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Apr 29, 2009 06:26 AM

Dress code for Chicago restaurants- "business casual"?

My husband and I are visiting Chicago for 5 days in early May and have been deciding where to go for some good food. We are not looking to dine in the most expensive/high end places but do want to eat in some nice restaurants. Some websites describe the dress code as 'Business Casual'....what is this?? Does that mean a suit or would shirt and trousers be alright for a man to wear? I know jeans would be a no-no but what exactly would be ok? Thanks!

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  1. Business casual means trousers and a shirt with a collar. No tie or jacket required, but no torn jeans, shorts, t-shirts either. Shoes probably should be dressier than athletic shoes or flip-flops. You might be ok in jeans, if they are on the dressy side, especially for a woman.

      1. re: Bob Martinez

        Google search can be helpful. But I find that there may be regional differences as to what business casual is. In NYC, business casual generally doesn't include jeans (even though you'll always find people wearing jeans in "business casual" restaurants). But as I'll be going to Blackbird in Chicago next month, I did a bit of digging. Even though opentable defines Blackbird as "business casual," it seems that jeans are very common there.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          There's no special New York or Chicago version of Wikipedia. Business Casual is a nationwide term. Putting on a nice pair of creased chinos is never a mistake.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            The "regional" aspect is at work here. It differs from O`ahu to Los Angeles, NYC to Chicago.

            I guess that some people, who spend the day doing drug deals, would choose torn jeans and tank tops, as that is how they do "business." On O`ahu, it's usually nice slacks and an aloha shirt. Still, I grab the blazer. Heck, I flew over with it, from the Mainland, so why not wear it?

            In general terms, I suppose that the correct answer is, "it depends." In Chicago, I'd opt for everything, just short of the tie, and might even go with one. It can't hurt, right?

            With the same exact criteria, earlier this week in DC, I chose a blazer and an open collared dress shirt. The other gentlemen had on suits and ties, all for "business casual." So, it depends...


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              "earlier this week in DC, I chose a blazer and an open collared dress shirt. The other gentlemen had on suits and ties, all for "business casual." "

              I'm sorry, that's just wrong. Suit and tie is in NO way "business casual."

              1. re: Bob Martinez

                I have to agree. I've worked at several national companies that had business casual dress codes. None required suits or ties, but all prohibited jeans, sneakers and t-shirts. Some people may choose to wear suits to a business casual event, but that is a personal choice, not a different interpretation of the dress code.

                The only varations I see normally involved women's dress- sleeveless shirts, open-toed shoes, and pantyhose. This does tend to vary by region.

                1. re: Bob Martinez

                  Agreed, if a suit and tie is business casual then what is worn for formal business?

                  I worked for a huge national retailer and business casual is defined as dress shirt, slacks or chinos, and leather shoes.

                  1. re: Bob Martinez


                    I feel the same way. These gentlemen were also from Southern California, a less formal area of the US, in very general terms. Maybe they had been in "suits-only" meetings, prior to the evening's dining.

                    I was cool with it, but did make note.


            2. Typically khakis and a collared shirt are fine. I'd say no jeans, sneakers, or t-shirts, but you don't need a jacket.

              1. Thanks so much for asking! I will never forget one hot July evening at Ruth's Chris steakhouse for DH's birthday in Chicago. We had gotten dressed up as we were going out after. This is easily a $100 dinner for 2 without wine. We were in the middle of our salads when the MD sat a couple next to us dressed in sleeveless athletic muscle shirts, very short shorts, running shoes, dripping sweat and smelling of BO. We were shocked! We asked for another table and the MD said none were available. We spoke with the GM of the place, who kindly moved us to another table and comped my DH's dinner.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                  Outside of the "smelling of BO" part, why do you care? People should mind their own business.

                  1. re: jgg13

                    The couple I referred to were dressed for fast food - period, no excuses. Perhaps it doesn't matter to you, but when I go to an expensive restaurant for a celebration, the atmoshpere of the place is as important to me as the quality of the food. I don't want to gaze on scantily clad, smelly people, they make me lose my appetite. There is a modicum of respect left in the world for restaurants that enforce a dress code. While I don't necessarily agree that every woman needs a cocktail dress or every man a suit, when you get to the serious sit-down several course restaurant, a minimum of polo shirt and Dockers is known to any couth, well mannered person.

                    Just curious - are you over age 30?

                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                      The RC in my area really doesn't seem to have a dress code. I have not been there that many times, but every time I've gone, I've seen people dressed in shorts and sneakers. I know I have gone to nicer restaurants in jeans before because it was a spur of the moment type thing. I don't think there are any restaurants in my hometown that enforce any sort of dress code these days. Ten years ago, no jeans were allowed, but now they just hope not to have shorts.

                      1. re: queencru

                        I would anticipate that the location might have something to do with this. In Miami, or Honolulu, I'd expect to see far more casual clothing. Should the location be NYC, or San Francisco, a tad more formal.

                        Many restaurants are totally relaxing their dress-codes. I am less comfortable with that, but then I am not the restauranteur. Times do change. Patron makeup also changes. Some feel that filling tables takes precedence to any old-school dress-codes. That is their call. Still, I dress as I wish, and if I'm more formal than the norm, so be it. I can live with that.


                      2. re: Diane in Bexley

                        I am over the age of 30, and I don't really care how other people choose to dress. I'm not so petty as to let other people's attire affect my experience - I thought I left that sorta stuff behind when I graduated from high school.

                        I've got no problem with a place that enforces a dress code mind you, but if they're not enforcing it that's their business, not mine.

                    2. re: Diane in Bexley

                      I agree with Diane. I really do not want to see some guy's hairy armpits or some girl's bellybutton ring adorned muffin-top tummy while I am spending signifcant money on a higher end meal. And I love my casual clothes more than anything and mostly frequent family-friendly restaurants these days. But if I am going out for a special meal at a restaurant that has real tablecloths, salad forks, side plates and nice stemware, then I think I should be able to assume that other diners will have showered and put on something with sleeves and a collar.

                      But I fear this is a losing battle because often places like RC are now located in family vacation destination territory.

                      1. re: pengcast

                        "...bellybutton ring adorned muffin-top tummy..."

                        Thanks for keeping it about food. :-)

                    3. Thanks very much everyone for advice. We are from England and I am not familiar with this term and don't want look stupid by turning up in inappropriate dress! We will pack smartish things but leave the suits behind! Thank you all.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: laubrau

                        "Business casual" here is pretty much the same as "smart casual" in the UK.

                        1. re: laubrau

                          As we spend a great deal of time in the UK, and usually dine at starred restaurants, I'd say that dress slacks, a blazer and a dress shirt (tie optional) would suffice nicely. A suit would be optional, though not totally out of place.

                          Some areas of the US are less formal, than are others. Still, a jacket for gentlemen will not be out of place in fine-dining restaurants.

                          In very general terms, the US is a bit less formal, than what I have encountered in the UK. Still, no one will look askance at you (or your dining partner), should one wear a jacket and a tie.

                          My personal belief is that overdressed is better than underdressed, but that is just my style. If you fly with a jacket, why not wear it for a fine-dining evening?

                          I get grief for this thinking on other threads and other boards, but I cannot imagine dining with linen tableclothes wearing jogging shorts and a sweaty singlet. Ain't [SIC] my style.

                          Enjoy. While we are still the "colonies," we're not all that uncouth.