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What's a way to (usually) get a sub-par restaurant meal? Choose a restaurant that serves more than 100 people at a time in an area swarming with folks who need to fuel up quickly, like Chicago's theater district. Then look for a place that's plastered with T.V. sets, not just in the bar area but throughout, and not playing sports, but beaming images from Instagram with reviews of its own food. Do so and you'd get The Dearborn.

But astonishingly, The Dearborn bucks the odds. It would get a nightly crowd of theatergoers even if it wasn't good, yet the kitchen hasn't lost its ambition, nor is it swamped by the huge number of diners who pour in nightly between 6 and 8pm. The food is sophisticated and toothsome, whether you go fancy with the scrumptious chicken roulade (rolled chicken with hen-of-the-wood mushrooms and a lovely sage- and lemon-infused jus) or dine on classic tavern fare—like juicy pasture-raised burgers or perfectly crisped fish and chips. Service is genial and efficient, and even with so many people, and the constant flashing of those televisions, the rooms are high-ceilinged enough, and the leather booths cushy enough, to absorb the noise and make the place feel lively rather than frenetic. An excellent choice for a pre- or post-show meal.