The Run Down

No matter the weather, it's worth venturing Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood and making several stops on Southport Avenue, a thoroughfare bustling with hip restaurants, popular stores, and theaters. In a choose-your-own-adventure-type outing, this guide starts with an Argentinean tapas restaurant featuring a wall of wine. You'll have your choice between a theater made for cinephiles looking to partake in the latest film festival, or a century-old live performance venue just a few doors down.

1. Tapas @ Bodega Sur

2. Movies @ Music Box Theatre

3. Live Show @ Mercury Theatre

1. Bodega Sur

Bodega Sur, an extension of neighboring El Mercado and Tango Sur, is just the place for meat enthusiasts and wine connoisseurs. Located two doors down from its sister establishments, off the intersection with West Grace Street, the low-lit Argentinian restaurant offers a little bit of everything: tapas, entrees, cocktails, coffee, brunch, and a literal wall of wine.

Whereas steakhouse Tango Sur has been a neighborhood BYOB staple for some time, Bodega Sur was introduced as a lunch spot and wine shop specializing in Argentinian varieties. Don’t expect to be handed a wine list when you sit down. Instead, make your way to the wall of wines where you can peruse a variety of blends and bring your choice back to the table.

Stop here for dinner before a show or for drinks and a bite after — the restaurant is open until 10 p.m. every night except Mondays when it’s closed.


2. Music Box Theatre

A “1920s movie palace.” That’s how Google describes the Music Box, and it’s a perfect classification. It is indeed a movie palace because the films shown are not only the newest arthouse pictures — ones you might struggle to find showtimes for at another theater — but they’re some of the best, most show-stopping movies in the history of the art form. Is there a better combo?

From the moment you step through the entrance of the establishment, circa 1929, you can’t help but feel you’ve been transported back in time — architecture that can evoke that is unlike anything else.

It’s the place to go for horror movie marathons, David Lynch-centric film festivals, 35mm screenings, sing-alongs and midnight movies. In the summer, the venue hosts outdoor showings in its 40-seat garden.

Before you head into one of the two theaters (the main one can seat up to 700 people, 10 times the size of its second, more intimate room), grab a snack at the concession stand — the popcorn is worth it. Plus, find a list of beer and wine and a selection of soda and candy.

Bonus: The theater has a lounge right off the box office that opens half an hour before the first showtime of the day and closes half an hour after the last.

The bar, open to both movie-goers and passersby, serves up beer, wine and movie-themed cocktails. Much like the rest of the property, it’s a cozy space stocked with board games, chess tables and shelves packed with VHS tapes.

3. Mercury Theatre

If the night brings you to the Mercury Theater instead, you’re in good hands. Between this venue and the Music Box, located two doors down, there’s a space to cater to any entertainment needs. When the Mercury opened in 1912, it was home to a silent film nickelodeon, and today, it’s home to a 280-seat live theater adjoining a cabaret theater, which seats 80.

Here, you’re not a fish in an ocean. It’s an intimate theater consisting of rows of red seats, a small balcony and a concessions stand. With its exposed brick walls, it’s almost like the century-old space wants to be your third home.

Upcoming productions at the Mercury include a Billie Holiday-centric cabaret “Lady Day,” “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and “The Golden Gals Live!” A stage reenactment of the classic murder mystery “Clue” has also shown at this Southport Corridor theater.

For theater-goers looking to make Mercury Theater a regular occurrence, the group offers a membership that gives ticket-holders access to special events, all three mainstage performances each year and various discounts for tickets, the lobby bar and cabaret shows.