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George's Lounge This dank hole is tempting in its near-perfect seediness, a place for people "who want to get drunk fast," as the irritable bartender in It's a Wonderful Life puts it. A powerful barnyard aroma permeates the dimness, weakly lit by a CD jukebox. Careworn but personable barkeeps pour stiff drinks from behind the bar, under which cases of beer and fifths are unceremoniously stacked and shelved. With Harold's Chicken Shack No. 62 conveniently located next door, it's the most fun you can have in a cat box. a11 AM-4 AM daily, 646 S. Wabash, 312-427-3964. —Mike Sula
Grace O'Malley's Named after a Celtic pirate queen, this upscale Irish pub and restaurant strives for authenticity, with bartenders with brogues, Guinness and Smithwick's on tap, and pub grub like bangers and mash, shepherd's pie, and corned beef and cabbage. One questionable exception: the Irish Nachos, topped with shredded corned beef and cheddar. aMon-Sat 11:30 AM-2 AM, Sun 9:30 AM-midnight, 1416 S. Michigan, 312-588-1800. —Bianca Jarvis
Kasey's Tavern The erstwhile charm of this old Printers Row neighborhood joint, currently in the midst of a radical remodeling, seems to have been sucked away by the solid line of flat-screen TVs now installed above the bar—slack-jawed patrons stare silently upward as if at a shuttle disaster. But the imported beer selection is good, you can order food from Hackney's, and the microwave popcorn is still free. aSat noon-3 AM, Sun-Fri 11 AM-2 AM, 701 S. Dearborn, 312-427-7992. —MS
Kitty O'Shea's In a city that's lousy with nostalgic Irish pub reproductions, the Hilton Chicago's entry is something of a monument to the form, featuring actual brogue-spitting staffers in Gaelic football jerseys; lots of wood, marble, brass, and memorabilia; and expensive industrial-hotel-kitchen renditions of the usual suspects: corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, lamb stew, etc. There's live music nightly and a popular $15 Saint Paddy's Day blowout, but even if you haven't been here before, you've been here before. a11 AM-2 AM daily, 720 S. Michigan, 312-294-6860. —MS
Kroll's South Loop Kroll's got its start in the 30s as a family-run burger stand in Green Bay, Wisconsin; this outpost found its way to Bears country a few generations later. The South Loop edition is a spacious, red-lit sports lounge with a sprawling bar, more than 25 TVs, ten beers on tap, and burgers and bar snacks like deep-fried cheese curds. aFri-Sat 11 AM-2 AM, Sun-Thu 11 AM-midnight, 1736 S. Michigan, 312-235-1400. —BJ
M Lounge Pass the doorman and you'll be greeted by candlelight and incense before being asked to check your coat. The swanky M Lounge is perhaps the only bar in the South Loop where the flat-screen TVs beam not sports but classic black-and-white films. The specialty here is top-shelf drinks like the M Classic martini, made with Belvedere vodka and garnished with "queen-sized olives"; teetotalers can opt for the M Bellini, peach nectar mixed with alcohol-free champagne. But good luck finding a place to sit on a busy night—this lounge is cozy and small, and more than a few tables were "reserved." There's live jazz on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. aFri 5 PM-2 AM, Sat 6 PM-2 AM, Tue-Thu 5 PM-midnight, 1520 S. Wabash, 312-447-0201. —BJ
Sam's Wine and Spirits The booze superstore's newest location, in the former Union Bus Depot building at Wabash and Roosevelt, has a 55-seat wine bar featuring a rotating selection of 15 to 20 pours by the glass and four or five beers. Cheese boards are available, but customers can also bring snacks over from the in-store fromagerie and uncork their own store-bought bottles. Last call is a half hour before closing. a Fri-Sat 11 AM-10 PM, Mon-Thu 11 AM-9 PM, Sun 11 AM-7 PM, 50 E. Roosevelt, 312-663-9463. —MS
Sky Ride Tap Named for the Otis Elevator exhibit at the 1933 Century of Progress Expo, this gem is tucked under the el tracks, technically north of our South Loop boundaries but meriting inclusion regardless. Extraordinary in its casual midcentury lack of pretension and approachability, it's a comfortable dim-lit relic of a long-gone Loop, haunted by decompressing CBOT traders and Metra commuters waiting for the next train home. There's a small selection of domestic beers and midshelf liquors and a menu of chili dogs, Polishes, and salami sandwiches. aMon-Fri 7 AM-midevening, 105 W. Van Buren, 312-939-3340. —MS
South Loop Club Membership in this club requires a superhuman tolerance for neon, booze industry advertising, and inhospitable overregulation (10 percent extra for separate checks of parties of three or more?!). The place combines the atmospheric charms of an Applebee's and a frat-house basement, and the surfeit of menus—distinct lists for Scotch, beer, vodka, tequila, etc)—can only have been designed to confuse and separate patrons from their powers of discernment, leading to ill-advised and costly choices such as the Slutty Bull or the Electric Lemonade. There's a similarly wide-ranging and bewildering bar-food menu, folded up like a piece of origami—studying it leads to the spins. aSat 11 AM-5 AM, Sun-Fri 11 AM-4 AM, 701 S. State, 312-427-2787. —MS
Tantrum Despite the name, this is a pleasantly laid-back, cozy cocktail lounge that's hip without being pretentious. The specialty here is martinis mixed by friendly bartenders; there's mellow hip-hop on the speakers, funky local art on display, comfy chairs and couches, and a low-key crowd of neighborhood folks and artsy types. The bar recently introduced free WiFi and a small food menu, making it an excellent place to work as well as socialize. aSat 5 PM-3 AM, Mon-Fri 5 PM-2AM, 1023 S. State, 312-939-9160. —BJ
Congress Lounge Built in 1893, the Congress Plaza Hotel was known as the "home of presidents" in its heyday, hosting guests like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. Those days are long gone, but the decor of the Congress Lounge reflects past glories, with marble floors, dusty fireplaces, medieval lighting fixtures, and big brown leather couches. Imbibing here is sort of like having a beer at grandpa's: it's quiet (the patrons are typically a handful of hotel guests) and endearingly stodgy. The food and drink offerings are what you'd expect from a hotel bar—bottled beers, cocktails, and overpriced buffalo wings. aOpen Sun noon, Mon-Fri 4 PM, Sat 2 PM, closing hours vary, 520 S. Michigan, 312-427-3800. —BJ
Villains Although the menus look as if they were designed by Vivienne Westwood circa 1977, this is a neighborhood bar for yuppies, not punks; look elsewhere if you're longing for sticky floors and bathroom graffiti. Villains offers ten beers on tap, martinis named after comic book baddies, and quirky bar munchies like buffalo calamari and deep-fried mac 'n' cheese. There are pool tables but no jukebox—80s new wave plays on the sound system, and local burlesque diva Michelle L'amour ("the ass that goes POW!") performs monthly. Among the interesting experiments in interior design are lamps fashioned from toy guns, Andy Warhol prints of Elvis along the length of the bar, and exposed brick standing cheek by jowl with baroque wallpaper and artfully textured walls. a Winter hours Sat 5 PM-3 AM, Mon-Fri 11 AM-2 AM, 649 S. Clark, 312-356-9992. —BJ
Wabash Tap Owned by the same people who run the Chicago Firehouse and Grace O'Malley's, Wabash Tap serves PBR in big, frosty pimp goblets, has delectably greasy snacks like tater tots and chili-cheese fries, and offers complimentary neon yellow popcorn (and free peanuts in the shell on Tuesdays). There's a selection of 12 domestic and imported beers on tap and a good mix of rock 'n' roll on the digital jukebox, but the bar's primary charm is that it's not trying to be anything other than what it is: a casual neighborhood place. The kitchen stays open till 1 AM. a Sat 11 AM-3 AM, Mon-Fri 10 AM-2 AM, Sun 11 AM-2 AM, 1233 S. Wabash, 312-360-9488. —BJ
Weather Mark The breezy nautical theme at this spacious, child-friendly barstaurant seems at odds with the South Loop's gritty history—it would do well to hire on a few pirates or a wisecracking parrot just to keep things anchored. There's a long menu of upscale bar food (e.g., venison and wild boar pigs in a blanket), a selection of mostly rum-running house cocktails (Almost Stormy, Three Sheets to the Wind), and 40 rums, along with a more limited beer and wine list. aSat-Sun 10:30 AM-2 AM, Mon-Fri 11:30-2 AM, 1503 S. Michigan, 312-588-0230. —MS
The dinner menu price of a typical entree is indicated by dollar signs on the following scale:
$ less than $10
$$$$$ more than $30
Bar Louie This chain of casually hip bar-restaurants, with its winning formula of premium drinks and cheap eats—creative salads, sandwiches, and tacos just greasy enough to count as bar food—is described by one Reader Restaurant Rater as "a nonchainlike version of a Bennigan's or T.G.I. Friday's." The South Loop Bar Louie has a back room for private parties; the kitchen stays open until an hour before closing. aLunch, dinner daily, Sat-Sun brunch, open till 2 AM (3 AM Sat), 47 W. Polk, 312-347-0000. $$
Blackie's This speakeasy-style bar, around since 1939, offers reasonably priced burgers, sandwiches, salads, pastas, and entrees, plus a few house specialties like clams casino, calamari in white wine sauce, and chili made from an old family recipe. Breakfast, served Friday through Sunday, is old-school: just a continental breakfast, three home-style combos, steak and eggs, and corned beef hash. There are a few outdoor tables for al fresco dining. Kitchen closes at 10 PM. aBreakfast Fri-Sun, lunch daily, dinner Mon-Sat, open till 2 AM, 755 S. Clark, 312-786-1161. $
Buddy Guy's Legends This club is better known for its blues programming than its Cajun/Creole kitchen, but Raters like the large portions and low prices. One Rater especially recommends the Creole string beans (made with tomatoes, garlic, and spices) and the garlic mashed potatoes. The menu covers all the standards, from po' boys to gumbo to jambalaya, and the kitchen stays open till midnight. aLunch and dinner daily, open till 2 AM (3 AM Sat), 754 S. Wabash, 312-427-1190. $$
