CHICAGO - The Oriental, Goodman and Cadillac theaters draw many people to Chicago's Loop during the holiday season and there are many places that are designed to offer great meals in an abbreviated time slot.
A tasty new option inside the sprawling Latinicity food hall, on the third floor of the Block 37 mall, is Pueblo. It's a less-expensive version of the previous occupant, focused on home cooking.
"We're trying to showcase some of those traditional dishes that you would normally eat, with a modern touch," said Chef Jim Ortiz.
Taquitos and carne asada are certainly familiar, as well as sopes - those corn masa boats filled with black beans, crumbled chorizo sausage and tiny bits of fried plantains, drizzled with rich crema and cheese. The tortillas are all made from scratch, pressed and griddled until warm and soft, making fine companions for hearty carnitas. Try to slip in a tres leches with guava ice cream before heading off to the show.
"Whenever guests notify us we make it possible for them to be able to enjoy their food, have a great experience but also make it to their show," he said.
In the same building, on the corner of Dearborn and Randolph, The Dearborn offers something for everyone.
"Of course there are those certain dishes that come out faster, so if our guests are running late, we would definitely have those dishes, say, get the mezze plate, get the fried chicken, that comes out pretty quick. If they have more time, we'd encourage them to have our beautiful gnocchi and octopus dish," said Clodagh Lawless, one of the owners.
The extra time it takes is worth it. Tender octopus is sauteed with homemade chorizo, plus shallots and garlic. White wine and preserved lemons add acidity, while homemade tomato sauce keeps it comforting and familiar, with the addition of soft, pillowy potato-based gnocchi. A garnish of crumbled goat cheese lends some richness to the dish. In either case, Lawless says her staff is well aware of her diners' needs during the holiday season.
"It is very important to us, we're very aware of the time constraint that our guests have when it's time to go to the theater and I feel we pretty much nail it," Lawless said.
So a pair of great options, in the same building, both designed to suit your pre-theater needs this holiday season.
Extra Course: 2 desserts at The Dearborn for the holiday season
EXTRA COURSE: 2 desserts at the Dearborn for the holiday season
108 N. State St., 3rd Floor, Chicago
145 N. Dearborn St., Chicago