Some of tonight's most promising events, paired with restaurants recommended by our critics.
Show: Axemen "If in the world of classic New Zealand underground rock the Chills' earnest pop represents the north pole and the Dead C's corrosive noise is the south, then the Axemen are the molten center of the earth—their shambling, stylistically promiscuous, and occasionally tuneful postpunk is like a bad case of planetary heartburn," writes Bill Meyer.
9:30 PM, Rueben's Palace, 1620 N. Fairfield, rear building, $7 donation requested. (The Axemen also play a free in-store at Permanent Records, 1914 W. Chicago, at 6pm.)
Dinner Borinquen, the "Home of the Jibaro," stakes its reputation on a dish its owner claims to have invented: the jibarito ("little hillbilly"), a garlicky sandwich with your choice of meat layered between two deep-fried slices of flattened green plantain. It's a greasy, unwieldy mess of a sandwich, but man, does it work.
1720 N. California, 773-227-6038
Show: Red Cliff Released in China as two movies but edited down to a single feature for U.S. release, John Woo's historical drama takes place early in the third century, when the Han Dynasty, having won a civil war in the north, set out to crush two troublemaking warlords in the south. The battle scenes are everything one might expect: the ringing of engraved blades, blood spray in the open air, swordsmen on horseback wading into foot soldiers as if they were threshing wheat.
Landmark's Century Centre, 2828 N. Clark, 773-509-4949, 5pm, 8:30pm
Dinner: Chilam Balam, one of the Best New Restaurants of 2009. Twenty-three-year-old Chuy Valencia is only the latest—and possibly the youngest—graduate of the School of Bayless to come out of the Frontera/Topolobampo kitchens and stake his own claim. After a pit stop as chef de cuisine at Adobo Grill, in late August he opened Chilam Balam, a cramped but not claustrophobic subterranean spot offering a small-plates menu along with a list of monthly seasonal specials.
3023 N. Broadway, 773-296-6901, chilambalamchicago.com.
Show: Sing-a-Long Sound of Music You know you want to.
Music Box, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604, 7pm.
Dinner: Julius Meinl Cafe A classy place for those of moderate means, this is the first American outpost for Viennese coffee purveyor Julius Meinl. The coffee is made from beans roasted in Austria; strong but not acidic, it's superb. The menu's tasty cafe fare: sandwiches (including one with European-style sausage, caramelized onions, apple-horseradish sauce, and Dijon mustard on a French roll), custardy quiches, salads, and a couple of soups.
3601 N. Southport, (773) 868-1857.
Show: G.I.F.T. Director Sam Porretta and his adventurous design team have transformed a massive industrial space into a chimerical wonderland where cultishly cheerful people in bolero costumes scan audience members' brains for memories, pack the memories into a shiny red box, and enact chirpy rituals purportedly exploring the nature of gift giving.
warehouse compound, 459 N. Wolcott, 312-226-9633, $15 suggested donation.
Dinner: Coalfire As pizza goes, it's pretty great. The thin, blistered crust is sooty and crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy toward the center of the pan, with a dense, toasty flavor. The sauce, applied sparingly, is fresh and slightly sweet; toppings include buttery prosciutto, hot Calabrese salami with fennel, and a terrific spicy Italian sausage.
1321 W. Grand, 312- 226-2625.
Show: Fat Bitch! As an overweight black woman, comedian Erica Watson knows her assigned role, both onstage and off: sassy neo-mammy, catering to everyone else's needs while denying her own. In this ferociously intelligent one-person show, Watson deconstructs and obliterates the stereotype that's imprisoned her throughout her adult life by transforming herself into Supermammy and flying from one appalling memory to the next.
Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green, 312-733-6000, $10-$15.
Dinner The Dining Room at Kendall College is one of the best fine-dining deals in town. A teaching restaurant for advanced students in the school's culinary and hospitality programs, the Dining Room offers a changing seasonal menu evenly between "surf" and "turf" preparations, with a few veggie options thrown in for good measure.
900 N. Branch, 312-752-2328.