Eppel's Eppel's is a decades-old constant in a neighborhood that's become a big-box mecca. You've seen the menu a thousand times: eggs, omelets, pancakes, burgers, club sandwiches, and meat-centric daily specials like beef short ribs. The place never stumbles, but it may not win any races either. Pancakes are light and fluffy but oversweet; meat loaf is bland. Chili has a bit of a kick but could use more, and the matzo ball soup's too-yellow hue screams "Food Service Provider." On the other hand, the corned beef sandwich is made in-house, well priced, and very good. aBreakfast, lunch daily, 554 W. Roosevelt, 312-922-2206. $ —Peter Tyksinski
Fornetto & Mei's Kitchen This eatery at the South Loop Best Western is akin to Foodlife at Water Tower. You get a "debit card" upon entry and then choose dishes at various food stations; beverage and dessert service is tableside. When you're finished you pay for your meal at a cashier's station, cafeteria style. The selection includes stir-fries, pastas, wood-oven pizzas, rotisserie chicken, and a massive gourmet salad bar. Asian specialties seem a safe bet: vegetable-and-pork dumplings were succulent without being greasy. But thin-crust pizza was subpar—a hearty smoked-cheese topper couldn't make up for the droopy, indifferent crust—and roasted chicken was flavorful but a bit dry. The wine selection is excellent if overpriced. aBreakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, 1108 S. Michigan, 312-294-2488. $$ —Rob Christopher
Hackney's Printer's Row The sole city location of the suburban family-owned chain has the feel of a neighborhood pub and is frequently packed with regulars. Founded in 1939, Hackney's is best known for retro-ish specialties, particularly the daunting french-fried onion brick and the Hackneyburger, served on either a bun or dark rye. Other offerings include a strawberry and spinach salad, chicken Waldorf salad, and tuna salad in tomato. That's not to say that Hackney's is behind the times: there's a California burger stuffed with chorizo and queso fresco, a turkey burger stuffed with spinach and feta, and several vegetarian options, among them black bean and veggie burgers and a hummus wrap with apples and carrots. aLunch, dinner daily, open till 11 PM Tue-Sat, 733 S. Dearborn, 312-461-1116. $
Harold's Chicken Shack #62Counterintuitively, some of the busiest shacks in the Harold's empire are among the worst, and this one is near the bottom of the pile, combining surly counter staff, grubby floors and tables, and big but soggy, gamy fried birds. It's one of the rare Harold's where you can eat in, but it lacks any of the charms found in many more superficially forbidding ones, so there's no good reason to. aLunch, dinner daily, 636 S. Wabash, Chicago, 312-362-0442. $ —Mike Sula
Howie's This South Loop storefront offers all-day breakfast and a large selection of sandwiches, from burgers, brats, and Italian beef to Philly cheese steak, barbecued pork chop, and Maryland crab cake. Nods to gentrification include a kids' menu and the option of ordering San Pellegrino, Fuze, or espresso; beer and wine are also available. aBreakfast, lunch daily, dinner Mon-Sat, 1310 S. Wabash, 312-461-0944. $
Lawrence's Fisheries In the shadow of a trestle bridge spanning the Chicago River, this family-run fried seafood emporium has been around since 1971, and its rickety steps show it. Inside there's a wealth of options: fried shrimp, scallops, frog legs, catfish, perch, cod, oyster, clam strips, popcorn shrimp, and something called "seafood nuggets," all served with your choice of house-made cocktail or hot sauce. All are available by the half-pound or pound or with fries, coleslaw, and a dinner roll. If you're not up for fried, there's boiled shrimp, several salads, and gumbo. a Open 24/7, 2120 S. Canal, 312-225-2113. $
Standing Room Only You may well have to stand at this popular semi-fast-food joint; it's full of sports memorabilia but not so much tables. Burgers are hand-packed daily and available on dark rye or a "deep pan bun," but the place is perhaps better known for its turkey burger—Mayor Daley's said to be a fan. SRO also brags on its chicken sandwich, available Cajun style or topped with barbecue sauce and mozzarella or cheddar, bacon, and garlic mayo. There are also salads and vegetarian items including falafel, a veggie burger, and "Euro Veggie Stuff," a whole-wheat pita stuffed with vegetables, feta, and Greek dressing. Standard fried starters and sides, Italian beef, and a Chicago char dog round out the menu; whole and half slabs of ribs are available after 4 PM. aLunch, dinner Mon-Sat, 610 S. Dearborn, 312-360-1776. $
Custom House Shawn McClain's third big splash (after Spring and Green Zebra) is his spin on the steak house. On an early visit tender veal cheeks with tomato-anchovy preserves were very good and baby beets with mascarpone explosively flavorful, though a black truffle risotto was salty enough to clear tarmac. A piece of marinated yellowtail was flopping-fresh and tasty, and a bone-in rib eye with a red-onion tarte tatin was the best thing on the table. On a second visit, cured sturgeon with julienned apples and pumpernickel toast was similar to the yellowtail and every bit as good, and a sea bass fillet was delicately cooked, with crispy skin. Once more, though, the best dish was beef, despite the kitchen's paternalistic habit of cutting up steaks and fanning them out like a duck breast. Custom House is a tranquil, open space conducive to business meals, prettily evoking a Zen garden with pebbles, twigs, and rocks. a Breakfast Mon-Sat, lunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily, 500 S. Dearborn, 312-523-0200. $$$$ —MS
The Chicago Firehouse This sprawling three-story restaurant in a 1905 firehouse retains some of the building's original character with fire poles, tin ceiling, and firebrick walls. Huge semicircular, brass-studded red leather booths line the perimeter of the bar's dining area, while the carpeted main dining room is outfitted with candelabra and fabric-lined walls that give it the feel of a suburban country club. Dishes tend to be hearty—starters include seared sirloin, French onion soup, and prosciutto rolled with cream cheese and asparagus. Main courses take their cue from home cooking—pot roast, panfried rainbow trout, barbecued pork chops with whipped sweet potatoes. a Lunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily, 1401 S. Michigan, 312-786-1401. $$$ —Laura Levy Shatkin
Exposure Tapas Supper Club Round about 10 PM on a Friday, this restaurant and club became my idea of a bad time, but the experience was more enjoyable before the white-tablecloth dining room got crowded and noisy. As the name suggests, the changing menu focuses on small plates, though there are also a few entrees available. Charred beef tenderloin carpaccio paired with fennel, roasted pepper, and orange salad was a standout. Winning warm choices included bacon-wrapped dates with a spicy red pepper sauce and au gratin potatoes with Gorgonzola. Black-bottom creme brulee solved an age-old dessert-lover's dilemma by bringing together an incredibly fudgy brownie and a silky custard with a crackly caramelized-sugar crust. aDinner Sun, Tues-Sat, open till 2 AM (3 AM Sat), 1315 S. Wabash, 312-662-1082. $$$ —Anne Spiselman
Room 21 Jerry Kleiner (Red Light, Marché, Opera, etc) knows how to razzle-dazzle 'em. In this case, the backstory—printed on the menu—involves a Prohibition-era warehouse owned by Al Capone, Eliot Ness's first bust, and an escape passage ending in a door labeled "Room 21." Kleiner's renovation of the space channels a bordello: velvet drapes, alligator-pattern banquettes, clusters of hanging lamp shades, huge potted palms, and an eye-popping color scheme of pinks, greens, reds, and black and white. As for the food, my meal was mixed. Mildly seasoned tuna tartare let the flavor of the silky cubed fish shine, but crab cakes tasted mostly of rice. Entrees arrived lukewarm, but the steak Diane (no longer on the menu, unfortunately) was perfectly cooked, coated with subtle cognac sauce, and served with a mountain of crisp salted fries. aDinner daily, open till 11 PM Fri-Sat, 2100 S. Wabash, Chicago, 312-328-1198. $$$$ —AS
Amarit Last year this longtime River North Thai restaurant from the owners of the Star of Siam relocated to more comfortable quarters in the South Loop. In addition to Thai standards from mee krob to tom kah kai to lard nar, the menu here ventures into pan-Asian fare, offering fried calamari and soft-shell crab, tempura udon, unagi on rice, teriyaki salmon, and even a couple Chinese dishes like orange chicken and Mongolian beef. Raters say nothing's going to knock your socks off, but prices are reasonable, service is friendly, there's delivery, and even though there's a full bar, you can still BYOB. aLunch, dinner daily, open till 11 PM Fri- Sat, 600 S. Dearborn, 312-939-1179. $$
Hong Kong Delight This neighborhood Chinese place geared primarily toward takeout and delivery offers standard Chinese-American at dirt-cheap prices. There are a number of combo meals, lunch specials, and family-style dinners and "party trays" featuring dishes such as orange chicken, Mongolian beef, kung pao and Szechuan preparations, and lo mein, plus the obligatory egg rolls, crab Rangoon, and fried rice. BYO; delivery. aLunch, dinner daily, 1238 S. Canal, 312-491-8318. $
Opera The stylized Asian food at chef Paul Wildermuth's swank spot in the South Loop is part whimsical, part serious, and mostly enjoyable. Shumai are stuffed with pork and lobster and served with roast chile pesto and scallion-ginger sauce; crispy prawns have an almond crust and come in a sweet-and-sour blood orange sauce. Dishes that are more true to form but just as nice include Szechuan dry-cooked green beans with ground pork and preserved vegetables, a stir-fry of sugar snap peas and mushrooms, and a deconstructed Peking duck. There's also an entire menu devoted to vegans. aLunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily, open till midnight Fri-Sat, 1301 S. Wabash, 312-461-0161. $$$$ —LLS
