15 Best Chicago Restaurants And Bars To Celebrate The Holidays In 2022

Starting in late November each year, Chicago's downtown streets fill with white lights, whimsical décor, and some of the best storefront window displays in the Midwest. One of the highlights is Chicago's official Christmas tree in beautiful Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue. According to the City of Chicago, the 2022 tree is a 55-foot Colorado Blue Spruce, adorned with brilliant, multi-colored lights.

While Chicago isn't known for the most pleasant weather, the chill coming off of Lake Michigan on a (lightly!) snowy day can actually enhance the winter holiday vibe. When it's time for a cocktail, glass of wine, or festive meal, turn to one of the city's 7,300+ restaurants, (via City of Chicago), or bars to warm up. There is plenty of holiday cheer, and it's not hard to find a fireplace or cozy decorations that welcome guests to share memories. Here are some of the most festive spots in Chicago to celebrate the holidays in 2022.

Give back at Farm Bar

Farm Bar, located in Chicago's North Side Lake View neighborhood, utilizes food and drink ingredients tied to the Midwest. Not only is this a tasty spot, but it's one that gives back to local charities by donating 20% of the check for guests' dining experiences every Tuesday throughout the holiday season. According to its website, Farm Bar has given $27,000 since the summer of 2021 and this year it supports Dreams for Kids, The Friendship Center Food Pantry, Women Employed, and Cradles to Crayons.

Farm Bar is part of the Farmheads hospitality group, which also runs Brown Dog Farm in Mineral Point, Wisconsin where there are dozens of bee hives, fruit trees, and veggie gardens. For a winter warmer, sample the Brown Dog Old Fashioned, which features honey from the farm, Chicago Spirit Bourbon made with Midwestern corn, and Rhine Hall Apple Brandy from nearby southwest Michigan.

Align with art at Esmè

Esmè, located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, is a fine dining establishment opened in August 2021 by Chef Jenner Tomaska and wife and business partner Katrina Bravo. Bar Esmè, located next door, has an à la carte menu, while the dining room is prix fixe. Thoughtful and experiential, Esmè holds one Michelin Star, so for diners, this will be a treat, and for friends and families who want to elevate the holiday season, a reservation here will be memorable. The space is also used as a gallery to feature Chicago artists — now through January 2023 Amanda Love will be showing — and serving and dining pieces are artist-crafted, as well.

On New Year's Eve 2022, guests can enjoy a special tasting menu and live music in the dining room. Esmè has several luxury supplements planned and Tia Barrett, beverage director, will be offering wine from magnum for a truly fine wine experience.

Celebrate traditionally at The Walnut Room

The Walnut Room is a classic for anyone who grew up in or around Chicago. It's the first restaurant to ever open in a department store, Marshall Fields (now Macy's) on State Street, according to the site. What started as a small enterprise initiated by a store clerk grew into one of the finest dining experiences that many Chicagoans would enjoy, with a particular glow around the holidays when the Great Tree is a fixture.

This year, the Great Tree will be lit from November 5, 2022, to January 8, 2023, and during this time there is a range of special dining events, including traditional treats such as Mrs. Hering's 1890 Original Chicken Pot Pie, the dish that birthed the original concept for the restaurant. The iconic Field's Special Salad and Frango Mint Cheesecake also spark memories across generations, festive plates that, for many, have made The Walnut Room what it is.

Get on the List at Santa Baby Christmas Bar

For holiday enthusiasts who can't get enough of a good thing, there's the Santa Baby Bar pop-up. With decorations to compete with Clark Griswold's (another Chicago-area holiday icon), this experience focuses on fun and extravagance. Oversized sharable cocktails such as The Clausmo and Colossal Cocoa, which serves eight people, are sure to make an Instagram moment. Extreme milkshakes and a cookies and milk menu layer on the sugar and sweets. Guests can also discover the walk-through experience, which includes holiday-themed spaces designed for photo opportunities.

This overly playful space is more about sharing cheer than fine dining, perfect for people who enjoy the company of a grinning gingerbread person or delightful elf. The innovation behind Santa Baby is that the pop-up is rotated seasonally, with a haunted vibe around Halloween, a lucky theme in the spring, and during the summer it's all about baseball.

Bring in the New Year at The Bristol

Since 2020, Chicago-area native Chef Larry Feldmeier has led the kitchen at The Bristol in the Bucktown neighborhood. To welcome 2023, guests can enjoy a unique multi-course meal on New  Year's Eve crowned by a choice of red wine short ribs, or poulet rouge.

