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.
There aren’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 good “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 13 places to get a good meal before you finally see The Lion King.
Cherry Circle Room
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.
Prime & Provisions
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.
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photo credit: Kim Kovacik
If you need a place for a quick bite near The CIBC Theater, this Filipino spot in Revival Food Hall is a great option. Boonie Foods’ has fantastic garlic rice platters with entrees like crispy bagnet or sweet BBQ liempo. Their sisig also has a menu description that reads “the best thing you’ll ever eat”, and after thorough investigative research, we’ve found that to be 100% true.
photo credit: The Exchange
Listening Room At The Exchange
The Listening Room is a new 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, and the music genre changes, so check their Instagram to see what they’re playing before you visit.
Bereket Turkish Mediterranean Restaurant
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 Wicked.
If you have relatives in town to see Wicked, 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.
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.
photo credit: Christina Slaton
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, which are ideal right before a matinee. 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.
photo credit: emcatalina
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 Happy Hour specials seven days a week (with choices like buffalo cauliflower and pizza) and a three-course, pre-theater prix fixe for $33. 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 we really like. 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.
The Berghoff Restaurant
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 A Christmas Carol or Jurassic World Live.
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.