From its high-end Michelin restaurants like Alinea to its cheap, but amazing hot dog and shakes at Portillo's, Chicago is known for its culinary scene. Chicago literally has whatever you are in the mood to eat, but what about eating to impress business clients? We’ve researched the best places to take a client or a prospect out to dinner. All you’ve got to do is pick up the fork… and the check of course.
The Minimalist Spot: Blackbird
This restaurant has been described as “sophisticated” and “hip,” with a “minimalist setting” by Zagat. Executive Chef Paul Kahan, winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2013, puts out thoughtful New American dishes that are accompanied by a well-rounded wine and cocktail list. Patrons rave about the impeccable service you’ll receive here as well as their extreme attention to detail. Do you want to do a business lunch instead? Blackbird has a bargain prix-fixe lunch special worthy of your time.
For the Steak Lover: Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf
The articles and press coverage of this restaurant are pages long and include articles like “11 Best Steakhouses in the World” and “12 Restaurants Around the Country Worth the Reservation.” This restaurant is a combo of trendy steakhouse meets sophisticated speakeasy. The interior is upscale and sexy with red leather wrapped booths, candlelight, and copious wood paneling to add to the 1920’s feel. Online reviewers say it’s worth the hype but does take a long time to get a reservation, so plan ahead with this one.
Impressive Ambiance: Tru
Be prepared to be wined and dined at this restaurant that features some impressive art on the walls from the likes of Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha. It is described as the gold standard, “featuring Anthony Martin’s lavish, exquisite French tasting menus in luxurious, serene surroundings with an art-gallery feel” (Zagat). Be mindful of their dress code ladies and gentleman as jackets are required for men and elegant-casual, business, or evening attire is required for the ladies. Did we mention that you can order a glass caviar staircase for your table?
Cultural Fusion: Le Colonial
Take a trip to the Gold Coast and experience the exquisitely paired French and Vietnamese cuisine at Le Colonial. This restaurant is in a charming two-story row house in the middle of the city with the main floor serving as a bar and lounge, and the second floor offers authentic Vietnamese cuisine. The menu is extensive and the service team is knowledgeable and upscale, and they don’t turn up their nose when requested to make a dish vegetarian for guests. Online reviewers rave about anything skewered or anything in coconut milk (Yelp).
Seafood Spot: Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
This restaurant is by far the highest rated and most reviewed on Yelp with a whopping 1800+ reviews and 4.5 stars. This spot also made the list of “Power Lunches” in Chicago on Zagat, so you know it’s a place to bring clients to close a deal over stone crabs. Joe’s boasts a level of service that is both comfortable and timeless. Reviewers say it’s expense account tabs are justified by the regal experience (Zagat). Oh, and we heard that you have to try the mashed potatoes, as they were described as “insane.”
Mexico City Cuisine: Topolobampo
This is top notch contemporary Mexican cuisine paired with an educational experience by the famous Rick Bayless. The tasting menu can be carnivore or vegetarian and it’s backed by creative cocktails and a suburb wine list. Press describes this spot as “soulful,” “vibrant,” and “luxurious. From ceviche to guac, all dishes will be served with a modern twist. This restaurant also racks in the awards from a Michelin star to being a two time James Beard nominee. Last tip - one word: Margarita.
Tips for How to Get a Table at an In-Demand Restaurant
- Call in (daily if you need to) and look online at apps like OpenTable.
- Promise the host a quick turn around.
- Don’t arrive early. Restaurants are less likely to seat walk-ins till around 7pm when they can get a better sense of how the night is going.
- When showing up in person to get in, stand by the host stand instead of heading to the bar. Lingering may help you get seated faster.
- Try the expensive app called Table8, and by expensive we mean $95 annually. “While paying for a reservation feels odd when sites like OpenTable offer free bookings, Table8 acts as a concierge-like service for the food-obsessed (TNW).”
- When calling before the dinner rush, try and make small talk with the Concierge to help build rapport.
- Name drop sparingly. Restaurant employees hear this all the time.
- If you run out of patience or time, don’t complain.
Tips brought to you by: How to Snag a Table at an In-Demand Restaurant, from the Wall Street Journal