From Santa-Themed Pop-Up Bars to Epic Cookie Swaps, These Are the Best Holiday Dining Events in Chicago

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
It's the most magical time of year to dine and drink in Chicago, thanks to festive pop-ups, holiday cooking classes, champagne tastings, and cookie swaps. These are the best dining and drinking events to check out this holiday season in Chicago.
Photo by Morgan Scofes/Courtesy of Santa’s Bodega
Miracle Pop-Up at Sable Kitchen & Bar Across the country, Miracle is the quintessential holiday pop-up, famed for its festive decor and intricate drinks at esteemed bars in cities nationwide. This year, Sable Kitchen & Bar holds the proud distinction of being the only Miracle bar in Chicago. That means the River North stalwart has its halls decked and a drink list of 10 holiday cocktails (plus three shots), poured into festive glassware and merry mugs. Drinks include the Christmapolitan, made with vodka, elderflower, dry vermouth, spiced cranberry sauce, rosemary, lime, and absinthe mist; the Christmas Carol Barrel with tequila, coffee liqueur, cocoa nib–infused orange and cognac liqueur, iced hot chocolate, and Mexican spices; and SanTaRex with rye, sherry, spiced apple cider concentrate, lemon, hard cider, and baked apple bitters. These are accompanied by food specials like Christmas ham skewers, a party cheese ball, fried turkey sliders, and bourbon pecan pie. Details: Through December 24 Santa’s Bodega Pop-Up at La Bodega  There are a lot of holiday pop-up bars in Chicago this time of year, but this one at River North’s La Bodega looks festive and fun AF. Through New Year’s the space is outfitted with lively and colorful holiday decor, including a “leg lamp,” stockings, holly, twinkly lights, and candy canes. Plus, look for cocktail specials with names like Christmas Vacation and Bad Santa. Details: December 6 through New Year’s Tinseltown Pop-Up at Pink Squirrel  Another epic holiday pop-up running through the New Year: Pink Squirrel has transformed into Tinseltown for the jolly season, wrapping itself in…wrapping paper, Christmas trees, snowflakes, and ornaments galore. Drink specials abound, like the Rudolph’s Nightcap with Brady’s Irish Cream Liqueur and peppermint schnapps, and Christmas Morning with Pendleton rye, Mr. Black coffee liqueur, ice cream, and cinnamon spice. Details: Open through the New Year
Photo courtesy of Pink Squirrel
Mele Kalikimaka Hawaiian Pop-Up at Cerise  In case your idea of Christmas fun involves jetting off to someplace warm (and who could blame you), then head to the rooftop bar at Virgin Hotels Chicago for a Hawaiian-themed holiday pop-up running through December 21. Dubbed Mele Kalikimaka, the Hawaiian shindig at Cerise brings lots of sunny, beachy decor; live entertainment; tiki drinks; pineapple upside-down cake, and more tropical fun. Details: December 5–21 Holiday Movies at Blue Door Farm Stand  For me, it’s not the holidays until I watch Elf. Or Home Alone. Or The Grinch. And the full roster is here at Blue Door Farm Stand as part of the restaurant’s nostalgic Monday night movie series through December, wherein a different movie screens upstairs with hot chocolate (or boozy hot chocolate) for sipping. Details: Monday nights through December 30, starting at 7 p.m. Space Jam Bar-Mitzvah at Easy Bar  Here’s a fun—and totally unique—one for the holidays. Easy Bar is celebrating its 13th birthday in the best way possible, with a Space Jam–themed Easy Bar-Mitzvah. There will be a Space Jam step-and-repeat for photos, themed decor, challah bread, Monstars-themed cocktail specials, and music from the movie courtesy of DJ Substance D. Details: December 13, 5 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Easy Bar
Holiday Cooking Class at El Che Steakhouse & Bar  If you’re the kind of person committed to grilling and cooking outside even in the dead of winter, then this is for you. Courtesy of chef John Manion, the class, titled How the Grinch Cooked Christmas Dinner Outside, teaches attendees how to prepare a whole beef tenderloin with horseradish creme for the ultimate holiday dinner. The class also includes a welcome cocktail, recipes, and lunch with wine pairings. Details: December 14, noon–2 p.m.; $85 Bubbles & Bites at Travelle  The holidays are obviously a time for candy and hot chocolate and eggnog and all that good stuff, but it’s also a time for champagne. And Travelle has you covered with its annual Bubbles & Bites, hosted in partnership with Tenzing wine and spirits. Held in the restaurant’s cozy Cellar Room, the event and workshop offers samples of featured champagnes alongside bites from chef Jeff Vucko, for an evening that’s equal parts enlightening and delicious. Details: December 19, 5:30–7:30 p.m.; $25 Holiday Cookie Swap at Publican Quality Meats It’s the most magical time of year indeed. Not because Santa is flying around or because stockings are getting stuffed, but because Publican Quality Meats has brought back its epic cookie swap for the month of December. It’s a sweet tooth’s dream: Executive pastry chef Erika Chan features recipes from bakeries and pastry chefs across the country, stocking the case through December 24 with confections like homemade Oreos by Joanne Chang of Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe; chocolate cookie sandwiches from Jessica Koslow of Los Angeles’s Sqirl; molasses cookies with vanilla marshmallows by Diane Yang of Minneapolis’s Spoon and Stable; raspberry white chocolate blondies from Kat Gordon of Memphis-based Muddy’s Bake Shop; and lots more. Details: Through December 24; cookies cost $3.50 each
Photo courtesy of Gemini
ZooLights Menu at Gemini If you’re making your way to ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo at any point this holiday season (and you absolutely should), then be sure and stop at nearby Gemini for its special three-course ZooLights menu. Not only is it affordable ($38!), but guests get to choose their starter, main course, and hot beverage, with Santa’s cookies to go. Details: Available through December for dinner; $38 White and Black Truffle Dinner at Temporis  End 2019 with a bang with this truffle-studded tasting menu dinner at West Town’s Temporis. It’s that coveted time of year when black and white truffles are both in season, so chef Troy Jorge is going all out with a five-course spree, accompanied by Marinello Tartufi’s truffle purveyor Giacomo Marinello, who is bringing the goods direct from Italy and shaving them fresh on-site. Details: December 30, 7 p.m.; $200
Photo by Claudia Mak/Courtesy of Girl & the Goat
New Year’s Eve at Girl & the Goat  Inspired by sparkling wine traditions from across the globe, this West Loop fave is hosting the New Year’s Eve party to end all New Year’s Eve parties, starting with an intimate family-style dinner in the wine cellar, paired with bubbles sourced from around the world. Altogether, the decadent affair features 10 courses and five wines. Safe to say it’s a fittingly epic way to cap off 2019. Details: December 31, 7–10 p.m.; $250