Is Quartino OK for a quick sunday lunch for 22 big city slickers?
If not, they're looking for something near MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). It's a Sunday so many places are closed. They'll be dressed 'elegant casual' I'd say becuase of museum related meetings before and after. And they only have about an hour to eat. Thanks for your ideas.
The MCA has a cafe run by Wolfgang Puck. Puck's also does a considerable amount of catering. Perhaps you can work with the museum and arrange a catered meal in the cafe or elsewhere in the museum.
I've assisted the catering team here on a several occasions and found the quality of their food and service to far surpass that which you would otherwise receive in this sort of situation.
Full disclosure: I no longer have any connections with this company.
You'll want to call places to see what arrangements they have, for seating 22 people, as well as for serving them. You'll want any food pre-ordered, if possible, because it will take more than an hour for the restaurant to take individual orders and cook them to order.
Quartino strikes me as rather far - four blocks west and four blocks south, which means a 10-15 minute walk each way (or having to get a whole bunch of cabs). That's REALLY inconvenient when you have such limited time available and a group that big. You'll be much better off choosing a place within a block or so of the museum. Don't worry; there are multiple options worth considering within that short distance, and available on Sundays. For example...
Gino's East ( www.ginoseast.com ) on Superior is right around the corner from the museum. I know you could pre-order the deep-dish pizzas for your group, but I don't know whether they have a private room available for seating your group. You'd have to discuss it with them. Having the pizzas pre-ordered means you walk in and sit down, and out come the pizzas. No time problem at all.
Water Tower Place is a vertical shopping mall just north of the museum, with dining options. Foodlife ( www.foodlifechicago.com ) or Mity Nice Grill ( www.leye.com/restaurants/directory/mity-nice-grill ) might work for you. Foodlife is a food court concept, and they handle a ton of people at lunchtime during the week. Mity Nice Grill serves American comfort food. If you don't want pizza, both of these are probably your best options close to the museum.
Right next door to Gino's is C-House ( www.c-houserestaurant.com ) which serves brunch on Sundays. It's a bit more upscale; your described attire would be appropriate, but I don't know whether you were considering Quartino because of its relatively moderate price...?
Just to throw out a couple more options that may be totally off-the-wall (because they're REALLY expensive)... Two of the most upscale hotels in Chicago feature luxurious buffet brunches on Sunday, and both are a block from the museum - NoMI ( www.nomirestaurant.com ) in the Park Hyatt, and the Lobby ( www.peninsula.com ) in the Peninsula. Since they are buffets, you won't have to worry about food preparation time. And maybe they can provide a private room or alcove for seating. These places are NOT CHEAP - the normal price is $55 at NoMI and $62 at the Lobby. Oh, and in addition to its sumptuous buffet, NoMI also provides the choice of one of five entrees. Their brunch was just written up in today's Tribune - www.chicagotribune.com/features/lifes...
Those are the places that are really close by. Pick up the phone and discuss your needs with their private event planning person. (I'm guessing Gino's or one of the places in Water Tower Place would probably work best for you.)
Good luck, and let us know how it worked out!
re: Josh in San Francisco
Quartino is a very casual place, where lots of people wear blue jeans, etc. It's fun and the food is good and it's relatively inexpensive, which is a big part of its popularity. That may or may not be what you're looking for; you can always be dressed "elegant casual" at a very casual place! However, based on your question about whether it is "nice enough", I am wondering whether perhaps you are looking for a place with a bit more elegance and style...?
If you're indeed looking for a place that's more upscale, where more people will be dressed "elegant casual" like your group, there may be other places that fit your needs better. More specifically, if you would like Italian cuisine for your group, there are a couple of other places that are also around a 10-minute walk or so from the museum.
One is Cafe Spiaggia, which IMHO is the very best moderately-priced Italian restaurant in the entire city. Cafe Spiaggia is also fairly casual, although not nearly as much as Quartino. You can check out the menu etc on its website at www.cafespiaggia.com When doing so, note that Cafe Spiaggia shares its website with Spiaggia, its very expensive and very fancy (jackets required) sister restaurant next door, so make sure you're clicking on CAFE on the website.
The other Italian place is Pane Caldo. Pane Caldo is more elegant than Cafe Spiaggia or Quartino; attire is business casual so you won't see a lot of people in blue jeans, etc. Their prices had been significantly higher, with entrees around $40, but I see from their website at www.pane-caldo.com that they have lowered them (entrees now around $30) and they are offering prix fixe specials as well. A lot of restaurants are taking such measures to compete in the current recession.
Again, the same advice applies wherever you're interested, regarding calling the restaurants to discuss your group's needs.
re: Josh in San Francisco
I think I know the person you're describing--somewhere between a Mill Valley type but no where near as "refined" (read snooty) as Niles and Frasier Crane?
Quartino would be nice for the dinner. I wear jeans there all the time, but they generally cost more than then meal I am eating at Quartino. Food is very good and because the smaller plate idea, so much fun to order a bunch of stuff and share. Ask to be seated upstairs where you might be able to have a semi-private area.
As for lunch, your group may be horrified by Ginos--it's got character to say the least, but unless you have an adventuresome group.