Thursday, January 26, 2012

Laurie's Planet of Sound (Lincoln Square)

4639 N. Lincoln Avenue

In 2010, Rolling Stone named Laurie's Planet of Sound #11 out of the 25 best record stores in the country. In the country!!! That means, tucked away on the Northwest side of the city, is a special, rare, delicious gem in my Lincoln Square 'hood that I don't want anyone else to know about. I should tell everyone else about it, though, because it is kick ass. Between new and used vinyl, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, and books, Laurie's has some of the best collections of most record stores in the city.

Who got it? I would like to know so we can hang out.

The place, simply put, is cool. And rad. It is also quaint and welcoming. Every time I walk in there I have to ask the staff what music is playing over the speakers because I always dig it. I thought I was fairly up on what new music is coming out but Laurie's is a few steps ahead of me. The joint is also silly and goofy, which is right up my alley, because of all the random movies and album they stash. You could spend at least an hour sifting through all the goodies. Can you just look at the album covers below for a sec?

Dreamin' of mullets

If you're not into records, do not fret, they have a pretty decent used DVD selection, too. They usually only have one of a certain film (duh, because of the 'used' thing) but I've picked up a number of cheap movies from there despite that. Also, just want to say, Adventures of Pete and Pete and Pee Wee's Playhouse are among the fantastic merchandise that I saw on the shelves. And even if you aren't into records, they are fun to look through and see how men confidently wear mullets and women sport painted on eyebrows with no shame.

The staff is knowledgeable about music and you should not be afraid of them or feel like you are being judged. At least that is what I read in some Yelp! reviews about people who are clearly insecure with themselves or their purchases. Own up to your Paul Bogush, Jr. purchase, man! Don't act like you're not "dreamin' of love" either, because we all know you are.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tank Noodle (Uptown)

Tank Noodle
I am not an adventurous eater by any means. I will always try new food but I don't usually seek out the fine dining/foodie-type business. When I am about to try something new I smell it first, get a real good whiff, then timidly stick my tongue on it, take a super tiny bite, chew with my mouth wide open for some reason, and look upward as if something from the sky is going to give me an answer to how I feel about this particular food. If the food is especially delicious, I close my eyes and make weird moaning noises that probably last a little too long.

Don't mind the dude blowing his nose.
That is why pho (pronounced 'fuh') was quite the adventure for me. Tank Noodle, located at 4953 N. Broadway Ave. in Uptown's predominantly Vietnamese area, has a menu the size of a children's book. It's dense. My friend John and I ordered for pick-up so we didn't have the dine-in experience. We only waited under ten minutes for our Phở tái, chín, gân, sách, AKA beef noodles soup with sliced beef, well done brisket, soft tendon, bible tripe.

You are given separate packages of ingredients:
1 tub of beef broth with other yummy smelling smells in it
1 takeout box filled with rice noodles, two kinds of meat (one of which is raw, one of which is gelatinous and kind of clear), other noodle stuff
1 plastic baggy with basil, mint, lime, bean sprouts, sriracha sauce


Well, you're supposed to pour the broth in a bowl then put the thin slices of raw meat in the bowl and it cooks on its own. It's like magic! Then you put all the other junk in there. When I say 'junk' I don't mean it negatively, there is just a lot of parts and flavors that go into pho and they all make it delicious. I had fun eating this dish!

I did it! I made pho!

Tank Noodle gained notoriety after being featured in TimeOut Chicago and on WTTW's Check Please so it's almost always busy now. But that shouldn't ever stop you from eating delicious food.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Schubas Tavern (Lakeview)

Image taken from
Schubas is cozy, homey, there's a bar, there's a cafe, there's a stage, all in different segments of the building. The building has been at Southport and Belmont since 1903, starting out as a Schiltz brewery, but Schubas itself has only been around since 1988 when Chris and Michael Schuba bought the establishment. The brothers restored the building to its original greatness and made the place what it is now.

I've seen bands at Schubas, I've seen stand-up, no matter what, I always have a good time. You feel welcome when you're there. I don't know what it is about that place. You can hang out in the bar while a show is going on in the back, or you can eat some food at the Harmony Grill, it feels like you're chilling at a friend's place. Super relaxed and laid back.

But last night we saw White Mystery as part of the closing festivities of Tomorrow Never Knows Fest, which was a week long fest with music and comedy taking place at some of the best venues in the city: Lincoln Hall, Schubas, the Hideout, Metro, and Smartbar.

These curly, red-headed kids. 

White Mystery is the sister and brother duo of Alex White (guitar/vocals) and Francis White (drums/vocals). You would think that two instruments could not wield much power or any face-melting at all, but, alas, my fine friends, your face shall, and will, be swiftly melted off by this seriously rockin' bad ass band. I also have a major girl crush on Alex White. She's an incredible performer and an amazing talent on guitar. Their garage rock sound is fresh, but vintage-sounding, and always elicits head banging.

