Where To Eat Before Or After The Theater

Your boss gave you tickets to The Lion King. Here are the best places to eat before you go see it.
Where To Eat Before Or After The Theater image

photo credit: Petterino's

There isn’t an abundance of great restaurants in the Loop. If you don’t know that already, congratulations—you’ve never had to eat a meal in the neighborhood. Unfortunately for the people who appreciate a “musical tour de force,” this is exactly where the Theater District is. But you can find good food here—it’s just harder to locate. Here are 16 places to grab a meal when you finally see The Lion King.




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There are a lot of great spots at the Chicago Athletic Association, like The Game Room (a cocktail bar) and Cindy’s rooftop. But the pre-theater menu at this upscale restaurant on the second floor will help you make curtain time. It reminds us of a fancy turn-of-the-century lodge, and the rustic menu (with plenty of roasted meat) fits the theme, along with classic touches like a tableside cocktail cart.

photo credit: Christina Slaton



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If you’re seeing a show with visitors, going to a Chicago steakhouse is usually a safe bet. Prime & Provisions is the best one near the Theater District. This place is hard to classify—it’s not as iconic as Gibsons, as trendy as RPM, or as corporate as Chicago Cut. But it still serves fantastic steak, along with fried chicken and a giant piece of bacon topped with maple syrup and dark chocolate. And more importantly, it will put you in reasonable proximity to The Nutcracker.

Though it's usually not crowded, a decent number of people eating at Bistro Monadnock either just saw a performance at the symphony or at one of the nearby theaters. This means you'll fit right in regardless of what show you just came from (there's no shame in seeing Wicked three nights in a row). This lowkey French spot has a variety of delicious classics, from croque madame to French onion soup to bouillabaisse, along with an excellent wine selection. Plus, since it's open for lunch, it's a great spot to visit if you're catching a matinee.

The Listening Room is a bar and listening cafe in the Loop. What’s a listening cafe, you ask? Taken from their website, it’s “a clubby dining experience with a state-of-the-art audio experience.” But it turns out it’s not very clubby—it’s more of an upscale cafe that works perfectly for a pre-show dinner. Plus, the food is very good. The menu has dishes like tender chicken thighs with crispy skin, mac and cheese that gets melted raclette poured over it tableside, and some very interesting roasted carrots served with a fluffy coconut mousse and topped with peanuts. The “listening” part really just means that the sound quality is really good with a rotating playlist highlighting different genres.

Bereket took over a space in the Loop that used to be a counter-service restaurant. And when you walk into the bright yellow dining room with drop ceilings and a now-defunct metal cafeteria station, it will definitely feel like a place you should be visiting during a rushed lunch break. But the delicious Turkish food on the long menu should be savored. Everything is housemade–from the fresh bread that starts your meal to the firm manti topped with marinara and yogurt sauce. The tender döner meat in the iskender pairs wonderfully with its buttery tomato-sauce-soaked croutons, and the flaky baklava will make you realize that you need to smuggle baklava into the theater.

This casual Cuban spot attached to a busy hostel is great if you want to grab something quick before seeing a show at the Auditorium Theatre. Cafecito is right next door and the best things on the menu are the sandwiches. We like rotating between the classic Cubano and the Guava with tender roasted pork or chicken, covered in a tangy guava BBQ sauce. They serve wine and beer, but the cafe con leche is a good option if you need to stay awake through the first act of Atlas Shrugged: The Musical.

If you have relatives in town to see a gritty staging of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, make reservations at Minghin. Though its large dining space may have a sleek, refined look, this Chinese restaurant is casual enough for a family-style meal where jumping across the table to snag the last dumpling is socially acceptable. Their dim sum menu is long, and that’s what you should focus on while you’re here. Our favorites are the juicy shrimp and pork shumai, chewy rice crepes filled with beef, steamed BBQ pork buns, and desserts like puffy egg custard tarts.

When it comes to bar food in the area, The Gage is our top choice. The menu is full of elevated classics, like bison tartare, poutine, and fish and chips. Since it’s right across from Millennium Park, you can plan on it being full of tourists. But guess what, so is the Chicago Theater.

Petterino’s is steps away from both the Nederlander and the Goodman, so it’s convenient if you’re seeing a rap battle between the Founding Fathers or A Christmas Carol for the eighth time. This busy Italian spot is aware of its main audience—playbills, autographed photos of local actors, and caricatures decorate the walls. The food won’t make you break into song, but it’s satisfying—from cheesy chicken parm with housemade spaghetti to tender meatballs topped with parmesan slivers. Plus, you can get a discount at the bar if you show your ticket.

Acanto is a small, upscale Italian restaurant from the same people who own The Gage, and it’s right next door. This place has great housemade pastas, so focus on those when you’re here. It will also be full of out-of-towners, but the kind who like orecchiette more than Scotch eggs.

You’re seeing a play at the Harris Theater with people visiting from Champaign who like wearing bangles and clothes from Talbott’s. They want to eat somewhere that feels nice but not too fancy, and is still affordable. Go to Roanoke. This place has great Happy Hour deals on drinks and food like buffalo cauliflower and pizza—all of which are available seven days a week. So they’ll have one less reason to complain about Chicago prices, at least until they pay to park their car at the hotel.

You miscalculated how long mini golf at Maggie Daley Park was going to take, and are now running late. You need to know about The Dearborn, an easy-to-like spot with a well-rounded American menu. It’s nice enough for a business dinner, but they’re capable of getting you in and out quickly without making you feel like you’re at Corner Bakery. Order the pork belly appetizer and any of the salads, then make sure someone gets the very good cheeseburger. Plus, the huge space works for large groups in case you were golfing with the entire family before seeing Oliver.

This German spot opened back when only men were allowed to perform Shakespeare. Ok, it’s not quite that old, but it did open in 1898 (making it Chicago’s oldest restaurant) and definitely has a classic bar/tavern feel. You can expect dishes like wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten, and a pretty fantastic reuben sandwich. Come here for a casual meal before seeing something charmingly historic, like Macbeth or Jurassic World Live.

Since it’s literally attached to the Symphony Center, Forte is an extremely convenient place to grab a meal before or after a CSO concert. And while the food at this Mediterranean restaurant won’t blow you away, its location really comes in handy if you spent too much time trying to find street parking, and are rushing to eat before the violins start tuning.

If you want some very rich food to usher you into a trance-like state before you go listen to the musical stylings of the Transiberian Orchestra, hit up Taureaux Tavern. This upscale French spot has appetizers like an “oeuf mayonnaise caviar” (eight-minute egg, trout roe, and aioli), along with more reasonable-sounding heavy dishes like bone marrow and a filet topped with Roquefort sauce.

If all else fails, there’s always the Shake Shack at the bottom of the Chicago Athletic Association. It has a consistently great cheeseburger, crinkle-cut fries, frozen custard, and you’re definitely not going to miss the show.

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