Two new restaurants to open at Civic Opera House - Lyric Opera of Chicago

Two new restaurants to open at Civic Opera House

Press Release Letterhead
For Immediate Release:
Thursday, August 13, 2009


Bon Appetit!!
This season at Lyric Opera of Chicago:
Two new restaurants to open at Civic Opera House –
Enjoy dinner and a show!

The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room
Florian Opera Bistro,
designed by the architects of Aumiller Youngquist P.C.,
will offer pre-performance dining
plus intermission and post-performance refreshments & light fare
prepared by Jewell Events Catering
exclusively for performance-date opera patrons


Lyric Opera of Chicago patrons will be able to enjoy “dinner and a show” under the same roof this season when two new dining facilities debut at the Civic Opera House in late September.

The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room and Florian Opera Bistro will open for business on Weds., Sept. 30, before that evening’s performance of Tosca. Lyric’s 2009-10 season runs through March 27. Both new dining areas will be open on performance days only, exclusively to ticketholders for that date’s performance. Diners will reach both restaurants through the main entrance to the Civic Opera House at the corner of Wacker Drive and Madison Street.

Bar service will be available in both new restaurants on Sat., Sept. 26, the opening night of Lyric’s 55th season, providing a “sneak preview” to that evening’s ticketholders.

The award-winning architectural and interior-design firm of Aumiller Youngquist, P.C. designed Lyric’s new restaurants. “Rich jewel-tone reds and luxurious golds create a gem-like quality in The Pedersen Room,” says architect William Aumiller. “Approaching the restaurant from the sidewalk, guests will see warm light gleaming from the windows, and will be captivated by the energy of the people inside socializing and dining. The space itself captures the essence of the opera house, including the famous fire-curtain design by Jules Guerin. Ornate oversized frames with elaborate details draw guests into the environment. Lush curved booths and an elaborate back bar are absolutely striking. The inviting atmosphere is one of elegant entertainment.”

Florian Opera Bistro, Aumiller continues, “is a veritable gallery of Lyric Opera highlights. The fantastic collection of historic and contemporary opera photographs from Lyric’s collection are seen against the elegant backdrop of the gently curved space, with its natural stone surfaces, draperies, and wall treatments all in richly muted tones. The spirit of Lyric Opera fills the room, thanks to these beautifully framed and artfully displayed images. A magnificent vintage costume in a mirrored case adds a special ‘Wow!’ factor as guests enter the restaurant. Colors in the fabrics and furnishings complement the historic palette found in the renowned auditorium space. Overall, the bistro has a warm and comfortable ambiance. The atmosphere is simple yet sophisticated, convivial, and inviting.”

Jewell Events Catering has created appealingly varied classic-contemporary menus for matinee and evening pre-opera dining and post-matinee dining, and for intermission and post-performance service of drinks, light savories, and desserts in both restaurants. Both restaurants will offer complete bar selections, including an assortment of wines and beers, as well as coffees, teas, and soft drinks. “We are proud to continue the tradition of the great opera houses in Europe by bringing exciting new dining options to Lyric patrons,” says George Jewell. “I’ve drawn from my European training to create menus that are classic, yet innovative, to create a gem of an evening or afternoon for guests. Each menu will feature the finest seasonal ingredients and adapt to a full meal or lighter fare. We’re sure opera lovers will appreciate the beauty and ease of these new dining rooms.”

“The Civic Opera House is one of the most beautiful theaters on the continent,” says William Mason, Lyric’s general director. “While we have long offered in-house dining in the Graham Room for our donors of $7,500 and above, we haven’t had the opportunity to do likewise for the majority of our subscribers and general ticket-buying public – until now.

“When Lyric was able to purchase 6,800 square feet of additional space a year ago from Tishman Speyer Properties, co-owner of the Civic Opera Building, we felt it was important to create new dining facilities for the enjoyment and comfort of our patrons now and in the future,” Mason adds. “Thanks to the generosity of two members of our Board of Directors, Peer Pedersen and Sonia Florian, we were able to move ahead with this exciting project and open both new restaurants at the start of Lyric’s 55th season – and the 80th anniversary of the Civic Opera House.”

Peer Pedersen, an esteemed member of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Board of Directors since 1996, made a generous and deeply appreciated gift to Lyric last fall in memory of his late wife Sarah, which is being recognized by naming the new ground-floor restaurant The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room.

Sonia Florian, a longtime production sponsor and valued Executive Committee member who joined Lyric’s Board of Directors in 2002, recently made a generous contribution to Lyric Opera that is being recognized by naming the new third-floor restaurant Florian Opera Bistro.

THE SARAH AND PEER PEDERSEN ROOM faces Wacker Drive at street level in an area that formerly housed a bank. The new restaurant’s décor echoes the Art Deco motifs of the Civic Opera House, including details from the famous fire curtain designed by Jules Guerin. “It’s a beautiful space that embodies elements of the opera-house interior,” says Lyric’s facilities director Rich Regan, who is in charge of both restaurants’ construction and operation.

