They’re 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 11 places to get a good meal before you finally see Hamilton.
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.
You’re seeing a play at the Harris Theater with ladies visiting from Champaign who like wearing bangles and clothes from Talbott’s. They want 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.
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.
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.
Besides taking visitors to The Bean or seeing a show, there just aren’t many good reasons to be in the Loop after work. But dinner at Fisk & Co in the Hotel Monaco is a valid one, even without tickets to Hamilton. Mussels are the specialty here, and you can get them served in a variety of different broths (like white wine or green curry). The rest of the menu is seafood-focused as well, with a raw bar and entrees like a prosciutto-wrapped bass. It’s worth eating here even if you just decide to go ahead and sell your tickets, since at this point you already feel like you’ve seen (and heard) it 56 times.
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 Millenium 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.
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.
Steadfast is in the Kimpton, and this place really feels like a hotel restaurant. For example, you have to leave the restaurant, climb two flights of stairs, and go down a long hallway to get to the bathroom. That aside, this is still a good option for a fancy meal before a show. This is where you go for classic dishes like clams casino, lobster thermidor, and steak. Just remember that if you decide to come here, factor in how long a bathroom trip will take before you leave.
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.