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Where To Have An Affordable Group Dinner

PHOTO: Christina Slaton

We’ve all been there. You’re enjoying a meal with your friends - until the bill arrives. It rolls across the table like a medieval scroll, and just keeps going. You didn’t even get a bite of that risotto, and come to think of it, you barely drank any wine. When did Robin find time to order three martinis? The sweat starts, and you try to remember how much money is left in your bank account as you kick yourself for agreeing to this dinner in the first place.

This situation is avoidable. Not every group dinner needs to be an all-out event. Here’s our guide to 22 spots where you can hang out, eat some high-quality food, and not feel like you need to hire an accountant to manage the bill.

The Spots

8.5
MAP

One of the hardest parts about making a group dinner plan is finding something mutually convenient - no matter how hard you try, it seems like someone always gets stuck with a $45 Uber ride. Angry Crab is a great equalizer, because everyone gets screwed. It’s located on the far west side, far from any public transportation. But it’s worth the trip. Come here, order boiled shellfish (shrimp, crab, and lobster) by the pound, and then dig into seafood so good it has no business being in the Midwest.

Parlor Pizza

West Loop
108 N Green St
7.5
MAP

We’d never tell you Parlor had the best pizza in Chicago. But you’re not at Parlor to be wowed by the food - you’re here to recapture the spirit of your carefree college days. (Or at least, what you always thought college would be like, thanks to the movies). The pizza here is perfectly tasty, and the large menu of satisfying bar food will please any non-pizza-eaters in your group. Plus, there are not one but two patios, so in good weather there’s plenty of space for everyone to sit outside.

Homeslice

Lincoln Park
938 W. Webster Ave.
7.6
MAP

This is another pizza place that’s less about the food and more about having a good time with your friends. If Parlor is Animal House, Homeslice is more Saved By The Bell: The College Years. Come here for for a photogenic group hang, complete with big couches, swing sets, and neon pink signs. Oh, and the pizza is actually pretty good, too.

Athenian Room

Lincoln Park
807 W Webster Ave
8.4
MAP

Athenian Room is not BYOB. Repeat, NOT BYOB. But you can bring alcohol over from the bar next door. Do that, then get ready for some delicious, incredibly cheap Greek food, including the kalamata chicken - one of the best roast chicken dishes in Chicago. Service is brusque, and the space is ultra-casual, but you’ll feel like you’re pretty much stealing the food.

Big Star

Wicker Park
1531 N Damen Ave
7.6
MAP

Big Star is a polarizing restaurant here at The Infatuation. But whether or not you’re a fan of the tacos, you have to agree that this space is great for groups. There’s a huge patio with a laid-back feel, plus mezcal cocktails and queso fundido that will help you to forgive any inconsistencies, like too-fishy fish tacos.

Pequod's Pizzeria

Lincoln Park
2207 N. Clybourn Ave.
8.6
MAP

Pequod’s has some of the best pizza in Chicago, and the Lincoln Park location is basically a sports bar, so it’s ideal for getting together over pitchers of beer and watching whatever Chicago team is breaking your heart this year. A large pan-style deep dish pie is big enough to share with a group of five (including your friend who never chips in, but always has a piece).

7.9
MAP

You need a solid strategy to come here - or at least some patience. In fact, patience is actually the best strategy. This West Loop barbecue spot doesn’t accept reservations, and gets really crowded during peak hours, so expect a wait. Luckily, there’s a huge bar in the center of the restaurant to keep your group occupied, and once you secure a picnic table, the cafeteria-style line moves quickly. Then you have all the time in the world to get the meat sweats while watching the other groups wait for you to finally leave.

8.6
MAP

This casual Mexican spot in Wicker Park serves some incredible seafood. The best strategy here is for your group to order the Family Platter, which comes with crab, legs prawns, and stuffed lobster. Then just get to work and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. The baked lobster is stuffed with more seafood (mainly octopus), and the prawns come in a delicious, spicy tomato broth, with fries on the side to soak it up.

8.2
MAP

The patio at Parson’s Chicken and Fish is one of the best in the city. It’s spacious, with plenty of room between the picnic tables, and also protected from the street - so you won’t have to breathe in any exhaust. As you might expect from the name, you’re here for fried chicken and fish, and they’re both excellent. Plus, the outdoor bar has negroni slushies. So all in all, this is one of our go-to spots for a group hang, especially when it’s nice out.

8.6
MAP

If you have anyone in your group who’s visiting from out of town, the River North Lou Malnati’s is a solid choice. It’s close to a lot of the spots out-of-towners like to visit (like the Magnificent Mile), and even more importantly, it serves classic Chicago deep dish.

