A's List: ‘Secret’ Chicago Destinations Promise Offbeat Experience
By Audarshia Townsend
Everyone loves a good secret. And when it comes to “secret” hot spots, the stakes are even higher. Chicago’s full of intriguing dining and drinking establishments catering to crowds looking for experiences outside of the norm.
This time around, we’re highlighting a host of sexy hideaways throughout the Windy City, from an alluring, Parisian-inspired lounge boasting impromptu performances by “Hamilton” cast members to an exotic, lower-level hang shaking up high-concept, Polynesian-inspired cocktails.
The Bamboo Room/Three Dots and a Dash (River North)
If you thought Three Dots and a Dash was the most intriguing tiki lounge in town, think again. The subterranean hot spot recently added The Bamboo Room, which is adjacent to the main bar and only has five tables. The reservation-only hideaway features high-concept tiki concoctions, more than 200 vintage rums as well as the option to upgrade your experience with a progressive tasting menu of drinks. The latter program, of course, is up to the bartender's discretion, so guests never know what they're getting until it’s sitting in front of them in glorious fashion.
Bordel/Black Bull (Wicker Park)
This esoteric speakeasy above Black Bull takes its cue from NYC's PDT and Canelaria in Paris. While Bordel's a cocktail lounge on the highest level, it also incorporates live entertainment in the mix. Don't go, however, expecting a pianist or acoustic soloist as Bordel aims to bring guests offbeat entertainment they cannot get elsewhere in the city. “Liberté,” a monthly event, is the bar’s latest offering and it’s possibly the most exciting nightlife attraction in Chicago. That’s because it’s set up for “Hamilton” cast members to perform impromptu shows. To find out about the next one, follow @bordelchicago on Instagram and Facebook. Also, there’s an under-the-radar event called “Jazz Hôtel” every Wednesday. It showcases the next generation of local jazz musicians.
Chit Chat Lounge/The Swill Inn (River West)
Chit Chat Lounge serves as The Swill Inn's speakeasy that you must literally seek out in order to experience. The tiny bar sits directly underneath the restaurant and showcases local deejays spinning hip-hop, R&B and house music on weekends. It offers the same menu as you'll get upstairs, but most patrons come for the drinks, music and atmosphere. We won’t reveal how to find the entrance because that’s part of the fun. You’ll be glad you did.
Chicago Magic Lounge (Andersonville)
Upon entering Chicago Magic Lounge, guests are greeted by a small room filled with “active” laundry machines. Don’t freak out. You’re in the right place! Beyond that room is an absolutely gorgeous venue serving as a destination for “Chicago-style magic shows.” What exactly does that mean? Before featured performances in the Harry Blackstone Cabaret, roaming magicians visit every table and entertain guests with mind-boggling card tricks. Headliners for the “signature show” range from local magicians and mentalists to sword-swallowing burlesque dancers. Guests who purchase mezzanine, front row and premium main floor tickets are invited to an exclusive performance of close-up magic directly after main stage shows in the 654 Club, an intimate, 43-seat theater. The venue also serves as a museum of sorts. There are original posters of magicians from the Victorian Era throughout the space, as well as books on magic, magic items from Harry Houdini’s collection and all sorts of cool memorabilia. Those unable to get tickets to the main show may enjoy magic shows in the Performance Bar, yet another area where interactive magicians wow guests. Food consists of share-able items like sliders, shrimp cocktail and charcuterie.
Off The Record Test Kitchen/Quiote (Logan Square)
Located in Quiote’s upstairs private dining space, Off The Record is a chef incubator and innovative measure to give "off the record" team members who work behind the scenes each day a chance to get hands-on experience, creating their own tasting menus for the public. Guests for these exclusive, monthly dinners can taste never-before-seen creations and new interpretations of classic dishes stemming from each chefs' unique culinary backgrounds. Chefs also act as deejays, spinning records on a classic turntable that’s set up for events. There are only 14 seats at the communal table.
See previous A's List columns right here.