Best Places to Eat and Drink Near Chicago’s Off-Loop Theaters and Comedy Clubs
As any theater-loving Chicagoan will tell you, this is a city of the theater. Then they’ll proceed to list all the famous actors and comedians who have made their debut in venues like the Steppenwolf or Second City, and hint that the next big talent could be on stage right now, somewhere far from it. Loop and the city official. theater district. Here are some of the best off-loop theaters – and places to eat nearby.
Writers’ theater: Considered one of the best theater companies in the region, Writers is known for bringing a contemporary twist to classic plays. A show here gives visitors the opportunity to explore downtown Glencoe. Highlights include Guildhall, an upscale comfort food restaurant that added a sushi pop-up during the pandemic, and Shanghai Garden. A little further in Northbrook is the Prairie Grass Cafe, run by James Beard Award winner Sarah Stegner.
Theo Ubique: Located on Howard Street, on the border between Chicago and Evanston, little Theo Ubique specializes in cabaret and musicals. On both sides of the street, we eat well: Badou Senegalese cuisine, specialist in okra jambalaya; Good to go Jamaican cuisine, serving jerk, oxtail and brown stew; and the Peckish Pig, a gourmet pub with a slight British accent.
Redtwist Theater: This little black box puts viewers at the heart of the drama. The theater itself is in the middle of Edgewater. Featured products nearby include Pearl’s Southern Comfort for Cajun and Creole cuisine, Alice and Friends Vegan Kitchen for plant-based specialties, Cookies and Carnitas for pizzas and tacos (and cookies), Moody’s Pub for burgers and Herb for high-end Thai.
Chicago Magic Lounge and the Neo-futurists: There are a lot of magical things around the corner of Clark and Foster: the Chicago Magic Lounge, accessed through a gate in a laundromat; the Neo-Futurists, who can play 30 pieces in 60 minutes; and the Hopleaf, with its endless beer menu and CB&J sandwich that kind of turns cashew butter, fig spread, raclette cheese and toast into something divine.
PrideArts: PrideArts features both plays and films centered around LGBTQ characters and themes. The bar on Buena has long been the neighborhood hub for Buena Park and a dinner or brunch before a movie or show. But there is also Siam Noodles & Rice, a Thai restaurant that has been around for even longer, and Michel’s, a sports bar serving tavern-style pizzas.
Strawdog Theater: Strawdog, a classic Chicago theater that presents both classics and new works, is conveniently located near the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Irving Park Road in the North Center, two blocks from restaurants. Choose from modern Indians at Basant, pub food at Brown Stone Tavern, Mexican steak and seafood in El Llano and old-fashioned Chinese in the American style at Orange Garden.
Mercure Chicago Theater: The Mercury shows crowd-pleasing shows that appeal to pop culture enthusiasts; it also contains a separate cabaret with comedic performances and open mics. It’s housed in a former movie theater on the same block of Southport Avenue as the DiSapio family empire: Tango Sur, the Argentinian steakhouse that’s become a neighborhood landmark; Bodega Sur, its lighter brother; and El Mercado Food Mart, which sells delicious empanadas to go. Nearby there is Coalfire for pizza and Toon’s Bar and Grill for burgers and wings.
Belmont theater district: This section of Lakeview rivals the Loop for the city’s largest collection of theaters. There are annoyance, a center for improvisation and humor; the Laughter factory, a stand-up club; the Newport, a showcase for the marginal theater; the Briar Street, longtime home of the Blue Man Group; Chronology, specializing in political drama; and Theater spirit and Step 773 who both host a range of shows in addition to their own in-house companies. Fortunately, the dining options here are just as plentiful: try Sochi Saigonese Kitchen, a new Vietnamese restaurant, and Yoshi’s Cafe, a neighborhood staple for Franco-Japanese fusion, or, if you’re short on money or time, bopNgrill. for Korean-American fast. food, BIG & littles for tacos and fried seafood, or Australian bangaroos pies for meat pies; before a Sunday morning, grab brunch at Ann Sather’s Neighborhood Breakfast or Bittersweet Pastry Shop & Cafe.
The Artistic House: A storefront specializing in dramas, The Artistic Home can be found on the Milwaukee Avenue strip in Avondale. Options include Polish Staropolska, Mexican Mazamitla Taqueria, Italian-Argentinian La Nonna mashup, and, for a drink before or after the show, Sleeping Village beer bar.
Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture: The Athenaeum is home to many small, non-profit theater, dance and music companies. It’s also close to Dear Margaret, a cozy French-Canadian bistro; Rica Arepa’s Lakeview location, source of some of the city’s best arepas; and Red Hot Ranch, justly famous for its hot dogs and fries.
Cie ThÃ©Ã¢tre Aguijon: L’Aguijon, a center for the Latin performing arts, is just a few blocks from Hermosa, one of the city’s most underrated foodie districts. Try the quesabirria in TacotlÃ¡n, a traditional Puerto Rican cuisine in Mackerel, cider at Right Bee, beer at Pipeworks, or maybe, with enough lead time, a Cambodian feast at Hermosa.
Victory Gardens Theater and the Greenhouse theater center: The Victory Gardens, a launching pad for new plays and playwrights, and the Greenhouse, which rents space for comedy and children’s productions, both occupy the same stretch of Lincoln Avenue, where there are many Before and after show dining options: East star Galit, the local outpost of Parson’s Chicken and Fish, longtime vigil at Lou Malnati’s and CafÃ© Ba-Ba-Reeba, and before the morning, the popular Batter & Berries brunch.
Steppenwolf Theater: The Steppenwolf, the theatrical juggernaut that started out as a modest storefront, is in the same block as Alinea – try to experience them together, and what a night it would be! More modest options include Boka, the Willow Room, and the Blue Door Farm Stand, a trio of newer American spots that feature fresh ingredients; Kababish for barbecue; and Sushi Circle, conveniently located just across the street. The Steppenwolf also has a bar and cafe, but both are currently closed due to the pandemic.
The second city, Zanies, and A theater of red orchids: The Second City complex has its own restaurant, the 1959 Bar and Grill, but it’s worth exploring the Old Town, especially if you’re not going to Second City but to Zanies to stand or A Red Orchid for see a play by one of the city’s most thoughtful ensembles. Try Small Cheval for burgers, Forastero for Korean tacos, Old Jerusalem for falafels and shawarma, or hang out in one of the neighborhood’s venerable spots: Topo Gigio for Italian or Twin Anchors for ribs. . After the show, do like generations of comedy fans and go around the corner to Old Town Ale House, short in fancy but long in character.
The den theater, the Chopin Theater, and Free street theater: The Den and the Chopin both lease their space to various small theater companies, while Free Street is committed to using the theater as a tool for social justice. All three are clustered together in Wicker Park, where there is no shortage of bars and restaurants, including Korean-American Street Mott, Antique Taco, a branch of Korean fried chicken chain Bonchon, pasta factory Tortello, the Contemporary Spanish Mama Delia and Perch Kitchen Brewery and press.
Ruth Page Arts Center: The Gold Coast’s Ruth Page Center for the Arts hosts many local and visiting theater and dance companies, and there are plenty of restaurants nearby (and expensive) to turn a performance into a special occasion. Maple & Ash and Gibson’s are a modern and classic steakhouse, respectively; Bistronomic and Brewery are modern and classic French; the Somerset and Devereaux, both at the Viceroy hotel, offer excellent food and magnificent views; and Restoration Hardware’s 3 Arts Club Cafe serves lighter fare in a charming setting. After the show, visit Sparrow, a retro lobby bar reminiscent of 1940s Havana, for a nightcap.
Chicago Children’s Theater: The Chicago Children’s Theater is near some of the West Loop’s best restaurants, many of which are not kid-friendly. But there is always the Little Goat for dinner; Rye for bagels, soups and sandwiches; Chicago Waffles for brunch; Beatrix for a reasonable children’s menu; and, of course, Cone Gourmet Ice Cream.
Repertorio Latino Theater Company: Repertorio produces shows in Spanish, both film adaptations and translations from English. The theater is a bit south of the main drag in Bridgeport, but that brings it closer to Phil’s Pizza, a great source of classic tavern-style pizza. We are also not very far from the trio of Maria’s bar and its two spin-offs, the Polish-Korean mashup Kimski, and Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream, or Han 202, which offers Chinese dishes and sushi at fixed price. And Bernice’s wonderful dive bar is there for a drink before or after the show.
Court Theater: Located on the University of Chicago campus, the Court, specializing in classics, is right next to Michelin Bib Gourmand winner Nella Pizza e Pasta and the Middle Eastern Nile district. Ascione Bistro, an upscale Italian restaurant; The Little Madness, a French bistro; and Soul Shack, a great source of southern home cooking, are all within walking distance.