Learned some new moves? You can show 'em off all year long at these local venues.
This Latin restaurant in Lincoln Square gets a head start on Monday nights with its open dancing session, held until 2 a.m. (show up at 7:30 p.m. for a lesson). The crowd tends to be quieter on these nights, making it less intimidating for those of us who could still use a lesson or two. If you're beyond the baby steps and ready to lead, head over on a Friday when locals flock to the restaurant for salsa dancing from 10 p.m.-2 a.m (lessons begin at 9 p.m.). If you're still feeling timid, belly up to the bar for a couple classic mojitos, or fuel up with some ethnic-infused fare like fried plantains and chicken (or ham) croquetas.
Every Friday and Saturday night around 11 p.m., this Latin-inspired restaurant clears its floor for some serious dancers. While the crowd's moves can be a bit intense, their personalities tend to be anything but. The men here aren't shy when it comes to asking for a dance, and most of them have the moves to back it up. When your feet tire, you can park it at one of the many tables lining the dance floor while you cool down with a seasonal libation from award-winning mixologist Adam Seger. Those looking for a little fuel for their twists and turns should check out Nacional's tango night on Tuesday, June 23. The dance-crazed evening comes complete with a four-course meal ($36.95) and $1 sangria all night long. And there's a reason the drinks are so cheap; you'll need at least two to tango.
While the Latin fusion menu is noteworthy, it's not the food that keeps the crowd returning to Rumba. Instead, it's the live music and salsa dancing on Friday and Saturday evenings. The $10 cover is well worth it, and if you show up early enough for dinner, you can stick around for dancing at no extra cost. As a bonus, the restaurant's mojitos are just as well executed as some of the spectacular moves you'll see on Rumba's intimate dance floor.
Hike it over to this honky-tonk bar for classic country tunes and cheap brews. The crowded dance floor caters to the country-lovin' folk with classic tunes until 2 a.m., when top 40 hits typically take over (the pub stays open 'til 5 a.m.). As for the clientele, you'll find plenty of authentic Southerners strewn with young professionals and locals on the hunt for a cheap drink. While the crowd couldn't be any more diverse, the staff keeps it real with its mostly Southern roots, hailing from states like Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and West Virginia.
Ask someone for his initial thoughts on Willowbrook Ballroom and the first thing mentioned will likely be its size. The historic venue has been around since the early 1920s and its 6,000-square-foot ballroom undoubtedly leaves an impression with all who set foot on its perfectly polished floors. Back in its heyday, Willowbrook played host to some of the most swingin' names in jazz, like Count Basie and Benny Goodman, who later turned the reins over to modern-day musicians like the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Decades later, the ballroom continues to attract folks from all over the Midwest with its affordable dance events. On Sunday afternoons, you can test your ballroom skills (2-5 p.m.), or head over later in the evening for swing lessons and dancing (7-11 p.m.). Tuesdays bring in a Southern-fueled crowd with country & western dancing (7:30-10 p.m.), while Wednesdays make room for a spicier crowd with some salsa (8:30-11 p.m.).