Chiberia, Snowmaggedon. Plowed In. Last winter gave us a whole new vernacular of cold-isms as well as appreciation for warm places. To prepare you for this season, we’ve compiled a list of positively glowing restaurants that you can consider for your upcoming meeting or event. After all, the hearth was designed as the very first meeting spot.
“There is nothing better than coming in from the cold to find a cozy place to sit by the fire,” says Elizabeth Tulipana, assistant director of operations and director of private events at The Promontory, which is new to Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Opened over the summer by the owners of Pilsen’s Thalia Hall, Dusek’s Board & Beer and Punch House, The Promontory was built around a giant fireplace that is used for both cooking—where you can watch the chef at work—and pumping in that special campfire ambiance. “Watching the embers burn around the food is a dance that has always fascinated me,” Tulipana says. “It’s a true sensory experience in every way.” Not only does a warm, smoky scent fill the air, but the burning oven is utilitarian, too, furthering the restaurant’s hearth-totable concept. “It’s all about staying true to the oldest form of cooking. Using fire truly allows the ingredients to speak for themselves,” says Tulipana. From searing items like the carrots and beets for salad options to bubbling over with the signature Kentucky Burgoo featuring pork collar, quail, housemade venison sausage, rabbit leg and charred corn in a stewed tomato broth, nothing escapes this fire pit; not even the drinks, with some feature garnishments like charred grapefruit. The upstairs features a gorgeous concert hall and rentable event space that can fit 400 people for a standing cocktail reception and 120 seated.
Quince at the Homestead
Located just two blocks from Evanston’s upscale business district, refined American restaurant Quince offers not one but two fireplaces, which were original to the building constructed in 1927. One is the main dining room, seating up to 50, where guests can pick and choose from an à la carte menu or go for the five-course chef tasting special. Some of the featured items include polenta with truffle and watercress, pork belly with rice noodle, entrees like halibut and goat cheese mezzaluna and a number of tempting desserts. “During the winter, the fireplace certainly draws people in,” says Tina Warnke, managing partner/events at Quince, which is located in the ultra-cozy Homestead Hotel. “The four tables in front of it are always in hot demand.” For more intimate surroundings, a second fireplace is offered in the recently renovated Q2 cocktail lounge, with a dark wood bar and leather chairs that can accommodate 50 guests standing or 30 seated.
Homestead On The Roof
Another homestead is just 30 miles away in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood. Here, though, the 80-seat rooftop patio is where everyone likes to go—don’t worry, there’s a year round fire pit that is surprisingly toasty even on the chilliest nights. “We like to invite guests to step outside and grab a seat by the fire,” says Dave Andrews, operating partner. “Here they can enjoy their meal or just a spiced drink or two before dinner, maybe even some hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows during the winter months.”
Homestead On The Roof is the ultimate farm-to-table restaurant, with a 1,000-squarefoot organic garden that produces ingredients used in dishes like the smoked asparagus salad and crudo or alongside items like the pig head croquette and seared walleye. The restaurant offers a wide range of food packages for private parties, including hors d’oeuvres stations, homemade bread selections and pre-fixe dinners with vegetarian and vegan options available. There is indoor seating for 65-80 guests as well.
Sable Kitchen & Bar
The sleek and sexy surroundings of Sable Kitchen & Bar are perfect for the electric fireplace that greets diners as they approach the hostess stand. The popular River North hot spot, which is located inside the Hotel Palomar Chicago, is the baby of celebrity chef Heather Terhune, who believes in the idea of social plates. Different from tapas, Terhune’s creations fall into one of six categories—hors d’oeuvres, farm and garden, between bread, meat, fish and flatbreads—that are available for dinner and perfect for sharing or a solo entrée. The seasonal menu gets switched up regularly but has included such items as hoisin glazed pork belly sliders and warm evening buns, featuring pastry dough mixed with kale, garlic, Calabrese peppers and parmesan.
Behind the main dining room, Sable’s private dining area seats 24 and offers a peek into the ambiance and subtle chatter of the public space. If you desire a larger layout, the dining room seats 48 and can be rented out with a food and beverage minimum.
Stonewood Ale House
Located in the bustling suburb of Schaumburg, Stonewood Ale House features a gorgeous fireplace at the very center, which helps to promote the warm and cozy dining atmosphere inside that is fitted with stone walls and light wood touches. Multiple event spaces within the restaurant can hold anywhere from 10 to 100 people. Guests can warm their stomachs, too, with the restaurant’s unique burger combinations, including the spicy crunch burger (smothered in buffalo sauce topped with crispy homemade kettle potato chips), Elvis burger (topped with creamy peanut butter and sweet ripe bananas) and the bacon & egg burger (featuring Applewood smoked bacon, American cheese and a fried egg).