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How to Eat Well on New Year’s Eve

Tasty food, great deals, and good vibes for the last night of 2016

Oysters at Shaw’s Crab House   Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune

Look, you’re going to have to eat on New Year’s Eve. And assuming you want to do that in public (brave soul, you) with all the other festively dressed human beings, and you want to eat well, you’re probably going to pay a premium. Remember: December 31 falls on a Saturday this year.

But not every restaurant plans on sticking you with an overpriced prix-fixe menu. Here are some deals that will make you glad you ventured out.

For Mexican food lovers who also love chocolate cake

There will be three seatings at Dos Urban Cantina (2829 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square) with the price climbing by the hour. Get in for the first one at 6 p.m., and you’ll get three courses for $39. Chocolate cake, which we’ve already deemed the city’s best, is one of the three dessert options. On the savory side, chicken mole and chorizo sope aren’t too shabby, either.

For the really early birds

Who says dinner has to be your main meal on New Year’s Eve? The all-you-can-eat brunch at Shaw’s Crab House (21 E. Hubbard St., River North) is a sight. At $55 a person, it’s worth it just for the free-flowing king crab legs, beef tenderloin, and oysters. Oh, but there’s sushi, ceviche, made-to-order omelets, and a 17-item sweets table, too. If your kid can eat her weight in bananas Foster French toast, bring her: Kids 7 to 12 are $10; ages 6 and under are free. Brunch is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

But if you can hold off eating until midnight…

At two-Michelin-starred Acadia (1639 S. Wabash Ave., South Loop) after the people who shelled out $275 for the eight-course tasting have left, a party of epic proportions will commence involving all-you-can-handle food and drink, contortionists doing their thing in a glass tube, and more. It’s a $50 ticket ($25 for restaurant industry folks), a value considering there’s a $25 Manhattan on the bar menu. The buffet will include chef Ryan McCaskey’s favorite foods, Vietnamese chicken wings, smoked cheddar mac ’n’ cheese, and shrimp cocktail among them.

Because where else can you eat snapping turtle soup?

Part of the pleasure of dining out is eating stuff you won’t or can’t cook at home. And be honest, you can’t do what Big Jones (5347 N. Clark St., Andersonville) does, which is historically accurate coastal Southern cuisine. So go and be fed four courses, plus salt-rising bread, for $49. Choose from dishes like crispy potted venison, the aforementioned soup, and coconut cream cake. The regular menu will be available as well. 

If you believe in the power of noodles

In Japan, eating noodles on New Year’s Eve, soba in particular, is said to bring good fortune. Luckily, smoked salmon soba is part of the $50, five-course lineup (not counting a chicken liver mousse amuse) at Yusho (2853 N. Kedzie Ave., Logan Square location only) At Slurping Turtle (116 W. Hubbard St., River North), you get a choice of ramen as part of the four-course, $38 prix-fixe.

When you just can’t deal with prix-fixe

Hark! Some restaurants will stick to their regular menus on New Year’s Eve. Two happen to have super cozy dining rooms—Vera (1023 W. Lake St., West Loop) and Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (1747 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown)—and two just opened, Dixie (1952 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown) and Eden (1748 W. Lake St., West Loop). Look out for a few special dishes and treats on the house at each, including sherry and Champagne toasts for all diners at Vera.

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