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5 savvy steals for fun group feasting

Group dining is incredibly fun—and can be an incredible pain in the neck. You can’t bring a big group to just any restaurant, even if it happens to have that elusive big table sitting in the back. Is the atmosphere right? Is the menu group-friendly? And will the servers give you a nasty look when you ask to split the check? Here are five of our favorite spots where everything is perfect for a big group of friends.
Davanti Enoteca
This big, open spot in River North is perfect for an after-work group date. They have a huge selection of cheese and charcuterie, which comes in abundant portions and is great for sharing. Order a few bottles of red wine, a couple of plates of their delectable tuna crudo with chives and Ligurian olive oil, and a whole mess of their simple yet addictive spaghetti with Pecorino and black pepper. You might stagger home, but you’ll be nothing but happy.

Rural Society
This brand new Argentinian steakhouse, helmed by celebrity chef Jose Garces and local star Cory Morris, features amazing pieces of meat cooked on the parilla, the wood-fired grill traditional in Argentina. The meats on the list—think whole skirt steaks rolled up, Wagyu beef, and whole lobsters—are incredibly sharable, making this the perfect place for a big group. Fill in the gaps with the best mushrooms in town and a delicious beet salad with fried coriander seeds, and everyone is sure to leave happy.

Formento’s
This new Italian joint in the West Loop is getting raves for its traditional red sauce pastas, its sharable meat dishes (the veal tomahawk, expertly prepared by Chef Tony Quartaro, haunts our dreams), and the perfect atmosphere. But the best part? There are plenty of large tables. The relish tray, a beautiful—and affordable—appetizer selection straight from the 1950s, includes enough for at least six people, and a single order of meatballs could feed a small table. Load up on pasta, order the antipasti salad, and prepare for a carb coma.
Gather
Gather is the best kind of neighborhood restaurant: trendy, friendly, and excellent, all at the same time. During the winter, they have a gorgeous wood-paneled back room, complete with mason-jar chandeliers—perfect for large groups. In the summer, just push together some tables on the patio and your crew is set. On Sunday Nights, “Sunday Supper” is a family style feast, with five to six of Chef Ken Carter dishes to pass around the whole table. No one will leave hungry, and you won’t have to worry about awkward check splitting.

Dusek’s
Dusek’s is a rare example of a high-end restaurant that only accepts reservations if you have a group. Ha! Take that, romantic couples—this group of seven is skipping the line. Order a plate of General Tso’s sweetbreads for the table, along with a big dish of oysters, and enjoy Chef Jared Wentworth’s amazing Czech-inspired menu. Don’t be surprised if everyone wants their own entrée, though. Dusek’s has one of the best burgers in Chicago—the Juicy Lucy—and it doesn’t share well.
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