With a large neon sign outside declaring its presence and a classic diner vibe inside, Artist's Cafe might seem a little out of place on trendy Michigan Avenue. But this family-owned and operated cafe found its niche in The Fine Arts Building and has been in business since 1961. Its roster of patrons includes nearby college students stopping in for coffee and a study break, South Loop professionals looking for a quick lunch, theater-goers grabbing an after-performance drink and celebrities dropping by to say hi (John Cusack, Jim Belushi and Lauren Hutton have all been spotted dining here).
A display case filled with a variety of goodies, including large cookies, slabs of cake, muffins and bottles of wine, greets you at the door. Have a seat at a counter stool or slide into one of the booths by the window framing Michigan Avenue and order up some traditional diner food and drinks. The cafe has a bevy of beverages to fill your cup and the coffee menu reads like an international map with Greek, Irish, Mexican, Sicilian and French brews among others. If you're looking for something a little stronger than coffee, the cafe also serves wine, beer and spirits.
Whether you drop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner, your plate will arrive at your table piled high with reasonably priced grub (most items on the menu will only set you back around $8). Start your day with an omelet, egg platter or pancakes. For lunch, order the daily lunch special, a hamburger or Pierre's tuna volcano, a croissant stuffed with tuna, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese. Have jumbo shrimp, ravioli or skirt steak served with onion rings for dinner, but no matter what you choose just make sure you save room for dessert. After all, you have to walk back by the display case o' goodies again on the way out.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Albrey Nuss