New Year's Eve Options & Reflections from those in the Industry

With the gift giving portion of the holidays over, it’s time to get in the mood for New Year’s Eve festivities. I know the 1st and 2nd will find me planted on my couch watching sports and cheering on my Badgers in the granddaddy of them all the Rose Bowl. Lots of fun going on and places to go if you want to party it up with that special someone or if you’re on the hunt! Be safe though and careful not only of yourself but those around you – always a crazy night.

Before you get a look at the events – take a look at what some local restaurant people love and remember about New Year’s Eve!

Melissa Trimmer – Exec Pastry Chef, C-House – My favorite NYE memory was probably more than 10 years ago, maybe 15 by now.  I stayed home and listened to records and many friends just dropped through on the way to this party or that party.  A good friend who passed away a short time later was there with me playing dj, we had such a good time being low key, better than we would have had if we had gone to all those parties.

Chef Sunil – Bombay Spice – Favorite NYE holiday tradition- Popping champagne bottles and pouring on each other.

Sarah Kosikowski – Executive Pastry Chef of Sixteen – As for New Year’s, I seem to always be working. However, growing up, my parents used to throw great holiday parties- especially New Year’s. We had all our friends and family, sang karaoke all night and finished off with cans of silly string- which unfortunately turned into a tradition!

Debbie Sharpe – Owner of Feast Restaurant and The Goddess and Grocer – One of my favorite NYE memories was my first one in London. I went out with strappy sandals and a summery dress (was I thinking I was still in Australia?). I had a great time but trying to hail a cab in the snow at 3 a.m. was not so much fun.

Michael Shrader – Executive Chef/Partner, soon-to-open Urban Union – Best New Year’s Eve Memory: This year coming up, because I will finally have it off!!!!!!

Allen Sternweiler – Exec Chef at Butcher & the Burger – I don’t have any NYE memories because I have worked almost every New Year’s for the past 20+ years!

Meg Colleran Sahs – Chef di Cucina, Terzo Piano’s – The most memorable NYE for me was two days before my wedding in 2010. It was a destination wedding, so we had a NYE party for some of our wedding guests. I was with close friends and family in a private space (with a bar of course) and then we joined in with the hotel’s festivities with fireworks at midnight. It was perfect.

Rob Katz – Owner at The Boka Group – This will be my favorite NYE, because it will mark the first time in 23 years that I will take that night off!!

Matthias Merges – Exec Chef/Owner at Yusho – Only have had two NYE off in 22 years. So no real traditions and those two NYE I don’t remember much of them!

New Year’s Day Fun
Pinstripes knows how to start the New Year right with an endless brunch buffet, create-your-own bloody Mary bar and bubbly mimosas! After a long night of celebrating, fill up on Chef Cesar Gutierrez’s brunch specialties such as gourmet waffles, made-to-order omelets, carved prime rib, fresh seafood, beautiful salad bar and delectable desserts. Jumpstart the day with the create-your-own bloody Mary bar including all of your favorite ingredients or a refreshing mimosa made from freshly squeezed juice. Guests are also invited to bowl or play bocce before or after enjoying the brunch buffet.

Sunday, January 1 – 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Pinstripes Northbrook, 1150 Willow Road, Northbrook, IL 60062
Pinstripes South Barrington, 100 West Higgins Road, South Barrington, IL 60010
Brunch is $24 per person for adults; $14 for kids 6-12; Free for kids 5 and under. Reservations are not required.

NYE – Adios, 2011! Hello, 2012 – the Year the Mayans got wrong, I hope!
The new Logan Square Matthias Merges spot will be open for dinner on NYE with their usual a la carte menu and a special 9 course option as well. For more info check out their website at

Family Friendly NYE at Texas de Brazil
For many people, New Year’s Eve is not about the all-night party or bottles of Champagne; but about spending time with the ones they love. Those looking for a calmer New Year’s Eve celebration can head to Texas de Brazil for a family-friendly dinner at a kid-friendly hour. Opening at 4 p.m., on the final day of the year, the restaurant is an ideal option for those looking to dine in the calm before the New Year’s Eve rush. Texas de Brazil offers affordable pricing for children, and allows families to celebrate in style without breaking the bank.

