Trivoli Tavern space
All photos courtesy of Trivoli Tavern

The One Who Keeps the BookChicago

How to Get Into Trivoli Tavern (and Have the Best Time There)

By

Some restaurants captivate you even before you even walk in, and Trivoli Tavern more than fits the bill. Nestled at the end of a quaint cobblestone street known as “Gin Alley” in Fulton Market, it charms even from the outside, where its lovely patio is draped with a canopy of string lights. Inside, you’re greeted with a wood-heavy, Continental-style dining room bathed in soft light from tiered chandeliers. It’s no wonder reservations are snatched up within hours.

The food, too, is a major draw: Trivoli puts an upmarket spin on tavern fare, with charred steaks, fresh seafood, and decadent sides. So are the cocktails, which include four versions of an Old Fashioned and mini-martinis (dirty or espresso, natch). And adjacent to the main dining area, the newly opened, walk-in only Lobster Bar offers a more relaxed vibe, plus a seafood and sushi-heavy menu with cheddar lobster mac n’ cheese and lobster maki rolls, along with sake and frozen rosé. (Do note that the full menu is available across both spaces.)

Midwest service director Andrea Szerzinski has been with Trivoli Tavern from the start, which makes her the perfect guide to this edition of The One Who Keeps The Books. We sat down with her to learn about how to secure a table, construct the perfect order, and more.

How many seats are at Trivoli Tavern ?

Andrea Szerzinski: We have 244 seats in our dining room. There are 12 seats at the main bar and 17 at Lobster Bar. The patio adds an additional 132 seats when we have it open to full capacity.

When do your reservations drop on Resy?

Our reservations drop 21 days in advance at 9 a.m. CT. 

How quickly do reservations get booked?

Almost immediately. Prime time reservations get booked out within one or two days of going online. 

What’s the busiest day and busiest time? 

The busiest time is always Friday night around 8 p.m. 

On a typical night how long is the Resy Notify list?

It kind of depends on the night of the week. On a weekend night I would say you can have up to 45 to 65 parties on our Notify list, whereas on Monday or Tuesday it might be closer to six to 12. But typically, if people are open to booking outside of prime time hours — closer to 4 p.m. or after 9:30 p.m. — you can usually find a table with us. Larger parties are a little bit more difficult because we have limited space for groups of six to eight.

Is there a certain day of the week that are easier to get a spot via Notify?

Monday and Tuesdays are the easiest nights to get reservations. If someone is really interested in joining us, those are the days that we typically have the most room for opportunity.

Do you hold any seats for walk-ins?

We leave about 25% of all of our tables — which includes both Trivoli and the Lobster Bar — available for walk-ins. And again, that’s really weather dependent. So we don’t book 21 days out in advance for that. Usually 12 to 24 hours, depending on how confident the weather apps are feeling.

Trivoli Tavern interior
Vibes are strong.
Trivoli Tavern interior
Vibes are strong.

If someone wants to test their luck without a reservation, what time should they arrive?

I always say 4 p.m. because it’s happy hour Monday through Friday. Happy hour is a really fun time to hang out at the bar and start that waiting process, if you would like to wait for a table in the main dining room. But the earlier the better.

How many covers do you have? 

If the patio is not open, I would say starting off with around 325 covers on the books to open a Friday night service. And we’ll usually end with closer to 550. If there’s beautiful weather, we will put the patio reservations up anywhere from 12 to 24 hours in advance, which is also a great time to get a last-minute booking with us.

Can guests grab a drink at the bar while they wait for their table?

Our main bar is first come first serve so we do allow standing room. In the winter, it’s like shoulder to shoulder all night long. And our bar team is fantastic. They offer some of the best service in Chicago in my opinion, so it’s definitely a fun spot to wait for your table to open up.

What is the best seat in the house, if you have one?

I mean, there’s no bad seat in the house, obviously. But, if I’m here with a smaller group, I love sitting in the small booths in the elevated dining room. You almost get a bird’s-eye view of the entire main dining room. You’re looking over the space, and you really get to see all the action and the buzz of the restaurant, while still having an intimate and personal experience. 

How should large groups make reservations and what should they expect?

