Derby Day Dining and Drinking Guide

Horses and hats may take top billing during the Kentucky Derby, but the equine showdown is just as much about the food and drink. Derby Day is an opportunity to embrace spring in all its minty, sunny glory, sentiments best exemplified by food and booze. We may not be in Kentucky, but your tongue will think it is with Chicago's Derby Day specials happening around town. 


I|O Godfrey
Derby Day at I|O Godfrey

I|O Godfrey: River North's stunning rooftop restaurant and bar is partnering with Woodford Reserve and The Goorin Bros. Hat Company for a Kentucky Derby shindig filled with contests, cocktails, and a Derby Day menu from noon until 8:00 p.m. on May 2. The restaurant is also hosting special Bourbon 101 tasting classes at 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m., and the first 100 guests to arrive for the festivities will receive a commemorative Woodford Reserve copper cup. Guests are encouraged to come in lavish Derby Day attire, and Goorin Bros. will have hats available for purchase on-site. Prizes will be doled out for "Best Dressed," "Best Couple," and "Best Hat." The Derby will be broadcast at the restaurant, made all the more spectacular by sweeping views of the downtown skyline and food and drink specials. Attendees must RSVP via I|O Godfrey's website. 

Troquet River North: Troquet may be French at heart, but the River North restaurant is embracing its inner Southerner for a Derby Day spectacle on May 2. In honor of the 141st Kentucky Derby, Troquet will feature live music, drink specials, and a Derby-themed buffet brimming with mini Kentucky Hot Browns, bourbon wild boar sausage, BBQ mutton sliders, Kentucky Benedictine tea sandwiches, and mini Derby pie. Specialty cocktails for the day include traditional Mint Juleps, Horses Neck cocktails, and Kentucky White Dog Juleps. Zany hats encouraged. Tickets to the Derby event, which takes place from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., are $45 per person or $35 if purchased using the code "earlybird" through April 25. Tickets can be purchased via Troquet's website. 

Chicago q: Play millionaire for a day at Chicago q, an especially apropos place for a Derby Day fete considering the upscale barbecue restaurant resembles a Southern manse. In honor of the Kentucky Derby, Chicago q is hosting a Millionaire's Row event, wherein a $60 entry fee opens the gates for Derby-themed food specials and sends a portion of proceeds to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. While watching the race on a large projector screen in the main dining room, guests can fill up at an all-you-can-eat buffet with items like Benedictine sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, hot browns, smoked deviled eggs, bacon cheddar hush puppies, and more. Attendees will also receive five drink tickets, redeemable at one of three specialty beer and cocktail bars on-site, and everyone has an opportunity to select the winning horse and potentially win prizes. The Millionaire's Row package takes place from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on May 2, with specialty cocktails available all day. Tickets can be purchased by calling the restaurant or at the door. 

Derby: Obviously, the Derby is best celebrated at a restaurant/bar named Derby. Especially when said bar is serving premium buffets on Derby Day, along with cash prizes, giveaways, and contests.

Tavern on Rush: It's not every Derby Hat contest that promises a bottle of Dom Perignon as reward. So you'd best bring your best hat to Tavern on Rush's Derby Day party taking place May 2. The fourth annual festivities on Rush Street also include Mint Julep specials. 

Commonwealth Tavern: Race on over to Roscoe Village to partake in fun and casual festivities at Commonwealth Tavern. Guests who visit the corner restaurant and bar will reap $2, $4, and $6 Win Place Show specials all day long, plus $2 14-ounce Miller Lite drafts, $4 Blue Moon pints, and $6 Buffalo Trace Mint Juleps. The restaurant is also conveniently outfitted with eight TVs and a 70-inch plasma screen. 

Matt Kirouac