September 21, 2018

Magic Lounge in Chicago’s Andersonville

If you want a most unusual and fun evening, call now for tickets to see a show at the Magic Lounge, in Andersonville’s SoFo neighborhood (south of Foster).
Be forewarned that weekend tickets need to be ordered weeks in advance as the venue has exploded in popularity. And rightfully so.

The exterior has no official signage but there are some poster images of magicians to mark the 5050 N. Clark Street entrance. Upon entering the vestibule, commercial washers and dryers make one question the address. Please persist for one of the machines is actually a door leading to a delightful bar with a magician doing tricks for cocktail patrons. If you are lucky enough to secure a show ticket, you will be ushered through another trick door that leads to a surprisingly spacious cabaret-style theater replete with a red-curtained stage, a theater organist, banquette and bar seating along with a petite balcony for celebratory groups. This venue is a big draw for bachelor, bachelorette and corporate parties, but you will also see local couples, small groups of friends and people of all ages out for a good time.

While waiting for the show to start, one can order nifty cocktails and very tasteful small bites and I mean that in both senses of the word. Imagine prosciutto wrapped dates with gorgonzola cheese, pork belly or beef tenderloin sliders, potato pancakes with apple mustardo and caraway yogurt, or a sausage board with cheese, peppers, caperberries and rye bread. Then again, your sweet tooth might enjoy a Katherine Anne Confection Truffle with flavors like Creme de Menthe, Hazelnut, Sea Salt Caramel, Citrus or Vegan Raspberry Champagne.

During the pre-show, a handful of magicians go from table to table giving up close sleight-of-hand displays. To set the mood, an organist plays tunes that are so square they are hip, and dons the hat of emcee to introduce both an opening act and a featured entertainer. The night we were there, both entertainers were not only adept at magic, but laugh-out-loud funny. Selected patrons are invited to the stage to participate in several of the tricks which adds to the hilarity.

What we saw was the Signature Show, but the Magic Lounge also offers David Parr’s Cabinet of Curiosities on Wednesdays, a Family Show on Sundays, Music and Magic on Mondays and Tuesdays. For an additional charge, after the Signaure Show, you can move to a smaller theater called The 654 Club behind the Blackstone Cabaret for a more intimate magic experience.

What can I say? The Magic Lounge’s offerings would be a perfect evening for anyone who wants an extraordinary experience with comedy, music, food and magic. When can I go back?

https://www.chicagomagiclounge.com/welcome/

Two birthday Jimmys: singer/sausage king Dean and singer/songwriter Webb

Jimmy Dean would have been 90 on August 10 (he died in 2010.)

I met Mr. Dean and his wife at the Pump Room in the 1990s. In a departure from his country music and sausage image, he was one of the most elegantly suited of men.

Jimmy Webb will be 72 on August 15.

I encountered the talented songwriter at the Sundance ski resort in Utah during a singer-songwriter workshop sponsored by the Johnny Mercer Foundation.Some of the songs he has penned are MacArthur Park, Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get To Phoenix, Didn’t We and Time Flies.

Along with American and European standards, I will be doing a handful of Webb and Dean songs in honor of their birthdays.

Chicago Grind in Andersonville

A favorite coffee bar hangout in the Andersonville neighborhood is Chicago Grind, at Berwyn and Broadway, featuring coffees and teas from Metric Coffee Roasters and Benjamin Tea.

Husband and wife team, Reem and Jim Dababneh are frequently behind the cash register and food counter as they fill orders for beverages, pastries and savory food items. My favorite meal option is the vegan quinoa kale salad with nuts, cranberries and red peppers. They have even brought the “to-go” order outside when I have my dog.

The artisanal flatbread sandwiches have been top notch with gluten-free options available. Gourmet salads are another meal option, along with all sorts of enlightened treats from Maier Bakery, Alliance Patisserie and the gluten-free Defloured Bakery.

The Dababnehs are also owners of the very successful Pizzeria Aroma, just east near the Berwyn el stop. They will be moving that restaurant to another spot in the ‘hood, so I will keep you posted.

Chicago Grind is a handy spot for business meetings, lunches, breakfasts on the run or casual beverage breaks in the outdoor cafe. That is if it ever warms up enough to sit at sidewalk tables again!

http://www.chicagogrind.com/

Las Vegas Downtown restaurants: Eureka, Le Thai, PublicUs

A month-old restaurant called Eureka (part of a western chain) in downtown Las Vegas got my business twice this past week. Winning appetizers included Lollipop Corn Dogs and Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Peanuts. Sesame Teriyaki Salmon with black rice was very satisfying with Grilled Chicken Tacos and Fried Chicken Sliders pleasing other palates in my party.