The Delta

Wicker Park
1745 W North Ave

Don’t be discouraged if you walk by The Delta in Wicker Park and think it looks like a hallway. Yes, it’s narrow, but it actually has way more seating along the wall than you’d expect - plus, there’s a great back patio. And the Southern menu here is ideal for casual drinking and snacking. Get some cocktails and try their specialty: tamales that are simmered in a chile broth instead of steamed.

Kaiser Tiger

1415 W Randolph St
MAP

Kaiser Tiger has a couple things going for it. First, it has a giant patio with tables large enough to seat groups of about 15. And second, it has something on its menu called “The Bomb” - five pounds of beef and pork sausage stuffed with bacon and wrapped in a brown sugar bacon weave. It’s served with buns and fries, and for $80 you and your group can share this delicious monstrosity. If that doesn’t appeal to you, there are plenty of regular-sized sausages, sandwiches, and even some salads on the menu, too.

5 Rabanitos

Pilsen
1758 W 18th St

5 Rabanitos is a casual BYOB spot in Pilsen putting out fantastic Mexican dishes. There’s a great selection of tacos as well as a huge vegetarian menu, and their ahogada torta with carnitas (served in a chile broth) is so spicy it might send your group on a vision quest.

Irazu

Bucktown / Palmer Square
1865 N. Milwaukee Ave.
7.8
MAP

You were too broke to go to your friend’s destination wedding. Make up for it by getting together at Irazu. The large covered patio, BYOB policy, and awesome Costa Rican food make this feel like a mini-tropical vacation right in the middle of Wicker Park. And since it’s inexpensive, you can use the extra cash to finally buy that gift.

Quartino

River North
626 N State St
7.4
MAP

Your restaurant choices in River North usually boil down to expensive and good, affordable but terrible, or the worst - expensive and terrible. Quartino breaks this mold. It’s not only reliably good, but its tapas-style Italian menu makes it very easy for you to have a reasonably priced meal here. Plus, the large space has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of dining rooms, so you probably won’t have to wait for a table.

Beatrix

River North
519 N Clark St
7.7
MAP

If you want to eat with your friends, but don’t want to undo all the hard work you just did at that spin class together, Beatrix has you covered. Their menu of kind-of-healthy options will appeal to everyone in the group, and there are three locations in the city (West Loop, River North, and Streeterville), all of which are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Tank Noodle

Uptown
4953 N Broadway St
7.7
MAP

Tank Noodle in Little Vietnam has friendly service and very tasty Vietnamese food. There’s an extensive menu, but the pho is the best thing here. And it’s BYOB, so you can skip that 20-minute ritual of triangulating the alcohol-consumed-to-tip ratio at the end of your meal.

For those of you tracking all the pizza styles in Chicago with an FBI-style push pin map (just us?), Roots serves Quad Cities-style pies. Which means the pizzas here are round, cut into rectangles, and have toppings under the cheese. The menu is huge, with a decent selection of salads and rotating pizzas designed by local chefs. A huge bar area, large patio outside, and interesting specialty pies make it a great local spot for hanging out with pizza and beer.

La Scarola

West Town
721 W. Grand Ave.
7.9
MAP

If you’re not careful, a meal at La Scarola can get expensive. But this old-school Italian restaurant in West Town has huge portions, so you don’t need to get appetizers, and most of the entrees are large enough to share among several people. You can expect white tablecloths, pictures of celebrities, and red sauce classics like veal parmigiana and pasta. It might not serve the most innovative Italian food in town, but everything on the menu is tasty and satisfying. It’s always crowded, so be sure to make a reservation.

MingHin Cuisine

2168 S. Archer Ave.
MAP

Minghin is large, has several locations, and is open 365 days a year. Don’t come here with your friend who’s an irresponsible online shopper - you use iPads at the table to place your order, and it’s easy to lose track of all the food you’ve put in your cart. You can get tasty entrees like lo mein and rice dishes, but we recommend focusing on the dim sum - especially the pork buns and dumplings.

8.4
MAP

The Asian fusion dishes at Mott Street are designed for sharing, and the communal seating and large outdoor patio make this an ideal group dinner spot. Make sure you order the kimchi-stuffed empanada - one of the best fusion dishes they have - and if you come for brunch, someone needs to order the amazing burger. Actually, everyone needs to order the burger, because you definitely won’t want to share.

8.6
MAP

Communal seating with strangers can be a nightmare, but when the weirdos picking off your plate are your friends, it’s not that big of a deal. And the Publican’s giant U-shaped table is large enough for you to come here with really big groups. It’s not an inexpensive restaurant by any means, but it is reasonably priced for what it is, so come here when you want an affordable but upscale meal. The $60 chef’s choice option is a great way to try a bunch of the food.

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