For a group larger than eight or nine, we do have them book through our private events team and they can get in touch by reaching out to us via email. We only have one space in the restaurant that can seat a party of eight. Those reservations definitely go the quickest, so we usually recommend booking as close to 21 days out as possible. For a party of six, we have five different corner booths. We let people know that seven is a cozy squeeze, but if you’re a close family that doesn’t mind being near one another, that works. For those, I would say two weeks out are usually good.

Midwest service director Andrea Szerzinski
Midwest service director Andrea Szerzinski.
Midwest service director Andrea Szerzinski
Midwest service director Andrea Szerzinski.

Can you tell me about Lobster Bar? 

In February of 2023, we opened up Lobster Bar, which is a separate space that’s really seafood-forward and something that we ended up leaving as a walk-in space only. It’s really lovely because it allows us to say yes to so many more walk-ins. It was really disappointing for us to say no to so many people. And that space has about 41 seats in total. So it was a great way to make a more casual space and to highlight those lighter items we were hoping to add to the menu.

How would you describe Trivoli Tavern for a newbie?

I consider us a classic Chicago chophouse-meets-tavern. We’re definitely known for our steaks and seafood, especially the coal-fire items. However, we also have a really great selection of tavern-style items such as our fish and chips, chicken pot pie, things of that nature. And with the addition of Lobster Bar, we now have some really great sushi and seafood offerings as well.

What should a first-timer order in your opinion?

Our namesake dish is the Trivoli cut of the prime rib. Sometimes guests will ask why it’s listed as being famous on the menu, and the answer is because it’s the same preparation and recipe as our sister restaurant in New York, 4 Charles Prime Rib. We are the only Hogsalt location in Chicago that serves that dish and it is just special to us. I think it’s a must-have when you come here. 

Can you set the scene for us on a Friday night at 8 p.m.? 

It almost has an Alice in Wonderland vibe to it. As you’re walking up to the restaurant, you see this long stretch of cobblestone with a little red storefront in the distance. You come in to join our front foyer, see our host team, and there’s this big wow factor when you turn the corner and enter the dining room for the first time. You just don’t realize how big and bustling it’s going to be. You have that 1950s contemporary jazz music playing and immediately you’re almost transported to a different time and place and given full clearance to sit back and enjoy yourself. 

Trivoli Tavern interior
Trivoli Tavern interior

Can you talk a little bit about the brunch menu and tell us what to order?

Absolutely! Brunch is really lovely at Trivoli. It’s a little bit more of a laid-back experience with some lighter fare. The smoked salmon tower is easily my favorite thing to order on that menu. I also think the Bellini-Tinis have been really fun. A lot of places you go, you’ll see mimosas or Bellinis on the menu, but with Trivoli having such a heavy martini focus at dinner, we tried to think about how we could lighten those up and make them playful and fun for brunch. 

Any favorite memories from your early days?

The building that we are in was formerly a warehouse that housed a graphic design company. In our second year, the daughter of the man who used to own the company reached out and said that they wanted to see the old neighborhood and asked if they could come in. He arrived in a sweater that had the graphic design company logo on it, and he gave us all branded pens. He was so proud to see what had become of the building. And we took complete care of him and treated him like he was a celebrity. It was just a very heartwarming moment. He wrote us the sweetest handwritten letter on stationery that matched the envelope. It was a moment where we all kind of remembered why we got into this business in the first place. 

Are there any exciting changes or offerings to the menu coming up?  

There’s some rumblings of an Aperol spritz slushy for the patio. It’s not confirmed yet but we are in the R&D stages and I think that would be very fun. The newest dish that we have on the menu is a salmon and truffle crudo, which has been pretty popular. It’s a really lovely salmon, sliced, with a nice dash of ponzu sauce and truffle shavings on top, served cold with chopsticks. It’s nice to have the Lobster Bar fare offerings as we head into the summer season. 

Any last tips you can give us?

The Notify list is your best friend! Because it’s such a large space, we do see far more last-minute cancellations than our other locations. So I always tell people to get on that list. Make sure that your notifications are on your phone, so that you can see when those tables do become available. 

 

Elanor Bock is a Chicago-born professional writer, dancer, and Renaissance woman. Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.