Dinner and Theater in St Charles

Bette’s friend/colleague Shannon Mayhall was appearing in a small theater, Steel Beam Theater, in St Charles, IL. We invited Karen and Nick and headed down to St Charles to meet them.

The theater area is on a courtyard off of First Street off of North Ave., right along the Fox River, and was already jumping when we got there. We drove about a bit to find street parking, then found the conveniently located garage on the fourth floor. We walked down the steps, turned right, and there was Prasino. We entered, set up our reservation, and found a funky bar, laminate tables, glass on the walls, big windows overlooking the river, wine bottles everywhere, and interesting seats; I felt like one of those science museum exhibits where you sit in huge furniture to feel like a child again.

I had a Goose Island Matilda — bottled, not draft — and Bette had a nice Sauvignon Blanc while we waited for Nick and Karen. They soon walked up along the river and we went to our table in the dining room.

We ordered some drinks. Karen likes a sweeter wine and could not decide between some of the options, so the waitress server brought out small tasters of three different wines – she ended up with a Moscato. Nick got a Flat Tire. As time was fleeting, we soon ordered the meals, Bette and I split a roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese. I ordered the braised beef short ribs, Bette the broiled Tasmanian salmon, Nick the ancho braised lamb shank, and Karen a salmon salad.

The short ribs were excellence, tender, and in a wonderful truffle mushroom cabernet sauce. It was served with a cauliflower cheddar gratin, and greens. Nick’s grass fed lamb shank was huge, with olive oil smashed potatoes, greens, feta, spiced olives, and lamb jus. He thought the greens were a bit spicy, but loved the lamb – I even got to taste it. Karen’s smoked sockeye salmon salad had a nice salmon hunk, with spinach, apples, pecans, red onions, bleu cheese, and a raspberry vinaigrette. Bette’s salmon was served with avocado, mango salsa, and crispy plantains.

All the dishes were well presented, and very tasty. The staff was informative, attentive, but left us alone. We thought the price was a bit high, but since a lot of the food items were grass fed and local sourced perhaps that makes up for the difference. All in all, a nice place.

Then it was off to the Steel Beam Theater, where Shannon was appearing in Edward Albee’s “At Home At The Zoo”. It is a beautiful space, with the typical exposed brick and a large steel beam over the stage.

Shannon loves to sing and perform in musicals, so this part was a bit of a stretch for her. The material is serious adult stuff, small girl in the front row notwithstanding — her father had the sense to realize this is not about zoos before the bad parts really hit. Shannon and her costar were great — we have seen her in her bicycle production in Elgin, but this was even more intense. For the second act, the actor walks out of the stage and heads to the park to read. The audience, gets up and follows him down North Ave. (past a very nice homebrewing store) to the park which is several blocks to the west. Outdoor seating was provided and small portable lights, and Peter started reading his book on the park bench, and the next second half of the play begins with the third actor playing Jerry the “street person” who had been to the zoo. The bugs weren’t too bad, but Shannon called us ahead of time to warn us that we should bring bug spray.

After the play ended, we headed back to the theater area, which was very crowded by now. We ended up in Pizzeria Neo, an Italian restaurant that had some seating room, for a glass of wine.

I recommend this production. It was intense, but the outdoor staging was fun, and this is a great area to hang out in. Very lively, interesting shops and restaurants and lots of parking for free. Too bad it’s so far from home. Unfortunately, its last show is tonite, so see it if you can.

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