Texas de Brazil will be open on New Year’s Eve from 4 to 10 p.m. Dinner is priced at $46.99 for adults, $23.50 for children ages 6-12, and $5 for children ages 3-5. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 312.670.1006.

GT Fish and Oyster
GT Fish & Oyster, a modern seafood eatery helmed by the award-winning Chef Giuseppe Tentori, the restaurant announces two festive offerings:

  • Half Off Oysters in the Bar. Prayers from those with late-night oyster cravings have been answered. From Sunday through Friday, oysters are half off after 10 p.m. in GT Fish & Oyster’s spirited Oyster Bar. The Oyster Bar is open until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. on Friday.
  • Toast to the New Year. In keeping with the spirit of his seasonal menu – comprised of both traditional and non-traditional fish-centric dishes – Chef Tentori will present a four-course, prix fixe menu on Saturday, December 31. Each guest may select from three dishes for each course, allowing the table to order a variety of items to share, including a tempting dessert selection from Pastry Chef Sarah Jordan. The cost is $75 per person, excluding alcohol, tax, gratuity and supplemental offerings (select oysters, caviar service, king crab and white truffle).Reservations are available between 4:30 and 11:30 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended and may be made by calling (312) 929-3501.

Roka Akor
Ring in the New Year at Roka Akor (456 N. Clark St.), River North’s hottest new steak and sushi restaurant. Guests can revel in the restaurant’s chic, vibrant dining room while enjoying a succulent, six-course meal expertly crafted by Chef Ce Bian.
Roka Akor’s New Year’s Eve menu is $128 per person, inclusive of a Champagne toast. For an additional $50 per guest, diners can enjoy the carefully selected sake and wine pairings, most of which aren’t usually available by the glass, to accompany and enhance each course.  Reservations are mandatory and can be made between 5-6:30 p.m. or 8:30-11 p.m. by calling (312) 477-7652.

The Peruvian, Japanese and Brazilian restaurant in the heart of River North is inviting guests to enjoy a festive Revellion party. Party-goers can feast on the restaurant’s fun and inventive dishes and enjoy exciting cocktails, with no minimum order. Reservations are available from 6 – 10 p.m. for no additional charge and the celebration seating which goes from 10 p.m. to close will only be an another $30 for the premier seating. For fans of the restaurant who prefer to stay at home, SUSHISAMBA rio is offering deluxe take-out food, perfect for any size party. To make reservations or book a take-out order, call 312.595.2300.

Lockwood Restaurant and the Palmer House Hilton
Executive Chef Greg Elliott of the upscale farm-to-table restaurant in the historic Palmer House Hilton has planned an elegant New Year’s Eve tasting menu. For $75, diners will enjoy a foie gras terrine; Kumamuto oysters; roasted branzino; roasted filet mignon with bone marrow, lobster and truffles; Rush Creek Reserve with accompaniments and a bitter chocolate mousse with chestnut cream. For an additional $20, guests can also have the Sommelier’s wine pairings. To make reservations, call the restaurant at 312.917.3404. For guests who are interested in unique theatre, the Palmer House Hitlon will be putting on a one-of-a-kind performance of The Magic Parlour. An intimate evening of classic magic with Dennis Watkins at the Palmer House.  This special will include drinks in Potter’s Lounge, followed by a performance in private suite. Tickets are $100 at or by phone at 773.769.3832

Hoyt’s at Hotel 71
For those looking to experience New Year’s Eve in a comfortable, cozy setting, Hoyt’s at Hotel 71 is a great option. Giving patrons 71 reasons to ring in the New Year, the $71 ticket price will include an assortment of passed canapés complemented by house brand cocktails, craft beers and wine. Guests looking to have a bit of privacy can opt for the private lounge experience for $120 per person where the restaurant will provide you with a private table, passed hors d’oeuvers and varied beverage options including a complimentary bottle of Skyy Vodka, table-side bottle service, craft beers, top-shelf liquor and more (minimum four people per table). Prices are exclusive of tax and gratuity, reservations are required and can be made by contacting 312.462.7081. Aforementioned packages will include Champagne toast, live DJ, party favors and will be offered from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Guestrooms are available beginning at $199/per night for attendees.

