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The view down through the atrium at the Eccles Theater into the Encore Bistro

Thanks to trends ranging from the farm-to-table movement to gluten-free, rare is the restaurant menu that remains the same year-round. But what about a menu designed to complement and even deepen an artistic experience? That's exactly what diners can expect at the Eccles Theater's Encore Bistro, operated by Cuisine Unlimited.

Each dinner menu at Encore is created to capture some aspect of the Broadway play or musical being presented at the theater on the same evening. For example, when Beautiful: The Carole King Musical played at the Eccles, a salmon and corn chowder and kitchen clam bake where among the menu options, chosen to reflect Carole King's East Coast heritage. When Morrissey, a dedicated vegan, played the theater, the Encore's menu went vegetarian. "That was actually more of a requirement than a choice. [Morrissey] will not meat to allow any venue were he plays," says Derek Deitsch, marketing director for Cuisine Unlimited. A few of the items planned for Encore's menu when the long-awaited Lion King comes to the Eccles in March appropriately include North African flat iron steak with yellow rice and roasted Moroccan carrots and Malva pudding, a traditional African dessert with a hint of apricots. 

What's even better about the Broadway-inspired pre-show dinner menus at Encore is the price. Dinner there prior to the Carole King musical featured a choice of soup or salad, one of three dinner entrees (usually a beef, a fish, and vegetarian option), and dessert for just $23.75, tax included. "We plan to keep all the pre-show menus between $20 and $30 per person," Deitsch says. You can also get a glass of wine, cocktail, or beer with dinner at Encore, which opens on performance nights two hours before the performance (typically 5:30 p.m.). Encore is also open for brunch prior to matinee performances. The only downside is that they do not take reservations. With just 40 seats, if you don't arrive right at 5:30, getting a table and dinner prior to the show can be a little tricky.

And though the Encore Bistro is open for dinner on Broadway show performance nights only, it's also open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch. I popped in for lunch on a recent visit to downtown Salt Lake City and ordered the luscious grilled cheese sandwich below. 

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The Encore Bistro's Grown-Up Grilled Cheese, made with three kinds of cheese, bacon, and fresh tomato on toasted country white bread.

I'd fully intended to each just half but before I knew it, I'd eaten the entire thing! (So much for my post-Thanksgiving diet plan!) Afterward, I strolled around the bright and modern theater lobby which, with it's ample upholstered seating, is a inviting place to stop and check your email in between appointments while downtown. In the morning, in addition to the full espresso bar, Cuisine Unlimited operates a coffee cart in the lobby as well.

So sometime in the next several months when you make the well-worth-it trek down the mountain to see the Lion King, Mamma Mia, or The Book of Mormon at the Eccles Theater, you should make things deliciously easy by planning to dine beforehand at the Encore Bistro. You'll be glad you did.    

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