Oysy Designed by local architect Douglas Garofalo, this minimalist South Loop izagaya (Japanese bistro) has two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. Behind the long sushi bar, chefs in black baseball caps cut fish, roll maki, and greet customers. The menu at Oysy (pronounced oh-EE-she and meaning "delicious") is distinctly value conscious, with most nigiri priced under $6 for two pieces and most maki under $7. Ten grilled dishes come in at $10 and under, among them toro steak with ponzu sauce and spicy radish, Chilean sea bass in garlic-black bean sauce, teriyaki eel, and octopus with miso sauce. Tempura options include soft-shell crab and baby squid and come with homemade soy, sesame, or garlic sauce. At lunch the bento boxes are a good deal; a choice of entree—like perfectly grilled white tuna with a yuzu vinaigrette—comes with several pieces of maki and tiny portions of tofu salad, orange tempura shrimp, and Japanese pickles, all for $12. aLunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily, open till 11 PM Fri-Sat, 888 S. Michigan, 312-922-1127. $$ —LLS
South Coast Teeming with attractive South Loopers, South Coast's sleek space is outfitted with chandeliers resembling the tentacles of aquatic creatures, swaying to club music cranked to 11. As at Coast, its north-side sibling, the focus is on stylish "new Japanese" cuisine, but more staid sushi specials—fatty salmon, hamachi, and uni—were spanking fresh and bright. There's a lot of seafood dressed with mango and zesty jalapeno, rolled in a wide range of attractive maki, tempura fried, and drizzled with sauce. Bring wine or beer to sweeten your bill significantly; for a $5 corkage, expect fresh glasses with every new bottle and servers who uncork and pour your beverage, which should be (but isn't) SOP for all BYOBs. aLunch Sat-Sun, dinner daily, 1700 S. Michigan, 312-662-1700. $$ —David Hammond
Tamarind It's hard not to be dubious when a restaurant menu cuts as broad a culinary swath as Tamarind's—the multipage document covers an exhausting range of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes. But for the most part this "eclectic Asian" place in the South Loop acquits itself well. The ahi-poki tuna was a tasty scoop of diced raw fish mixed with avocado and scallions, topped with a dollop of masago and served in a martini glass on a festive tangle of radish. A "carpaccio trio" of yellowtail, salmon, and superwhite tuna was lightly dressed in a sweet ponzu sauce that didn't overpower the fish. Entrees were similarly well constructed: rich slices of panfried Tamarind duck were wrapped in slabs of duck fat and accompanied by crisp snow peas and veggies; grilled pork with vermicelli was tender and tangy and served with a delicately spiced pork spring roll. Wash it all down with a couple of "fruitinis," and the stress of that overwhelming menu washes away as well. aLunch and dinner daily, open till 11 PM, 614 S. Wabash, 312-379-0970. $$ —Martha Bayne
Triad Sushi Lounge Triad Sushi Lounge is low-lit and lurid, with bamboo curtains and a VIP room for an extra 50 bucks. The menu is large if on the pricey side, with items appealing to all but the most militant vegan. We started with a savory mound of shiitake, oyster, and button mushrooms sauteed in sake and garlic. Gomae, spinach in sesame sauce, was less successful, but grilled Chilean sea bass was sumptuous, and slightly browned Asari tuna, pepper-crusted and served with wasabi mayo, was good if standard. Every piece on the chef's-choice sushi-sashimi platter was fresh and flavorful, and there's lots of maki here, including a tasty roll with tempura crunch inside and many mayo squiggles outside. To drink there are premium sakes by the glass or carafe, among them Komekome, an excellent sake starter, and Hakushika, brewed in the American Rockies. a Dinner daily, open till 11 PM Fri-Sat, 1933 S. Indiana, 312-225-8833. $$$ —DH
Bongo Room The South Loop outpost of Bongo Room shares the exposed brick, grass-colored walls, and stainless-steel accents of its sister on Milwaukee. The food's the same at both places too—a good thing when that means delicious variations on brunch classics. The menu is anchored by omelets, with 25 options for ingredients including Havarti, smoked Gouda, and ten other cheeses. There are several over-the-top twists on syrup standards, like the house specialty "Chocolate Tower" French toast (available only on weekends), served with maple mascarpone, banana creme brulee sauce, banana slices, and shaved chocolate. The weekend brunch menu expands the egg entries with five variations on eggs Benedict. a Breakfast daily, lunch Mon-Fri, brunch Sat-Sun, 1152 S. Wabash, 312-291-0100. $$ —Ryan Hubbard
Orange The menu at the South Loop location of this orange-themed eatery follows the pattern set at the one on North Clark Street, with clever and tasty options for breakfast and lunch: jelly-doughnut pancakes, skewers of coconut-flavored French toast with strawberries and pineapple, and omelets stuffed with forest mushrooms and roasted garlic or figs, leeks, and bacon. Simple lunch items get flavorful twists; for example, the grilled cheese is cheddar with caramelized onions and roasted tomatoes. You can create your own juice drinks by choosing from an initial list—orange, apple, cucumber, carrot, etc—and adding tropical fruits like mango and papaya for an additional buck apiece. The kids' menu features tiny pancakes, fluffernutter sandwiches, and other classics for the tricycle set. BYO. a Breakfast and lunch daily, 75 W. Harrison, 312-447-1000. $$ —LLS
Yolk Perhaps self-evidently, the specialty at this sunny South Loop breakfast-and-lunch spot is eggs, offered in several different Benedict styles (for example, there's an Irish Benny topped with corned beef hash) as well as in omelets and frittatas or served just plain old sunny-side up. I opted for a "West Coast" crepe filled with scrambled eggs, avocado, mushrooms, and cheese, and though it said sweet crepe right there on the menu, I still found it odd with all the other savory flavors. The classic eggs Benedict was very good, though. In addition to egg dishes, Yolk's menu features a variety of pancakes, waffles, and French toast, as well as sandwiches and salads for the lunch crowd. BYO. aBreakfast and lunch daily, 1120 S. Michigan, 312-789-9655. $ —Kathie Bergquist
Cafe Mediterra This Mediterranean restaurant and coffee shop in the old Gourmand space has a pedigree: owner Mutaz Abdullah's father owns Cedars of Lebanon, and his brother runs Sultan's Market. Breakfast here is American style—oatmeal, omelets, pancakes, waffles, bagels, and a range of pastries and smoothies. In addition to standards like hummus, falafel, and kebabs, the lunch and dinner menu has more-distinctive dishes such as kallayah, a savory Turkish stew of tenderloin, tomatoes, and peppers. There are also lamb burgers, flatbreads, and vegetarian offerings like a pita stuffed with cauliflower and potato. BYO; free WiFi. aBreakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, 728 S. Dearborn, 312-427-2610. $$
Hi Tea In a part of the South Loop poised for big-time population growth, Hi Tea answers the call for a neighborly cafe, this one focused on the world's second-most-popular beverage after water. The menu, reflecting a Panera-like trend toward fresh fare at moderate prices, includes tea-based options such as an Earl Grey chicken salad and a range of midsize tea sandwiches. A grilled turkey with Gruyere was perfectly crisped and complemented by jicama-apple slaw, the side for most menu selections. At 60 plus, the range of teas is impressive, and baristas are skilled at pairing foods with brews. Hi Tea's ayurvedic menu enables you to self-prescribe correctives for your spiritual/physical imbalances, though after a relatively wholesome meal featuring Red Hen bread and well-made tea, you may prefer to achieve inner harmony with a handcrafted gelato, supplied by nearby Canady le Chocolatier. aBreakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, 14 E. 11th, 312-880-0832. $ —DH
Cafe Bionda A newer restaurant in the increasingly newer South Loop, Cafe Bionda (Italian for "blond") looks like a blond Mia Francesca clone, albeit one with some worthwhile menu options. Escarole with white beans was tender and unusually picante—in fact, all the veggies, including broccolini and spinach, were well handled. Veal Francese—egg dipped, fried gently, and served in generous slices—was a luscious dish, and the fish of the day is worth trying. Bionda Reef, an extension of the restaurant, offers a raw bar. aLunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily, open till 1 AM Sun, midnight Fri-Sat, 11 Mon-Thu, 1924 S. State, 312-326-9800. $$$ —DH
Gioco This rustic Italian restaurant from the owners of Marché and Red Light was an early harbinger of South Loop gentrification. The room is chic in a weathered way, with exposed brick, high ceilings, velvet curtains, large flower arrangements, and an enormous open kitchen. There's a ravioli of the day, and the menu offers several vegetarian options, including beet carpaccio with frisee and truffle oil and fried eggplant with buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes. There's also plenty of meat (grilled pork chops, a 40-ounce porterhouse for two) and seafood (scallops with fava beans); side dishes like roasted brussels sprouts, sauteed rapini, and grilled asparagus can be ordered a la carte. Raters complain that wines by both the glass and bottle are overpriced, with no reds under $40. a Lunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily, brunch Sun, open till 11:30 PM Fri-Sat, 1312 S. Wabash, 312-939-3870. $$$ —LLS
Panozzo's Italian Market Panozzo's is kind of like Bari's and L'Appetito's more cultured cousin. It's a modern Italian deli that churns out high-quality sandwiches (including homemade meatball and Italian sausage subs and a delicious combination of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and basil pesto) and offers the usual accoutrements: fancy olive oils, vinegars, cheeses, cured meats. What sets Panozzo's apart is its suppliers—the market carries artisan salamis from Fra' Mani artisan salamis and prosciutto from La Quercia, two producers who insist on using the leaner, more flavorful meat of humanely treated pasture-raised pigs. In both cases, the result is cured pork of exceptional quality. aLunch Sun, Tue-Sat, dinner Tue-Sat, 1303 S. Michigan, 312-356-9966. $ —Anderson Gansner, Rater
