By Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor Published Feb 27, 2012 at 9:03 AM

We have big theaters and little theaters, fancy theaters and storefront theaters in Milwaukee. We don't have a regularly producing dinner theater.

However, that doesn't mean you can't get dinner with your theater, under the same roof, in Brew City. Two of our largest live stage venues, the Milwaukee Rep's Baker Theater Complex and the Skylight Music Theatre's Broadway Theatre Center, will feed you a meal before a show, snacks at intermission and a sandwich, pizza or dessert after the curtain call. They will also keep you well lubricated with soft and hard drinks, of course.

Both locations are seeing changes in the new year, with the Skylight Bar and Bistro on the second floor of the Broadway Theatre Center experiencing the biggest. Indulge, the sleek Milwaukee Street wine bar that serves artisan cheeses, pork and poultry charcuterie, and fine chocolates, took over food and beverage operations in January. Kafevino, which was located around the corner from the Broadway Theatre Center on Menomonee Street, was providing service before it closed late last year.

Indulge is part of the Bianchini Experience, the hospitality group that also owns COA, Cubanitas and the currently homeless Osteria Del Mondo, and company co-owner Marta Bianchini is a member of the Skylight's board of directors. She stepped forward to fill the void when Kafevino was no longer able to supply the Skylight.

"I look at it as more of a promotional opportunity for us," Bianchini recently said, noting that the theater bar and bistro is not a big profit producer. "It also allows us to give back to the Skylight."

Indulge at the Skylight's menu offers more food options than its Milwaukee Street location. Full entrees, including the Osteria's popular spinach lasagna ($11), are served before curtain time when there is a show in the Cabot Theatre, the Broadway Theatre Center's larger performance space.

Soups include butternut squash and mushroom brie (both $5), and a Cobb salad is on the menu at $9. Another Osteria Del Mondo classic, beef carpaccio, is offered for $11.50, and two cheese and charcuterie plates from Indulge are priced at $10.

Several sandwiches, including Nueske's duck breast with swiss cheese and a side of apple chutney ($8), are available. You can also order a garden salad ($4.50), chocolate trifle opera cake ($5), vanilla bean cheesecake with raspberry coulis ($5), a red velvet cupcake ($2), chocolate truffles ($2.25), and such snack items as chips, nuts, and hummus and pretzels.

A full bar emphasizes wine by the glass ($5-$9) and the bottle ($20-$136). The wine is served in Riedel glasses, a new feature for the Skylight. A cappuccino machine has also been added to the bar.

Snacks and drinks are sold during intermission, and desserts are available during late night cabaret shows. On dates when only the Studio Theatre is booked, the menu shrinks, with sandwich wraps, snacks and desserts, as well as drinks, available in the lobby.

"We expect the experience to be just as high quality here as in our restaurants," Bianchini said. "We have a lot of catering experience." The Skylight bistro has a limited kitchen, and some of the food is prepared off premises.

Bianchini pledged that problems with previous operators at the bistro, including slow service and running out of food, would be eliminated.

Dinner reservations are not necessary, but theatergoers who make them at (414) 291-3773 or by emailing at will be assured wait staff service. Walk-up customers place their orders at the bar.

The Rep, which has always operated its own food and beverage service since the Baker Theater Complex opened in 1987, has a new chef. Steven Schnur comes to the company from the Broadlands Golf Club in North Prairie, and we can expect some menu tweaks at the Stackner Cabaret, where a wide range of pre-show dining options is offered.

We can be certain the new chef won't scuttle the sauteed scallops ($18.95), served with jasmine rice and sauteed vegetables. Longtime customers would revolt.

"Diners come in and don't even open the menu. They know they want to order the scallops before they sit down," veteran cabaret manager Kristen Olsen said during a recent chat.

The Stackner is also known for its onion haystack ($5.95) and entree-sized cashew chicken salad ($13.95). Other entrees include a 12-ounce rib-eye with caramelized mushrooms, fingerling potatoes and sauteed vegetables ($21.95), seafood pasta featuring spinach fettuccine ($15.25), and vegetarian teriyaki stir fry ($12.50).

Four sandwiches – a hamburger, veggie burger, grilled portabella and chicken breast – are priced from $10.95 to $14.25, and they come with the choice of a side, including french fries, sweet potato fries, fresh fruit, sauteed vegetables or a small salad.

Ticket holders to any Rep show are welcome to have dinner in the cabaret space before their opening curtain. Reservations are strongly recommended, and they can be made by calling the Rep's box office at (414) 224-9490. Drop-in customers are accommodated if possible.

The Rep is experimenting with an abbreviated late night Stackner menu that goes beyond desserts. A small white pizza ($10.75), spinach and artichoke dip ($9.25), and soup and salad are among the offerings.

The Stackner has a fully stocked bar with 13 wines served by the glass, half a dozen alcoholic coffee drinks, and a rotating lineup of specialty cocktails linked to the specific show on its stage.

In addition to the food and drink served in the cabaret, the Rep also operates bars with an expanded food menu in the lobbies of its Quadracci Powerhouse and Stiemke theaters. Gelato, turkey baguettes and a cheese, sausage and crackers platter have been added to the Powerhouse bar.

Drinks may be carried into the Rep's theaters if they are served in a spill-proof cup the company began offering this season.

Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor

Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.

During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.

Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.