Special occasions remind us of the famous saying about obscenity: You know it when you see it. Sometimes it’s obvious – maybe you’re getting engaged or celebrating a major birthday – and sometimes you just want to go big on a particularly awesome Tuesday. It doesn’t matter why you’re celebrating, but if that’s what you’re doing, you’re going to want to go someplace exciting. Someplace that probably requires advance planning, costs more than you’d usually spend, and has extra-good food and service. These are the best places in Chicago for a special occasion, no matter what it is. This list really runs the gamut from Alinea, where you might go once in your life, to the kind of places where you’d go to celebrate getting your security deposit back.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
60 E. Grand Ave.
This is a very old-school steakhouse, and you should find at least one occasion to have a meal here. Your server will have a jacket, your table will have a tablecloth, and you’ll get a basket of bread at the beginning of your meal. The menu is standard steak and seafood, and all of it is delicious.
66 W Kinzie St
RPM Steak is where to go if you’re looking for a scene – for instance, if you’re with a group of people from the suburbs who want a real night out in the city. It’s also a good choice if your dining companions happen to watch “E!”, since it’s part-owned by Bill and Giuliana Rancic. You might be skeptical of a spot with reality star connections, but the food is actually excellent, and the menu has a variety of small plates, salads, and seafood dishes that all deserve equal attention on your table.
52 W Illinois St
This spot does upscale modern Italian, and feels pretty similar to RPM Steak. It’s particularly well-suited to bigger groups, with plenty of large tables and booths and a menu that’s great for sharing. Whatever else you get, make sure to order the house-made pastas. Extra points if your sister visiting manages to get in a Rancic sighting.