Trattoria Caterina The menu is surprisingly extensive at this Printer's Row trattoria. In addition to standard appetizers like bruschetta and calamari, there are home-style options like polenta, sausage and peppers, and pimiento ripien, baked red peppers stuffed with fontina cheese and glistening with balsamic and olive oil. Raters rave over the formaggio salad, romaine and Gorgonzola with caramelized walnuts and red peppers. The several preparations of chicken include classics such as cacciatore, parmigiana, marsala, caponato, and Vesuvio; ditto for veal. Add to that more than 30 pasta dishes, most vegetarian friendly; thin-crust pizza; and a long list of sandwiches and panini. Breakfast began March 1. BYO; delivery. a Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, 616 S. Dearborn, 312-939-7606. $$
Tutto Italiano "Don't be fooled by the dark-oak opulence of Tutto Italiano's bar/foyer," says one Rater. "This place is casual Italian dining, with just the right mix of old-world elegance and downtown panache." Starters include shrimp oreganata, sausage and peppers, and steamed mussels and clams; three-cheese ravioli, penne arrabiata, and linguine carbonara are among the dozen pasta dishes. Reasonably priced entrees include prime rib, chicken marsala, and veal saltimboca. Raters say desserts like tiramisu are perfunctory but good, and find sitting in the restaurant's attached railroad dining car romantic. a Lunch and dinner Mon-Sat, 501 S. Wells, 312-939-4824. $$$
Spertus Cafe Come on, Wolf—not even a pizza? If you can pull it off at the airport and the MCA, and even invent Jewish Pizza for Spago, why not here? OK, so everything's kosher, and the space overlooking the trees in Grant Park is architecturally pleasing, but aside from that this is a purely functional, phoned-in, shallow stab at celeb-chef branding, offering only a soup of the day, a few unremarkable salads and sandwiches, some sweets, and not much else. I'm not sure what Wolfgang Puck contributed apart from his mug pasted on the carryout containers, or why this place requires the talents of a noted executive chef like Laura Frankel, who founded the kosher restaurant Shallots and authored her own kosher cookbook. Spertus donors could've saved a bundle. a Breakfast and lunch Sun-Fri, dinner Mon-Thu, 610 S. Michigan, 312-322-1700. $ —MS
Eleven City Diner Don't go to Eleven City Diner expecting the fast, brusque treatment you usually find in a traditional deli. On my visit service was polite to the point of approval seeking: a staffer made a special trip to the table to find out if the egg cream he'd made was up to par. (Yes.) Despite its unnerving lack of attitude, Eleven City offers other traditional trappings—there's a pie case up front, and matzo ball soup, knishes, and tuna melts on the menu. There's also breakfast all day, including, for example, the huge and excellent challah French toast topped with strawberries, bananas, and coconut. They don't skimp on desserts here: the root beer float comes in a glass three fists high and packed with ice cream. On the other side of the restaurant is a deli counter stocked with sandwich fixings—corned beef, egg salad—for carryout customers. Maybe they're ruder over there. Full bar. aBreakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, open till midnight Fri-Sat, 1112 S. Wabash, 312-212-1112. $ —Anne Ford
Cafe Society At this charming but endangered cafe in the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, the eclectic bill of fare ranges from Mexican standards to burgers and quiche. Beef enchiladas were pleasingly lean and savory, and my friend's chicken torta packed an entire juicy breast, refried beans, tomatoes, guacamole, and a fried egg between the buns, all accompanied by a side of wickedly crisp, salty fries. The caramel Dutch apple pie was a perfect topper. BYO. a Lunch and dinner daily, 1801 S. Indiana, 312-842-4210. $ —RC
La Cantina Grill La Cantina Grill is the sort of casual joint you can take out-of-towners like your ma and pa to: they can't go wrong with either the specials (all meat- or fish-based) or the menu's "traditional" section: burritos, enchiladas, and tostadas that share the plate with the familiar puddle of refried beans, mildly seasoned rice, and tuft of shredded iceberg lettuce. Portions are fat-American size, and the prices, most under $12, shouldn't prompt any pursed lips. A dish of shrimp al mojo de ajo arrived sizzling and proved pleasant if not as flavorful as you'd hope. The mole sauce on the pollo michoacano, on the other hand, was rich and satiny, and guacamole had a fresh, limey tang. a Lunch and dinner daily, open till 1 AM Fri-Sat, 1911 S. Michigan, 312-842-1911. $$ —Susannah J. Felts
Cuatro Sophisticated nuevo Latino comfort food in a sophisticated space. Appetizers looked so tempting it was hard to make our choices, but the vegetarian ceviche was a good pick: crunchy hearts of palm, mushrooms, asparagus, avocado, and pico de gallo in a bright-tasting citrus dressing. Flautas de barbacoa, corn cigars stuffed with savory slow-roasted beef and served with a red salsa, were also tasty. But the standout of the evening had to be the moqueca do mar, a seafood stew with a kick-ass tomato-coconut milk sauce. Other main dishes include beer-braised beef short ribs, a chile relleno stuffed with eggplant caviar and blue cheese, and a double pork chop, bone in and more like a triple—it was one gigantic hunk o' meat. But we still couldn't say no to the Oaxacan chocolate mousse cake with house-made sweet corn ice cream. aDinner daily, brunch Sun, open till 2 AM Fri-Sat, 2030 S. Wabash, 312-842-8856. $$$ —Kate Schmidt
Zapatista An upscale Mexican venture, Zapatista specializes in tequila, offering more than 100 kinds, and has a modest but fairly priced wine list with many South American selections. Guacamole was tangy with lime juice, a good thing in my book; it's prepared tableside and you get to specify the level of heat. Spicy tostaditas are offered with fillings of chicken, ropa vieja, and plantain; a double-cut pork chop is dressed up with a mole manchamanteles and sweet-potato fries. The dessert tamale was bliss, gooey chocolate cake served in a corn husk. a Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat-Sun, 1307 S. Wabash, 312-435-1307. $$ —KB
Edwardo's Natural Pizza This chain was born out of the health-food craze of the 80s, but don't be discouraged (or encouraged) by the "natural" in the name—Edwardo's no longer offers much out of the ordinary in terms of toppings or ingredients. Franchised in the late 90s, the chain still offers pizzas and Italian entrees at reasonable prices. The stuffed pies tend toward the greasy side, but the blend of spices and sauce is delicious. The $6.50 lunch special, which includes a small stuffed pizza, salad, and pop, is a favorite for lunchers with hearty appetites, although service can be quite slow. aLunch and dinner daily, open till 11 PM Fri-Sat, 521 S. Dearborn, 312-939-3366. $ —Rachel Klein, Rater
Pat's Pizza Pat's cranks out thin-crust pizza that many declare the best in town; certainly it's popular for delivery, especially to the financial district. In addition to pizzas, available in combinations like artichoke and Canadian bacon, there are Italian standards. One Rater declares the baked clams "the best in the world!" aLunch and dinner daily, open till 11 PM, 628 S. Clark, 312-427-2320. $$
Pizza-Ria New York-style pizza by the slice or pie, in varieties ranging from a simple margherita to the Divine—bacon, sausage, green pepper, and onions. You can also build your own pizza and/or salad, choosing from 30 ingredients. Pizza-Ria's garbage salad has everything but the kitchen sink: mixed greens, hearts of palm, tomatoes, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, chicken, salami, kalamata olives, pepperoni, egg, bacon, red onion, blue cheese, and croutons, all topped with ranch dressing. For dessert how about a brownie? aBreakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, open till 2 AM Fri- Sat, 11 PM Sun-Thu, 719 S. State, 312-957-1111. $
Arie Crown Theater Named for a Lithuanian immigrant who came to Chicago poor in 1875 and ended up an influential businessman, this theater opened in 1960 and has spent its lifetime deep in the innards of the behemoth McCormick Place convention center. When a fire gutted the center in 1967, the theater was spared, but during the subsequent reconstruction its capacity decreased from more than 5,000 to roughly 4,300. After it reopened in 1971 it was briefly a hot spot for musical theater, but these days its sporadic offerings also include live music, dance, and less classifiable cultural events—it's hosted everyone from Stevie Wonder to Stephen Hawking. A $7 million renovation completed in 1997 improved the theater's sound significantly, but it's still a relatively chilly and sterile venue. Upcoming concerts include Patti LaBelle and Jeffrey Osborne (3/28), Russian singer Philip Kirkorov (4/4), the liturgical oratorio Tu Es Petrus by Polish pop composer Piotr Rubik (4/12), and a Mother's Day soul jam (5/10). aMcCormick Place Lakeside Center, 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr., 312-791-6190 or ariecrown.com.
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Designed by Adler and Sullivan in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, this national landmark opened in 1889 and served as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's first home, but by the Great Depression it had sunk into disuse and disrepair. The city repurposed it as a servicemen's center during World War II, installing a bowling alley on the stage, and it wouldn't reopen as a theater till 1967, after a seven-year lobbying and fund-raising effort spearheaded by Beatrice Spachner, who's now memorialized by a statue in the lobby. In the late 60s and early 70s it was one of the city's dominant rock venues, booking the likes of Jimi Hendrix, the Who, and Janis Joplin. The 3,900-seat theater, refurbished again after a $13 million state grant in 2000, has excellent acoustics, great sight lines, and unbeatable ambience. It's been controlled by Roosevelt University since 2002, and these days programs a diverse schedule of dance and music—in the past two years, it's attracted finicky eccentrics like Bjork and Tom Waits. Upcoming concerts include Celtic Woman (4/4-4/6) and Widespread Panic (4/11-4/13, 4/11 and 4/12 sold out). a50 E. Congress, 312-922-2110 or auditoriumtheatre.org.
