Located inside the South Shore Cultural Center, the Parrot Cage takes its name from the displaced parrots residing in nearby Hyde Park. The restaurant is an offshoot of the Washburne Culinary Institute (also housed within the SSCC), where advanced students gain real-world experience by working as kitchen and wait staff.
Swiftly gaining a reputation as a romantic restaurant, the elegant architecture of the SSCC helps to illustrate the point. The building that houses the intimate dining room was built in the Mediterranean Revival architectural style, and is laden with elegant black and white mosaics. In the winter months, the large, arched windows look onto the snowy grounds, and during the summer there is a view of the lakefront and expansive nature walk.
As for the menu, only locally grown, fresh ingredients are used. Chef Brian Jupiter takes inspiration from global dishes, treating them with a classic American flair. The selection is extensive, with seven starters, seven entrees and a handful of desserts. Standouts include the chicken and Serrano ham croquettes with haricot vert salad ($6), the goat cheese gnocchi with spinach, sweet potatoes and shallot thyme cream ($15), and the pan-roasted salmon with braised cabbage, bacon, apples and mustard sauce ($17). The pear bread pudding ($6) and pineapple sorbet are light and deliciously sweet.
Since Washburne is a culinary institute in practice and learning actually takes place in the kitchen, a high standard for quality is evident in the precise and deliberate dishes. The educational aspect of the restaurant is nearly invisible, and the small, instructional moments are subtle: Never fear, you're among a gang of pros, here. Reservations are recommended.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Gretchen Kalwinski