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Any recommendations for a large family dinner in downtown chicago?

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We're meeting several family members in downtown Chicago (south end of Magnificent Mile) over the 4th of July weekend. There are 12 of us including 5 kids (age 6-17). We're looking for some dinner options for such a large group. Any help would be much appreciated.

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  1. Any restaurant should be able to accommodate a group of 12 people without any trouble. The only problem you may run into is that restaurants may be closed on Sunday the 3rd and/or Monday the 4th. Which day of the weekend do you plan on having this dinner? And exactly where, near the south end of the Mag Mile, will you be coming from? (With that size group, it would be nice if a place were within a few blocks walk.)

    There are several thousand restaurants within a mile of the south end of the Mag Mile. Can you tell us anything specific to help us narrow it down to some recommendations? For example, how much would you like to spend, and will the adults be getting alcohol? There are lots of restaurants where you'll spend $75-100 (including tax/tip) for those ordering wine/alcohol and $40-50 for those just getting food; if you need to spend half as much, there are some places, but not a lot. How adventurous are the eaters - do they prefer "everyday" cuisines (American, Italian) or would they appreciate the creativity of contemporary American or unusual ethnic foods (Latin fusion)?

    Here are a few quick recommendations, which will help you get an idea of what you'll need to be thinking about. David Burke's Primehouse is one of our very best steakhouses, but it's not cheap, especially if people decide to order the $60 aged specialty steaks instead of the $30-40 less expensive steaks. www.davidburkesprimehouse.com Coco Pazzo Cafe is a moderately-priced Italian restaurant with entrees in the low twenties. www.cocopazzocafe.com Shaw's is a seafood restaurant that is great for families and not hugely expensive, but not necessarily cheap either. www.shawscrabhouse.com Uno and Due are fun places for deep-dish pizza and this would be an inexpensive option. www.unos.com If you want to impress people with creative, unusual food, you could consider contemporary American places like Naha ( www.naha-chicago.com ) or Graham Elliot ( www.grahamelliot.com ), but they're rather expensive and may be wasted on children who might not appreciate the food.

    And why did you wait until now to start looking for a restaurant? Now, just a week beforehand, it will be tougher to find a place available for such a large group.

    5 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      P.S. Another thing to consider is how well-behaved the children are. If they are the type who will make excessive noise and/or run around the restaurant, then that will limit the type of place you'll want to go to. In addition to one of the pizza restaurants, another restaurant in that general area that's good for a mixed group that may contain one or more unruly children is Grand Lux Cafe. www.grandluxcafe.com Of course, if they are well-behaved, they are welcome anywhere.

      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thanks for the quick reply. I should have been more specific in my request. We're probably looking for casual dinners moderately priced. The group has a wide variety of tastes and willingness to try "exotic" so we'll have to defer to the lowest common denominator. Kids are well behaved, and have gone out to high-end restaurants so that's not an issue. I like the recommendation of Coco Palazzo, and one of the Chicago deep dish pizzerias. Any Mexican recommendations -- realising that Frontera or Topolabompo are likely out because we didn't have our act together for reservations.?

        1. re: Denalimn

          You didn't mention which day you're interested in. Many of the Mexican restaurants are closed on Mondays. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo are closed both Sundays and Mondays, and yes, they are probably out because of no reservations and realistically you don't want to just walk into a place with 12 people. Mercadito is near the south end of the Mag Mile but I haven't been there and haven't been all that impressed with the menu. I love Mexique and Mundial Cocina Mestiza, and both are open for weekend brunch as well as dinner, but both are several miles away.

          Incidentally, there are two restaurants named Coco Pazzo, same ownership. I was suggesting Coco Pazzo Cafe because it's close to the Mag Mile and slightly less expensive. Coco Pazzo (no Cafe, and it's Pazzo, not Palazzo) is a bit more expensive and a bit further west, near the Merchandise Mart.

          I also wouldn't rule out Grand Lux Cafe or igorm's suggestion of Maggiano's. They're both decent places for what you're looking for, I think.

