The Run Down

Inside what looks like a vacant industrial warehouse, there’s a vibrant community of trapeze artists, aerial performers, clowns acrobats, and circus professionals. On the second Friday of the month, they open up their doors to the public for a show. We start this guide at this late night circus and then finish off the evening at small burger shack and a nearby bottle shop. Here are the details.

1. Show @ MSA Circus
2. Burgers @ Jr’s Red Hots
3. Drinks @ Drink Shop

1. MSA Circus

The night starts about a block from the Western Blue Line stop. We’re in a quiet residential neighborhood near the border between Logan Square and Bucktown. Right in the middle of all these town homes, apartments, and bungalows is a giant brick warehouse.

At first glance, you might assume from the boarded up windows and the 10ft razor wire fence around the entrance that this isn’t a place teeming with activity. What you’ll find inside is a different story. This warehouse is home to MSA & Circus Arts. It’s a training center and a central part of the circus arts community in Chicago. Before we dive into it, here are some logistics notes to be aware of.

– Open house performance every 2nd Friday of the month. Though they’ll have other shows there periodically. Here’s their website to keep track of new shows.

– Tickets are $15 for adults; $8 for kids

– Pay by cash (or Venmo)

– From 8 – 10pm

To enter, head to the West side of the building. You’ll see a small gravel lot barricaded by a razor wire fence. A green tinted floodlight illuminates the lot, which helps set the vibe. Walk up the entrance ramp and it will will lead you straight into the performance space.

Seating is first come, first served. There are some gym bleachers at the back and a few fold out chairs lined up in front.

The show changes every month. At the show we caught, there were aerial fabric performers like the one above, clowns, jugglers, and acrobats.

One last plug for this place. Not only does MSA host performances, but they also offer adult and kids classes for those who might be thinking about being part of one these shows someday. We talked to a few performers after the show and learned that they were former students. So if you feel the need to do some trapeze or climb up some silk sheets, this is one of the few spots in Chicago to do just that.

2. Jr’s Redhots

It’s now a little bit after 1opm and if you’re looking to keep the night going, there’s a late night burger and hot dog shack just a few blocks away (and when I mean late night, I mean they are open until 5am on Friday and Saturday). I’m talking about Jr’s Red Hots and it’s our next stop.

Jr’s Red Hots is a walk-up food stand in a small triangular lot. It’s been a hot dog and burger stand for over 70 years. Before it was Jr’s Red Hots, the place was called Sam’s Red Hots, a family owned establishment spanning four generations and two owners. Here’s to another 70 years.

In the dead of winter, you’re probably not too excited about waiting outside to grab some food. You’re in luck, because Jr’s attaches a temporary vestibule to to the front of the stand to protect customers from the cold. There’s also a heat lamp inside blasting sweet sweet warmth while you wait for your food.

Speaking of food, this place has almost all the hits you want in a late night food menu. You’ve got hot off the grill cheese burgers, Chicago hot dogs, and Maxwell Street Polishes. You also got things like tamales, cheese fries, pizza puffs, Italian beef, and pork chop sandwiches.

For less than $5, you can get a Chicago hot dog and fries. Not a bad deal for this late night snack.

While there’s a second vestibule where you can eat your food, take it down the street to our next stop, a BYOF bottle shop.

3. Drink Shop

We’re about two blocks from Jr’s Red Hots at a place called Drink Shop. It’s one part liquor store and one part bar, and it’s the last stop of the night. We’re here to kick back a few drinks while chowing down on the food we just picked up.

Drink Shop has got a modern, neighborhood bar vibe going for it. The place has a few high top tables, a couple of couches near the window, and about 5 or so seats at the bar. It makes for a chill spot to cap off the night. When we showed up, nearly everyone there had brought in food.  We posted up at the bar with our burgers, fries, and onion rings.

As far as drink options go, the Drink Shop has a constantly rotating mix of wine and craft beer on tap. They’ve also got a curated inventory of small batch spirits on hand as well. If you like to mix it up, and talk beer with the folks behind the bar, this is your spot.

The folks behind the bar are self described “beer nerds,” and they’ll make sure to help you find a nice beer or wine pairing for whatever meal you bring in.

Nothing sets a relaxed mood better than a few pups lounging around. Drink Shop is dog friendly, so if you happen to make your way back here, bring your best friend next time to join in on the fun.