The area around the Grand Blue Line stop is eclectic to say the least. The six-corner intersection of Grand, Milwaukee and Halsted is home to an Irish pub (Emmett's), a zen-themed dance club (Funky Buddha) and a three-star restaurant (Thyme). But venture further west on Grand, and you'll find yourself in the heart of the Italian "old neighborhood." The mixture of towering condos and old world charm typifies the old-meets-new vibe found around here.
Good for groups
If you were hoping this nightclub's name was a nod to the cheesy '80s movie starring Kim Cattrall, well, you're out of luck. Mannequin doesn't even attempt to pay homage to that cinema classic. I guess that's understandable, considering that the place is out to become Chicago's next go-to spot for fashionable, sleek clubbing in a bottle-service atmosphere.
Getting inside this Fulton Market club can be quite the task; there are a few guest lists going on at once and a bevy of doormen checking your outfit and ID and giving you a special color-coded ticket. From there, IDs are checked again and the hostess lets you know what/if you'll need to pay ($10-$20) based on your ticket.
Mannequin's interior boasts dark blue, black and white tones and purple lights, all of which accent the white faux-leather furniture, giving the large, loft-like space a chic glow. The dance floor sits right in the middle of the first level, with the main bar on one side and elevated white booths for bottle service/private parties on the other. The second level has more seating, two bars on either side of the room for your drinking pleasure (a basic cocktail is around $8) and a large open space in the middle of the room which overlooks the dance floor below.
Music here is similar to what you'd find at most big clubs on the weekend: radio remixes and top 40 hits. Still, if you're into fashion and bottle-service clubs with a bit of a suburban feel, Mannequin is a must-stop spot.
Good for groups
Emmit's Irish Pub
This busy intersection is no stranger to wild times. The basement housed the Italian Trust & Savings during Prohibition, allegedly along with the valuable hordes of several Chicago gangsters. Two would-be robbers were shot, and dwarf-tossing exhibitions were outlawed. While gun-toting thieves and flying dwarves are no longer a concern, memorable evenings are standard. The pub has undergone many liquor-serving incarnations. Since 1996, Emmit’s has become the neighborhood’s unrivaled corner pub. True to its heritage, the dark wood and green bar’s decor runs the gamut from Irish items to police paraphernalia. In addition to a full bar (with microbrews on tap), Emmit’s offers both Irish and bar food; sample the shepherd’s pie along with one of the many scotches.
A local chain, Pizza-Ria offers 12 varieties of pizza, including tomato bacon cheddar and BBQ chicken. For those not as prone to greasy temptations, there's the Beach Body pizza (made with no cheese and lots of veggies) and plenty of salads to choose from.
The best thing about Pizza-Ria, though, is the cost. Most slices fall around $3.50, and medium pies run $13-$16.
Where to chill
In a neighborhood known for its restaurants, not its nightlife, Cafe Fresco is one of a handful of places that stays open until 2 a.m. The clientele consists mostly of locals and after-dinner drinkers who aren't quite ready to go home. The menu is eclectic, with the typical bar offerings plus a few imaginative Italian entrees. The nautical-themed decor may bring to mind grizzled sailors and bad-tempered fishermen, but the bartenders are friendly and attentive.
A couple of tables are set up on the sidewalk in front of the building, but the outdoor wine garden in the back is the best thing about Cafe Fresco. It's a diamond in the rough: Plenty of plants and murals disguise the fact that you're actually sitting in an alley. The tables fill up quickly on nice nights, but if you're lucky enough to get a seat, you'll want to grab a glass of wine (it's half-price on Tuesdays) and relax under the stars.
In the know spot
The corner of Grand and May is home to the original D'Amato's Bakery, which has been holding court for more than 30 years. Most of D'Amato's customers are Chicago restaurants, who buy their bread here at wholesale. However, neighborhood residents stop by the corner shop to stock up on the best fresh bread in town. Get here early for the best selection; pick up a loaf of crusty bread or a slice of pizza. D'Amato's doesn't do much in the way of cakes, but the cannollis will more than satisfy your sweet tooth.