Toast to 2012 at The Florentine
What better way to toast to new beginnings than over Chef Stein’s savory Italian cuisine? On December 31, The Florentine will present its seasonal a la carte menu, featuring favorites such as Bucatini Carbonara with pancetta, cracked pepper, pecorino, duck egg and Swordfish with slow cooked lentils, Swiss chard and arrabiata sauce as well several celebratory specials, including Crab Salad Truffle Risotto, Turbot and Sticky Toffee Pudding. Guests can also add truffle to any dish for $55.

Dinner reservations at The Florentine on New Year’s Eve are available from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. All guests will receive a complimentary champagne toast at midnight and last call in the restaurant’s spacious bar area will be at 1 a.m. On New Year’s Day, The Florentine will be open normal business hours for breakfast (6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) and brunch (10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), as well as for dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Reservations at The Florentine this holiday season can be made by calling (312) 660-8866 or by visiting the restaurant’s website.

Autre Monde Cafe & Spirits will present a festive evening bidding adieu to 2011. In the spirit of the Mediterranean-influenced restaurant and wine bar, Chefs Dan Pancake and Beth Partridge have created a special menu that will usher in the New Year with seasonal flair.

With seatings available at both 6 p.m. – 3 course prix fixe $45 per person, wine pairings available for $25 per person and 9 p.m. – 4 course prix fixe $65 per person, wine pairings available for $35 per person. Prices are exclusive of alcohol, tax and gratuity. Reservations are required and may be made by calling (708) 775-8122.

C-House, located in the Affinia hotel, will offer a special menu for New Year’s Eve. The four-course pre-fixe menu is $79 per person and includes a glass of sparking wine to toast. The first seating starts at 6:00 p.m. and the last at 10:00 p.m. C-House is located at 166 East Superior Street, at the Affinia Chicago hotel. For more information and to make reservations, call (312) 523-0923

Guests can ring in 2012 in style at Sepia, recently honored for a second consecutive year with a star from the prestigious Michelin Guide. Against the chic backdrop of Sepia’s vintage-meets-modern dining room, Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman will offer a festive, multi-course feast to welcome the New Year, paired with toast-ready wines selected by Wine Director Arthur Hon.

Guests can opt for the first seating, from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., or the second from 8 to 9:30 p.m. The first seating will feature a four-course prix-fixe menu ($75 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity; optional wine pairings $60 per person), and the second a five-course prix-fixe plus a welcome cocktail ($95 per person exclusive of tax and gratuity; optional wine pairings $80 per person). Reservations are required and may be made by calling 312.441.1920 or via

The Gage and Henri
Highlights of the 2012 New Year’s Eve dinners at Henri and The Gage include:

  • Diners looking for a sophisticated fete will appreciate the approachable formality of Henri (18 S. Michigan Ave.), where an opulent interior sets the stage for an unforgettable evening. Guests are invited to start the evening with one of Rogers’s handcrafted cocktails. The knowledgeable wait staff will help diners select courses from the restaurant’s nightly French-inspired a la carte menu or guests can treat themselves to Chef Dirk’s decadent specials, which will be paired alongside indulgent wine pours from Ince. Reservations for New Year’s Eve dinner at Henri are available from 5 to 11 p.m. and can be made by calling (312) 578-0763 or via
  • Next door, a spirited New Year’s Eve celebration will be underway at The Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave.). Although the doors open at 10 a.m., Chef Dirk, Ince and Rogers will keep the festivities going until the early hours of January 1 with a menu of rustic, yet refined contemporary American fare, lush wine selections and handcrafted cocktails — perfect for toasting to the New Year. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling 312.372.4243 or via

Trump Venetian Masked Ball
Sixteen’s New Year’s celebrations include New Year’s Eve Dinner: “A Venetian Masquerade” – Saturday, December 31 Upon arrival at Sixteen’s “Venetian Masquerade”-themed New Year’s Eve celebration, guests marvel over opulent tables dressed with dramatic mask-inspired centerpieces that illuminate the dining room and juxtapose the wintery view from the restaurant’s 30-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows.