          -----
          Mundial Cocina Mestiza
          1640 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

          Frontera Grill
          445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

          Topolobampo
          445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

          Coco Pazzo Cafe
          636 N St Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

          Mexique
          1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

          Grand Lux Cafe'
          600 N Michigan Ave Ste 7, Chicago, IL 60611

          Mercadito
          108 W. Kinzie, Chicago, IL 60610

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Thanks again for the help. I think we have enough places now to start trying to get some reservations. I appreciate it.

          2. re: Denalimn

            On Saturday if you're in town you could go to Xoco - Rick Bayless' casual spot right next to his other restaurants. The prices are low and the food is delicious .... you'll need to juggle a bit to get a big enough table but if you go on off hours ... early for dinner, late for lunch, etc you should do fine and it's a great spot.

            We've been to Mercadito a few times for our office team for lunches and it was tasty and fine - not brilliant but a good selection and we've had fun ordering a sampling of all the salsas and all the ceviches to share around the table.

            Another Mexican option that might be fun is a little further away but great if the weather is good - Big Star. They have outdoor picnic tables, great cheap tacos and just a fun atmosphere - a great spot for families if you are comfortable waiting a touch for enough tables.
            It's a fun part of town and a different view than the usual downtown Chi atmosphere.

            If I were in town with a big group but wanted to sample some of the better Chicago food, I'd also see if I could arrange a big table at Sable - the food is some of the best around and the prices are reasonable and dishes sharable. For the adults, you have top notch artisanal cocktails but a fun wait staff and a comfortable setting where the kids will do fine. It's fun too since the kitchen is open so you can watch as they create all those great dishes.

            On Saturday as well you could go to the Green City Market which is in Lincoln Park for great food shopping but also great snacks and crepes ... we often stroll around, collect some good cheese, fruit and snacks and then walk to the beach which is right nearby and picnic.

            -----
            Mercadito
            108 W. Kinzie, Chicago, IL 60610

            XOCO
            449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

        2. We recently had a dinner with 10 adults and 6 children at Magianno's downtown and they did a wonderfull job serving us. The food was brought out family style and was very good Italian fare. It is not far from the southern tip of Magnificent Mile.

          1. I love the idea of Maggiano's for you. It's not the best Italian in town, but it's family style and they do lots of events like this. Similarly, Grand Lux (it's a lot like Cheesecake Factory) is good for families, but not brilliant for food.

            Big Star is a hip joint in a neighborhood. I have never seen a child there. It is mostly 20 - 35-year old couples and singles. A lot of beer and margaritas. Very good tacos, but I can't second that for you. I can second Mercadito. It's fun and the food is decent.

            Portillos for lunch (Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian Beef and even salads and burgers) seems perfect, as does one of the deep dish pizza places nsxtasy mentioned. Unos/Due's is far and away my favorite but you can't got wrong at Malnotii's or Pizanos either.

            -----
            Grand Lux Cafe'
            600 N Michigan Ave Ste 7, Chicago, IL 60611

            Mercadito
            108 W. Kinzie, Chicago, IL 60610

            1. I'd also note that the food at some of our Mexican restaurants - including Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, Mexique, and Mundial Cocina Mestiza - is creative provincial cuisine that is difficult or impossible to find anywhere else in the country, while at others - including XOCO, Mercadito, and Big Star - it's the same conventional tacos and enchiladas you find everywhere. So if you're looking for something truly different from the usual, you'll want to stick to the first group. You can get a better idea of what I'm referring to by checking out the menus on their websites:

              www.rickbayless.com/restaurants (Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, XOCO)
              www.mexiquechicago.com
              www.mundialcocinamestiza.com
              www.mercaditochicago.com
              www.bigstarchicago.com

              2 Replies
              1. re: nsxtasy

                this may be a little late but Quartino and Osterio Via Stato sound like great suggestions for you. Quartino serves small plate Italian and some very good pizza. Osteria is Italian as well.

                As for Big Star, probably not the best suggestion with kids. I've never seen one there. They do check everyones ID's prior to walking in.

                -----
                Quartino
                626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

                1. re: mojava

                  I've seen families at the picnic tables by the take-out area a lot during after work hours/later hours and some families in the main out door area/bar area in the early afternoon. It could be more strict when the ratio of people drinking/eating are higher than non-drinker/eaters.