Buddy Guy's Legends Opened by guitarist Buddy Guy in June 1989, Legends quickly established itself as one of the city's premier blues clubs. The space itself is short on character, but Guy is a regular presence, and over the years loads of rock stars—David Bowie, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones—have dropped in to jam with him. Legends books a steady stream of top-tier players year-round, and every January Guy headlines a string of shows himself, reliably selling out every one. The bar also sells southern-fried and Cajun food (many of the dishes supposedly from Guy's own recipes) and opens for lunch at 11 AM on weekdays, with free music till midafternoon. Columbia College owns the building and plans to evict Guy, but it's promised not to shut down the venue before it finds a new home. Upcoming headliners include Sugar Blue (3/15), Lurrie Bell (3/19), Phil Guy (3/20), Mem Shannon (3/27), and Eddy "the Chief" Clearwater (3/29). a754 S. Wabash, 312-427-0333 or buddyguys.com.
Cal's In business since 1947, this tiny dive bar (attached to an equally modest liquor store) is an unlikely survivor in the financial district, with cheap PBR and a men's room nasty enough to make you nostalgic for the Fireside Bowl. The weekday crowd tends toward bike messengers and traders, but on Friday and Saturday nights the live music brings out a whole different set. The bands play right on the floor, toe to toe with the audience, and the sound system consists of a vocal PA propped up on the bar. It's an arrangement tailor-made for snotty, primitive garage punk (and Cal's books plenty of that), but you can also hear indie rock, Americana, and all kinds of grubby, unclassifiable weirdness. Though most of the acts are local, the occasional touring band is worth looking out for: in the past few years Montreal's Mind Controls and Paris's Operation S have passed through. There's never a formal cover charge, but somebody with a beat-up ice bucket is liable to ask you for five bucks before the night's over. Upcoming acts include Lord of the Yum-Yum (3/14), Childsize Monster Pistol (3/21), and Pat Boone's Farm (3/22). a400 S. Wells, 312-922-6392 or drinkatcalsbar.com.
Close Up 2 The only smooth-jazz club in the country (according to its owner) positions itself on its Web site as a good place to network with an "ethnic diverse professional clientele," so maybe they know nobody actually pays attention to this kind of music. The space has a sleek, airy look, with plenty of exposed brick and stuff painted blue. There's live music Thursdays through Saturdays, but you can try one of the 25 martinis on the menu anytime. Upcoming acts include Frank Russell (3/27-3/30, 4/3-4/5) and Kafele (4/10-4/12, 4/17-4/19). a416 S. Clark, 312-385-1111 or closeup2jazz.com.
Cuatro This upscale nuevo Latino restaurant recently reintroduced late-night live music every Thursday through Sunday, but the idea seems to be mostly to sell more drinks to the postdinner crowd. The bookings thus far focus on veteran house and hip-hop DJs—the kind of pros who know how to work a room even when everybody's dressed too nice to really want to break a sweat. Most nights the music starts after ten, but on Sundays honest-to-God jazz artists (Ari Brown, Yoko Noge) get to work at 7 PM. Local Brazilian trio Bossa Tres also plays during Sunday brunch. DJs Mark Grant and Mario Romay, who specialize in house, soul, and funk, spin every Thursday in March and April, and other upcoming acts include Jose Valdes (3/23), Mike Dearborn (3/28), Kimberly Gordon (3/30), and Jesse De La Peña (4/4). a2030 S. Wabash, 312-842-8856 or cuatro-chicago.com.
Reggie's Music Joint This sibling to Reggie's Rock Club shares the same address, but since in this part of the building the food and beer are the attraction, there's often no cover charge and admission is 21 and up. Framed gig posters hang on exposed brick, banquettes line the walls, and the middle of the room is packed with wooden benches and narrow slab tables. The menu is strictly bar basics and comfort food, but the beer selection is extensive. The music is mostly local and mostly straight-up rock, but you can occasionally hear jazz, comedy, roots rock, or blues. (MP Shows, which books Reggie's Rock Club, isn't involved here.) Upcoming headliners include Bullet Called Life (3/14), the Ropes (3/20), Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls (3/24), and Painkiller Hotel (3/28). a2105 S. State, 312-949-0120 or myspace.com/reggiesmusicjoint.
Reggie's Rock Club MP Shows, which used to book the Fireside Bowl and now handles places like the Note, Ronny's, and the soon-to-reopen Bottom Lounge, programs the music at Reggie's Rock Club, and it's the most put-together venue MP has ever worked with. Though the oddly pristine graffiti murals, snack bar, and spiffy brick-steel-and-cement construction give the place the look of a brand-new youth center, the sound system is great, the lighting is sophisticated, and the sight lines are well thought out. The main room holds about 250 and the balcony about 80; the bookings are pretty much exclusively indie rock, garage, metal, hip-hop, and punk, and almost every event is either all-ages or 18 and up. The on-site music store, Record Breakers, is open till 11 every night, sometimes later during shows. Upcoming headliners include the Vandals (3/14), Red (3/18), Xiu Xiu (3/15), Raheem DeVaughn (3/23), Office (3/28), Converge (4/6), and the Anti-Nowhere League (4/8). a2105 S. State, 312-949-0121 or reggieslive.com.
South Union Arts The multi-arts space operating in the former Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church shuts down every winter—nobody's willing to pay to heat the place—but in April it returns to presenting indie and experimental rock, visual art exhibits, and occasional film screenings. Most events here are booked by MP Shows; there's never a cover charge, only a suggested donation, and everything's all-ages. The movie-theater-style seats used by the congregration are still in place—part of the reason the room only holds around 100—and so is the enormous blue neon crucifix, complete with the motto JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, that hangs above the chancel-turned-stage. Upcoming shows include Heligoats (4/5), Carla Bozulich's Evangelista and Aunt Dracula (4/11), and Odawas, Eric Carbonara, and Nick Schillace (4/18). a1352 S. Union or southunionarts.com.
Velvet Lounge This venerable mecca for free jazz—owned by legendary tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, who's usually collecting the cover at the door when he's not onstage—was forced from its old spot on South Indiana by a condo development and in the summer of 2006 reopened around the corner. The new Velvet lacks the original club's uniquely headache-inducing wallpaper and ramshackle charm (thankfully the not-quite-right black-velvet portraits survived the move), but in other ways it's much better. The sound is greatly improved, and the sensible layout of the room—as opposed to the "L" shape of the previous space, which caused a lot of rubbernecking—offers a view of the stage from every seat. There's music seven nights a week, including a long-running jam session on Sundays. The Velvet frequently books nationally prominent artists and reliably showcases members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, but it's also a crucial incubator of up-and-coming talent, as it has been for much of its long history. Upcoming concerts include Lester Lashley & the Urban Bushmen (3/14-3/15), Nicole Mitchell (3/21-3/22), Holus Bolus (3/26), and the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble (3/29). a67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050 or velvetlounge.net. —Peter Margasak
Film Row Cinema The South Loop's last two commercial movie venues—the Fine Arts, on Michigan near the Auditorium Building, and Burnham Plaza, on Wabash north of Ninth Street—bit the dust in 2000 and 2005 respectively. But one of the city's more eclectic venues is here, on the eighth floor of Columbia College's Ludington Building. A fair number of its free programs are screenings of student projects, but in the past year the comfortable 252-seat theater has also accommodated screenings and discussions with filmmakers Ali Selim (Sweet Land), James Scurlock (Maxed Out), and Steven Shainberg (Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus). Last month Tom Hayden, one of the defendants in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial, appeared at the theater for a screening of Brett Morgen's documentary Chicago 10. Last but not least, the Cinema Slapdown series offers screenings followed by no-holds-barred critical debates; among recent subjects have been Paul Haggis's Crash, Spike Jonze's Adaptation, and Gordon Parks Jr.'s Superfly. a 1104 S. Wabash, 312-344-6708 or colum.edu. —J.R. Jones
Arie Crown Theater This sprawling concert hall in McCormick Place Lakeside Center occasionally hosts theatrical productions, usually aimed at African-American audiences, as well as stand-up comedy. Upcoming events include the debut of Safia Bernard's drama Relationship Games, 3/14-3/15, and The Marriage Counselor, the latest touring comedy from Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman and TV's House of Payne), 5/1-5/4. a2301 S. Lake Shore Dr., 312-791-6190 or ariecrown.com. —Albert Williams
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University A national landmark designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler and opened in 1889 as the original home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, this 3,800-seat concert hall is renowned not only for its graceful arches, filigreed iron stairways, neoclassical murals, and mellow lighting, but also for its superb sight lines and acoustics. It now hosts a wide range of entertainment, from pop music to classical dance. Spring programming includes Russia's Tchaikovsky Ballet & Orchestra in Swan Lake, 3/21-3/22; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 4/16-4/20; High Kings Irish balladeers, 4/26; Joffrey Ballet's American Moderns program, 4/14-4/25; and Kirov Ballet prima ballerina Diana Vishneva, 6/19-6/22. a50 E. Congress, 312-902-1500, 312-922-2110, or auditoriumtheatre.org. —AW