Chef Rose’s New Year’s Eve menus will play perfectly into the evening’s theme; guests will enjoy a three-course menu during the first seating or a six- or 10-course tasting menu during the second seating. All menus will feature ingredients and presentations associated with the extravagance and decadence of the famed Carnival of Venice – the origin of all masquerade affairs.

The three-course tasting menu offered during the first seating (from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.) is $135 per person or $185 with wine pairings. During the second seating from 9 to 10:30 p.m., diners can choose from the six-course tasting menu ($235 per person or $335 with wine pairings) or ten-course menu ($340 per person or $480 with wine pairings). Available during the second seating only is a luxe “Royal Experience” dining package, featuring guaranteed window seating, a 10-course menu with wine pairings and a Krug Champagne toast at midnight. The cost for this package is $550 per person. All prices are exclusive of tax and gratuity.

All guests of Sixteen on New Year’s Eve will enjoy a complimentary Champagne toast, and for those staying on after the second seating, a view of the fabulous New Year’s fireworks display from Navy Pier. As a distinctive take-away from the evening, each family or couple will also receive a 375ml bottle of Taittinger Champagne NV to keep the celebration going into the New Year. Reservations are required for New Year’s Eve at Sixteen and may be made by calling (312) 588-8030. All reservations have a 72-hour cancellation policy.

Custom House
Ring in 2012 at Custom House Tavern! Guests may make reservations for dinner between 5 and 10 p.m. on Saturday, December 31, and Executive Chef Perry Hendrix, Chef de Cuisine Zach Millican and Pastry Chef Erin Mooney will present both the restaurant’s American, a la carte menu, as well as a special five-course prix fixe supper club-themed holiday dinner for $75 per person (exclusive of alcohol and gratuity).

Beginning at 8:30 p.m., there will be $20 per person cover charge for walk-ins, which will include a champagne toast, party favors and entertainment from a live jazz combo featuring Rachel Charson. Last call will be at 12:30 a.m. Custom House Tavern will be open for breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. and lunch until 2 p.m. on December 31. The restaurant will be closed New Year’s Day.

Roots Handmade Pizza (1924 W Chicago Ave) will throw an all-inclusive New Year’s Eve Party featuring a six-hour premium bar package, a food buffet, midnight champagne toast, party favors, DJ Jason Wolfe, and more starting at 8pm on Saturday, December 31.

Tickets must be purchased in advance online for the Roots New Year’s Eve Party at Tickets are $80 each.

Rebar – Land of OZ
“There’s no place like Trump. There’s no place like Trump”… On Saturday, December 31, guests looking to ring in the New Year in style can follow the yellow brick road to Rebar at Trump International Hotel & Tower® Chicago, where a “The Land of Oz: There’s No Place Like Trump”- themed evening will unfold. On this special evening, the downtown Chicago hotel’s chic mezzanine-level lounge will showcase a modern interpretation of Victor Fleming’s classic “Wizard of Oz” film, entirely transforming into a dramatic setting of flowers, lights and drapery. A live DJ will entertain revelers throughout the evening, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. as they enjoy spectacular ambiance, sweeping vistas and decadent seasonal sushi and cocktail spreads.
Rebar is offering two packages designed for groups up to four people:

  • For $450 per table, guests can book the Ruby Package, which includes two bottles of Veuve Clicquot “Yellow Label”, a comfortable table and the guests’ choice of a sweet pastry tower filled with Oz-themed creations by Executive Pastry Chef Sarah Kosikowski or a savory tower from Sushi Chef Ismael Lucero featuring sashimi, maki rolls and more.
  • For $600 per table, guests can reserve the Emerald Package, which includes one bottle of Veuve Cliquot “La Grande Dame”, guaranteed window seating that affords prime views of the Chicago River, and their choice of the sweet or savory tower. Parties exceeding four people are required to purchase seating for additional guests, which costs $125 per person for the Ruby package or $150 per person for the Emerald Package. All prices are exclusive of tax and gratuity.

