When the days are short and that lake breeze takes on a bit of a bite, Chicagoans turn their attentions to two things: movie times and menus. With three great theaters in the heart of downtown and three other favorites in nearby (and noteworthy) neighborhoods, a snowy weekend is just another great excuse to see a movie and get a bite to eat. Here are a few of our favorite combinations:
Dinner: The Purple Pig
And a movie: AMC River East 21
One of the city's biggest theaters is just a short walk from Michigan Avenue and features a few screens of blockbusters while leaving plenty of screen space for that indie film your friend in New York mentioned (and its brethren). Your dining options in the neighborhood are similarly varied. You have all of the Magnificent Mile at your disposal but the best bet (according to this humble local) is a spot called The Purple Pig.
Tucked away just off Michigan Ave, this Mediterranean haven is more than just a meat-lover's dream come true. Sure, the milk-braised pork shoulder is an honest cure for winter-at-large. But roasted broccoli in garlic and anchovy sauce, crisp octopus with fingerling potatoes, and a "smears" list that's almost a dozen varieties deep will all compete for the favorite dish of the night. Topped off with a balanced (and surprisingly affordable) wine list, you will be glad that sharing is encouraged.
Dinner: Manny's Deli
And a movie: Kerasotes Showplace ICON
If you're going to catch a movie at the ICON, it seems like a good opportunity to eat someplace iconic. Chicago is home to a few such places, but nothing quite like Manny's. In the winter months, when the Windy City is windier than ever, it's a good time to remind ourselves that the moniker comes from Chicago politics rather than weather patterns. What does this have to do with an exceptional pastrami sandwich? Well, the clientele at Manny's Deli is an obvious indication that you've found central intelligence for Chicago politics. The matzo ball soup is worth the trip alone, but Manny's puts a tale on your tray, right next to an ice cold Dr. Brown's soda.
Dinner: La Creperie
And a movie: Landmark Century Centre Cinema
The Landmark is arguably this city's best bet for a wide range for independent films. Someone's taste should be commended because their offerings consistantly include an Oscar nomination. When you're ready to be thoroughly drawn into another place, time, and story, you'll be very pleased with your time at La Creperie, directly across the street from the theater.
La Creperie gives the impression of walking into a café in the French countryside in some other earlier decade. The owner is from Normandy and has a menu that could act as a passport. Classics like Crepes Suzette, escargot, and Nicoise salad make appearances, but the crepes in general are where we recommend you spend the time. In the summer months, it's hard to imagine a more charming back patio. Insulated by tall trees with lights strung between branches, you'd never know you were in the center of a busy city neighborhood. But in the winter, nestled into a corner table with a glass of wine or hot coffee, there's no more comforting place to be. Easily accessible via the 36, 22, or 27 buses or a 10 minute walk from the Diversey Brown line El stop, this dinner/movie combo is worth the trip.
Lunch: Floriole Café and Bakery
And a (matinee) movie: Regal Webster Place 11
Not every movie date needs to be at night. With that in mind, this is one of the best lunches or brunches that Chicago has to offer, paired with a larger theater in a walkable (one might even say "cute") neighborhood near DePaul University in Lincoln Park. Floriole Café started as a booth at the famous Green City Market. What emerged in the first brick-and-mortar location was a bakery that could rival Tartine in San Francisco and a menu that would ensure sustenance at any level. I am personally very partial to the daily quiche and a lemon tart. It's seen me through many a movie.