A second visit rang my bell with a Protein Chopped Salad of quinoa, sunflower seeds, roasted beets, beans and feta drizzled with an oregano mustard vinaigrette. If I lived in Vegas, this would be a weekly menu item for me. Crispy sweet potato fries were slightly marred by a too-sweet cinnamon sugar glaze. House-made Ginger-Lime Sodas were a refreshing accompaniment to the meal. I will be brave next time and order either Charcoal Lemonade or Turmeric Nectar. The Osso Bucco Bites looked tempting, too.

http://eurekarestaurantgroup.com/blog/locations/las-vegas/

You wouldn’t expect excellent Thai food in Las Vegas and especially not in the touristic downtown area, but Le Thai is serving authentic and tasty food in its Fremont Street location. Green, red and panang curry dishes were all top notch accompanied with a cooling Thai-style chicken salad. Future visits will have to include the signature waterfall sauce and chef Dan Coughlin’s signature 3-color curry.

http://lethaivegas.com/

Located in the Fremont East district of downtown Las Vegas is PublicUs, a bustling coffee bar with delicious and healthy eating options. I had a savory salad with quinoa, goat cheese, hummus and vegetables. (Yes, quinoa seems to be my current menu choice these days.)

The menu is heavy on meat and fish as well as vegetarian options. The baked goods and desserts look delectable. A gigantic chocolate chip cookie tempted my sister at check-out which she ate with great relish. Prices were a bit high, but the ingredient quality and inventive recipes seem to make the expense worth it. There are outdoor and indoor seating options in this hipster outpost. Waits can be a bit long for food orders.

http://www.publicuslv.com/

These restaurants come highly recommended and go on the list to try on my next visit to Vegas: Cornish Pasty Company and Esther’s Kitchen in the downtown area along with Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar at the Monte Carlo Casino on the Strip.

Billy Elliot, Porchlight’s musical at the Ruth Page Center For the Arts

Have I the perfect evening out for you, that is if you like musical theater and want to hang out in Chicago’s Gold Coast.

Porchlight Theater has mounted a bang-up production of the musical, Billy Elliot at the Ruth Page Center. Based on the hit movie of the same name with music by Sir Elton John, this is perfect family or date night theater fare.

Two talented young boys alternate playing the title role (I saw both sing at Monday Night Live at Petterino’s). Jacob Kaiser was Billy the night I attended and he surely sang, acted and danced his way into the audience members hearts. Another endearing character is Iris Lieberman playing Billy’s spunky, but addled grandmother. Other stand-outs are Sean Fortunato as his gruff father and Shanesia Davis playing his outspoken dance teacher.

The cast is augmented with young dancers, some who are making their theatrical debuts. If you have any fledgling dancers in your home, you may want to consider taking them to Billy Elliot in lieu of The Nutcracker. Their dance sequences are tutu cute. Excuse me, I just couldn’t resist the pun.

I parked at the public LAZ lot next to Hotel Indigo at 1250 N. Dearborn Street. The Ruth Page Center validated my ticket rendering the parking $12 for 6 hours.

You may consider having a light bite at the Three Arts Club Cafe in the Restoration Hardware store at 1300 N. Dearborn Street. Just be forewarned that they don’t take reservations and their kitchen closes at 8 pm most nights, with a 6 pm closing on Sundays.

The theater, parking and cafe are on the same street just blocks apart so the six hour parking window is just right.

Billy Elliot has been extended to December 31, 2017.
I can’t think of a more uplifting Chicago production to see this holiday season.

https://porchlightmusictheatre.org

http://3artsclubcafe.com/food/

http://www.ruthpage.org/

Davis Theater in Chicago’s Lincoln Square

I had heard that the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square had undergone a recent facelift but I was pleasantly surprised at how successfully the old theater was transformed. The lobby is welcoming with a display of old movie paraphernalia, a cheery concessions stand and reclining chairs with cup holders in the three different viewing rooms. Art deco touches, both new and vintage are found throughout building and the renovators uncovered the original vaulted ceiling in the main 300-seat auditorium. The sound system appeared to be much improved also, plus a wireless mike system was installed for film events and corporate rentals of the space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The addition of Carbon Arc, a bar/restaurant that is attached to the movie lobby is the biggest change. You can take food into your movie using a tray that snaps into the back of the seat in front of you. Think of an airline meal experience but with more leg room, a cushier seat and more sophisticated meal selections.

Even the bathrooms got a design redo with graphic wallpaper and a clean silver, black and white palette.

Thanks for this loving restoration go to theater owner Tom Fencl, the designers of Analogous Company, Kennedy Mann Architecture and the National Park Service which lent money on behalf of this historic landmark building. Kudos for not just tearing the building down but finding a way to modernize the operation while not destroying its connection to the past.

Non-chain movie houses and bookstores have a chance of survival if they become social venues for their communities. Davis Theater is now a lovely destination in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

https://www.davistheater.com/