Shakespeare in Love is playing to rave reviews at the Allen Theater. In mid-October, Waitress will kick off Playhouse Square's annual Broadway series. And there's that new Lin-Manuel Miranda musical you may have heard about. While you might have to pledge your firstborn child to get tickets to Hamilton, at least it will be a breeze to enjoy pre-show dining.
Theater district dining used to be a bland affair, with dishes served hurriedly to watch-tapping customers. The current crop of restaurants in the neighborhood, however, proves that is no longer the case.
It's impossible to discuss theater dining without mentioning Cowell & Hubbard, the Playhouse Square representative of the Zack Bruell empire. Cowell & Hubbard is famously situated in a former jewelry store of the same name, and it's an elegantly lit place with a menu designed for efficiency and quality.
Items like the Moroccan Lamb Shoulder and Pork Porterhouse should arrive with ample time; staff are methodically trained to get patrons through the meal and to the shows by curtain. And for those who want to avoid the crowds, there's an Actors' Menu, starting at 7:15 p.m., that offers appetizers for half off; as bartender Kate Michalko says, that's "Applebee's prices" for escargot.
Bin 216 also has made a name for itself as a theater district staple. It's a comfy, posh wine bar with some substantial small plates, like the seafood risotto or braised beef and mushroom flatbread. They do not take reservations, so arriving early is a good idea.
It would be remiss not to mention Otto Moser's. Founded in 1893, Moser's was part of Cleveland's original theater district on East Fourth Street. The restaurant operated continuously in that spot for 100 years. A mid-'90s move to rejoin the theater district proved commercially successful, and to this day Moser's operates as an essential spot for old-timers and Cleveland history buffs.
There are plenty of less obvious options that will get diners to their plays in a tasty, timely fashion. Hofbrauhaus' sausage-and-potatoes fare will fortify diners for the longest of shows, and though it's not on Euclid, it's a short walk to all the major theaters.
The same is true of Puente Viejo, a Playhouse Square newbie serving Mexican cuisine in an "industrial chic" interior. Open since February, Puente Viejo has proved a standout in a crowded Cleveland taco market. Dishes like the cazuelada and quesadilla chipotle are powerfully flavorful, balanced and filling, and the cucumber margaritas are refreshing year-round.
Or check out the jaw-dropping Marble Room on Euclid, where the steaks and seafood promise to be as breathtaking as the converted bank lobby they're presented in. Marble Room promises special accommodations for theatergoers, so the slightly longer walk to the theater should present no issues.
There are two rules for dinner before a show: Make reservations whenever possible (an hour and a half before the show, more if you're a slow eater or walker) and arrive on time. Patrons who follow these golden rules will escape the fate of the poor souls being flashlight-escorted to their seats seven minutes into the first act.