Only a true icon can name their venue Legends and get away with it. Luckily, famed blues artist Buddy Guy fits the bill. Known as “the crowned king of Chicago’s electric blues scene,” Buddy has more than 50 years in music notched into his guitar strap, as well as six Grammy Awards and a coveted spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Inside his beloved blues club, Guy can be seen on stage every January during sold out shows, easing into the playful stomp of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man” and his soulful, woozy solo in “Stone Crazy.” The performance space holds fans’ intrigue with other performances throughout the year and has hosted such renowned musicians as John Mayer, ZZ Top, David Bowie, and Eric Clapton. Seven nights per week, live blues music drifts through the air while guests dine on southern Cajun soul food, from blackened bourbon shrimp to cat fish po’ boys and chicken and sausage jambalaya. Music fans can sneak away from their meals to fawn over blues memorabilia such as original artwork, Grammys awards, and guitars signed by B.B. King, Carols Santana, and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Close Up 2 certainly has the jazz club vibe down—the dimly lit lounge, the deep blue color scheme, the furnace that runs on burning saxophone reeds. Into this mood-setting space step local duets and trios as well as big bands and big names in jazz, all of whom perform on weeknights until 2 a.m. and weekends until 3 a.m., causing the diverse audience to tap their toes between sips of cocktails.
Equal parts sophisticated seafood restaurant, innovative sushi bar, and downhome oyster joint, Shaw’s Crab House has something for seafood palates of all stripes. The chefs base the expansive menu on what’s in season and available fresh. Dishes might incorporate Lake Michigan whitefish, Atlantic yellowfin tuna, Nantucket Cape scallops, or Alaskan King crab. Just-shucked oysters hit plates in myriad varieties, from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, and star in the signature Oyster Shooter cocktail—a spicy concoction of an oyster, Absolut Peppar vodka, cocktail sauce, and Tabasco. Shaw’s sushi chef rolls specialty makis including the Godzilla roll, which combines tempura shrimp, avocado, barbecue eel, smoked salmon, and tobiko, and gives one the ability to roar blue flames. He also plates no-rice shari-nashi rolls, such as the spicy lobster roll, filled with Maine lobster and avocado.
As diners dig in at tables shrouded in crisp white cloths, the dining room plays host to blues-based live music, which fills the space every night of the week.
Founded by an Italian immigrant love-struck by the blues, Rosa’s Lounge gathers minor-key maestros and their fans into a rollicking joint celebrated by Frommer’s as "one of the best joints in town for spirited, authentic Chicago blues." Throughout its cozy, low-lit caverns, guests rock to the soulful strains of the guitar, the impassioned wail of the harmonica, and the haunting tinkle of the baritone glockenspiel. Since 1984, performers from a wide spectrum of styles have strode across the stage, from traditional Delta musicians such as Pinetop Perkins and David Honeyboy Edwards to the latter-day Chicago-school of blues folk such as Billy Branch and Sugar Blue.
Featured on 190 North and ChicagosBestTV.com, Le Fleur de Lis's chef Allen J. Rochelle Jr. crafts a menu of creole classics from his hometown in southwest Louisiana. According to reporter Brittney Payton of ChicagosBestTV.com, "Every single bite has a kick, a punch, a smack" of heat—including oysters, catfish, and shrimp deep-fried in a spice-infused buttermilk batter. Cajun seasonings also light a fire under classics such as crayfish étoufée and meat-packed jambalaya. Outside, crimson-coated brick walls depict a jazz band belting tunes, while inside, figures in neighborhood scenes try to convince diners to share their meals.
At The Joynt, bartenders blend tasty cocktails as jazz trios fill eardrums with soothing tunes and DJs command armies of dancers moving in tandem to top 40 hits. Like a dapper hydra, The Joynt wears many hats, entertaining patrons with funk bands and pop standards in the live room while resident DJs spin in the grand bar. In the lounge, ambient lighting gleams off leather chairs and sofas amid mirror-lined walls. And in warmer months, servers step outside the two-story club to deliver drinks for patrons sitting beneath capacious umbrellas that double as bold embellishments for cocktails.
Amid Chicago's capricious and ever-changing bar scene, Lonie Walker's Underground Wonder Bar has remained a downtown fixture for more than 20 years, and it's no wonder why. Whether it's the live blues, jazz, world, and funk music that echoes through the bar each night, the 4 a.m. closing hour, or the fact that the owner herself regularly takes the stage to sing with her band, the bar seems to embody the Chicago nightlife. An eclectic set of live acts plays to an equally eclectic crowd every night of the week at the spot's two-level, three-stage River North location.