Places to have a normal, a la carte meal.
Maybe you successfully dodged the CTA Santa train this season, but New Year’s Eve can’t be avoided so easily. And while you want to acknowledge the holiday, you’d prefer to skip the prix fixe menus that build in an extra $100 for a “complimentary” glass of champagne, or bars that charge you money to stand around surrounded by people desperately searching for someone they can kiss at midnight. Instead, follow our guide to 17 great restaurants where you can celebrate, and order off the regular menu as you damn well please.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
Joe’s is an old-school spot that has white tablecloths, jacket-wearing servers, and great food (some of which is prepared tableside). It’s also the kind of place that makes sure you get a bread basket, transporting you back to a time before you had to spend $6 for rolls made with hand-milled wheat and some “cultured butter.” PSA: it’s located in the section of River North that’s very close to Michigan Avenue, so definitely plan on taking the train, and you might want to consider doing it at 3pm.
RPM is trendy and popular without being obnoxious, and the food is always fantastic. This makes it a great place to celebrate not just regular special occasions, but also the end of another year of successfully ignoring your student loans. And yes, it’s expensive, but it’s also the kind of spot where you can get dressed up and not worry about anyone spilling a drink on you on their way to the bathroom.
Because the RPM restaurants are co-dependent and can’t do anything without each other, RPM Italian is also open on New Year’s Eve without a special tasting menu or event. If you’re in the mood for Italian food rather than steak, this is the way to go. Get the bucatini.
This small, upscale sushi spot in Lincoln Park is hard to find – it’s hidden inside the Belden Stratford building, and you’ll probably need to ask someone at the front desk exactly where it is. But it’s worth the hassle, since the sushi here is very good. And since there are no windows, you’ll be completely unaware that 2019 is the beginning of the robot uprising until you go outside.
Summer House Santa Monica
New Year’s Eve means it’s almost January, January means it’s cold, and the cold means wearing a coat that ruins any outfit you might have thoughtfully picked out. Try and trick yourself about this whole winter situation by grabbing NYE dinner at Summer House Santa Monica, where the plant-filled space does a good job of making you feel like you’re actually in California. Order fish tacos and kale salad, and (at your own risk) feel free to leave your coat at home.