Dance Center of Columbia College This 275-seat venue is a leading presenter of modern dance. Over the years it's hosted such artists as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Eiko & Koma, Bill T. Jones, and Trisha Brown, as well as local notables including Peter Carpenter, Hedwig Dances, Luna Negra Dance Theater, and the Chicago Moving Company. The 1930 art deco building is also home to the Columbia College dance department. Dance Center founder Shirley Mordine launches the 40th-anniversary season of her own troupe, Mordine & Company Dance Theater, with the full-length work Quest, 3/13-3/15. Armitage Gone! Dance, led by New York choreographer Karole Armitage, presents a program that includes Ligeti Essays, set to music by the influential Hungarian composer György Ligeti, 4/17-4/19. a1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-6600 or colum.edu/dancecenter. —AW
Hilton Chicago The only regular stand-up comedy event in the South Loop, Funny First Saturdays, takes place on the first Saturday of every month at 9 PM in the hotel's northwest exhibit hall. Redolent of BET's Comic View, this showcase draws three to five African-American comics each month, and the roster gets a big boost from host Damon Williams. The next show is the April Fool's Comedy Bash on April 5. (Youtube.com has videos of past shows; type in "funny saturdays chicago.") a720 S. Michigan, 312-282-6890 or funnyfirstsaturdays.com, $20 includes admission to an afterparty featuring DJ Dolla Bill. —Ryan Hubbard
Tommy Gun's Garage Located a couple blocks from the site of the fabled Lexington Hotel, where Al Capone reigned over his criminal empire during Prohibition, this dinner theater playfully celebrates Chicago's gangster heritage with an "Audience Interactive Roaring 20s Musical Comedy Revue" in a speakeasy setting. Dining and drinking are integrated into the show. a2114 S. Wabash, 773-728-2828, 312-225-0273, or tommygunsgarage.com, $55-$65. —AW
Columbia College Theater Center Built in the 1920s as a residential hotel for young women, the building today houses the 400-seat Emma and Oscar Getz Theater and two studio spaces, where student actors and designers work under the tutelage of local professionals. Coming up: My Secret Language of Wishes, 3/12-3/22, and You Can't Take It With You, 4/23-5/4. On 5/16 the center will participate in Columbia's Manifest Urban Arts Festival 2008, a graduation bash culminating in a "parade and vision" of student art called Spectacle Fortuna. a72 E. 11th, 312-344-6126 or colum.edu/undergraduate/theater. —AW
Merle Reskin Theatre, the Theatre School, DePaul University Originally the Blackstone Theatre, this 98-year-old cultural landmark once hosted touring productions starring the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. During the Depression it was home to the Roosevelt administration's Federal Theatre Project. The French-Renaissance-style venue was taken over by DePaul University in 1989 and renamed for philanthropist Merle Reskin in '92. Its productions, performed by students under the direction of professional artists, include the popular children's theater series Chicago Playworks, which will wrap up its 2007-2008 season with Lois Lowry's The Giver, 4/1-5/24. Final student showcase stagings of the season will be Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles, 4/16-4/27, and Shepsu Aakhu's Kosi Dasa, 5/14-5/25. a60 E. Balbo, 312-922-1999 or theatreschool.depaul.edu. —AW
O'Malley Theatre at Roosevelt University Located in the historic Auditorium Building, which also houses the Auditorium Theatre, Roosevelt University's Theatre Conservatory mounts student productions directed by professional artists in its 235-seat O'Malley Theatre. Spring shows include Visions of Kerouac, 4/11-4/13, and The Wild Party, 5/1-5/4. a431 S. Wabash, 312-341-3831 or ccpa.roosevelt.edu/theatre. —AW
Shopping & Services
Cycle Bike Shop A full-service shop that also rents bikes for tooling around the hood—standard cruisers start at $30 a day. The 4,000-square-foot store also houses an impressive collection of old bikes hanging from the ceilings and walls. aMon-Fri 10 AM-7 PM, Sat 11 AM-5 PM, Sun noon-4 PM, 1465 S. Michigan, 312-987-1080. —PaulSchrodt
Trek Bicycles Trek, right next door to the breakfast spot Yolk, claims to be the first green bike shop in Chicago (think bamboo flooring and recycled carpet). It stocks Trek as well as other bike brands. In addition to gear, clothing, and a full-service repair shop, there's also bikes, shoes, and helmets designed especially for women. aMon, Wed-Fri 11 AM-7 PM, Sat-Sun 11 AM-5 PM, 1118 S. Michigan, 312-588-1050 or windycitytrek.com. —Kelly Russell
Knitwerks Here you'll find hand-dyed yarn from all over the world, as well as shawls, scarves, and other finished pieces by owner Cherrl Harmon. In addition to classes, the store offers "knit-alongs," where everyone works on the same pattern. aTue noon-6 PM, Wed-Fri noon-8 PM, Sat 10 AM-6 PM, Sun noon-5 PM, 1934 S. Wabash, 312-949-9276 or knitwerks.net. —Heather Kenny
Loopy Yarns This State Street shop also sells a wide selection of yarn—including some spun from nettles in Nepal, some made by collectives in Bolivia and Peru, and even some spun from seaweed and silk. There's a range of knitting and crocheting classes for beginners and enthusiasts alike. At the back of the store you'll find cute printed totes for carrying your gear. aMon-Thu 11:30 AM-7 PM, Fri 11:30 AM-9 PM, Sat 10 AM-6 PM, Sun 1-5 PM, 719 S. State, 312-583-9276 or loopyyarns.com. —HK
Heelz As you might've guessed from the name, there aren't any comfort shoes here. On display in the small loungelike space are some seriously sexy leather, satin, and bejeweled heels by high-end, mostly Italian designers; labels include Luciano Padovan, Giuseppe Zanotti, and Casadei. aMon-Fri 11 AM-7 PM, Sat 10 AM-6 PM, Sun noon-5 PM, 69 E. 16th, 312-235-0467 or heelz.net. —HK
House of Sole Haute but not haughty, this women's shoe store carries colorful, beautifully designed pumps, sandals, flats, and boots from brands like Corso Como, Cydwoq, and Fornarina, plus a nice selection of oversize totes and jewelry. a Tue-Fri 11 AM-7 PM, Sat 10 AM-7 PM, Sun noon-6 PM, 1237 S. Michigan, 312-834-0909. —HK
Laughing Iguana There's a little bit of everything here—jewelry, ethnic-looking duds, Croc clogs, Voluspa candles, Thymes body lotion. The small baby section carries good shower gifts, including knit caps and booties. a Wed-Fri 11 AM-7 PM, Sat 10 AM-6 PM, Sun noon-5 PM, 1247 S. Wabash, 312-987-0995. —HK
Saca-tash This tiny store just opened in December and carries separates like metallic tops, embroidered white blouses, and printed shawls, as well as jewelry, including rhinestone bangles and silver chain-link necklaces. a Tue-Fri 11 AM-6:30 PM, Sat 10 AM-6 PM, Sun noon-4 PM, 1507 S. State, 312-788-1055. —HK
food & drink
Canady le Chocolatier It's hard not to press your nose against the glass when you're forced to choose just a few of the exquisitely decorated sweets made on-site here by Michael Canady and his staff. In addition to truffles and chocolates in traditional and exotic flavors (like limoncello), you can enjoy coffee and perhaps a gelato-filled cannoli at one of the small tables. aDaily noon-9 PM, 824 S. Wabash, 312-212-1270 or canadylechocolatierchicago.com. —HK
Printer's Row Wine Shop This three-year-old family-owned wine shop organizes bottles from all over the world into helpful categories such as "fruity and crisp" and "rich and creamy." The vintage interior, with its tin ceilings and original wood floors, is complemented by jars of cigars and a red British phone box in the window. a Mon-Wed 11 AM-10 PM, Thu-Sat 11 AM-11 PM, Sun 2-9 PM, 719 S. Dearborn, 312-663-9314 or printersrowwine.com. —HK
Spertus Museum Gift Shop The gift shop in the revamped Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies offers a wide array of Jewish-themed objects and accessories, from cuff links and candlesticks to CDs and books. In the "kitsch" collection, as it's described there, you'll find a pair of holographic glasses that turn points of light into Stars of David (priceless, really, but they go for $2) and a Moses action figure ("with removable stone tablets and staff!"). aMon-Wed 10 AM-6:30 PM, Thu 10 AM-7 PM, Fri 10 AM-3 PM, Sun 10 AM-6 PM, 610 S. Michigan, 312-322-1740 or spertusshop.org. —KR
Dogone Fun! The bold doghouse facade of this pet service provider lends some spunk to the otherwise drab corner of 17th and State. Dogone Fun! offers a range of services, including boarding, walking, training, grooming, and "spa" services like massage and aromatherapy. A vet is available by appointment on Wednesdays. You can even rent a space to throw a party for your pooch. A shop up front sells food, toys, beds, and other supplies. The day-care service accommodates an average of 50-60 dogs a day. a Mon-Fri 7 AM-7 PM, Sat 8 AM-5 PM, Sun 11 AM-7 PM (boarding customers only), 1717 S. State, 312-765-9364 or dogonefunchicago.com. —KR
Kriser's Pet Supplies The "Whole Foods of pet food," according to one employee. Everything here is natural—free of chemicals, preservatives, and other additives; there are even wheat-free options. They also stock a range of specialty products, including Doggles UV-protection eyewear, SPF 15 spray mist, and soap on a rope for dogs with sensitive skin. aMon-Fri 10 AM-8 PM, Sat-Sun 10 AM-6 PM, 1103 S. State, 312-765-8883 or kriserspetsupplies.com. —HK
Soggy Paws Soggy Paws is a self-service grooming spot for dog and cat owners. You pick the beauty products—from milk and honey shampoo to aromatherapy mist and foaming facials—and your drying method. The house staff cleans up the mess afterward—or if you prefer they can take care of the whole process. Retail offerings include high-end food and treats and hand-tied rope toys. Last wash is 45 minutes before close "unless you're Oprah." a Tue-Fri 11 AM-7 PM, Sat 9 AM-6 PM, Sun 10 AM-5 PM, 1912 S. State, 312-808-0768 or soggypaws.com. —KR
