walk (I think it's about a mile away from your hotel - 535 N. Michigan Ave.) but perhaps you could cab it there if you're interested. While some may consider it a steakhouse, I think it has a fun but sophisticated atmosphere and a very diverse menu - like your reasoning about Wildfire!

            Hope this helps!


            1. I'd choose either Iberico or Osteria. Iberico will hurt your pocket a lot less, but both good choices. Iberico takes reservations for groups of ten or more, so you're in good shape. I'd still try to get there early, though. On Friday and Sat. nights, half the South American population of Chicago shows up to eat before they go out dancing and it gets insanely busy.

              But passing around platters of food and pitchers of sangria is great for a business group.

              Heaven on 7 (the location on Ohio would be a lot closer to you and I don't think the one on Rush is open for dinner, but I could be wrong) really gets packed on weekend evenings too. I like their food, and they have a special for about $25 per person called Feed Me Jimmy or something like that, where they just cook up something special for the table.

              Kamehachi is probably the wrong place for a large group, IMO. I like it, but it's pretty staid, relatively speaking.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Pete Oldtown

                I think the Heaven on Seven location on Rush is the same as the location on Ohio (which, just to make things really confusing has a Mich. Ave. address, 600 N. Michigan). Pete - I think you are thinking of the location on Wabash (111 N. Wabash).

                1. re: SuzMiCo

                  Right you are. Sorry. And you're right, that address confuses everyone.

              2. I brought a group of 8 to Mambo Grill and was pleasently surprised.

                1. Thanks to everyone who chimed in. Several of these restaurants are booked for the evening I need, or in the case of Cafe Iberico, don't take reservations. Sigh.

                  So we are down to Quartino's and Wildfire. My team is voting and so far, Wildfire has a slim margin. Personally, I'm pushing for Quartino's. So we'll see! Thanks again...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    > or in the case of Cafe Iberico, don't take reservations.

                    Even though they don't take reservations for their main dining room, they almost certainly do for their private rooms, which are shown on their website at
                    If that's where you'd like to go, give them a call and discuss a private room with them. When you have a group of 15, a private room is really the way to go anyway (anyplace, not just Cafe Iberico).

                    Although it's not *that* close to the Seneca. Neither is Quartino's, though. Wildfire is a bit closer (~10 minute walk vs ~15 for the other two). I've found that, when you have a business group in the middle of a neighborhood with tons of restaurants, if you have to walk even 10-15 minutes to a place, many of your group are going to say, "Why is it that we have to pick a place *that* far from the hotel?"

                    If this were my team I was planning a business dinner for, I would talk with the concierge at the hotel, and let him/her arrange a private room someplace within no more than a five minute walk. Remember, this is what concierges do for a living, and they know which places in the area can meet your needs. Even though, as a "foodie", *I* don't mind a long walk (or a cab ride) for a place with interesting food, many other folks (including the majority of the teams I've led) usually prefer the convenience of a place that is close by, and might be a bit less creative, but decent.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      Thanks for the recs nsxtasy -- much appreciated. I know that none of my choices are terribly close -- I just don't like most of the restaurants along the mag mile area. I understand the concern about walking by all those restaurants. Fortunately, it's a fun, mostly food-loving bunch, and we'll have just spent 9 hours cooped up in a hotel meeting room. So the walk will be a good thing. And we're making a stop for cocktails on the 96th floor of the Hancock first, so any potential grumbling will hopefully be headed off by the consumption of well-made martini before the walk.

                      I tried to book the private room at Frontera and it wasn't available. Too bad.

                      The good news is that even though this is a business meeting, these are mostly fun, internet-industry types -- mostly from the NYC and Boston areas, so a fun, loud environment is not a bad thing.