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Jul 20, 2010 06:33 PM

Need recs for rehearsal dinner downtown

I'm a New Yorker about to plan a rehearsal dinner for 100 or so (wish I knew exactly how many) in downtown Chicago for next July. I don't know whether the kind of place I envision even exists, but I want a room that can accommodate everyone and yet still feel intimate. Great food is a must.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Where will everyone be staying? You really want a place within a few blocks walk, so you don't have to deal with the logistics of 100 people needing to get from one location to another one that's not within walking distance.

    The concierge at the hotel where your group will be staying may have some ideas and connections that will help with these arrangements.

    10 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      So far, we don't have a hotel; the mother of the bride is working on that. One possibility is the Palmer House, where we can hold a dinner (and brunch) in one of their ballrooms. They have an astronomical minimum, though, and to me, a hotel ballroom seems like another wedding before the wedding.

      Any restaurant ideas in the vicinity of the Palmer House?

      1. re: Dyna

        Well, the problem you're going to have is that you need a place that has a lot of experience serving banquets - which means they have to have a private room that will serve 100+ people. You really DON'T want to just rent out the regular dining room from a restaurant that isn't accustomed to serving a lot of people at the same time. I did that once, and it was an absolute disaster; it took them over an hour to serve a single course to the entire group.

        I know of numerous restaurants in the vicinity of the Palmer House, but I'm not sure which of them have private rooms of that size: Petterino's (steakhouse), Rosebud (Italian steakhouse), Italian Village (Italian), Trattoria No. 10 (Italian), Rhapsody (contemporary American), Atwood Cafe (contemporary American). Their websites probably tell how large their private rooms are, or you can check their listings on Metromix at

        As for hotel ballrooms, our group has done that too, and the spirit of the event comes from the people there, not the room itself. While you may not want that kind of atmosphere, no one will notice or care, because everyone will be paying attention to the bride and groom, and spending time with friends and family. But you're also right, hotels can have astronomical minimums and/or room charges, which can be a serious deterrent.

        One other thought - Lettuce Entertain You is a group of several dozen restaurants in the Chicago area (including Petterino's), restaurants at all price levels and with a lot of different concepts. Many of them have private rooms, and they really have a lot of good experience serving groups. They even have a website that gives options for private parties at their various facilities, and having a single point of contact that can advise you about a lot of different places, and compare what each has to offer, can save you a lot of time. It's worth at least gving them a call. Start at their private party website at

        1. re: Dyna

          Trattoria No. 10's website says that they have private party space for up to 250 people. I've not been to any privately catered parties there in recent years, but am a regular in the restaurant. The food is good and it's within 4 blocks or so of the Palmer House.

          1. re: masha

            I had my wedding and reception last year at The James. I think they did a fabulous job. It was elegant and hassle free.

            1. re: masha

              Also, we got a really good deal on a room block at The James and the minumum was not outrageous. You'll hit it easily with the number you suggested above.

              1. re: chicago09

                It's quite common for the sales department at major hotels to give you a better deal on the room rate if you have one (or more) banquet(s) as part of your contract.

                At some places, the restaurants in the hotel are an integral part of the banquet department; at others the hotel restaurants operate more independently. I'm not sure how closely the James works with David Burke's Primehouse for their banquets...?

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Plans somewhat revised. We may very well book a block of rooms at the Dana Hotel in River North. The restaurant has capacity for only 70, which may present a problem. Any ideas for anything nearby?

                  I checked on the Lettuce Entertain You website, and Brasserie Jo looks as though it might be a possibility, at least in terms of size. Any thoughts on that choice?

                  Thanks, all!

                  Lettuce Entertain You
                  2171 Northbrook Ct, Northbrook, IL 60062

                  1. re: Dyna

                    Unfortunately, Brasserie Jo is closing next month. By next July, it will have been transformed into whatever Lettuce Entertain You is doing with it, reportedly some kind of French restaurant.

                    You might ask the sales department at the Dana to recommend nearby restaurants that can handle a group your size. I'm sure they'll know what's nearby (and good).

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      Good idea! If some other idea comes to you, do let me know. And thanks!

                      1. re: Dyna

                        Shaw's Crab House is a Lettuce restaurant with a nice sized private room and great food. A couple of years ago we had our rehearsal dinner at Harry Carray's which was a good "Chicago" place for out of towners.

                        Shaw's Crab House
                        21 East Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60611

        2. We had a rehearsal dinner for about 70 people at Lalo's on Clybourn (it isn't downtown, but a little north of the Loop). They were incredibly accommodating, cheap and bent over backwards to make sure everyone was taken care of, had drinks, guac was refilled, etc. I know others have had good luck with some of the pizza places downtown.

          I attended a large rehearsal dinner at the Metropolitan Club in the Willis Tower. The views are great, the food was good, but it felt like a wedding before the wedding. Way too formal. I think many people prefer a more casual, relaxed party for the rehearsal. I know as the bride a super fancy rehearsal would have made me stressed and nervous. Margaritas and Mexican food made for a relaxed and festive evening.

          1. Quartino is less than a block from the Dana hotel. It is an Italian small plate, pizza and wine bar. They have private rooms for up to 300. I quite like the place, and it strikes me as a good semi-casual compromise. I have never been there for a private event, so I can't comment on that. It is owned by the same people as Gibson's Steak House.

            626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

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