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Jan 18, 2011 08:02 PM

Affordable caterer or other party plan B?

Please help me, Chowhounders! I live on the north side and was so excited to have an anniversary party this fall with about 75 guests at the lovely Mon Ami Gabi restaurant in Lincoln Park, but alas, I'm afraid that plan will fall through because the hours we wanted our event would require us to buy out the restaurant which was way out of our budget. So we are thinking of a plan B, renting out a park district building, the Columbus Park Refectory, and we also looked at Maxim's, both were a relatively decent deal for the space, but both required us to hire an outside caterer from a "Preferred Professional" list. I just got a quote back and was pretty floored by $100 a person for a buffet. We started out with a total budget of 4k, then sighed and fretted over 7k, but spending 8K on food before space rental and anything else is too much for us, we're not looking to have a wedding, just a memorable, no-stress time with an equally memorable meal. We are big "foodies" and as planning progresses, the food seems to fall into the background, and I don't want that to happen.

We were going to check out The Tavern in Libertyville, just because their dining room looked so unique (haven't tried the food yet), but it seems a few seats shy of our guest total, and I'm gun-shy to ask what they charge per person. Does anyone have any ideas for caterers or other options for celebration? We really did not want to go for Italian or Polish food, which unfortunately nixes out a lot of affordable options.

Pardon my ignorance; eloped to city hall, so I never planned a party this size. Maybe I'm not being realistic, but I figure where there's a will and an online discussion board, there's a way. Creativity welcomed, advice appreciated. SOS! I would really rather not cook on my anniversary. :-)

Mon Ami Gabi
2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

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  1. What you really need is a restaurant that has a private dining room big enough to hold your group, so you don't have to buy out the main public dining room. That will also ensure that they have a lot of experience serving large numbers of people at the same time. (Without such experience, you have the potential for a disaster, believe me!)

    I would suggest talking with the folks at Lettuce Entertain You and discussing what you're looking for with them. They have one contact who can assist you with arrangements at all of their dozens of restaurants (which include Mon Abi Gabi, as it happens, but some of their other restaurants have private dining rooms). Their info is on their private party website at

    You also might try Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown, which has an upstairs private dining room.

    1. I would definitely recommend FIG catering - they can help you out with everything from the venue to the food to everything in between!

      1. I would recommend Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro. I was recently there for and event and everything was beautifully executed! The food, the service, the decor... all wonderful. You wouldn't know it just from walking past the place but there is a large private space upstairs that is gorgeous. The space doesn't need decorations, either (One less expense). It's certainly worth checking out!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kjjunior

          Oh, thanks to all of you for these wonderful leads! I so appreciate your taking the time to reply. Gives me hope! I'll check 'em all out, and thanks to all who add on with more ideas...

        2. Strongly recommended is Michael's.

          They have everything, literally. They can tailor food for any ethnic group, any religious celebration, any size crowd, they can recommend a suitable space anywhere in the Chicago area, they'll bring whatever you need. I've hired them 4 or 5 times, and was delighted with the prices, service, food, and the vast menu of choices. They're the complete package.
          Good luck!
          I urge you to visit their website and phone them, chat with one of their reps for a few minutes.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Greg in Chicago

            I like MIchael's a lot also, but I'm not sure if their pricing is within mmeesme's budget for their buffets, but the ethnic tray options might work. It's worth a call.

            1. re: chicgail

              I hosted a charity dinner at Red Light on Randolph a few years ago. I know this is now Asian fusion versus French, but they have a terrific private room upstairs that will hold about 100 seated and they did a terrific job. The catering menu was more family style and it was super fun and terrific food.

              Red Light
              820 W Randolph Steet, Chicago, IL 60607

              1. re: jbontario

                Wow, these are more great ideas, thank you! Will check these out. Please keep those ideas comin'...I still have a couple weeks to investigate options.

                1. re: mmeesme

                  Dear friends, I wanted to update: we decided to go with Mon Ami Gabi even though we would have to have it earlier in the day, because we decided to go with consistency of food quality and service, plus, the woman there has been a total pleasure to work with: stress free! While it may not be a gala, we also are glad to host an event that is actually within our budget and it will be a lovely day! Meanwhile, my husband and I have been on several nice dates because of your suggestions. Thank you again!

                  Mon Ami Gabi
                  2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

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