The Pedersen Room’s $28 prix-fixe menu offers a distinctively elegant and appealing presentation of three savory courses (four choices for each) and a green salad, which will be served on a large rectangular “charger” plate with four square nesting plates. Diners will also share baskets of assorted breads and crudités (raw vegetables) with accompanying spreads before dinner; and a selection of desserts after. All beverages & gratuities are additional. 

A sample menu prepared by Jewell Events Catering for The Pedersen Room lists Tasty Beginnings (trio of beet, pickled onion, and orange with balsamic dressing; or prosciutto and melon with cracked pepper dressing; or asparagus soup with crème fraiche and snipped chive; or Asian mélange of shrimp, seaweed, and cucumber), Elegant Starters (Mediterranean salad of yellow and red tomato, cucumber, and feta cheese; or asparagus on succotash with capers and anchovy dressing; or poached pear with leek, cabbage, and white balsamic vinaigrette; or black and red rice salad with roasted squash, toasted walnuts, and caramelized onions), Savory Entrées (hoisin-glazed salmon with Asian rice noodles; or petite breast of chicken filled with fontina, spinach and pine nuts, served with polenta crescents and a Champagne sauce; or sliced bistro steak with chive mashed potatoes with Cabernet sauce; or grilled polenta triangles with a mélange of sautéed poblano peppers, tomato, and wild mushrooms), and Sweet Endings (chef’s selection may include elegant cookies, mousse, and seasonal fruit).

The Pedersen Room will have two seatings before the 7:30 p.m. evening performances. First seatings will begin at 5:00 p.m. for operagoers attending the free pre-opera lectures. Second seatings will commence at 6:00 p.m. for operagoers not attending the lectures.

The Pedersen Room will also have two seatings on matinee performance dates. First seatings will begin at 12:30 p.m., and second seatings will commence following matinee performances.

Pre-opera dining and matinee post-performance dining in The Pedersen Room is by reservation only. Reservations for subscribers will be accepted beginning Sept. 1. Reservations for non-subscriber ticketholders will be accepted beginning Sept. 28. Up to72 diners may be accommodated at a time.

A video monitor on the north wall of The Pedersen Room will accommodate opera ticketholders who miss the 7:30 p.m. or 2 p.m. curtain times.

FLORIAN OPERA BISTRO occupies the east end of the Dress Circle level on the third floor of the Civic Opera House. The European-inspired atmosphere is casual-chic, with a dazzling array of 80 photographs from Lyric’s storied past and exciting present adorning the walls, and a historic costume on view in a mirrored display case. “It’s going to be a place for opera lovers, and a real feast for the eyes,” says Regan.

The à la carte menu in Florian Opera Bistro features a generous array of gourmet choices, all reasonably priced. Main menu items start around $7; the average price for a meal will be around $14, not including beverage and gratuity. A sample menu by Jewell Events Catering offers entrée-portioned soups (asparagus and watercress; or country chicken-noodle) served with freshly mixed greens with Dijon-balsamic vinaigrette, as well as a smaller à la carte portion; open-faced sandwiches (turkey with pickle, asparagus, and cherry tomato; smoked salmon with celery root and cranberries; or grilled vegetable napoleon with feta cheese on spinach leaves) served with freshly mixed greens with Dijon-balsamic vinaigrette; classic modern sandwiches (turkey pastrami on farmhouse roll with harvarti cheese, crisp romaine, roma tomato, Dijon mustard; caprese on pretzel roll – fresh mozzarella, roma tomato, crisp romaine, and basil pesto;  or tavern ham on croissant with brie cheese, roma tomato, crisp romaine, and Dijon mustard) served with freshly mixed greens with Dijon-balsamic vinaigrette; savory entrée salads (Oriental smoked chicken salad with mixed greens, julienne carrots, bean sprouts, pea pods, lychees, crispy won ton strips, and sesame dressing; or duck breast salad with mixed greens, orange segments, dried pears, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and cranberry vinaigrette); savory tarts (sausage, yellow & red cherry tomato tart served with carrot batons, pea pods, and a mixed green salad; or vegetable provençal tart – asparagus, red and green peppers, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and olive tapenade, served with a sweet corn relish and mixed green salad); and finale, a selection of desserts (macaroons, chocolate fudge brownie, lemon finger with white chocolate icing, fresh fruit plate, or wedge of brie with water crackers).

On evening performance dates, doors will open at 5:00 p.m. at Florian Opera Bistro and seating will be first come, first served.  For matinee performances, doors will open at 12:30 p.m. The full bistro menu will also be served following matinee performances. Up to 136 diners may be accommodated at a time.

During all intermissions and for an hour following evening performances, both The Pedersen Room and Florian Opera Bistro will be open on a first-come, first-served basis. Both will serve a selection of light savories and sweets, along with a full array of beverages.

The Pedersen Room and Florian Opera Bistro will be open only to Lyric patrons who hold tickets for that day’s performance.


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