When we were in Chicago recently for Cindy's birthday, I really didn't have much of a plan as far as dinner was concerned. I'd never really stayed in the heart of the Loop that much before and wasn't familiar with the restaurants in the area. Most of the places I was familiar with were up in the River North area of downtown Chicago. However, it turned out that there were a number of restaurants within walking distance of the Hotel Burnham. In fact, the choices were almost too many as we were having trouble figuring out what exactly it was that we were hungry for. It turned out that two of the Rosebud family of restaurants - Rosebud Prime and Rosebud Theater District - were less than a five minute walk from the hotel. Since it was a bone chilling night, we decided to walk over to Rosebud Prime and get a steak.
I saw the address for Rosebud Prime - 1 S. Dearborn (see map) - and we walked around the block and down to the corner of Dearborn and Madison. The only problem was that 1 S. Dearborn was a 40 story skyscraper with a large lobby with no signs of a restaurant. We took a quick look around the lobby to see if there was a sign for Rosebud Prime. There wasn't. Cindy was getting cold and she said, "OK, what do we do now? I'm getting cold and I'm hungry." If you know my wife, cold and hungry is a unpleasant combination that I try to rectify as soon as possible. I looked caddy-cornered across Madison and saw the sign for Rosebud Theater District. I decided to cut our losses and head over to that Rosebud.
Now, we've been to the original Rosebud on Taylor Street (see that post here) and to the Rosebud on Rush (see that post here). The Rosebud restaurants are a small chain of 11 restaurants located around the Chicagoland area. They range from elaborate and elegant restaurants to the small "grab and go' Rosebud Express located near the Rosebud Theater District. The original Rosebud opened in 1977 and owner/founder Alex Dana oversees a staff that has grown to over 500 people. Brian Wright is Dana's longtime corporate chef, having been the executive chef at Carmine's, another Rosebud restaurant. Wright is responsible for the menu at all Rosebud restaurants and oversees the executive chefs at each location.
The Rosebud Theater District is located in the lobby of the Three First National Plaza building just west of Dearborn on Madison (see map). We walked up to the hostess stand to take a look at the menu and decided to just eat there, although our hearts were looking for some beef.
The Rosebud Theater District has a spacious dining area with an ornate ceiling. Contrary to the picture at right, the lighting was very subdued that evening. We were seated at a small table between two larger parties who were just getting their main entrees as we were seated. The table to my right was a little boisterous with a couple loud-mouthed guys trying to out-do each other with stories they were telling to their group as their dates mousily sat there and let them go on and on. Cindy looked at me and gave me a pained look as she sort of glanced over at the table after one guy was loudly telling a rather off-color story. Rosebud Theater District was a pretty classy place and this guy was acting like he was in a neighborhood bar with his old frat buddies.
Our waitress for the evening, Marina, came over to greet us. She asked if we needed anything to drink off the bat and I said that we were probably just going to get some wine. The only problem is that the lighting at Rosebud Theater District was very dim and I didn't take my reading glasses with me. The wine list had very small type and I was having a ton of problems reading the menu. In fact, we didn't take any pictures of the place because it was so dark in there that a flash would have been overly obnoxious. I ended up focusing enough to be able to order a bottle of the 2003 Monsanto Chianti Classico Reserva, a nice medium-bodied Italian blend from Tuscany.
Cindy was having a lot of problems trying to figure out what to get for her meal. She still was thinking steak, but the menu at the Rosebud Theater District was more geared to traditional Italian fare. One thing I noticed was that the menu at this particular Rosebud was condensed compared to other Rosebud's we've been in. My guess is that a lot of people are probably looking to eat quickly getting a meal before or after a show or during the lunch hour. The menu still had some of the staples of Rosebud's core selection - four veal dishes, a handful of pasta offerings, five chicken entrees and some steak and seafood dishes. The menu was definitely designed for fast decisions of entrees that were quick to make - you could tell by the "No substitutions, please" in bold letters at the bottom. Sort of an elegant fast food place, to put it more precisely.
