If you’re heading to the Sunderland Empire, here’s some of the best places in the city for pre-theatre dining that are all a stone’s throw away from the venue, or a couple of minutes walk. Places fill up fast, however, so it’s best to book ahead where possible.
1. The Engine Room bistro at The Fire Station
Just next door to the Empire, the Engine Room Bistro is one of the largest places to grab a bite to eat before a theatre show - as well as for shows at its on-site auditorium. Housed in the 1908 former central fire station, it's full of Edwardian character. Since it reopened post-pandemic, the menu has been improved and there's some real classics on there, such as panackelty, slow cooked ham shank and fish finger sandwiches. There's also a great range of local ales, such as Maxim and Vaux. It's open seven days a week for lunches and dinners. Note: There's a temporary closure from February 27 as the kitchen undergoes a refurbishment, so check its website before visiting - sunderlandculture.org.uk
Photo: JPI Media
2. Mexico 70, High Street West
For tacos and tequila, you can't get much better than at Mexico 70. Tuck into a range of fusion tacos, loaded fries and sides, with plenty of vegan options too. Make sure to order the gloriously-chunky guacamole! It's open from 5pm during the week and from 1pm at weekends. Perfect for casual dining with an excellent play list to boot. This is one of the city's most-popular restaurant so it's best to book ahead on the online booking system on its social media channels. Reservations are available 30 days in advance for up to six people.
Photo: JPI media
3. Aperitif, High Street West
Situated next door to the box office, you can't get closer to the Empire than Aperitif, which is a firm favourite with Empire audiences, as well as cast and crew who can often be seen partying there after shows. The menu is vast with a broad range of Italian classics on offer at really fair prices. The cocktails are a must too, and they're much cheaper than the Empire bar. It gets very busy before curtain up, so make sure to book ahead.
Photo: Frank Reid
4. Wild Fire pizza at The Ship Isis, Silksworth Row
For some of the best pizzas in the city, if not the North East, try the Neapolitan delights on offer at Wild Fire pizza at the historic Ship Isis. Pizzas are served Wednesday and Thursday 5pm - 9pm, Friday 4pm-9pm, Saturday 2pm - 9pm and Sunday 1pm - 5pm. You can't book ahead so make sure you get there in plenty of time to bag a pizza - as once the dough's gone, it's gone! Make sure to try the JFC fried chicken too, which is ridiculously moreish.
Photo: Josh Wild