Where to Eat, Drink, and Park for 15 Top Chicago Theatres
by Jennifer Tanaka
Date night: Ahi tuna at Eve, then Fedra at Lookingglass
“Park once”—that’s the mantra of many a Chicago theatregoer before a fall night out. With this in mind, we put together the best places to eat (fancy and downscale) and drink before and after shows for 15 Chicagoland theatres—many of which are mentioned in the preceding fall preview. And we tell you what to do with your car—especially when our recommendation is not within walking distance of the related theatre.
A RED ORCHID THEATRE
1531 N. Wells St.
Also works for: Second City
NOW PLAYING Mistakes Were Made, September 4th through October 18th
DINNER HIGH Trattoria Roma (1535 N. Wells St.; 312-664-7907): Been there forever and it still delivers.
DINNER LOW Fresh Choice (1534 N. Wells St.; 312-664-7065): Easy to miss, on the west side of Wells Street. Popular smoothies.
DRINKS 33 Club (1419 N. Wells St.; 312-664-1419): Over-the-top, cavernous, and trendy Jerry Kleiner steakhouse that’s better for drinks than dinner.
PARKING Two lots—one across the street and one north on Wells Street—offer $12 parking, but go early because they fill up. Look for street parking on LaSalle Boulevard south of North Avenue.
AMERICAN THEATER COMPANY
1909 W. Byron St.
NOW PLAYING Yeast Nation (The Triumph of Life), September 10th through October 18th
DINNER HIGH Sola (3868 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-327-3868): Hawaii-inspired, crowd-pleasing seasonal American.
DINNER LOW El Llano (3941 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-327-1659): Cheap Colombian BYOB. Big portions of grilled meats.
DRINKS Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro (3905 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-248-3905): You’ll be sure to bump into the cast members if you sit at the bar after the show.
PARKING Parking can be tight, but early birds will find spots on the many residential side streets. The rest will have to pay at metered spots on Lincoln Avenue.
CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER
800 E. Grand Ave. (on Navy Pier)
NOW PLAYING Richard III, September 23rd through November 22nd
DINNER HIGH Riva: The only white-tablecloth restaurant on Navy Pier. Don’t fall for fancy, expensive dishes, and show your ticket for 20 percent off the bill.
DINNER LOW Charlie’s Ale House: The best lower-end option if you’d rather not eat in the food court.
DRINKS Inside the theatre, there’s a tiny English pub that seats 30 and stays open for about an hour after the show ends.
PARKING Validate your parking ticket at the theatre for 40 percent off Navy Pier rates—$12 on weekdays, $14.40 on weekends.
1543 W. Division St.
NOW PLAYING An Apology for the course and outcome of certain events delivered by Dr. John Faustus on this his final evening, September 25th through October 24th
DINNER HIGH Bob San (1805 W. Division St.; 773-235-8888): Post-trendy sushi and perhaps too far a walk, but our pick in a neighborhood packed with choices.
DINNER LOW Podhalanka (1549 W. Division St.; 773-486-6655): Down-home Polish food, bare-bones diner furniture. Steps from the theatre.
DRINKS The Chopin has a liquor license, so try hanging around after the show for a beer.
PARKING Free parking in a lot at Division and Noble streets, half a block west of the 90/94 Division Street exit.
5535 S. Ellis Ave.
NOW PLAYING Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, September 17th through October 18th
DINNER HIGH Park 52 (5201 S. Harper Ave.; 773-241-5200): Gets its share of complaints about erratic service but remains the go-to fancy place in Hyde Park. Drive there.
DINNER LOW Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen (1206 E. 53rd St.; 773-324-6227): Casual BYOB that is a straight shot from the Lake Shore Drive 53rd Street off-ramp.
DRINKS Woodlawn Tap (1172 E. 55th St.; 773-643-5516): Fat Tire Amber Ale on tap, just $4.75 a pint. Hooray!
PARKING Free parking in the six-story lot next door.
170 N. Dearborn St.
Also works for: the Oriental Theatre and Storefront Theater
NOW PLAYING Animal Crackers, September 18th through October 25th
DINNER HIGH Atwood Café (1 W. Washington St.; 312-368-1900): Solid all-around menu, and we love the turkey burger.
DINNER LOW Potbelly (190 N. State St.; 312-683-1234): A Wreck and a shake.
DRINKS Emerald Loop Bar & Grill (216 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-263-0200): Low-key pub-restaurant with an enormous bar.
PARKING Look for the Interpark lot on the northwest corner of Clark and Lake streets— $12 parking after 3 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends.
LOOKINGGLASS THEATRE COMPANY
821 N. Michigan Ave.
Also works for: The Museum of Contemporary Art
NOW PLAYING Fedra, September 30th through November 15th
DINNER HIGH Eve (840 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-266-3383): Make a fancy evening of it at this jewel-box restaurant; surprisingly close to the theatre.
DINNER LOW Soupbox (50 E. Chicago Ave.; 312-951-5900): Solid renditions of gourmet soups and salads. Wow Bao (835 N. Michigan Ave. in Water Tower Place; 312-642-5888): If you’re really in a rush.
DRINKS RL (115 E. Chicago Ave.; 312-475-1100): Expensive and cramped, but festive.
