You might have to plan ahead to get the right friends on board, but a lazy Friday afternoon lunch at Carriage House is the perfect way to jump-start a Chicago weekend. Owned by an authentic Southern gentleman, this welcoming Wicker Park restaurant offers a chilled-out vibe that will help you forget any troubles you encountered earlier in the week. While the trend of communal dining makes no sense at most places, at Carriage House your group will feel right at home sidling in next to a bunch of strangers at long, reclaimed-wood tables. There’s a good chance they’ll become friends before your appetizers arrive. Honky-tonk tunes—with a little contemporary hip-hop thrown in for good measure—set the perfect soundtrack for your special gathering. Start off with a pitcher of seasonal punch, or the signature Creole cocktail made with Very Old Barton bourbon, and raise a toast to the weekend ahead. As with most Southern kitchens, many dishes are fried, so order shareable plates of fried green tomatoes, country-fried sweetbreads, and a skillet of cornbread. But take it easy on these delicious bits, because they’re just the beginning. Soon you’ll be presented with the chef’s masterful versions of a smoked bologna sandwich, fried chicken sandwich, or fried oyster po’ boy, accompanied by mounds of fresh potato salad. Just make sure you’ve cleared your work schedule for the rest of the day, because by the time your entrées arrive, you’ll be deep into the office gossip … and a second pitcher of punch.