For those looking for a holiday date night or intimate winter meal with friends, The Bristol's beverage director, Charles Bement, has created a generous wine list that you can either pick a bottle from or sample by getting a glass of each to try. And Chef Feldmeier offers a thoughtful eight-course tasting menu — also available in a vegetarian version —  for which wine pairings are offered as a supplement. For a time-honored Chicago tradition any time of year, The Bristol also offers a tasty Sunday brunch selection including deviled eggs with wasabi tobiko and masago and a sandwich made with house-smoked salmon.

Experience cocktails at The Violet Hour

New Year's Eve at The Violet Hour in Wicker Park goes like this: Those with early reservations can experience favorite cocktails from the past years with the greatest hits. Later in the evening, after 9 p.m., the Life of Luxury Black Tie experience features all-inclusive cocktails. Guests can soak up the James Beard award-winning bar program, which rotates seasonally and features a range of spirits from cult gems to classic favorites. For a bonus gift idea, consider The Bartender's Manifesto: How to Think, Drink, and Create Cocktails Like a Pro which is authored by The Violet Hour founding partner, Toby Maloney along with Emma Janzen.

For those new to The Violet Hour, look for the artistic façade, which is ever-changing. The entry to the bar is discreet, hidden within the art. Inside is intimate and candlelit, a soothing spot to warm up the winter holidays with Monk's Cocoa, a libation made with chartreuse, Meletti Cioccolato, Cihuatan Indigo 8-Year rum, Tempus Fugit Spirits Crème de Menthe, dark chocolate, and toasted marshmallows.

Taste winter at Christkindlmarket

While not a traditional restaurant or bar, the Christkindlmarket is a Chicago holiday flagship built around eating, drinking, and celebrating. Guided by the culture of the outdoor markets of the 16th-century Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, visitors can find festive stalls with gifts and treats. According to the event's website, the first market kicked off in 1996, brought to Chicago by The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest Inc. to encourage trade between the U.S.A. and Germany. Held at Daley Plaza, people return year after year to get the unique souvenir mugs that hold mulled wine called Glühwein with a separate version for hot cocoa and other non-alcoholic drinks.

In 2021, the event attracted 1.2 million visitors from November 19 through December 24, (via German American Events), at the downtown location. There are now two other events, one in Wrigleyville which was initiated in 2021, and another debuted for the 2022 season in the Chicago suburb of Aurora.

Find holiday treats at Chicago French Market

The Chicago French Market opened in 2009, honoring the vendor-style halls of Europe to bring visitors products from Second City neighborhoods. Inspired by places like Les Halles in Paris and Narbonne, this is a place to gather and discover fresh food straight from the source. According to the market's website, there are 30+ local vendors gathered together in a convenient space adjacent to the Ogilvie Transportation Center rail terminal.

This year's holiday highlights include Hanukkah cookies and cakes and the highly sought-after traditional bûche de Noël from Vanille Patisserie, an authentic French bakery out of Lincoln Park. For those hosting a holiday at home, there's roasted turkey breast and plenty of sides to feed a crowd from Kathryn's Soul. Other fan favorites are the hand-cut Belgian fries and seasonal Belgian beer from Frietkoten, established by Netherlands-native Jeroen Hasenbos. New this winter is Clinton Street Smoked Meats which just announced the addition of Montreal-Style Pastrami, perfect for a winter lunch break.

Experience the Feast of the Seven Fishes at Osteria Via Stato

For a downtown dining experience on Christmas Eve, secure a spot at Osteria Via Stato on North State Street to take part in the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This is an Italian-American tradition during which seven (or more) types of seafood are prepared. According to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, this celebration began with 20th-century immigrants who wanted to recreate a taste of coastal Italy in their new American home. The restaurant's website notes that this celebratory meal is named for the seven hills of Rome.

For many cooks and families, the spirit of the meal is an adaptation, based on what's available, fresh, and preferred in each kitchen. Executive Chef David DiGregorio's version is inspired by his own family memories and features seafood dishes such as baccala (dried and salted cod) spread, Rhode Island calamari, pan-roasted Faroe Islands salmon, and seafood stew with scallops, shrimp, and fish. Plus, a selection of sweets finishes out the meal.

Enjoy elevated food and wine at Proxi

At Proxi on Randolph Street, which holds a Michelin Bib Gourmand, the holiday cheer is highlighted by thoughtful wine choices. Sommelier Alex Ring has followed in the footsteps of the restaurant's previous sommelier Jennifer Wagoner to build a global wine list featuring more than 90% of products that are created or distributed by women, the restaurant told us. There is also attention to those making wine from less traditional backgrounds. For the holiday season, Ring has selected two pairing tiers including a special reserve tier poured only from magnums — exclusively wines made by women — for the New Year's Eve Chef's Menu. The regular pairing tier will be $55 a person, and the reserve tier will be $95 a person.