At midnight, guests partaking in Rebar’s New Year’s Eve revelry will be awed by spectacular views of the Navy Pier fireworks display, as well as a complimentary Champagne toast. Tables are limited, and seatings begin at 9 p.m. Reservations are required and may be made by calling Ariel Lickton at (312) 588-8114. Bookings will be held via credit card, and a $100 no-show fee per person will be applied to any cancellations made within 72 hours of the first seating.

mk The Restaurant
After 13 years of business, mk knows how to throw a great New Year’s Eve party and this year is no exception. The night will be filled with incredible food, wine and music from DJ John Young. Executive Chef Erick Williams and Pastry Chef Tony Galzin have crafted an elegant four-course tasting menus featuring Maine lobster, Masami Ranch roast Waygu sirloin and a Valhrona dark chocolate bomb. A vegetarian menu is also available that highlights some of the season’s best ingredients such as the beet salad, pumpkin soup and apple cider and Bartlett pear sorbets. Optional wine pairings are also available. mk’s sommelier Robby Nagelberg has selected enticing vintage grower Champagnes and rare red treasures for $35 per person. mk also has an award winning wine selection to please any palate.

For guests who want to dine before heading into the night, early seating is available at half-hour increments between 5:30 and 7:30pm, and is priced at $75 per person. Guests can also ring in 2012 with mk with late seating reservations starting at 8:30pm and continuing to 10:00pm for $95 per person. Late seating includes a Champagne toast at midnight. So come drink, dine and dance in style with mk this New Year’s Eve!
Call 312.482.9179 or at to reserve your table now.

Barrio Urban Taqueria
Take a Bite out of New Year’s Eve with Barrio’s Decadent Taco Menu until Midnight! Bring your family and friends to the heart of East Lakeview and indulge on Barrio’s New Year’s Eve Taco Menu! Chef Martin Cabrera has taken Barrio’s traditional tacos and added extravagant ingredients perfect for the holiday.

Saturday, December 31, 2011 from 4pm until Midnight. Each taco is priced at $7 or in a trio flight for $18. Barrio Urban Taqueria, 714 W. Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614. Reservations are not required.

Whether you are celebrating New Year’s Eve with the kids, a group of friends or a romantic date, D’Noche Latin American Kitchen & Bar offers something for everyone. Located in Logan Square, D’Noche has been serving its authentic and affordable Cuban, Mexican and South American specialties in the warm, rustic ambience of the restaurant and sure to provide the atmosphere for the perfect New Year’s Eve celebration.

  • Seating 1: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
    Three-course dinner menu includes an appetizer, entrée, dessert
    Signature cocktail and a glass of champagne
    $45 per person, including tax and gratuity
    Kid’s menu includes entrée, drink and ice cream sundae
    $15 per child, including tax and gratuity
  • Seating 2: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
    Three-course dinner menu includes an appetizer, entrée, dessert
    Signature cocktail and a glass of champagne
    $45 per person, including tax and gratuity
    Kid’s menu includes entrée, drink and ice cream sundae
    $15 per child, including tax and gratuity
  • Seating 3: 10:00 p.m. – 3:00 a.m.
    Three-course dinner menu includes an appetizer, entrée, dessert
    Three-hour open bar
    A midnight champagne toast
    DJ and dancing featuring the sounds of salsa, meringue and Latin beats as well as Top 40 hits
    $65 per person, including tax and gratuity

D’Noche Latin American Kitchen & Bar, 2714 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 RESERVATIONS: Required; call 773-289-4274 or visit

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at Joe also contributes to Chicago.


Leave a comment