It's been said ad nauseam that there's no better place to be than Chicago in the summer -- just don't talk about the rest of the year. On the entertainment scene, the various restaurants/clubs/lounges around the city try to cram their special events into a very short window where they at least have a chance of getting some decent weather.
Thus was the issue with Thursday night, where there was so much going on all over the city that we didn't know where to start. But we gave it a shot.
6 p.m. -- 33 Club Sneak Peek: Is Jerry Kleiner intent on complete world domination, one multi-colored oversized lamp at a time? Just a couple of weeks ago he debuted Il Poggiolo in Hinsdale, and on Thursday he unveiled 33 Club -- a new restaurant in Old Town (1419 Wells) that will open to the public on July 20. On one hand the restaurant is what you expect from Kleiner -- a huge open space with 20-foot tall mahogany ceilings and walls -- but at the same time, it's slightly understated than most of his other projects. And despite the location in the high-income Old Town neighborhood, Kleiner says the price point will remain low when it comes to the "cutting-edge versions of classic American fare" on the menu. In fact, there's won't be a single entree on the menu above $30.
The name, 33 Club, refers to the year prohibition ended, so expect a bit of a grand retro feel. And you don't have to worry about the feds crashing the party.
7 p.m. -- Little Bucharest Bistro's Grand Opening: Little Bucharest Bistro (3661 N. Elston Ave.) was a fixture in Chicago's culinary scene for more than 30 years when it closed its doors in 2004. Now it's back, and judging by early reports, even better than before. The restaurant showcases authentic Romanian fare meshed with contemporary American flavors. Chef Andre Christopher -- previously with Japonais, Pops for Champagne and the Grocery Bistro -- is the man behind the shared plate style menu. And if you're looking for a late bite, this is the place. It's open for dinner Sunday through Friday until 2 a.m. and Saturday until 3 a.m. Don't be surprised if owner Branko Podrumedic offers you a shot of liquor from a long tube attached to his mouth. Or starts throwing plates around. Things definitely don't get dull around here.
8 p.m. -- Akira's 7th Anniversary Party: If you're talking about hometown retail success stories, Akira certainly needs to be in the conversation. There doesn't seem to be a neighborhood these days where you can't see that identifiable red awning. Well, that may be a stretch, but ever since a mismatched group of three University of Ilinois students started Akira seven years ago, it's been a runaway success -- or a "runway" success, judging by their extremely popular fashion shows. There's no doubt they know how to throw a great party, and Thursday's "Retrospectacular" was no exception. In short, it was a feast of eye candy and color for your senses. There's a reason we got off schedule and stayed here for two hours before hitting our last stop.
10 p.m. -- The Red Canary's VIP Opening: It's a story that's unfortunately duplicated all over the city -- a restaurant/bar is set to open, the announcement has been made, the invites sent, and then all of a sudden the wheels of city government don't move as quickly as the owners thought, pushing the opening back until the proper permits are issued. Thus is the case with The Red Canary (695 N. Milwaukee Ave.), which was scheduled to open July 18, but will now have to wait until July 24. But that didn't stop the owners from throwing their planned VIP party for friends, family and media.
The Red Canary is in the old Avenue M spot, but the space has undergone a massive transformation in the hands of the new owners, former DePaul buddies Shane Hudson and Jamie Uhlir. The gastro-pub is going for a 1920s Victorian feel, and you're immediately greeted by a giant crystal chandelier, bold colors and ornate gold details. The two levels offer a number of separate rooms, each offering its own vibe, along with a lush 2,200 square foot outdoor beer garden. The classic American cuisine offers dishes like Buttermilk Fried Quail and Angus Beef Sliders.
The owners aren't interested in the bottle service culture that has taken over many of the city's nightspots. You'll have no problem getting a table here, and if you'd like, you can simply order a beer. You'll just have to wait a few more days to do it.