Chicago: Top 10 Places to Eat with Strangers

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imageCommunal tables in Chicago are huge right now. Get it? Because the tables are …

1. avec (West Loop) – The place is always busy, no matter what time you arrive, so don’t feel bad for asking those at a semi-full table if you can sit there. Just feel bad if they say no. 2. The Bristol (Bucktown/Wicker Park) – The main room is as intimate as the communal seating. Pass the salt and share your grilled prawns, would you? 3. Room 21 (South Loop) – Long tables and the long bar at this former Al Capone speakeasy make you feel like royalty upon arrival. The vintage leopard oil painting on the wall should provide a perfectly good conversation starter.

4. The Publican (West Loop) – Pull out any chair on Sunday for their four-course, family-style menu for $45. If you’re lucky, a couple of cute Ukie V artists will be sitting where your Grandma Pat and Aunt Elsie usually do. 5. The Gage (Loop) – Eat some locally crafted sausage, drink some wine, then invite all your new friends across the street for some pictures in front of “the bean” at Millennium Park. 6. Carnivale (West Loop) – Excuse yourself often for the ceviche bar at this Nuevo Latin restaurant. 7. Mado Market & Eatery (Bucktown/Wicker Park) – Rub elbows with strangers at this huge table made of wood salvaged from an old farmhouse. Don’t let anyone distract you from reading the entire menu on the ever-changing blackboard. 8. Graham Eliot (River North) – The copper-clad communal table looks even better when it’s covered in rosemary skewered sweetbreads, olive-crusted swordfish, and crispy pork belly. 9. Sepia (West Loop) – At a hotspot like this, it’s hard to get a seat without reservations, but that’s where the two communal tables save the day for those who can’t wait for their Berkshire pork chops or duck fat fried potatoes. 10. Japonais (North Side) – It’s in the Green Dining Room (as opposed to the Red Dining Room) where the long community table runs along the one wall. Entertain everyone by ordering “The Rock,” a steaming black stone served at your table upon which you cook paper-thin slices of sirloin beef.