The problem was that we were still flummoxed trying to figure out what we wanted. Marina came with the wine and we still weren't ready to order. I didn't know if I wanted pasta or veal or chicken or what. Cindy was having the exact same trouble. I was looking hard at the penne pasta with broccoli and sausage. The Chicken Parmesan was calling my name, as well. And you just can't go wrong with Rosebud's Veal Francese - an egg battered piece of veal, simmered in a white wine and lemon sauce. Marina came back a second time and we STILL weren't ready to order.
By this time, the large groups on either side of us were finishing up and leaving to go to a show. We suddenly had a large area all to ourselves. Marina came back a third time and this time we were ready to go. Cindy ordered the Veal Milanese - a breaded piece of veal, pan-fried and served with a side of arugula and tomatoes and a small side of penne pasta with their homemade marinara. It was basically an Italian version of weinerschnitzel. When Marina turned to me for my order, I said, "I'm torn between the Chicken Parmesan and the Veal Francese."
Marina said, "I really like the Chicken Parmesan. I'm not big on the veal as much as I am the chicken." I took her personal recommendation to heart and promptly ordered...
The Veal Francese. A side of the penne pasta with the marinara sauce came with the veal.
Now, if you're looking for a quick meal in Chicago - a good quick meal - I can tell you the Rosebud Theater District is the place to go. It wasn't more than 10 minutes after we ordered before Marina brought our entrees to the table. Cindy exclaimed, "That was quick!"
I said, "This place is designed to get people in and out rather quickly." But it's also the type of place where you can dawdle after dinner if you like.
My visit to the Rosebud on Rush about three years ago didn't go too well with the veal dish I'd ordered there. But the Veal Francese at Rosebud Theater District was just outstanding. The veal was tender and tasty, the egg-batter wasn't overbearing. But the white wine lemon sauce was to die for. After I made short work of my veal, I sopped up the sauce with the homemade Italian bread. It was a wonderful taste sensation, to say the least.
Cindy was equally impressed with her Veal Milanese. She gave me a couple bites and it was very good. But I really liked my Veal Francese better. The penne pasta with the marinara was pretty average, but that was OK. We weren't there for the complementary sides.
We decided to finish off the night with sharing a hunk of Rosebud's homemade tiramisu. While it wasn't the best tiramisu I've had, it was still very good. It was a nice finish to a very good meal.
Since we were the only table Marina had at that point in the evening, we were able to chat with her as we took our last bites of the tiramisu. She had a thick Eastern European accent and it turned out that she was from Serbia. She said that she went to school in Greece to study as a child psychologist. During the time she was going to school in Greece, she also helped run a restaurant. "I worked my way up to being the manager of a small restaurant. It was great experience for me because if the child psychology thing didn't work out, I had the basics of running a restaurant."
Marina moved to Chicago in July and had been at Rosebud Theater District for about three months. She was having some problems finding work as a social worker, either as a public or private worker. "But I don't mind this," she said as she waved her arms toward the spacious dining area at Rosebud Theater District. "I could stay here and be happy. Maybe I'm more happy to be working in restaurants."
After we paid our bill, we walked back over to 1 S. Dearborn to see if we could find Rosebud Prime. Just down the street and recessed back in the outside corner of the building, we saw some colored lights. About a 30 foot walk further than where we'd walked before, we were able to plainly see the sign for Rosebud Prime. Cindy said, "Well, I was happy with my meal. We'll just have to come back in to Chicago sometime, stay at the Burnham again and walk over to Rosebud Prime."
And I agreed with her. I'm glad we went to Rosebud Theater District that evening. Our meal was outstanding, Marina was a great server and the food was served very quickly without the pitfalls that can pop up with quick made meals. It was another overly positive visit to another Rosebud restaurant.