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Virtual L: Jackson (Red)

Where the traders hang.
Sunday Nov 02, 2008.     By Centerstage Chicago Staff
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Ever wish you could spend the day salivating over stock options? Hop off at Jackson and take a tour of the trader's part of town. From serene yoga studios where Board of Traders find some lunchtime Zen to smoky pubs where they catch a post-work puff, the Jackson area hosts some popular haunts for the suited-folk. If capitalism just isn't your cup of tea, Centerstage knows an old-fashioned place where you can score a really tasty (and organic!) treat.

Best of the nightlife
Whiskey Blue
If you can immediately tell that Rande Gerber waved his magic wand in this place (what tipped you off? The leather chairs? Dim lighting? Gawk-worthy patrons?), you're probably already on the upscale honor roll. But for more laid-back imbibers, Whiskey Blue provides an ideal place to posh up your typical in-the-Loop evening. The moody-hued bar is dotted with sultry candlelight that sparks up many-a flirtatious encounter; look for business travelers canoodling with scenesters and colleagues gettin' friendly over tumblers.

Music of the R&B and hip-hop variety floods the space, but low volumes let you hear yourself order a martini. If you're still doing that "Sex in the City" thing, go for the cosmo; it's made with real lime juice. The signature LSD martini is shaken up with Cointreau, Skyy citrus vodka, blue Curacao and lime juice and comes (how else) with a cherry on top. The bar adjoins "The Lobby," a sprawling area with leather chairs, a gilded ceiling and inlaid tile floors that come compliments of the hotel's previous incarnation, the Midland Hotel. On weekends, a DJ spins clubby tracks from a balcony overlooking The Lobby. The vibe is un peu Euro so make sure to pack your black and prepare to dodge air-kisses.

Good for groups
Poag Mahone's
After a busy day at the Board, traders head to Poag Mahone's to unwind the Irish way. In the grand tradition of Irish storytelling, ask about the bar's name and you'll get a good-natured earful. In a nutshell: The bar's original owner was working at an Irish pub way back in the day (around 1920, if you want to be precise) when an unfriendly guest happened by and blurted out "Poag Ma hone." This expression, it turns out, wasn't the dude's drink order but the Gaelic term for "kiss my ass."

As for those legendary burgers, well, there's a story there, too: The bar's founder wound up working at a pub (that he would later buy) in the first place because he'd broken a leg and was unable to continue working at the Union Stockyards. Putting his knowledge of cutting and grinding to use, he instated a burger menu that's still going strong. Order the traditional 9-ounce and pile on free fixin's like raw onion and 1,000 island dressing.

Other options include a hot turkey breast sandwich ($6.75) or, on the greener side, an Italian Garbage Salad ($8.95) stocked with shrimp, artichoke hearts, radishes and roasted peppers. The Irish Bread Pudding ($5.95) comes with a whiskey sauce "so good we have to card you for it." Share-with-buddy drink specials include Wednesday's bucket of five domestic beers for $13.50.

Cheap Eats
Beef 'n Brandy
Beef 'n Brandy is so many wonderfully kitschy things at once: a local diner, an after-work watering hole and—oddly enough, on Fridays—an after-hours karaoke club. And it's much bigger than it looks from outside: The restaurant, which has been open for more than 35 years, is three levels high. Although the middle section tends to be the busiest, the full menu is also served downstairs.

The dinner fare may not be five-star, but it's plentiful: The menu features entrees ranging from stir-fry to seafood to a particularly tasty mostaccioli in vodka sauce. For those just hungry enough for a snack, Beef 'n Brandy's appetizers—almost all of which are fried—are served in decent portions. Daily lunch specials run for under $6 and dinner specials, served from 5 to 8 p.m., are less than $8 and come with extras like mashed potatoes and soup.

Where to chill
Intelligentsia Coffee
To get your caffeine fix from a decidedly non-corporate cup, head to Intelligentsia. The Old-World atmosphere trades up blah, lightwood furnishings (you know the ones) for marble-topped tables for two; a rose in a glass vase sits primly atop each one. Newspapers on long, wooden sticks await current events groupies, and curtain-clad windows look out onto the bustle of Jackson Boulevard. On a low set of shelves at the front of the space, coffee and tea trappings that far outweigh the average mug entice at-home brewers: Look for the hardcore Technivorm KTBS Coffee Maker ($205) or the hourglass-shaped Chemex Coffe Maker ($37.99).

The cafe's cup of tea is, well, an extensive variety of teas that come from all over the world. Representatives of the white, green, oolong and black population stand ready for brewing: Sip on exotic and flowery flavors like organic jasmine peach, organic wild rose mint and lychee tea. Falling into the "special offerings" category, the jasmine silver needles tea is a special grade of white tea that's scented with jasmine and has a rep for exquisite sweetness. But if your cravings lean more toward cappuccino, caffeinate away: Intelligentsia's menu doesn't discriminate against lattes ($2.70). Other offerings include a la carte panins ($5.25), ready-made salads ($4.99-$5.99), old fashioned chocolate bars and protein-laden juices.

In-the-know spot
Akal Yoga
Before his days as a human pretzel, La Salle street trader Vinnie Hunihan found inner peace through sunny days at NASDAQ. But when a one week trip to India turned into a two-month stay at a meditation ashram, Hunihan's deep-breathing purpose became clear: After undergoing yoga teacher training in India and California, Vinnie opened a studio in the very building where he used to get his kicks analyzing options.

Akal (meaning "timeless" and "awareness") Yoga Studio offers up a melon-hued oasis on the seventh floor of the Board of Trade. When traders want to trade in Potbelly for a more spiritually-nourishing lunch fix, they stop by Akal for an afternoon session of vinyasa/flow; the class normally runs from noon to one on weekdays. Later in the afternoon, folks stop by to unwind with Iyengar (a form of hatha) yoga. Bonus: An in-house, Thai massage studio offers one-and-a-half-hour unknot-your-back sessions, well worth the $140 if you're truly topping the stress charts.


Explore More

Bars & Clubs

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Brand-New Bars

Get divey on Grace; go downstairs at River North's Curio.

Food & Dining

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Go Dutch at Vincent and satisfy a familiar sweet tooth at BomBon.

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