Ravinia revamps dining options with the help of Michelin-starred Levy Restaurants

By Stephen Raskauskas |

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A rendering of Ravinia's updated Dining Pavilion, which will be open to the public for the 2018 festival season

Anyone who has attended performances at the Ravinia Festival, the oldest outdoor music festival in North America, knows that live music sounds better with friends, family, and food. Every year, thousands of music lovers flock to the festival in Highland Park, Illinois, to hear their favorite artists en plain air while enjoying perfectly packed picnics. Since 2007, Ravinia’s Dining Pavilion has offered options for those who want to forgo packing their own provisions.

For the 2018 festival season, Ravinia is unveiling a newly designed Dining Pavilion run by award-winning Levy Restaurants, most famous for its Italian restaurant Spiagga, located on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The Spiagga complex, which also includes Café Spiaggia, received a 1 Michelin Star Rating from 2011 – 2017, was named Best Chef Midwest by the James Beard Awards, and called one of the 50 Best Restaurants in America by Business Inside. Joe Flamm, executive chef of Café Spiaggia, was the winner of Top Chef Season 15. Levy Restaurants now manages 14 restaurants across the United States, including dining facilities at the Lincoln Park Zoo and Walt Disney World Resort.

the Ravinia Market features pre-packed food and beverage, as well as hot food stations like Smokehouse 1904

At Ravinia, the first floor of the new dining complex will still provide grab-and-go options at the Ravinia Market. Along with pre-packed food and beverages, Ravinia Market will have five hot food stations including Pressed Paninis and Sides, Pizza Classico, and Sabrosa Taquería. 847 Burger, named after the North Shore’s area code, serves up sandwiches with 8.47 ounces of meat. Smokehouse 1904, named after the year Ravinia was established, has slow-cooked meats like smoked brisket, chicken, ribs, and drumsticks along with sides of coleslaw, baked beans, and jalapeño cornbread.

Lawn Bar, a new eatery located on floor of the pavilion, includes two bars – one inside, one outside – allowing festival-goers to pop in and pop out quickly. The menu presents traditional bar fare updated for contemporary tastes: chicken wings are prepared with a Vietnamese “pok pok” glaze; short ribs are served Korean-style with homemade kimchi; mussels from Maine are made with garlic, chipotle, and Mexican beer. Reservations are not accepted at Lawn Bar.

The interior of Law Bar at Ravinia, designed by Mark Knauer of Knauer Incorporated

The second floor of the pavilion hosts two dining spaces, including the existing Park View, which features an updated menu despite fewer physical changes to the space than other areas of the pavilion. (One area, previously open-air, has now been covered, however.) The seasonal menu at Park View has starters, salads, main dishes, and desserts for those who are looking for a leisurely multi-course meal.

Tree Top, also located on the second floor, offers self-service chef’s tables and carving stations, which guests can visit an unlimited number of times. Stations are divided into courses, which include appetizers and desserts as well as main dishes and sides, that will change seasonally and, occasionally, with the music of the day. As the name implies, diners will be treated to tree-top views of Ravinia’s 36-acre park, as well as all-you-can eat people watching.

Ravinia's Tree Top allow guests to serve themselves in a casual atmosphere overlooking Ravinia's 36 acres of park space

The redesign of the pavilion was overseen by architect Michael Barnes of Wight and Company who also designed the original pavilion along with architect Dirk Lohan. The interior restaurant spaces were designed by Mark Knauer of Chicago’s Knauer Incorporated. A new, expanded gift shop was designed by Dave Franke of Agoos Lovera. Construction began shortly after the end of the 2017 festival season. You can see some of the early stages of construction in a video that Ravinia shared to its Facebook page.

Find more information about Ravinia’s new dining pavilion, including sample menu items, by visiting ravinia.org/dining.