Inspired by travel through Asia, India, Mexico, and elsewhere, Chef Andrew Zimmerman considers the flavors of street food around the world, bringing an elevated and thoughtful approach to Chicago diners. The New Year's Eve menu from Chef Zimmerman features dishes such as coal-roasted black cod with laksa paste and coconut rice and crispy lentil dumplings with smoked eggplant sambhar and tomato jam.

Celebrate at starred Sepia

To experience another aspect of Chef Zimmerman's acclaimed craft, score a reservation at Michelin-starred Sepia for the exclusive tasting menu at one of two New Year's Eve seatings. The early seating at 5 p.m. features four courses and a unique wine pairing add-on for $95 a person, and the late seating at 8 p.m. is six courses for $145. Also at the late seating, you have a chance to enjoy a supplemental pairing experience from wine director Alex Ring for an extra $95 a person for an upscale NYE.

Sepia is a Chicago point of pride, positioned in a 19th-century print shop on North Jefferson Street and known to be one of the most exciting bookings for locals and visitors. The menu is seasonal and leans on organic and sustainable ingredients. According to the restaurant, Zimmerman has led the kitchen since 2009 and has earned the establishment a Michelin star every year since 2011. As one of currently 23 restaurants in Chicago holding a Michelin star in 2022, it could be argued that a meal at Sepia is itself a holiday. To inquire more about the New Year's Eve seatings and to book a spot, call the restaurant.

Surrounded in festive luxury at The Peninsula Chicago

Not every hotel bar deserves a nod, but to fill up on holiday spirit, the walkthrough of The Peninsula Chicago on the way to the hotel's Z Bar is a festive delight. Overlooking Michigan Avenue, with a view of Water Tower, Z Bar is a spot to grab a drink and soak up the twinkle lights below — but not before enjoying the feeling of luxury entering the building under warming lights and passing between the Chinese guardian lions, which are embellished for the holidays and surrounded by sparkles and spangles.

Inside, several lobby spaces are decorated lavishly, with oversized poinsettias, smiling gingerbread people, and one of the most impressive Christmas trees in the city. And for true winter dazzle, guests are offered the Peninsula Sky Rink for ice skating on the terrace. As for dining, the season brings the traditional Holiday Afternoon Tea, Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day brunch, and New Year's Eve festivities.

Dine or party at Chicago Winery and its restaurant, LIVA

Chicago Winery and its restaurant LIVA are new to the River North neighborhood, one of a growing number of wine-making establishments in the city. First Batch Hospitality describes this as the third outpost of its set of urban wineries including Brooklyn Winery established in New York City in 2010 and District Winery established in Washington DC in 2017. Here, guests can welcome 2023 with a five-course dinner accompanied by house-made wines and a selection of cocktails. Led by Midwest native executive chef Andrew Graves, the menu includes his unique take on charcuterie, a lobster tail, and beef short ribs.

There will also be a Roaring '20s-themed New Year's Eve party with entertainment, an open bar, bites, a toast, and more. All of this will be held in the urban winery's private events space and will of course feature Chicago Winery products.

Indulge at King Crab House Chicago

King Crab House Chicago, located on Halsted Street in Lincoln Park, is the oldest crab house in the city, established by Chicago seafood chef and hospitality pro Cy Sadaka. While Chicago is landlocked in the traditional sense, it is a haven for restaurants and shops that excel in fresh seafood, and many Chicagoans will argue that King Crab is at the top of the list for an enjoyable and welcoming dining experience. Plus, the products and dishes are known for quality, with seafood delivered fresh every day.

On Christmas Eve, guests can enjoy all-you-can-eat snow crab legs. Throughout the 2022 holiday season, the same special runs Monday through Thursday during certain sporting events and lunchtime on Saturday and Sunday. There is also a buy-one-get-one deal on Alaskan King Crab Legs, a lovely holiday meal menu for two or four, and bar specials. The restaurant also offers a full bar and menu with creative dishes and classic favorites.

Ring in the New Year at Obélix

In River North, Obélix is the new-in-2022 French spot from Oliver and Nicolas Poilevey of Le Bouchon, the Bucktown establishment that brings Lyonnaise-style bistronomy to Chicago. The Poilevey family are the people behind the beloved Le Sardine, which sadly closed in 2020 after being open for 22 years, notes the Chicago Tribune. The mainly French wine list at Obélix currently features an extended Bourgogne and Bordeaux list and a tidy four-cuvée selection of American reds.

While the menu is consistently impressive — with a full selection dedicated to duck, and a caviar sandwich for brunch — the holidays bring an opportunity to celebrate at Obélix during special New Year's Eve reservations for a three-course prix fixe menu. The regular à la carte offerings will not be available during this time, so book for dinner when the weather warms up to get the full effect.