Being a hostess ain't such a bad gig when you've got a beer tap at your stand, as Hub 51's Laura Toal does.
On the cusp of both the Loop and the Gold Coast, the Grand stop is one of the most trafficked in the city and offers the best of all worlds...except for all that dust and noise going on right now.
Best of the nightlife
Just call Excalibur the amusement park of Chicago nightclubs; it's not easy to get bored here. This place is huge: 60,000 or so square feet. The space, divided among three floors, has room for, of course, drinking and dancing; there's also room for sitting and talking, there's a restaurant, pool tables, oxygen bar and video games. Whew.
Good for groups
10pin Bowling Lounge
Serious bowlers, beware; the lanes here don't have the arrows necessary for real bowling and the lame day-glo ball selection is a marker of the fact that no self-respecting league would set up shop here. But if you can manage to wrap your head around the idea that 10pin is a lounge that just happens to have bowling available — not the other way around — you'll get a whole lot more out of your time here. Upscale bar eats, creative cocktails and a club-caliber sound system will help you forget about all those gutter balls.
Billy Goat Tavern
Truly a Chicago institution, the Billy Goat is the quintessential city tavern, and the flagship at 430 N. Michigan (actually on Lower Michigan) is the way to experience it. Endlessly copied and famously spoofed on SNL, it's more than just a tourist trap; it symbolizes everything that Chicago claims to be, and in fact once was. The food itself is as good as its kind can be (note: do not ask for fries), and the aura of the room is an actual aura, not manufactured or marketing-designed. Chicago lore covers the walls in the form of newspapers and photos, but chances are you'll learn even more about the city from some of the longtime patrons.
Where to chill
With quirky touches like a beer tap in the hostess booth and spy cams in the bathrooms so you'll never miss a minute of what your date is up to back at the table, HUB 51 serves up a dynamic atmosphere to pair with its eclectic dining options. Whatever you're hungry for, HUB has it covered: Its menu includes sushi, tacos and Chilean sea bass.
Pops for Champagne
Less than a year after putting a cork in its Lakeview location, Pops for Champagne relocated to River North and doused the neighborhood with over 120 kinds of bubbly. Flute-swigging action takes place on two levels: Upstairs, the main bar sits beneath an "entertainment chandelier" comprised of several flat-screen projectors. Champagne accompaniments can be ordered up from a raw bar; there's also a dessert menu, hot and cold antipasti and an array of cheeses and small plates. Downstairs, a moody, dimly lit space is meant to evoke a Parisian jazz club from the 1920s.
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