All too often, a night out at the theater means compromising on an acceptable dinner. It doesn’t have to be that way, at least when it comes to the houses hosting the shows in this week’s features. Don’t kid yourself. Nothing in the lobby will make you happy at intermission.
Show: Filament Theater, Portage Park
Dinner: Community Tavern
4038 N. Milwaukee
Since it opened in 2015, this Portage Park mainstay has pivoted from nominal steakhouse to a more well-rounded (but no less meaty) neighborhood asset. Chef and now-owner Joey Beato has fully embraced the pan-Asian influence that marked his food at the late Portage with a variety of noodles and dumplings, papaya salad and bibimbap, but also tweaks on the American standards that most restaurants can’t do business without: double cheeseburgers dressed with Yuzu mayo; NY strip with Thai basil chimmichurri; kimchi fries with Merkts cheddar.
Don’t sleep on: bo ssam with five-spice grilled pork secreto
Backup plan: Bia’s Café Marianao
Show: Congo Square Theatre, Lincoln Park
1112 N. State
No other neighborhood but the Viagra Triangle would make sense as the setting for one of the weirdest concepts in the Boka Restaurant Group Empire. “Country club culture” is the phrase BRG has chosen to describe the vibe of Somerset. Gold Coasters will dig its luminosity: brass fixtures shimmer over blue banquettes and warm woods, bathed in golden light from atrium windows towering above the second-floor dining room, which is outfitted with a restroom foyer devoted to the gentlemanly sport of elephant polo. Because colonialism, bro. They should also feel at home among servers dressed in khaki and pale blue blazers, children of the less fortunate, forced to work for a living.
But all you really need to know is that the great Lee Wolen is the mastermind in the kitchen along with pastry chef Meg Galus, both of whom can be counted on for extraordinary seasonal takes on everything from ricotta dumplings and Wolen’s magnificent roast chicken to pineapple upside-down cake and housemade sorbets.
Don’t sleep on: smoked beet tartare with cumin yogurt and goat gouda
Backup plans: Pakiza, Mogadishu
Show: Windy City Playhouse
3449 W. Irving Park
For more than a decade the Garcia family has quietly set the standard not just for pollo a la brasa but for the whole canon of Peru’s melting pot cuisine, including lomo saltado, fried rice, the cilantro-and-spinach-spiked green chicken soup aquadito, ceviche, and alfajores. Now in bigger, brighter digs on Irving Park Road, it’s still packed all day and well into the night on weekends with pisco- and wine-sipping Peruvian expats.
Don’t sleep on: papas rellenas, and deep-fried mashed potato ovoids stuffed with ground beef, onions, olives, raisins, and hard-boiled eggs Backup plan: Astoria Cafe
Show: Unity Temple, Oak Park
Dinner: Katy’s Dumplings
1113 Lake, Oak Park
The Oak Park outpost of Westmont’s Northern Chinese pioneer has suffered ups, downs, and possible changes in ownership since it first opened, but it appears to be back on the upswing.
“The name would suggest that dumplings are the draw here, but it’s the fresh homemade noodles that instantly turn unsuspecting diners into fervent members of the cult of Katy’s. . . . Stir-fried noodles with dry chile offers the perfect introduction: meat, seafood, and vegetables are stir-fried with a healthy dose of dried red chiles and served atop a big nest of the fresh noodles. . . .Szechuan cold noodles are just as good, the slow burn of the Szechuan-peppercorn-spiked shredded pork prevailing over the shredded cucumber that attempts to cool the palate. If you must have something other than noodles, the chewy pancake with shredded pork may be the only worthy substitute—even it’s cut to look like a noodle,” wrote Reader reviewer Kristina Meyer of the original location.
Don’t sleep on: Dan dan noodles
Backup plan: MacArthur’s
Show: Lookingglass Theatre, Water Tower
205 E. Pearson
Three years ago, Lula Café’s Jason Hammel debuted his restaurant at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and it’s since cemented its position as a dependable resource for both jaded locals and tourists with brunch, lunch, dinner, and happy hour in a bright and stunning space under British artist Chris Ofili’s plantlike line drawings and prominent mural of a cave-dwelling green sorceress. Pastas are particularly good and it’s all in line with Hammel’s pioneering seasonal approach, as I wrote back then: “The very best thing about Marisol is that Hammel and company aren’t presenting boring food. They’re challenging themselves, like artists are known to do. You slash the canvases sometimes when you do that. Fortunately, a restaurant isn’t a motionless painting. It’s an ongoing performance.”
Don’t sleep on: sunflower hummus with flaxseed cracker
Backup plan: Ramen Misoya v