The Abyss Salon With its wood floors and sleek leather furniture, this little salon has a swanky yet comfy neighborhood feel. Owners David and Sharron Gilty pride themselves on a multicultural clientele, and are on hand daily for cuts and consultations. a Wed-Fri 9 AM-7 PM, Sat 8 AM-4 PM, 67 E. 16th, 312-880-0263 or theabysssalon. —KR
Aniko Salon & Spa (formerly Spa Ariel)
A full-service salon and spa for men and women, Aniko offers head-to-toe grooming and pampering: hair, nails, waxing, massages, body wraps, and facials. Products are custom blended to your skin type. The Moroccan-inspired relaxation room features a gently splashing waterfall. aTue 11 AM-8 PM, Wed-Fri 9 AM-9 PM, Sat 9 AM-6 PM, Sun 10 AM-5 PM, 1111 S. Wabash, 312-431-1573 or anikosalonspa.com. —HK
Equilibrium Energy + Education Afraid of needles? This shop offers colorpuncture, which involves the focusing of colored lights onto acupuncture (and other) points. Also available are other "energy-based therapies"—from reiki to "Holographic Memory Resolution"—for detoxification and general well-being. a Tue-Fri 11 AM-8 PM, Sat 9 AM-5 PM, 47 W. Polk, suite M-5, 312-786-1882 or equilibrium-e3.com. —HK
Lillian Dion Salon This giant contemporary salon offers the usual—cuts, styling, mani/pedis—along with braiding and extensions and special treatments to detoxify, calm, or nourish hair. a Tue-Thu 10 AM-6 PM, Fri 7 AM-5 PM, Sat 7 AM-3 PM, 1020 S. Wabash, 312-386-9311 or lilliandion.com. —HK
Mi Spa This Egyptian-themed spa offers a diverse selection of services geared to help you relax, including hot stone therapy, couples massages, and even a caviar and champagne facial. aTue-Wed and Fri 10 AM-6 PM, Thu 11 AM-7 PM, Sat 9:30 AM-4:30 PM, 1509 S. Michigan, 312-986-1500, mispachicago.com. —KR
Asher Library at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies The library on the eighth floor of the new Spertus facility is home to 110,000-plus items of Jewish interest (both fiction and nonfiction), including a large rare book collection, and a reading room that looks out over Grant Park. You must be a member of the Spertus Society to check out materials, but anyone is welcome to read in the library. aMon-Wed 10 AM-6 PM, Thu 10 AM-7 PM, Fri 10 AM-3 PM, Sun 10 AM-4 PM, 610 S. Michigan, 312-322-1700 or spertus.edu. —Jerome Ludwig
Chinatown Branch Library As befits its location, this Chicago Public Library location has sizable collections in Chinese Heritage and English as a Second Language. aMon-Thu 9 AM-9 PM, Fri-Sat 9 AM-5 PM, 2353 S. Wentworth, 312-747-8013. —JL
Harold Washington Library Center When it opened in October 1991, HWLC was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest municipal library building in the world. Monthly author events are held in the 385-seat auditorium on the lower level. aMon-Thu 9 AM-9 PM, Fri-Sat 9 AM-5 PM, Sun 1-5 PM, 400 S. State, 312-747-4300 or chipublib.org. —JL
Powell's Bookstore This branch of the Portland-based chain (whose roots are in Chicago, where in 1970, according to the company's Web site, Michael Powell opened his first bookstore as a U. of C. grad student) also serves as a warehouse for its stores in Lakeview and Hyde Park. The stock consists of used books and remaindered general-interest titles. aMon-Fri 10:30 AM-6 PM, Sat 10 AM-6 PM, Sun noon-5 PM, 828 S. Wabash, 312-341-0748. —JL
Prairie Avenue Bookshop An independent store specializing in architecture and design, with a huge selection of books both new and used. aMon-Fri 10 AM-6 PM, Sat 10 AM-4 PM, 418 S. Wabash, 312-922-8311 or pabook.com. —JL
Printers Row Fine & Rare Books The ambience here is classic bookstore, with glassed-in offices, oriental rugs, and even a working Victrola and a Thomas Edison talking machine. But the service is resolutely contemporary: owner John Lapine has a warehouse of 500,000 specimens of 16th-through 20th-century literature and can get you signed first editions of everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Toni Morrison. aTue-Fri 10 AM-7 PM, Sat-Sun 11 AM-5 PM, 312-583-1800, printersrowbooks.com. —Heather Kenny
Sandmeyer's Bookstore Another venerable independent, Sandmeyer's has been family owned and operated at the same location since 1982. It's a general-interest bookstore with specialties in fiction, travel, and children's titles. a Mon-Wed, Fri 11 AM-6:30 PM, Thu 11 AM-8 PM, Sat 11 AM-5 PM, Sun 11 AM-4 PM, 714 S. Dearborn, 312-922-2104 or sandmeyersbookstore.com. —JL
Selected Works After 23 years in a basement at 3510 N. Broadway, Keith Peterson moved his used-book shop to the Fine Arts Building last year. In addition to carrying a lot of literary fiction, poetry, philosophy, and art, Peterson says he's the only game in town for used musical scores. a Mon-Sat 11 AM-8 PM, Sun 11 AM-4 PM, 410 S. Michigan, second floor, 312-447-0068. —JL
Citywide Undergraduate Poetry Festival This annual Columbia College event invites student poets from 12 area colleges to read their work. aThu 4/3, 5:30 PM, Columbia College Concert Hall, 1014 S. Michigan, colum.edu. F —JL
Columbia College Story Week Festival of Writers Presented by the college's fiction writing department, this annual fest features readings, book signings, and panels with local and national writers. It starts this weekend; see this issue's Lit & Lectures listings for details. aSun-Fri 3/16-3/21. F —JL
Printers Row Book Fair Founded in 1985 by the Near South Planning Board and later taken over by the Tribune, this annual fair bills itself as the "largest free outdoor literary event in the midwest." It attracts upwards of 200 exhibitors, including publishers, literary organizations, and booksellers hawking new, used, and collectible fare. In addition there are dozens of author readings, panel discussions, and kid-friendly programs. aSat-Sun 6/7-6/8, 10 AM-6 PM, Dearborn & Polk, 312-222-3986 or chicagotribune.com/printersrow. F —JL
Galleries & Museums
Arts & Artisans It bills itself as "an American gallery," but while it does display original work by artists around the country, the shelves stocked with ceramics, sculptures, textiles, and jewelry—all with prominently displayed price tags—make it read as a store first and a place to see art second. But the staff is knowledgeable about the artists represented, and the art, starting around $20, is pretty affordable. One of four downtown locations, this one's in the Chicago Hilton & Towers and caters to hotel guests, so it's open only part-time (hours vary) when the hotel's not full. a720 S. Michigan, 312-786-6224 or artsartisans.com.
Framing Mode Gallery Marci Rubin's gallery, open since 2003 as part of her picture framing shop, features mostly contemporary work from local emerging artists. "The Darkest Star," an exhibition of "dark, spooky art," opens 3/22 at 8 PM with cocktails, DJs, and tarot readings, and continues through 4/12, $10. aTue-Thu 11 AM-7 PM, Fri-Sat 11 AM-5 PM, 1526 S. Wabash, 312-566-0027 or framingmode.com.
Francine Turk Gallery Turk made headlines in 2006 when several of her paintings were stolen from her gallery/studio shortly after her work gained attention for being featured in the Jennifer Aniston vehicle The Break-Up. She's continued to display her figurative paintings and drawings at the gallery—horses are her latest focus—but it's temporarily closed due to water damage. She expects to be open again (by appointment only) by Memorial Day. a18 E. Cullerton, 312-674-1818 or francineturk.com.
Wiessman Gallery Named for owners Sharon Wiess and Rhonda Hartman, this tiny gallery has been featuring work by local contemporary artists since 2005 and now has a second location in Roscoe Village. In addition to the rotating exhibitions, there's a corner permanently showcasing crafts like jewelry and textiles for sale along with lotions and candles. The current show, abstract paintings by Armando Pedroso, continues through 3/28. aTue-Sat 10 AM-6 PM, 1130 S. Wabash, 312-291-0752 or wiessmangallery.com.
Clarke House Museum Chicago's oldest building is an example of the Greek Revival style, fashionable in the early 19th century, when the house was built for Henry B. Clarke. In 1977 it was restored and moved from the 4500 block of South Wabash to its current site, next to Glessner House in the historic Prairie Avenue District. aTours Wed-Sun, noon, 1, and 2 PM, 1827 S. Indiana, 312-326-1480 or clarkehousemuseum.org. $10 (free Wed); tours of both the Clarke and Glessner houses $15.
Fashion Columbia Study Collection This 6,000-item collection, created in 1989 as a teaching tool for Columbia fashion students, contains mostly clothing from the last century by European, American, and Japanese designers but also features accessories like bags, jewelry, and hats. There's also a library of books, fashion magazines, patterns, videotapes, and slides. It's open by appointment only, but you can browse by time period and designer and see photos of most of the clothing on the collection's impressive Web site. a1006 S. Michigan, 4th floor, 312-344-6283 or fashioncollection.colum.edu.
Glessner House Museum The only remaining building in Chicago designed by Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson, this 1887 Romanesque Revival mansion on Prarie Avenue narrowly escaped demolition in the late 1960s. Now it's an official Chicago landmark. aTours Wed-Sun, 1 and 3 PM, 1800 S. Prairie, 312-326-1480 or glessnerhouse.org/museum. $10 (free Wed); tours of both the Clarke and Glessner houses $15.
National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum In its current space for about 12 years, the museum has a collection of more than 1,500 works of art by vets, but it's looking for a new home: the city is planning to buy back the building, which it donated to the museum in 1996. It won't necessarily have to move, but it's been struggling to survive here and hopes to find a location with more foot traffic. aTue-Fri 11 AM-6 PM, Sat 10 AM-5 PM, 1801 S. Indiana, 312-326-0270 or nvvam.org. $10.