What's great about Schubas is how close you are to the band. We camped out right up front and were about five feet away from the performers.

Alex White

Francis White

Check out Schubas. Check out White Mystery.

Quenchers Saloon (Logan Square)


I have walked past, waited for the bus near, and driven past Quenchers at Western and Fullerton a bunch of times, and always wondered what it was like inside. On Saturday, the two forces met--Quenchers and Bru, Bru and Quenchers, it was like magic, or at least smelled like magic, and by magic I mean popcorn because there was a popcorn machine inside. 

We went to see Sleep Out, a friend's band, and they rocked the house. As in a previously mentioned post, I love live music, and the fact that this band was good made it a pleasing experience indeed. I stand there with a goofy smile on my face, bobbing my head up and down, rocking my shoulders side to side, and tapping my foot. I'm a happy gal when there is music playing. 

Sleep Out

There are two rooms at Quenchers; one where the bar and tables are and one where the band plays. It's nice because when you're sitting in the bar area you can still hear the band but you don't have to scream at the top of your lungs like you're at a Guns N' Roses concert. Do people still reference Guns N' Roses? Would it be loud at a Guns N' Roses concert or just sad? Are they still a band?? I have so many questions. Anyway, we drank, and ate free popcorn, threw some free popcorn at one another, and had a grand 'ol time. 

I just glanced at their calendar and Quenchers seems like a variety show! You got improv, you got poetry readings, you got open mics, you got music, you got a Warren Zevon birthday party (1/26, for the record). I'd hit up any of that fun and I recommend you do as well.

Heads up--the joint is cash only but they have an ATM inside. 

The Flat Iron (Wicker Park)

There's the Flat Iron Building and then there is The Flat Iron bar, located at 1565 N. Milwaukee Ave., which is part of the Flat Iron Building. I could probably say "Flat Iron" three more times in the previous sentence if I really wanted to.

I have never been to this bar before 2 AM. You go here when everything else closes, AKA the crowd from Debonair, because it is open until 4 AM. Once again, lots of young people, oftentimes, lots of super drunk people. But there are pool tables, the place is big, and the murals on the walls are done by local artists, so there is always something to look at and talk about.

It's cool just to hang here. There's nothing tremendously special about it besides the fact it is open super late. Visiting before 2 AM, or even 1 AM, would probably be a weird sight to see. I recommend sticking with the late crowd.

Mural stuff!
More mural stuff!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Debonair (Wicker Park)

The ever famous red light-up wall at Debonair.

Oh, Debonair, how many nights I have spent sweating and dancing my little booty off until 3 AM within your red light-up walls. Located at 1575 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Debonair Social Club is Wicker Park's dance club. When I hear the word 'club,' I think sandwich, but I also think of Jersey Shore people, for some reason, stinkin' up the joint with their yuck cologne, grabbing women, Ed Hardy clothes, fist pumping, hair gel. This place is, thankfully, not Jersey Shore-ish, but actually attracts quite an eclectic variety of people. Yeah, Wicker Park is full of young, hip people, but it draws in folks from all neighborhoods and backgrounds. Don't get me wrong, if you go with some gal pals, you are going to get dudes trying to boogie up on your bod whether you want them to or not, it's just science. Sometimes, a guy might even repeatedly come up to you throughout the evening and tell you you look like Sara Bareilles and ask you when your next single is coming out. True story.

With two levels of inviting dance floor, you have plenty of opportunity to bust out those bangin' dance moves of yours. The upstairs played Top 40 hits and an unreasonable amount of dubstep, which I do NOT know how to dance to and instead just kind of uncomfortably move my hands in a slow robot motion and tightly close my eyes while waiting for the DJ to transition to the next song. But downstairs was playing the jamz, yep, jamz with a 'z.' I can pretty much dance anywhere and be happy but it's much more fun when I can sing along with the songs.

Debonair is where you go to shake your butt, and shake it hard.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Violet Hour (Wicker Park)

Sneaky. The Violet Hour is sneaky. There is no sign out front, only a door and a mural. Once you find the joint and go through the door, you're in a tiny waiting area with a curtain separating you from whatever lies beyond. Then, the nicest and sweetest bouncer alive (seriously, he was a sweetheart) comes out from behind the curtain every so often and takes the next party. We did not end up waiting that long, maybe 10 minutes tops.
Your only cue to the Violet Hour.

While waiting to be called in, my friend and I discussed our hopes that moon jumps and slides would be inside. We didn't really know what to expect and imagined the best scenario possible. Violet Hour is described as a speakeasy, so I was imagining a small space with tufted vintage couches and chairs and velvet, lots of velvet. There was velvet, but in light blue curtains that draped from ceiling to floor. It's more 19th century France than a speakeasy. Seating consisted of booths, and wide, leather stools around tables. The design was spacious, simple, minimalist, with nothing on the walls, and glass chandeliers in each room. I'm usually content at a dive bar, some hole-in-the-wall spot, so I felt like a VIP celebrity in there. We sat at the bar and had our own bartender catering to us, who also was a peach. My friends and I each ordered a delicious cocktail, which our bartender made right in front of us.

