HIGHLAND PARK – With the goal of bringing the indoors out and the outdoors in, Ravinia will unveil a major rejuvenation of its Dining Pavilion, built in 2007. The new Dining Pavilion, run by Levy Restaurants (Spiaggia, River Roast, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap, and several stadiums), will open with the 2018 season.
Without increasing the building’s footprint, the rejuvenation has expanded both indoor and outdoor seating, made entrances more enticing and accessible, and brought more variety to menus. Started immediately after the close of the 2017 season, the entire project was completed in one off-season. New Executive Chef Michael Tsonton will oversee all the spaces.
“Ravinia is famous for offering a different concert most every night, and all the offerings of our new Dining Pavilion parallel that concept. It’s like opening five restaurants at once,” Tsonton said. “I cannot wait for the audience to see what we have in store for them. They can come back time and again and never have a duplicate experience. I’m especially excited to introduce micro-seasonal flavors to keep our menus evolving throughout the season.”
During Ravinia Festival President-CEO Welz Kauffman’s 16-year tenure, Ravinia has invested more than $30 million in improving infrastructure and making audience-pleasing updates that include the original 2007 Dining Pavilion, video screens flanking the Pavilion stage, the Grand Entrance and pedestrian underpass, mobility cart service on classical concert nights, the paving of the north and south parking lots, and the acquisition of major art works, including the new aquatic sculpture Chorus, installed two summers ago. The next development will be an “experience center,” designed by BRC, and connected to the Dining Pavilion by a second-story bridge, opening in 2019.
“Competition for the dollar spent on dining and entertainment is fierce, but competition for an audience’s time—especially that rarest of 21st century commodities, family time—is stratospheric,” Kauffman said. “Dining and socializing are such big parts of the Ravinia experience, so this growth is an investment in the future of Ravinia by meeting the needs and expectations of the steadfast audience while attracting new and diverse audiences.”
The rejuvenation was overseen by architect Michael Barnes of Wight and Company (Grand Hyatt Mumbai, College of DuPage Seaton Computing Center, Adler Planetarium Grainger Sky Theater), who designed the 2007 Dining Pavilion with architect Dirk Lohan. Mark Knauer of Chicago’s Knauer Incorporated (LUXBAR, Quartino, Gibson’s Steak House) designed the interior restaurant spaces. Dave Franke of Agoos Lovera (Philadelphia Museum of Art, Taliesin West, King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture) developed the expanded Festival Shop where the Ravinia Women’s Board will sell apparel, souvenirs, picnic gear, and gift items to support the REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs.
“Ravinia sought to build upon the success of the Dining Pavilion and update what it offers their patrons,” Barnes said. “As the architect of the original building, this provided me a unique opportunity and challenge. I believe that our collective response will be a cohesive design that harmonizes with the original architecture through its use of similar materials and form elements, as the original building harmonized with its setting. But the updated design will also complement the original by way of the more organically inspired column expression of the new terrace canopies and the more open and welcoming interior spaces.”
Changes will be immediately evident on the approach to the building, which will have a new open, wall-less feel. The first floor will be divided into three areas: the new Lawn Bar and patio, the Festival Shop, and Ravinia Market. These spaces will continue to serve customers through intermission on non-classical concert nights.
- LAWN BAR: The first floor introduces the new eatery Lawn Bar, which is expected to become the festival’s popular gathering place. Its two full-service bars—one indoors and one outdoors—will also serve small-plate appetizers and entrees, such as marlin fish tacos, battered chicken sliders, and well-dressed nachos. Designed to serve up favorite brands, signature drinks, and hot food quickly, it is the perfect place to meet up with friends at the start of the Ravinia evening. The Lawn Bar will always welcome walk-ups; no reservations taken.
- FESTIVAL SHOP: Adjacent to the Lawn Bar will be the Festival Shop, which nearly doubles the size of Ravinia’s previous gift shop. Run by the Ravinia Women’s Board, the Festival Shop will sell a wide variety of branded apparel, souvenirs, small gift items, jewelry, and picnic gear—with profits benefiting Ravinia’s REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs.
- RAVINIA MARKET: The majority of the first floor will be occupied by an expanded Ravinia Market, where guests can create an entire meal or supplement their picnics. In addition to pre-packed sandwiches, salads, snacks, and an array of cold beverages, the Market will feature five themed hot food stations:
- PRESSED PANINIS AND SIDES: Four different fresh-pressed paninis (including a vegetarian option) made with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients are served up with a rotating selection of draft beers. The side salads—such as caramelized curry cauliflower and summer vegetable orzo pasta—are served deli style and can easily be carried out to dress up picnics or double as entrées.
- 847 BURGER: Don’t expect the typical, floppy stadium burger. Borrowing from the North Shore’s area code, 8.47 ounces of Angus beef makes this burger a gourmet meal. The signature burger is topped with cheddar, BBQ sauce, and a fried pickle, but guests can also add slow-roasted brisket. The burgers are served with garlic Parmesan fries and a rotating selection of draft beer.
- PIZZA CLASSICO: A variety of toppings—including some themed, special surprises throughout the summer—are added to the freshly rolled dough then charcoal fired for a uniquely summery taste.
- SABROSA TAQUERIA: Chicken, beef, or pork tacos are supplemented by three different loaded-guacamole sides along with draft Mexican beer.
- SMOKEHOUSE 1904: Established in 1904, it took a long time for Ravinia to become what it is today, and it takes a long time to make authentic smoked brisket, chicken, ribs, and drumsticks. Slow cooked for more than 20 hours, the selection of meats are served with creamy coleslaw, baked beans and jalapeño cornbread
The second floor will be divided into two restaurant spaces, the current Park View and the new Tree Top and Porch. Both restaurants will offer covered outdoor seating so that guests can enjoy alfresco dining in the all-too-short summer without worrying as much about rain. Reservations are strongly recommended for both these restaurants, but walk-ups will be accepted when tables are available.
- TREE TOP: Ravinia has built out an underused banquet space into this fresh dining concept, where gourmet foods will be self-served from chef’s tables and carving stations. One price gets customers as many trips as they’d like to the various stations, which will not only be broken into courses but frequently themed to the music of the day. The chefs will focus on “micro-seasonal” presentations of fresh, locally sourced foods. Wines will be exquisitely matched to each course. Reservations can be made for the main dining room or the covered Porch.
- PARK VIEW: Ravinia’s popular restaurant, the perfect place for people-watching above Ravinia’s famous lawn, will remain largely unchanged physically, but its menu items will be freshened with micro-seasonal themes, and a new gourmet burger will be added to a lineup that already includes trout, short ribs, and various steaks. This is the place for luxuriating over a meal from appetizers, soups, and salads all the way through desserts, which include the signature Cappuccino Crunch Pie. There rejuvenation included covering the Park View’s alfresco Terrace dining space.
Ravinia will present more than 140 events in the 2018 season from June 1 though Sept. 16. For tickets and information, visit Ravinia.org.
Submitted by Ravinia Festival