The first trick of the Chicago Magic Lounge was its most impressive: transforming a commercial laundry building into a stylish cocktail bar and theater. This year-old venue is reason alone to visit the Andersonville neighborhood, a formerly Swedish enclave that’s now home to a cluster of appealing independent restaurants, brewpubs, home décor stores and the compact Swedish American Museum.
No reservations or tickets are necessary to enjoy the bar, where a magician performs card tricks and other close-up magic, usually accompanied by ridiculous puns. The cocktails are almost all delicious — I’m particularly fond of the strong and bittersweet Dark Arts, mixed with rye, Cynar, cherry liqueur and black strap rum. (But I was disappointed by my spouse’s Gift of the Magi, which came garnished with a half-brown rosemary sprig.) Even if you don’t see a main-stage show, it’s absolutely worth stopping in for a nightcap at the bar if you’re in the neighborhood (say, having dinner at Brass Heart).
Advance tickets are required for the shows in the main theater, which has cabaret-style seating. If you prefer not to share a table with another couple, opt for front-row seats, which are at tables for two instead of four. Shows start with a number of magicians wandering from table to table performing tricks as a warmup to the main act. We visited on a Wednesday to see “David Parr’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” but the Signature Show is equally fun. It’s also possible to purchase tickets to more-exclusive performances in the 654 Club after certain shows.
During both the table magic performances and the main act, servers stopped by periodically to offer cocktails or (merely serviceable) food. We had a splendid time sipping drinks, marveling at the tricks and trying not to get called up onstage to assist. I failed at that and ended up discovering an egg that somehow appeared in a seemingly empty bag I had been carefully holding.
Magic fans should also consider attending a show at Trickery, a tiny storefront performance space in the Boystown neighborhood between downtown and the Magic Lounge. The young magician, Aaron Rabkin, is talented and quite funny, and the show is BYOB.