Spertus Museum Located on the ninth and tenth floors of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, the museum is divided into two parts. The permanent exhibit displays 1,500 objects from the museum's collection, ranging from menorahs to stained glass windows to paintings. The placard describes it as "visible storage," and that's what it feels like: there are no signs identifying the objects, and the old clothing in the collection is hung together as if in a closet. Consider, a Holocaust memorial installation by Ranbir Kaleka consisting of video and audio, is also permanent. Currently on display in the gallery with changing exhibitions is "The New Authentics," work by 16 artists exploring "contemporary notions of Jewish identity." It runs through 4/13. aSun-Wed 10 AM-6 PM, Thu 10 AM-7 PM, Fri 10 AM-3 PM, 610 S. Michigan, 312-322-1700, spertus.edu. $7 (free Tue till noon, Thu 3-7 PM).
Many of the spaces that Columbia uses to display art are so casual it's possible to walk through without even realizing you're in a gallery; some you couldn't stumble across if you tried. The C33, Hokin, and Hokin Annex galleries, for instance, are integrated with student centers and like most of Columbia's galleries they have no street entrances. The most formal, traditional art spaces are the A+D Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Glass Curtain Gallery, and the gallery at the Center for Book and Paper Arts.
A+D Gallery "Multiplicity-based forms" by Robert Krawczyk, Jesse Seay, and Alyson Shotz, through Sat 4/19. aTue-Sat 11 AM-5 PM (Thu till 8), 619 S. Wabash, 312-344-8687 or colum.edu/undergraduate/artanddesign/11th.
Anchor Graphics This not-for-profit printshop, which moved in 2006 from River North to its current location on campus, doesn't have its own gallery but it collaborates with the college on print-related exhibitions and lectures. It offers free classes to high schoolers (to "hook them early") as well as adult classes and workshops, internships, and artist residencies; individual visitors are welcome during business hours and groups can schedule tours in advance. Artists can rent studio time for $10 an hour during normal business hours or attend the open studios, 6-9 PM Thursdays and 2-5 PM Saturdays, for $22 per session. aMon-Fri 9:30 AM-5 PM, 623 S. Wabash, 312-344-6864 or colum.edu/anchorgraphics.
C33 "Everyday Runway," photos of street fashion in Asia and the U.S., opens 3/13, 5-7 PM, and runs through 4/25. Mon-Thu 9 AM-7 PM, Fri 9 AM-5 PM, 33 E. Congress, 312-344-6643 or cspaces.colum.edu.
Center for Book and Paper Arts An exhibition of The Journal of Artists' Books, a 13-year-old publication that takes a critical look at the artist's book, or works of art in the form of a book, runs through 3/22. aMon-Sat 10 AM-6 PM, 1104 S. Wabash, room 204, 312-344-6630 or colum.edu/centers/bpa.
Glass Curtain Gallery "Secrets," an exhibition organized by the women's art collective 6+ and eight Palestinian artists, opens 3/19, 5-7 PM, and runs through 4/25. aMon-Fri 9 AM-5 PM (Thu till 7), 1104 S. Wabash, 312-344-6643 or cspaces.colum.edu.
Hokin Gallery and Annex "(C)Spaces Honors," a juried show of student work "of outstanding artistic achievement," opens 3/19, 5-7 PM, and runs through 4/25. aMon-Thu 9 AM-7 PM, Fri 9 AM-5 PM, 623 S. Wabash, 312-344-8177 or cspaces.colum.edu.
Columbia College Library "Art of the Library," work by students, staff, and faculty, through 5/1. aMon-Thu 8 AM-10 PM, Fri 8 AM-6 PM, Sat 9 AM-5 PM, Sun noon-5 PM, 624 S. Michigan, 2nd fl., 312-344-7900 or lib.colum.edu.
Museum of Contemporary Photography "This Land Is Your Land," work by seven photographers "offering diverse perceptions of the United States," through 3/22; "Building Pictures," group show examining the relationship between architecture and photography, 4/4-5/31. aMon-Sat 10 AM-5 PM (Thu till 8), Sun noon-5 PM. 600 S. Michigan, 312-663-5554 or mocp.org.
Project Room "Nimble Projections," work by students exploring art created in and for public places, through 3/21; reception 3/20, 4-6 PM. aMon-Thu 9 AM-7 PM; Fri-Sat 9 AM-5 PM, 623 S. Wabash, room 416, 312-344-8177 or colum.edu/Academics/Interactive_Arts_Media/Featured_Exhibition/Gallery_416.php. —Julia Thiel
Project CQY This not-for-profit, founded by four high-school-age students last year, hosts regular programs and events for GLBTQ youth, including the monthly dance party Exhilaration. The group shares a space with YPC (formerly the Youth Pride Center), a social networking and service organization for people ages 13 to 21 regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. a637 S. Dearborn, projectcqy.org or 773-729-0127 (YPC). Exhilaration is the third Saturday of almost every month, 8-11 PM, $2 if you dress up (the theme for the next one, 4/19, is "April Fools"), $5 if you don't.
Columbia College's LGBTQ Office of Culture and Community This was recently known as the GLBT Office of Student Concerns, but staffer Ryan Sinon explains, "We dropped the 'concerns' bit since it made us sound like all the LGBTQ community has are problems." In addition to offering students resources and referrals, the office serves as the cozy home base of the queer student group Common Ground and hosts regular events to raise visibility and sensitivity of queer issues on and off campus. The new Queer in Color series, featuring talks and performances by people of color in the community, kicks off Thursday and is open to the public. aMon-Fri noon-6 PM, 623 S. Wabash, room 305A, 312-344-8594. "Queer in Color: Black Men of the South Tell Their Tales," Thu 3/13, 6-8 PM, Hokin Annex, 623 S. Wabash. —Kathie Bergquist
Parks & Recreation
CLASSES & ACTIVITIES
The Dance Center of Columbia College Dance companies from around the world perform here, but the three-floor facility also offers nonstudents the chance to enroll in courses alongside full-time undergraduates. Though availability has decreased over time as the program has grown, classes in modern dance, tap, and ballet still have openings. They range in difficulty from beginner-level to advanced and start at $12 a class. a1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. —Paul Schrodt
Enso Now in its sixth year, Enso (from the Zen expression for "circle") is a martial arts studio offering classes in karate, aikido, and capoeira for kids and adults, as well as yoga and massage therapy sessions. Classes range from about $50 to $100 a month. a719 S. State, 312-427-3676. —PS
Lakeshore Sail Charters Lakeshore's sailboat captains take passengers three miles out from Burnham Harbor. They can help hoist the sails, enjoy appetizers, or just kick back. The 36-foot Crescendo hosts private parties of up to six passengers for $140 an hour, while Red Witch, a 77-foot schooner, entertains wedding parties and weekly events. As a bonus, you can watch the captain light two working cannons while you pop open that bottle of champagne. aBurnham Harbor "J" Dock, 708-769-4220. —PS
Northerly Island East of Soldier Field, this 91-acre, man-made peninsula isn't exactly nature untamed, but after the airstrip that used to be there was destroyed in a surreptitious midnight raid ordered by Mayor Daley, it's getting there—prairie grass overruns the park's walking paths and play areas. At the northern end you can watch concerts at Charter One Pavilion with the city's skyline in the background. a1400 S. Lynn White Drive, 312-745-2910. —PS
Ping Tom Memorial Park The Chicago Park District acquired this 12-acre plot along the South Branch of the Chicago River near Chinatown in 1991. Named after a real estate investor and community activist, Ping Tom includes a children's playground, community areas, and Chinese landscaping. a300 W. 19th, 312-746-5962. —PS
Burnham Park Named after Daniel Burnham, the urban planner responsible for much of Chicago's park system, this 598-acre stretch of green serves as the link between Grant Park and Jackson Park. Anyone interested in a long look at the lakeshore can walk the six-mile path that stretches the length of the park. a 425 E. McFetridge, 773-256-0949. —PS
Grant Park Often heralded as Chicago's "front yard," Grant Park remains one of the most attractive—and busy—parks in Chicago. Built in 1835 to protect the lakefront from commercial development, it now connects Millennium Park and the Museum Campus, and it's home to a range of attractions, from Buckingham Fountain to flower gardens, a dog park, softball fields, and tennis courts. It also hosts an annual lineup of summer festivals, including the Chicago Blues Fest, Jazz Fest, Taste of Chicago, SummerDance, and the Grant Park Music Festival. And this summer Grant Park will once again play host to the epic rock festival Lollapalooza. aRandolph to Roosevelt between Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, 312-742-7648. —Kelly Russell
Changing Worlds This nonprofit promotes writing, art, and oral cultural history through school partnership and community outreach programs, teacher workshops, and traveling exhibits. In addition to helping out in schools, volunteers' contributions include photography, copyediting, Web site design, graphic design, and fund-raising. a329 W. 18th, suite 613, 312-421-8040 or changingworlds.org
Clarke and Glessner House Museums Volunteer docents receive training in architecture, decorative arts, and social history as they relate to each of these two historic houses and their Prairie Avenue neighborhood. Other volunteers do curatorial tasks such as sorting new materials and researching and writing about historical objects. a1800 S. Prairie, 312-326-1480 or glessnerhouse.org
Hostelling International The diverse options for volunteers at the Chicago location of this international nonprofit include working as a tour guide for hostel guests, manning the info desk, helping students cook, making art and coordinating exhibitions for the hostel, and media relations. a24 E. Congress, 312-360-0300 or hichicago.org
International Latino Cultural Center The center needs volunteers for its biggest event of the year, the Chicago Latino Film Festival, to help from April 4-17 with distributing promotional materials, ticket sales, event decorating, crowd control, and cleanup. Volunteers do similar work, as well as administrative tasks, year-round for other programs, including dance, theater, poetry, and visual arts. a33 E. Congress, suite 401, 312-431-1330 or latinoculturalcenter.org
National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum This nonprofit museum, the only one of its kind in the country (see Museums), relies heavily on volunteers, who staff the front desk, help arrange group visits, and work on fund-raisers. a1801 S. Indiana, 312-326-0270 or nvvam.org —Julia Thiel