Opera House Steak & Seafood
Classic fare and 1920s-era fun in Plainfield
While “opera” may evoke images of sopranos in velvet or tenors in tuxedos, Opera House Steak & Seafood has more of a flapper vibe, with an ambiance and music inspired by the gilded age of the 1920s.
Run by Mike and Casey Vaughn and housed on the second level of the recently renovated, circa-1899 Opera House building in the quaint downtown area, the main dining room features lofty ceilings, a glass skylight and large windows overlooking Lockport Street. A quieter side room features lush green walls, soft sconces, rich fabric window treatments and a hardwood floor. The Vaughns have paid keen attention to detail in the décor, from vintage instruments displayed on shelves, a coat stand topped with roaring 1920s-era hats, and stately black chairs that might be found in box seating at the opera. Even servers are clad in attire befitting the Gatsby era, some with vintage combs
in their hair and others with natty bow ties and vests.
If the ambiance — which includes retro songs piped over speakers and live piano music on Friday and Saturday evenings — makes Opera House Steak & Seafood hit the high notes, the food from Chef Nick Dispenza is just as ambitious. A basket of hot sliced bread comes with three kinds of butter including garlic-herb and, for those who like a bit of sweet with their savory, cinnamon. Bacon, sumptuous on its own, gets the luxe treatment in an appetizer of candied bacon (aka “pig candy”) made with bourbon brown sugar, pecans and an apricot chili sauce. Likewise, the pork belly poutine is lavish in its topping of house-made chips with smoked gouda cheese, scallions and a sunny-side up egg.
Other appetizers include classics like jumbo lump crab cakes and oysters Rockefeller, as well as fresh takes such as a roasted beet dish with shaved fennel, roasted figs, candied pecans, goat cheese, spring greens and an orange-grapefruit vinaigrette. The daily cream of onion soup and soup de jour — we tried the earthy cream of mushroom — are served in elegant tureens and are intense in flavor.
The star of the show, as the name of the restaurant attests, is the selection of steaks and chops. The menu delivers wet-aged porterhouse, bone-in and boneless Kansas City strip, bone-in and boneless rib-eye, tomahawk chops and filet mignon. House-made toppings and sauces, such as the brandy peppercorn demi, are a complement rather than an over-the-top distraction from the center-plate prime beef. Seafood lovers can choose from a flavor-laden seared halibut, the Loch Duart salmon, or the indulgent Alaskan King crab legs served with drawn butter and Canadian Lobster Tail.
The final act, dessert, doesn’t disappoint, with crème brulée or key lime pie served in a martini glass.
As guests enjoy a night out — and it does get busy on weekend evenings — the din of clinking glasses adds to the dining experience. There’s no Prohibition here, with cocktail, champagne and wine offerings that bring to mind a night out with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
15060 S. Illinois St., Plainfield
Pork belly poutine, seared halibut, steak, “lollipop” lamb chops
Starters: $9 to $16
Main: $32 to $46
Tue - Thur: 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Fri - Sat: 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Sun Brunch: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Live piano music on Fridays & Saturdays; Reservations.