The staff members at The Rock House wouldn’t lavish their attention on any old beans picked out of a wholesale catalogue—they needed a more personal experience with the coffee-growing industry. To guarantee the wholly non-exploitative origins of each cup of java served at their shop, the coffee brewers partnered with growers in Sri Lanka to develop their very own crops and went the extra mile to ensure quality by roasting all the beans in-house. As the staff brews single cups with an artisanal pour-over method, customers can sift through rock-’n’-roll-inspired merchandise under the light streaming from naked light bulbs, chandeliers, and disco balls.
From their vast catalog of music, AShah Entertainment?s DJs pluck original cuts and radio edits to spin at parties, complementing jams with optional music video mixing. But the entertainment company?s services extend beyond audio. Their team also supplies special events?from weddings to Indian gatherings?with artful lighting and photo booths, which document revelry more effectively than an undercover reporter posing as the host?s long lost geometry teacher.
A nonprofit theater helmed by passionate cinephiles, Facets Cinematheque instills a love of film in its youngest moviegoers through its groundbreaking children's programs. Since establishing their first children's film exhibition series in 1975, the theater's stewards have branched out into education and outreach, introducing students to positive films and the inspiring stories behind them through channels including family film events, in-school screenings, and the Facets Kids Film Camp. They also oversee the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, which presents hundreds of films from around the globe during its annual autumn run. Though the festival caters to its smallest attendees, its scope is impressively large; welcoming over 20,000 attendees each year, the festival often offers the first screenings of award-winning fare, such as recent Academy Award winner The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
In addition to their children's programming, the theater also lights up its silver screen with indie films, award winners, foreign flicks, and documentaries. Celluloid-caretakers curate a collection of reels that seldom see screenings elsewhere in Chicago, frequently enjoying their city debut within the intimate 125-seat theater. Occasionally, production-team members or film experts join audiences immediately following the show for Q&A sessions—known as film dialogues—taking questions, exploring themes, and providing tips for removing stubborn popcorn kernels from teeth. Upcoming films can be found on Facets’ website.
Eyeballs absorb moving pictures thanks to the dual capabilities of Facets’ projection system, which handles digital and 35 mm films with equal aplomb. While the ephemeral stories fill brains with new ideas, soda and popcorn—acquirable at the old-fashioned concession stand—fill mouths with flavors that have defined every classic moviegoing experience since Orson Welles first invented the snack.
Sam Elias knows that being cooped up during long winter days can make people stir-crazy. So in 1993, after moving from Florida, land of palm trees and beaches, to Chicago, land of frigid winds and gray slush, he founded WhirlyBall as a way for people to release pent-up energy even as snow was falling outside. During each competitive WhirlyBall game, which combines aspects of basketball, hockey, and jai alai, players zoom across an indoor 50'x80' court in motorized cars called WhirlyBugs. They wield plastic scoops to toss a wiffle ball back and forth to their teammates before throwing the ball through an elevated goal. Refs keep watch during the games, eliminating score arguments that would otherwise end in sunrise duels. To fuel up for a bout, players nibble teriyaki chicken satay, gourmet pizzas, and prime rib, and swig draft beers, which vary by location.
All three WhirlyBall spots boast off-court diversions such as video games, pool tables, foosball, and air hockey. The Vernon Hills location hosts an indoor rock-climbing wall, and both the Chicago and Vernon Hills locations invite guests into multilevel Lasertron laser-tag arenas, which fill with fog and flashing lights as combatants duck, aim, and invoke Geneva Convention protocols regarding armed conflict.
The Gene Siskel Film Center is as famous to Chicago film-lovers as its namesake TV film critic has been to national audiences. As the Loop's only movie house, it draws crowds with an eclectic mix of programming rather than with blockbusters and violent popcorn battles. The Film Center has been around under the umbrella of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1972, and its curators are devoted to the art of cinema at least as much as the business. A typical weekend night might offer a documentary, a concert film, a foreign classic, and an innovative modern drama?maybe even a world premiere or a guest artist appearance.
The theaters themselves make it easy to be sucked into the screen, with ultra-plush stadium-style seats, a cafe that serves wine and espresso in addition to traditional concessions, and capacity for 16mm, 35mm, and digital projections. According to Chicagoist, it's not simply a pleasant moviegoing experience?"point-for-point, the Siskel is the finest place to catch a movie in Chicago."