A well-planned dinner party is a wonderful thing. Good food, good wine, even better conversation, and a magical, memorable evening.
But throwing the perfect dinner party in Chicago is easier said than done. From choosing a venue and working out a guest list to crafting a crowd-pleasing menu, there’s a whole lot to consider.
If you want to be the host with the most, here are our 5 simple tips to help you throw the ultimate Chicago dinner party.
Alt text: Elegant dinner table set with plates, glasses and bottles of wine.
Before you can start the party planning process, take some time to think about your ideal evening.
What’s the occasion? Is it a birthday celebration, a dinner to get to know new business clients, or a just-because party to get a few friends together for a night of fun? The purpose of the dinner will help inform all the other decisions you make in the planning phase.
For example, do you want a casual, laid-back atmosphere, or something more refined and sophisticated? Will there be a theme for your dinner party? Will the food be paired with matching wines or can guests just help themselves to whatever they want from the bar? What about music — will there be an acoustic set, a string quartet, or just some gentle background music?
Of course, the type of event you’re planning will also determine what type of venue you choose.
Now it’s time to find the ideal venue for your dinner party. From the rustic to the glamorous, you can hire dinner spaces in Chicago to suit just about any occasion. Here are five unique options you might like to consider for your next fine dining event.
If your dinner party is going to be a gourmet food event, this open-concept kitchen in Wicker Park ticks all the right boxes. With its modern appliances, large farm table, abundant natural light, and seating for up to 20 people, it’s got “casual dinner party chic” written all over it.
Looking for a venue that offers a bit of old-world charm and a fascinating history? Ingersoll-Blackwelder House, located in the Ridge Historic District, is an impressive option. Built between 1874 and 1877, it’d be a great spot for any dinner party with a murder-mystery theme.
A spacious and contemporary art gallery in the Ukrainian Village, Matthew Rachman Gallery is all about chic modern style. It boasts high ceilings, eye-catching artworks, and mid-century furniture, while seating space for up to 50 people means it can accommodate larger events too.
Looking for a spacious venue that oozes that iconic Chicago loft style? Fulton Street Collective will have you licking your lips. With its hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and high ceilings, it’s a gorgeous space for anyone looking to hold a large dinner party.
Now it’s time to send out the invitations, and this is where things start to get tricky. The people you choose to invite will make or break your evening.
Get the guest list right and you can look forward to a night of free-flowing conversation, laughs and relaxation. Get it wrong and you might have to endure a dull, dreary evening that can’t end soon enough.
This is where your knowledge comes to the fore. Which of your friends get on well with friends from other parts of your life? Who has the sort of personality that will bring out the best in your other guests? Are there any people that shouldn’t be in the same room together?
It might take a little time, but it’s essential to create the perfect mix for a fun evening.
Alt text: Two white dinner plates with pasta sitting next to glasses of red wine.
If you’re a keen chef, you might want to prepare all the food yourself. There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal to put smiles on your guests’ faces, but just make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Preparing a feast for a room full of people can be time-consuming and downright stressful, so keep the menu simple and choose dishes that allow you to do a lot of advance prep.
It’s usually a whole lot easier to let someone else take care of the cooking so that you can relax and entertain your guests. Some venues have their own cooking facilities on-site, while others make it easy to bring in caterers to serve up a three-course meal while you focus on being the life of the party.
Drinks are also an important component of any successful dinner party. You could go all out and match wines to the dishes on offer, or just let your guests choose what they want to drink from the bar. And don’t forget to have options to suit every taste — sure, the steak might go best with a bold red, but your friend who’s driving home after dinner might prefer something non-alcoholic.
Alt text: People sitting at a long table for a dinner party and chatting.
The perfect dinner party atmosphere is a magical, elusive ingredient that can be so hard to capture.
Why? Because it’s not just one thing. It’s every single aspect of your dinner party — the food, the wine, the company, the music, the conversation, the lighting, and even the decorations — coming together to something much greater than the sum of its parts.
Of course, the atmosphere you’re trying to create will vary depending on the occasion. A pre hen’s party dinner will obviously have a different vibe to your grandma’s 90th birthday party, so it’s important to know what sort of feeling you’re trying to create before getting too far ahead of yourself.
But once you’ve got a good idea of your perfect evening, it’s time to compare Chicago dinner spaces and start planning a dinner your guests will remember for years to come.