Chicago is brimming with creative possibilities. You can take part in an opera, uncover a secret games arcade, sip some of the world’s finest craft beer and take in a matinee at an alternative theater. Here are five underground finds for those who prefer the road less traveled.
Forget opera’s stuffy image - Opera-Matic takes it to the streets. Don’t be surprised to see this mobile opera on bikes, or sailing along a river. “Music and the body are connected—it’s a physical and sonic performance,” says Mark Messing, the group’s founder. “There’s a more visceral energy to it, and because the sound travels around, it stimulates the spectator differently.” Onlookers are encouraged to join in, so get practicing.
This is much more than a bike shop or coffee joint. Heritage Bicycles is a community-oriented artistic space, where people are encouraged to work, meet new friends or just hang out. Its bikes are handmade in the city, making it the first since Schwinn in the 70s. It also stocks those hard-to-find, easy-to-eat Mast Brothers chocolate bars for when it’s time to refuel.
The Redmoon is in Pilsen, the heart of bohemian Chicago. But it also puts on shows in the parks and streets of Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods. “We’re integral to the fabric of the city,” says Frank Maugeri, Redmoon’s producing artistic director. “The community is so supportive. There’s an extraordinary arts scene here—the avant-garde has always been very active.”
The young crowd has moved from Wicker Park to Logan Square, where the iconic record store, Logan Hardware is based. Buy a piece of vinyl—or cassette, DVD or CD—and you get access to the arcade museum out back, where machines like Track and Field and Berzerk are free to play. “It’s a full-on media immersion experience,” says the store’s John Ciba. “We’re preserving part of Chicago’s legacy.”
Half Acre was the first Chicago brewery to put its beer in cans. It started in a bedroom in 2006—way ahead of the current trend for craft beer—and now comprises a micro brewery, a store selling beers to go, and a tap room for sit-down drinking. The beers are constantly changing, with seasonal fare, collaboration brews and one-offs. Grab them while you can…