I have this problem. I made more New Year's Eve reservations than I can use. More than 100 of them, actually.
Which is why, for the 12th straight year (and the 17th time in the past 19 years), I'll be giving them away to nimble-fingered readers who ask.
More than 130 Chicago-area restaurants, from budget-friendly bistros to sky-high luxury dining rooms, are holding reservations in the name Phil Vettel (blush). Starting today, if you're the first caller to request the "Phil Vettel table" at a participating restaurant, that reservation is all yours.
Please note that all you get is the reservation. These aren't free dinners; they're not even discounted dinners. These are full-freight, tax-and-tip-not-included deals. The restaurants are only providing tables that ordinarily might be difficult to come by. (Or even impossible; I have one reservation at a restaurant that doesn't accept reservations.)
I have hot spots, neighborhood standbys and everything in between. I've got city-view perches at Sixteen and Everest, and suburban outposts as far away as Lockport and Antioch. Hot spots BellyQ, Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, Mercadito, Nellcote, Sunda, Trenchermen — check, check, check, check, check, check, check.
I have tickets for a couple of stand-up events that don't have tables. I've got tables at one of the oldest restaurants in town at Geja's Cafe, and what is certainly the newest in Alpana Singh's week-old Boarding House. Zealous, which recently announced that it will close after New Year's Eve, saved us a couple of tables for its last night in business. Grace, which opened mid-December and will be one of the city's most talked-about restaurants in 2013, is holding a table for its very first New Year's Eve.
I've got early tables for people who are heading to parties afterward, and late tables for those who want to stay put until midnight — and beyond.
All you have to do is find the table and price that work for you, and call. Quickly.
And now, a little fine print. Unless specifically noted otherwise, listed prices are per person and do not include tax, tip or beverage. Prices and menus are subject to change. Be prepared to secure your reservation with a nonrefundable credit card deposit or full prepayment (the restaurants were nice enough to hold these reservations; the least I can do is help guard against no-shows). Do not be offended if no one is answering the phone at 6 a.m. at the restaurant you're calling. Do not assume that you're the first caller unless a real, live person tells you so. Participating restaurants have sole discretion in determining the first caller.
If you're not the first caller, don't give up; you might find a reservation available for a different time.
And if you slept in this morning, don't despair. Tonight, on WGN-Ch. 9's "News at Nine," I'll be releasing a few extra reservations. Best of luck.
Acadia. Table for two at 6 p.m. Midwinter's Night Dream party includes costumed performers and special menu. Five-course menu, $150, includes wine pairings; vegetarian menu $125 with wine pairings (must be ordered at time of reservation). Prices $25 higher for 9 p.m. seating. 1639 S. Wabash Ave., 312-360-9500
Aria. Two tables for two at 6:30 or 8:30 p.m.; chef's table (six to eight) at 6:30 or 8:30 p.m. Five-course menu, $85; wine pairings ($30 or $49) available. 200 N. Columbus Drive, 312-444-9494
Atwood Cafe. Table for two at 7:30, 7:45 and 8 p.m. All Bets on the New Year theme includes a four-course Black Jack menu ($55) or four-course, chef's-choice Roulette menu ($65); wine pairings $20 additional. 1 W. Washington St., 312-368-1900
Bakersfield. Table for two at 7 p.m., table for four at 8:30 p.m. Regular menu, plus four a la carte dinner specials. Complimentary flute of Champagne. 330 E. Ogden Ave., Westmont, 630-568-3615
Balsan. Table for four at 8 p.m. Special a la carte menu, entrees $21-$27. 11 E. Walton St., 312-646-1400
Bar Toma. Table (up to four) at 7:30 p.m. Regular a la carte menu with specials; prosecco bar featuring $5 sparkling wines and special $8 cocktail. 110 E. Pearson St., 312-266-3110
Bar Umbriago. Four tickets to Umbriago's New Year's Eve party, 8 p.m.-midnight. $95 ticket includes buffet, premium drinks, party favors, Champagne toast. DJ. 6 W. Hubbard St., 312-494-1200
Baume & Brix. Table for two at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Six-course menu, $75, $125 with wine pairings. 351 W. Hubbard St., 312-321-0351