photo: courtesy of Bridget Cicenia
Combine heavy food and heavy music at Kuma's Corner
Local hip-hop and indie rock get a lot of attention from Chicago music critics and bloggers, but the city also boasts one of the most active and connected heavy-metal (also known as "heavy music") scenes in the country. Hard-rocking local bands like Disturbed, Lair of the Minotaur and Pelican have all earned national attention, and many more are sure to follow. To get a sense of what's out there, check out Rebel Radio's (WSBC AM 1240) weekend broadcasts and local music website Chicago Metal Factory. Then hit one of these hotbeds of heavy-metal activity.
Find solace underground at Metal Haven
A better name for this revered record store might be "Underground Metal Haven." If you're a hair-band enthusiast, or a casual fan of Linkin Park and Slipknot, you may not find what you're looking for here. But if names like Entombed, Kataklysm or Pig Destroyer sound familiar to you, you're in the right place. Easily intimidated fans can stick to the store's mail-order service, but to really take advantage of the extensive selection and get a few recommendations, it's best to visit in person. One of the few record stores in the country dedicated to heavy metal, Metal Haven moved in 2007 from Lakeview to this larger space in Lincoln Square.
Headbang by request at Exit
More popularly known as a punk/fetish bar, Exit has become the unofficial home of Chicago Metal Factory, with two weekly DJ events. Friday nights from 10 p.m.-4 a.m is T.S.I.F. (Thank Satan It's Friday) CMF metal request night at Exit. CMF Metal Sundays (also 10 p.m.-4 a.m) feature special guest DJs, usually members of local bands, who spin an assortment of thrash, hardcore and classic metal for guests to enjoy along with their $3 beer specials. Wednesday night at Exit is "No Shame" hair-metal night, but the DJs' interpretation of "hair metal" appears to be pretty loose; you can probably sneak a couple of heavier tunes into the mix. Lincoln Park's Liar's Club is another regular location for Chicago Metal Factory DJ events, which are posted regularly on the CMF website.
Go south at Reggie's Music Joint
A recent addition to the local rock scene, Reggie's has scored a number of well-known metal acts in the past year. The venue's location is a breath of fresh air for South Side metal fans, who usually have to trek north to places like Metro and Subterranean, or to the Pearl Room in south suburban Mokena to see new and upcoming bands. The space is a one-stop shop for rock lovers; one can easily spend a couple of hours here. For live music, check out Reggie's Rock Club; for eats, go to Reggie's Music Joint, where the chicken wings ($7 for eight) are a must-have. Next door, browse the assorted rock paraphernalia (mostly overpriced band t-shirts and posters, sadly) or head upstairs for CD shopping at Record Breakers. Alas, there is no dedicated "metal" section at Record Breakers, but crate-divers will have a ball, and the used CD selection is unusually diverse.
Dig into burgers, beer and brutality at Kuma's Corner
This darkly lit burger joint manages to embrace its theme without coming off as kitschy or fake. Rockers, middle-aged couples and Gen-X parents with small children co-exist happily while bands like Sepultura and King Diamond routinely blare from the speakers. Tattooed eye-candy of both sexes serve up a wide selection of microbrews and a variety of specialty burgers ($10-$12) named for both classic and newer thrashers. Those who laugh in the face of heartburn will want to try the Slayer burger, which features a pile of fries, chili and andouille sausage. Vegetarian metalheads (yes, they do exist) can enjoy the same offerings with a veggie burger. Non-burger fans should make room for the macaroni and cheese ($10), which can be doctored up with peas, red peppers, mushrooms, prosciutto and bacon, among other ingredients. Be warned, though; once a well-kept secret, Kuma's is now nearly impossible to get into on the weekends thanks to a recent review on Channel 11's "Check, Please!".