PARKING Lookingglass’s validated parking venue is the Olympia Centre Self Park (161 E. Chicago Ave.)—up to four hours for $10.
5153 N. Ashland Ave.
NOW PLAYING Fear, September 24th through October 31st
DINNER HIGH Jin Ju (5203 N. Clark St.; 773-334-6377): Yeah, it’s yuppified Korean food, but who cares?
DINNER LOW Taste of Lebanon (1509 W. Foster Ave.; 773-334-1600): Good and cheap falafel and shawarma in a divey setting.
DRINKS Hopleaf (5148 N. Clark St.; 773-334-9851): These days it’s always packed to the rafters. Squeeze in.
PARKING If street parking is tight, try looking on and beyond the west side of Ashland Avenue.
9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
NOW PLAYING The Marvelous Wonderettes, September 17th through October 25th
DINNER HIGH EJ’s Place (10027 Skokie Blvd., Skokie; 847-933-9800): Enormous portions at steak-house prices. A drive away, but parking is easy.
DINNER LOW Pita Inn (3910 Dempster St., Skokie; 847-677-0211): About two miles from the theatre, but worth the hassle.
DRINKS Boston Blackie’s (9599 Skokie Blvd., Skokie; 847-329-4334): The only walkable place for a post-show drink.
PARKING Free parking in the lot behind the theatre.
4147 N. Broadway
NOW PLAYING The Mercy Seat, October 1st through November 15th
DINNER HIGH Magnolia Café (1224 W. Wilson Ave.; 773-728-8785): Charming spot, Italian-inflected menu.
DINNER LOW Tac Quick (3930 N. Sheridan Rd.; 773-327-5253): Authentic Thai BYOB that local foodies crow about.
DRINKS Bar on Buena (910 W. Buena Ave.; 773-525-8665): Convivial pub that is also one of the cast’s go-to watering holes.
PARKING Public self-park at 4100 North Clarendon Avenue ($10 to $12). Also, look for free street parking on Broadway between Belle Plaine and Montrose avenues.
1650 N. Halsted St.
Also works for: Royal George
NOW PLAYING The House on Mango Street, October 13th through November 1st
DINNER HIGH Boka (1729 N. Halsted St.; 312-337-6070): Charlie Trotter’s alum in the kitchen. Accomplished, fancy food.
DINNER LOW Mangia Roma (1623 N. Halsted St.; 312-475-9801): Straight-up Italian and pizza.
DRINKS Vinci (1732 N. Halsted St.; 312-266-1199): Sit at the bar for a civilized post-show glass of wine. Landmark (1633 N. Halsted St.; 312-587-1600): If you’re in the mood for a scene.
PARKING Remember that the garage ($9) closes 90 minutes after the end of the show.
TIMELINE THEATRE COMPANY
615 W. Wellington Ave.
NOW PLAYING The History Boys, through October 18th
DINNER HIGH Erwin (2925 N. Halsted St.; 773-528-7200): Perfect for date night with the parents, plus extended $12 valet parking for TimeLine patrons.
DINNER LOW Crisp (2940 N. Broadway; 773-697-7610): Asian wing joint with other options and some seating.
DRINKS Wilde (3130 N. Broadway; 773-244-0404): Where the cast hangs. Duke of Perth (2913 N. Clark St.; 773-477-1741): Scottish pub, open late.
PARKING The Broadway at Surf self-park costs $8 with validation. Some of the new pay boxes on Broadway allow up to three hours at a go.
TRAP DOOR THEATRE
1655 W. Cortland St.
NOW PLAYING 12 Ophelias: A Play with Broken Songs, September 24th through October 31st
DINNER HIGH Jane’s (1655 W. Cortland St.; 773-862-5263): Beloved brunch destination does a nice dinner too.
DINNER LOW Riverside Deli (1656 W. Cortland St.; 773-278-3354): Sandwiches by day, Cuban food by night. BYOB.
DRINKS Bucktown Pub (1658 W. Cortland St.; 773-394-9898): Tavern ambiance and no sports playing on big TVs.
PARKING The door to the theatre is at the end of the alley next to Jane’s. Street parking can be scarce at times.
2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
NOW PLAYING The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, September 25th through November 1st
DINNER HIGH Bourgeois Pig! Café (738 W. Fullerton Pkwy.; 773-883-5282): Students’ lair with a creative salads-and-sandwiches menu. Not fancy, but close to the theatre.
DINNER LOW Little Brother’s (818 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-661-6482): Surprisingly good fast-and-cheap Korean.
DRINKS Sterch’s (2238 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-281-2653): The least irritating watering hole on this abysmal stretch of Lincoln Avenue.
PARKING Better to eat elsewhere, drive directly to the validated parking lot (2316 N. Lincoln Ave.) at Children’s Memorial Hospital ($6), then flee.
664 Vernon Ave., Glencoe
NOW PLAYING Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, September 29th through December 6th
DINNER HIGH Francesco’s Hole in the Wall (254 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook; 847-272-0155): Our favorite restaurant in this neck of the woods since you’ll have to drive to find a real dinner. No reservations.
DINNER LOW Little Red Hen (653 Vernon Ave., Glencoe; 847-835-4900): Ribs.
DRINKS Just go home.
PARKING Easy street parking outside.
Photograph: (Fedra) Sean Williams