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Where To Eat Pre-Theater Chicago?

I have been all over the web, including MetroMix, Citysearch, etc., and it is absolutely overwhelming to figure out where to eat in Chicago. As for theater district, to be honest, none of the web descriptions, websites, or web menus really grab me. I'm looking for interesting, not run-of-the-mill, expensive is okay but less than $100 per person.

I am leaning toward Boka or South Water Kitchen. If you have been to both, I would appreciate opinions. We are also considering Wave at the Westin, even if it is not as close. We expect to take cabs quite a bit.


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  1. Where are you going to the theater? If downtown, I would recommend Trattoria 10 or Everest. If North- like Steppenwolf or Royal George, I would recommend Vinci's.

    1 Reply
    1. South Water Kitchen is fine. In my opinion, nothing special.

      Pre-theater I usually go to Atwood Cafe (very good contemporary American) or Catch 35 (seafood). Trattoria 10 is good for Italian. Also, everyone raves about the Everest pre-theater prix fixe, but I've never been.

      Boka is great, but it's far from the Ford Theater. Ford Theater is downtown, Boka is in Lincoln Park near the Steppenwolf and Royal George Theaters.

      1. I've always been pleased with 312 which is very close.

        1. The Ford Theater is on Randolph near State, in the middle of the Loop. There is a bunch of very good places within a few blocks; there's no need to take a cab unless you want to.

          As usual, SuzMiCo is giving you great advice; both Atwood Cafe and Trattoria No. 10 are excellent. (So is Everest, but it's a bit further away, like 8-9 blocks.) Another excellent choice is Vivere, in Italian Village. And Catch 35 on Wacker (for seafood) is just a couple blocks away as well. All four of these places (not Everest) are within 2-3 blocks of the theater.

          Atwood Cafe - www.atwoodcafe.com
          Trattoria No. 10 - www.trattoria10.com
          Everest - www.everestrestaurant.com
          Vivere - www.vivere-chicago.com
          Catch 35 - www.catch35.com

          2 Replies
          1. re: nsxtasy

            I adore Trattoria No. 10, but have never been thrilled with Atwood Cafe (good location, but average food and service). Vivere is excellent too, with a wonderful wine list. For a kitsch experience, try the Italian Village on the top floor of that complex (they share a wine cellar, but have completely different food and atmostphere).

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Just ate at Catch 35 this past Friday night. It was amazing. I'm not even a big seafood fan, but my husband is. I had the Chilean Sea Bass which was terrific and my hubby had the Alaskan Halibut which he really enjoyed. The Asian satay appetizer was okay and dessert (Key Lime Pie for me and Toffee Cheesecake for hubby) was delicious.

            2. Italian Village

              1. Boka has a new and very talented chef (from Charlie Trotter's). Haven't been there, but heard very good things from someone I trust (also a chef). Once was enough for me at South Water Kitchen; can't recommend it. In the Loop (nearer to theater district), the 2 best high-end options are Custom House and Everest. Both have pre-theater menus, but at Custom House you're probably better off with the regular menu. Everest's pre-theater menu will be under $100 with tax and tip (and probably one drink). Aigre Doux is a new and very good place that is a short cab ride (or long walk) to the theaters. Rather stark (but nice) decor, but the food is mostly excellent. I also really like Aria in the Fairmont Hotel...a much better choice than Wave at the Westin.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Pugman

                  I just had dinner at Wave and the food was nauseatingly salty. All of it, even my saladish "small plate."

                2. I have not been there yet but have heard a lot of good things about The Gage at 24 S. Michigan.

                  1. If you're considering Boka, also consider Vinci, right across the street. Quite good Italian, does a lot with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Nice wine list, not very expensive. They are used to the pre-theater crowd, and can expedite your meal without you feeling rushed.

                    1732 N. Halsted St.

                    1. I am not much of a Theater guy, but took the wife to see Wicked. Had dinner at the South Water Kitchen and I was please with the food and atmosphere.

                      1. This may be considered heretical but we ate at Avec at about 4:30, which gave us plenty of time to linger over great food and not feel rushed before the theater. It's a short walk from the theatre district. --PR