As the name implies, BackStage Bistro is a great place for theater-goers, but the restaurant itself also offers a terrific show. Patrons get to watch students from the Illinois Institute of Art's Culinary Arts division prepare their meals through several large windows that separate the dining area from the kitchen. The students operate both the front and back ends of the restaurant, and, as servers, they are terrifically friendly, though they can be a tad inefficient. Still, when was the last time you were waited on by a group of people desperately eager to please you?
The atmosphere is intimate and quiet, even when the room fills to capacity, which it does quickly over the meager hours that the restaurant does business. The last possible moment to be seated for dinner is 7 p.m., so call ahead for reservations and make sure everyone in your party shows up on time. As for the food, every morsel of it will rock your world. These kids can cook. Since the menu changes quarterly, these recommendations may be useless by the time you go, but the grilled lamb t-bone, salmon with chow fun noodles and crisp herb risotto all deserve medals. The macadamia tart will make you hum with joy.
You'll discover that one of the Bistro's greatest treats is your bill: An outstanding three-course meal with wine will run you between $40 and $50 per person, tip included. This is likely the best value for fine dining in the city.
Average cost: $31+
Centerstage Reviewer: Abigail Derecho