A look at Theater on the Lake in Chicago – Consumer News

on Jun15

14 June 2017 | 4:00 pm

Joe Shanahan of Chicago’s venerable Metro will book weekly music acts at Theater on the Lake, a 1920s Prairie-style building being restored on an outcropping of land where Fullerton Avenue meets Lake Shore Drive.

Theater on the Lake, a partnership between the Chicago Park District and Lakefront Hospitality Group, which has a 15-year lease on the building, aims to open for business mid-August, says Lakefront Hospitality President John Wrenn. Cleetus Friedman (City Provisions, Fountainhead) will be head chef.

The building, first constructed in 1920 as a sanitarium, is undergoing a $7 million restoration by architects Kaufman & O’Neil in Evanston and Demarsh Construction, which worked with the park district on Soldier Field’s reconstruction. Used largely as a summer theater venue in recent years, it’s been unused since 2013.

The 19,000-square-foot screened-in structure is being converted into a year-round venue for performances, dining and private events. It will retain much of its original Prairie-style design, modernized to include a wall of windows stretching along the east side of the building looking out toward Lake Michigan; cement flooring; a wood-topped wrought-iron-framed bar fronted with terra cotta tiles; and other elements to highlight the historic aspects of the building.

Theater on the Lake will consist of a 125-seat full-service upscale tavern called the Lakefront serving seasonal and local cuisine with French influence; a 250-seat venue for live concerts, plays and other productions; a 100-seat patio facing the skyline with a wood-burning oven; a bar with a 400-bottle canopy above it; and a two-room event space between the restaurant and theater that can morph with moving walls to encompass the entire building and host upward of 1,000 people. Regular theater programming will return to the property for the 2018 season, Wrenn said.

The Lakefront will serve lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Friedman will source food locally to create a menu such as deviled eggs with whiskey bacon; and griddled corn cakes with tomato jam and charred scallion; meats and cheeses; peel-and-eat Old Bay shrimp; smoked trout brandade; and escargot in cider butter; soups, salads and sandwiches; and entrees like tea-smoked salmon; mixed mushroom quinoa risotto; and slow-cooked brisket with fennel and honey slaw.

Beverages will include a dozen cocktails, a dozen wines by the glass; six rotating beers on tap with local options and Friedman’s beer collaborations; and booze from local spots CH Distillery, Journeyman Distillery and Few Spirits.

Friedman also is planning concessions east of the bike path that will include games, events, and food and coffee along the lakefront path between Fullerton and Diversey. Some serving basic fare such as beer and burgers are now open weekends only.

Shanahan wrote in an email from vacation that he plans to stage weekly concerts both indoors and outdoors at Theater on the Lake, but he declined to give details. “It’s an incredible gift to Chicago and its creative community for a recently vacant building to be repurposed into such a robust events space,” Shanahan wrote.

Friedman said he plans “speak-along” movies like “The Princess Bride” and “The Big Lebowski”; an outdoor ice bar to coincide with Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights during the holidays; and a live music brunch.



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