Listen, this place is classy, but not to a point of being pretentious. Initially, we were kind of intimidated by the prospect of going, which made us want to try it even more. Oh, one major thing, while inside, you're not supposed to use your phone, which made us focus more on each other's conversations. The release from being connected to my phone was sadly exhilarating. When we left, we didn't realize how much time had passed. We were lost in this weird, 19th century French vacuum with cute waiters and waitresses and dudes and ladies, that felt like it was somewhere outside of Chicago, and when we left, we were thrust back into the real world.

Them's the rules!

The Violet Hour's website, but don't visit it because it's more fun to be surprised!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Small Bar (Logan Square)

Last night, we visited Small Bar in Logan Square, located at 2956 N. Albany Ave at Albany and Wellington. Now, folks, there are two other Small Bars--one on Division in Wicker Park and one on Fullerton in Lincoln Park. So if you're meeting people at Small Bar, make sure to specify which location. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, play the Small Bar version of Russian roulette. Everybody wins! Sometimes! One out of three!

My friends just happen to live half a block away from Small Bar and get together every Thursday night for "Small Bar Thursday." They know the bartenders and have even joked about setting up cots inside for the winter. Apparently, some people have actually done that when a crazy winter storm swept through the city. Stuck in a bar with beer and food? I'd be all about it.

Small Bar has a surprisingly appetizing menu. It's bar food but they've upped the ante. My friend Becca is a mac and cheese fanatic. When I say fanatic, I mean comparable to a 13-year-old girl geeking out over Justin Bieber releasing a new song called "I Heart U" that she thinks Bieber wrote specifically for her. Becca is a mac and cheese fanatic and Small Bar changes their mac and cheese every week, using different cheese or toppings. I've had it a few times and it is choice. Just tops.

They have stellar specials and all the drinks are relatively cheap, but, man, if you pick one of those fancy craft beers, you just need one and you're buzzed. Well, maybe that's just me because I'm a major lightweight. That's what they call me, One Drink Bru. Or Two Drink Bru if it's Saturday.

Small Bar lives up to its name; it's small. But the people are great, the bartenders are nice, the food is yum, the music is best. It's tucked away in an unsuspecting part of the neighborhood. It's one of those places that the people within a few blocks gravitate toward because it's kind of the only cool bar in the immediate area, unless you walk to the Milwaukee Avenue strip of Logan Square.

Here's the website for more info and daily drink specials: Small Bar

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Upstairs Gallery and Simon's Tavern (Andersonville)

Upstairs Gallery
Last night, my pals and I attended a free improv show (suggested donation) at the Upstairs Gallery in Andersonville. Located at 5219 N. Clark St. near Clark St. and Foster Ave., this cozy performance space on the third floor is a place for creative peeps, such as improv teams, sketch groups, etc., to perform, rehearse, and get their goodness seen. And, when we walked in, it smelled like apple cider, so I really had no reason to leave any time soon.

We saw two groups perform: Ruptured Childhood and The Pitch. Ruptured Childhood performed long-form improv--the audience throws out a suggestion and they create scenes for their allotted time.

The Pitch
The Pitch 
The Pitch had their debut last night and we felt honored to be among the first civilians to see their very first performance. The premise is each player pitches a movie, maybe a few sentences and a couple major plot ideas, then the audience picks which movie they would like to see performed. The group then centers their set around the movie idea, switching from scene to scene and creating new characters on the spot. I love the unique approach to generating scenes. It was a blast and amazing to watch.

The Upstairs Gallery has weekly recurring shows and groups rotate in and out. Check out their Tumblr for more information and schedule bidness:

After the show, we went to Simon's Tavern across the street at 5210 N. Clark Street. Simon's has been around since 1934 (ahh! that's old!) and is well known for its glogg. Yummmm. I worked next door to Simon's for two years and never went in. I have no explanation for this statement.

Simon's Tavern
We walked in and a live band was playing, which I get extremely excited about by yelling, "LIVE BAND! LIVE BAND!" It was fairly packed for a Wednesday night, which made it HOT in there. The bar patrons were an older set and some were dancing to the music in the middle of the bar, which I highly approve of. We ended up going to our friend's place to drink instead and avoid the crowd, but, I think Simon's is a great neighborhood bar. It's homey, they still had their Christmas decorations up, which I also highly approve of, and people looked like they were having fun.

And then I'm including this photograph because this is what we did after Simon's. That's right, my lovelies, moon shoes.

This is what Elia looks like with moon shoes.