Need High End Group Suggestions - 25 persons
hello - i'm helping organize 4 dinners for a group visiting chicago in may. I've received a slew of recommendations from various people and wanted to throw it out to chowhound people.
We're looking for a combination of very nice (3 nights) to super nice (saturday night). Need a private room, or semi-private. The crowed is 40s to 60s modern museum people so fairly hip but not "W Hotel" hip. They're staying at the Peninsula if that gives you an idea.
This is what we're thinking (again for dinner):
Les Nomades, Mercat, Nomi and Quartino or Grahamn Elliott.
Previous names we've discarded for no definitive reason other than somebody telling me no are Tru, Spiaggia, 160 blue, mkchicago, Crofton, Salpicon, Fronterra, Topolobampo.
We'll need some lunch suggestions, in case you think that some of these are better suited for lunch.
Well, the first thing I'll say is, choosing a restaurant for a private function is very different from doing so for normal dining. A place may do an exceptional job for the general public and not be well-organized for a private function, or vice versa. I'll also add that although I've arranged quite a few private banquets, they have not been in Chicago. (Okay, enough with the qualifiers.)
I find that it's very helpful to choose places that are within a few blocks walk of the main hotel; otherwise you have to deal with 25 people getting cabs or else arranging a hotel minibus or limo service for transportation, and that's just adding a layer of complexity that may be unnecessary. All of the places you've mentioned are a short walk from the Pen (Peninsula) with the exception of Mercat a la Planxa, which is a good mile or so away. So the logistics there are at least something to consider. For the same reason, while I would normally be recommending Everest for a high-end private function, it too is about a mile from the Pen, so I won't mention it again.
Have you spoken with the folks at the Pen to see what they can offer? I'm a bit surprised you haven't mentioned it, what with the group staying there. You're probably already aware that the Pen is home to Avenues, one of the top restaurants in the city, as well as Shanghai Terrace, a very upscale Chinese restaurant, and the Lobby, a contemporary American restaurant near the registration desk of the hotel, so they know how to deal with high-end groups. I know Avenues has a private room but I don't know how many it can accommodate. Having a group meal at the host hotel may also give you some leverage when negotiating your group's contractual room rate and guarantee.
NoMI is an excellent choice, and it's right across the street from the Peninsula (although the entrance to the Pen is on the opposite side of the building). Quartino and Graham Elliott are good places but I have no idea how their accommodations are for private parties. I have eaten at Les Nomades once and I was somewhat disappointed - not that it was bad, but it wasn't as impressive as our other high-end places.
If anything, I would say that most of the places you've discarded are actually more impressive as those you are considering - particularly TRU, Spiaggia, MK, and the geographically less convenient one sixtyblue.
Another place I would consider is Cafe des Architectes, in the Sofitel, just a couple of blocks from the Pen. I just ate there a few nights ago and thought it was wonderful, with spectacular food in a spectacular setting. I see from their website ( www.cafedesarchitectes.com/private_event ) that they have a private room whose size is perfect for what you're planning.
Any place that has a private room for a group your size should be able to do lunch as well as dinner, i.e. even if they are normally closed to the public at lunchtime.
Which is intended to be your "super nice" meal, NoMI or Les Nomades?
Any place that puts on private events of this size usually has a designated coordinator for planning them. My advice is to talk to the coordinators at any and all of the places you might be considering. If you get the feeling that they really have their act together, ready to accommodate your group and your needs in every possible way, then that feeling should be given some emphasis in deciding where to take your group. Same thing if you get negative vibes from discussing your needs with their event planner.
Sorry I can't be more specific, but I hope these rather random thoughts are helpful to you.
Besides the private room inside Avenues, which is too small based on Josh's description, the Peninsula Hotel may have additional private rooms available for dinners served from any of their restaurants (Avenues, Shanghai Terrace, the Lobby, Pierre Gourmet). Many hotels do (so this applies also to the Four Seasons and Seasons, the Park Hyatt and NoMI, the Sofitel and CDA, etc) - all of which are within two blocks of the Peninsula. Most hotels have a banquet manager who makes such arrangements, as do restaurants which do a large business in private parties.
Anywhere you're considering, you should look on their website. Restaurants with private rooms usually say so on their website, as well as giving the contact information for their private event planner.
I’m an event planner, so I can definite help you with this....
Osteria Via Stato: Delicious, authentic Italian food in a beautiful, warm setting. They have this incredible "Italian Dinner" that starts with multi plates of antipasti and pasta for everyone to try. The best part is that the entrees are individually plated, so each person has the ability to choose their own. The private room is INCREDIBLE and looks out to bustling State Street, which is always fun for visitors. They also do a multi-course lunch which is great too.
Nomi: One of my favorite places for lunch and cocktails. The bar overlooks Michigan Ave and the Water Tower. Again, amazing for visitors. The food is top-notch, though pricy.
L2O: Super high-end seafood run by the famed Chef Laurent Gras from the 5th Floor in San Fran. It’s in Lincoln Park, but if you want a show-stopper, this is it. Voted best restaurant in America by GQ.
While L2O is a lovely space, I don't think it's worth schlepping 25 people all the way up to Lincoln Park for dinner there. If you want super nice, I think you're better off at several other of our high-end places, some of which are within a couple blocks of the Peninsula.
This is about as current an impression as you can get, since I ate there this past Sunday evening. See my report at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546690