Pretheater Dinner, Minus The Fiscal Drama


It’s Music Circus time again, fostering those midsummer night dreams of dinner and a show. But with tickets around $50 a pop, an evening for two could easily cost $175 when you factor in the food. And let’s not even think about how fast it would multiply on family night.

Sure, you could do a quick stir-fry at home and save a bundle. But for those who think dining out is part of what makes an evening at the theatah complete&emdash;and frankly, my dear, most of us do&emdash;The Dollar-Wise Gourmet took it upon herself to explore options for the Music Circus crowd. (Tough job, I know.)

I don’t know about you, but for me this brings up one of the great nonnegotiables of life: On theater night, I refuse to park twice. This means I’ll eat only in restaurants from which I can quickly bolt to the theater on foot. Whether this is a leftover from my New York years is strictly beside the point. I just don’t see the sense in dining on the other side of town, checking my watch every five minutes to stay on schedule, then jumping in the car and racing down to 15th and H, heart pounding with panic that I won’t find a parking space before the curtain rises (or before I get a speeding ticket, whichever comes first).
I think you get my drift.

So I drew a circle with a five-block radius around the Wells Fargo Pavilion, located three restaurants that looked potentially Dollar-Wise-worthy and gave them a try. The envelope, please . . .

There are two pieces of happy news from Zen Sushi (900 15th St.): One, they serve more than sushi, and two, even a couple with legendarily large appetites (that would be me and The Boyfriend) can split a dinner and not lunge for the ice cream an hour later. We were wowed by the food, from the grilled asparagus appetizer ($4.75) to the beef teriyaki dinner ($14.95), which included miso soup, a surprisingly large green salad and a generous platter of tender sliced beef, plus rice. For only $25 (including tip), this was a steal.

Brew It Up! (801 14th St.) not only has location, location, location on its side&emdash;it’s catty-corner from the Pavilion&emdash;but if you order an entre, you’ll also get an unusual freebie: hot, fluffy pretzels with a zippy mustard dip. While the menu prices aren’t exactly bargain-basement&emdash;a basic burger, for example, starts at $9.95&emdash;a party of two can easily eat well and escape for less than $35, as my friend and I did. Between my roasted-vegetable salad ($9.99 and yummy), her California burger (tasty) and fries ($11.79) and two beverages, including a Nordendorf draft ($3.50), the grand total was $34, including tip.

Because most of its entrees hover around the $16 mark, the charming Michelangelo’s Italian Art Restaurant (1723 I St.) seemed, at first, a crapshoot. But here’s what you do: Eat the free fresh bread, split the magnificent mixed-greens salad (huge and only $5), share one of the lower-priced pastas (Donna and I had a fettuccine-and-chicken special for $13) and call it a night. We spent only $29 (including tip)&emdash;and even managed to squeeze in a couple of club sodas. Now that’s living large.