Now that warmer weather is here (allegedly), it also marks the time when I start to receive out-of-town guests on a regular basis. It’s funny how nobody ever bothered to visit me when I lived in such exciting locales as Indianapolis, Cincinnati or Louisville, Ky., but I guess it’s a testament to this great city I now live in that every summer seems to bring a variety of old friends my way.
This weekend I hosted a couple of gals from Kentucky. I’ve always had a theory that the wildest night of partying you can experience is when you hang out with your boys and your one married buddy is allowed out, because he never wants the night to end. I now have to amend that to include a couple of married women who get away for the weekend.
It was definitely more hanging out and eating out than I typically do in one weekend, but at least I was spared the hell of Navy Pier and Millenium Park which many out-of-towners insist they must visit because someone told them that’s where it’s at. Here’s a list of some of the spots we did hit around town:
Cuatro: I usually hit this spot on a Saturday night, but I’d heard they attract a good crowd on Thursdays as well. We came across an energetic crowd late Thursday, groovin’ to some classic house. The food is always fabulous, and we stopped by again on Saturday for dinner. Be sure to check out percussionist Louie Louie and DJ FLX on May 26 for what is always a great time. No cover!
M Lounge: Tiny lounge located in the South Loop. Great place to stop by to start out your night, or to wind down toward the end of the evening. Did I mention it’s tiny? This is not the place for claustrophobic folks. I do suggest leaving the wine list alone and concentrating on the cocktail menu.
Room 21: It’s getting harder to find a parking spot in the area of 21st and Wabash these days. I thought Cuatro would be packed, but the draw these days is Jerry Kleiner’s new spot. If you don’t have time for dinner, it’s definitely worth stopping in for a drink to hang with the see and be seen crowd.
Solo 1530: By day it’s a restaurant, by night, the DJ spins and the vibe changes at this South Loop hotspot. My friends were intrigued by the crowds coming in and out of there, so we ended up here twice. You might get stuck in line, but at least there’s no cover!
Victor Hotel: Unquestionably one of the coolest spaces in town. Most of the nights I’ve been here the DJ played upbeat, techno-style tunes, but on this Friday night the vibe was different — more hip hop and old school house. Nice crowd to boot. Score!
Outlet Shopping: Gurnee or Aurora? Those are the two main choices for outlet shopping around here. Sure, Aurora has more high-end shops, but I take issue with outlet stores that aren’t really outlets, and Aurora seems to have many of these. Gurnee has a Off Saks store, which for me, is worth the trip alone.
Division Street: One of my favorite strips in Chicago to kill a few hours on a weekend afternoon. It’s a little more laid-back than the hustle and bustle of nearby Milwaukee and Damen. Lunch at Bravo was amazing (goat cheese and marinara appetizer and spicy potatoes), and you’ve got to love the boutique shops in the area. Big ups to my man Kennedy at Casa De Soul and the folks down at Noir — even if they don’t seem to be stocking any new men’s clothing anymore. I also came across a fairly new spot called Amisha Boutique (2019 W. Division, 773-227-7878). The women’s boutique is owned by two twins from Sierra Leone who donate a percentage of all sales to underprivileged children. Very cool! Finally, a lot of people don’t seem to know about the Aldo outlet at Division and Milwaukee. Two pairs of kicks for $30. Score!
Unquestionably, there’s no shortage of things to do in the Chi. If I can just get those gals to get ready in under an hour we can actually them all!