The Run Down

It’s not uncommon to be overwhelmed by contemporary nightlife spots, so we're going to infuse the night with some rich, old-school history and rhythm right in the heart of Lincoln Park. It starts with dinner at an authentic Sichuan restaurant. After, you’ll find yourself at an iconic Chicago blues bar that’s been around since 1968. Finally, the night caps off with a drink and some dancing at a neighborhood watering hole.

1. Sichuan Dinner @ Chengdu Impression

2.Live music @ Kingston Mines

3. Drinks and an all-live jukebox @ aliveOne

1. Chengdu Impression

You’ll start the evening walking down Halsted Avenue, slightly overwhelmed by the hectic traffic and abundance of eclectic eats. What could be misconstrued as a red and green cottage sandwiched between apartment buildings is a Chinese restaurant, unlike most you’ll come across in the area.

Chengdu Impression, one of the city’s three locations, pioneered bringing authentic Sichuan cuisine to Lincoln Park in 2013. Named after Chengdu, the Chinese provincial capital of Sichuan, the restaurant specializes in the region’s cuisine, which is renowned for its spicy flavors and the distinctive numbing effect of Sichuan pepper. It caters to those who have a penchant for heat.

The dining area is cozy, especially in the winter when patrons pack in to warm up inside and out. Fiery aromas overwhelm you immediately as you enter. You’ll be greeted by a host and taken into the small dining area, which invites you to stay a while.

If you find yourself in a group, try splitting as many dishes as possible by ordering full-on family style. For the full experience, start with the Sichuan wontons—delicate dumplings filled with seasoned pork and swimming in a chili oil-based sauce.

Follow with Sichuan boiled beef, a classic dish of thinly sliced beef cooked in a spicy broth made with Sichuan peppercorns, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. It’s rich, smoky, and with a decent amount of heat that builds to a gradual crescendo, leaving your tongue numb and tingly.

Round out your meal with mapo tofu, a classic Sichuan dish featuring soft tofu cubes in a bean-based sauce with ground pork, fermented black beans, and, of course, a generous amount of chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns.

2. Live music @ Kingston Mines

After you’ve indulged in a memorable meal, make your way directly across the street to the iconic orange awning, which lets you know you’ve arrived at Kingston Mines. For nearly 60 years, Kingston Mines has been considered the epicenter of foundational Chicago blues music.

An array of eclectic blues artists and lovers of the idiosyncratic genre of urban styles and infectious rhythms have often billed this live music venue as the “Chicago Blues Center.” Koko Taylor, Sugar Blue, Billy Branch, and Junior Wells are just some of the acclaimed musicians who have enriched Kingston Mines with their talents.

After paying the cover charge at the door, you’ll enter an atmosphere that oozes rich history thanks to the old-school decor and classical murals on either wall. Head to the bar and order one of the many Chicago beers on tap—or a cocktail if that’s more your speed—before taking a seat at one of the many tables scattered throughout two rooms.

As you nurse your drink and let the evening’s act soothe your earbuds, you’ll get lost in the rich textures within almost every inch of this orange-soaked space. Kingston Mines has two stages operating simultaneously, so feel free to alternate or just park yourself in either one.

Music curators will often book recurring artists, sometimes in the form of a mandolin lover and other times unforgettable blues rockers.

Perhaps you were not inducted into the Chicago blues fandom before entering Kingston Mines, but the establishment has a way of embedding itself into your memories and transforming your music taste. After all, the blues bar’s longtime motto is “Hear Blues – Drink Booze – Talk Loud – You’re Among Friends!”

3. Drinks and an all-live jukebox @ aliveOne

Just down the street from Kingston Mines is another landmark in Chicago’s music scene. To conclude your night crawl, you’ll meander one block north to aliveOne, a late-night watering hole with the kind of energy required to cap off a fun-filled evening. That’s because of the sheer variety of activities it offers its patrons—including Chicago’s only all-live jukebox.

AliveOne was a mecca for independent musicians in the ‘90s, and remnants of its rich history infuse the atmosphere. The decor is straight out of the end of the century, with swiveling bar stools, an elongated bar under dim lighting, and primitive photos recounting classic rockers. It’s tough to keep your eyes off the avant-garde American flag art piece that serves as the bar’s centerpiece.

If you want a more low-key atmosphere, the front room is your best friend. Take a load off at the bar, order a local hazy IPA (or a cocktail), and enjoy a conversation. If you’re in the mood for more lively entertainment, play a friendly game of billiards or pick a song from the all-live jukebox.

But if you feel like standing, go to the back room. Depending on the day, you may be in the company of a local independent band gracing the compact, hypnotically lit stage. The area also features full bar service, so don’t worry about missing any of the live performances. If you find yourself at aliveOne on a Friday or Saturday night, show up in your dancing shoes because those nights feature a DJ dance party.

When you’re inevitably exhausted from boogieing too hard, kick back in the luscious seating area and enjoy yourself with a nightcap.