Chicago's best Kentucky Derby parties
You don’t need to be at Churchill Downs to enjoy “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” Whether you’re throwing back mint juleps or betting a pretty penny on your favorite thoroughbred, America’s longest-running annual sporting event, the Kentucky Derby, is airing all over Chicago. The official race post time is 5:24pm, so be sure to find a seat ahead of time at one of these great parties.
Brunch starts at 11am and seating for the Derby begins at 3pm. Specials include $10 Woodford Reserve mint juleps, $3 Tecate bottles and $3 shots of Heaven Hill Deluxe bourbon. Don't forget your derby attire—there will be prizes for the best-dressed man and woman.
(The Southern, 1840 W North Ave, 773-275-5725, thesouthernchicago.com)
Tavern On Rush
The wearer of the best hat at Tavern On Rush’s annual Kentucky Derby Party will be awarded a bottle of Dom Perignon. Starting at 9am, the party includes $10 mint juleps and a dedicated Derby menu including Kentucky burgoo soup, Beaumont Inn Kentucky hot brown and thoroughbred chocolate pecan pie. All the ladies will be given a long-stemmed red rose.
(Tavern On Rush, 1031 N Rush St, 312-664-9600, tavernonrush.com)
Old Town Social
Chef Jared Van Camp will be cooking up delicious born-and-bred Kentucky race day specials, in addition to a festive pig roast on the outdoor patio. Flaunt your Derby Day best: A $250 gift card will be awarded to the winner of the "best hat" and "best seersucker suit" contests. Doors open at 11am.
(Old Town Social, 455 W North Ave, 312-266-2277, oldtownsocial.com)
Raising funds to support the American Lung Association, South Branch will feature a costume contest, a southern buffet-style menu and Derby-inspired drinks from 2–6pm. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door.
(South Branch, 100 S Wacker Dr, 312-546-6177, southbranchchicago.com)
III Forks Prime Steakhouse
The Derby Day party at III Forks is on the rooftop, with Kentucky-themed drink specials and themed dishes offered at the large outdoor bar from 2–6pm. A "best Derby hat" title will be awarded (winner receives dinner for four), along with raffles and giveaways.
(III Forks Prime Steakhouse, 333 E Benton Place, 312-938-4303, 3Forks.com)
Derby fans can enjoy Chicago Q specials all day, including house mint juleps from the bar and Derby pie, deviled egg flights and smoked ham sliders from the kitchen, created by chef/partner Lee Ann Whippen.
(Chicago Q, 1160 N Dearborn St, 312-642-1160, chicagoqrestaurant.com)
Derby watchers can view the race in the upstairs lounge on 42-inch HDTVs, outside in the beer garden or in the main dining area. Derby specials include $6 Bulleit “Frontier” mint juleps, $4 Victoria drafts and $10 Kentucky burgoo—Kentucky-style stew with elk and bison served over mashed potatoes.
(Frontier, 1072 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-772-4322, thefrontierchicago.com)
This annual Derby party includes a Best Dressed and Best Hat Contest with $100 cash prizes, great food and drink specials, raffles, giveaways and more. Proceeds will benefit the Equestrian Connection Stables, a therapeutic riding center in Lake Forest. The Kentucky Derby will be broadcast live on overhead plasma TVs and at tables that feature an individual flat-screen TV for viewing.
(The Pony, 1638 W Belmont Ave, 773-828-5055, theponychicago.com)
On Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5, this contemporary American bistro will offer its take on a Classic Mint Julep with Knob Creek Kentucky Bourbon, fresh mint and sugar served over crushed ice for $11. Guests can sit on the patio (open weather permitting), sip on the timeless cocktail and enjoy Gemini classics including the Gemini Bistro Salad, Free-Range Chicken, Lamb Porterhouse Chops and more.
(Gemini Bistro, 2075 N Lincoln Ave, 773-525-2522, geminibistrochicago.com)
Moonshine Brewing Company
Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby fall on the same day this year, and to honor the happy event, Moonshine Brewing Company is mashing their parties. Featuring mint julep and margarita specials all day and night, partiers can watch live Kentucky Derby action on wall-to-wall high definition big screens amidst mariachi players and a taco bar.
(Moonshine Brewing Company, 1824 W Division St, 773-862-8686, moonshinechicago.com)