Marcus Alexander, sporting a Pac-Man yellow "Frankie says relax, don't do it" T-shirt, eagerly anticipates his yearly trip to New York where the scene "isn't segregated, like it is here." Visiting Plush, the jewel in the West Loop crown, Alexander appreciates a venue "fulla flava," where everyone mingles and "doesn't look the same." The clubby feel attracts the Ed Hardy and orange tan crowd, but that's just a clutch of attendees as the greater majority goes beyond the norm breathing fresh air into Chicago's nightlife.
The eclectic crowd rings in high profile visitors like Ludacris, Ice Cube, Sean Livingston and Ozzie Guillen, who visits up to four times a week – perhaps to sip the Ozzietini: white grape and black cherry Smirnoff. Other drinks include the suggestively titled X-rated Delight and Pornstar; the average martini runs $10.
While Plush requires no bottle service for canoodling on red plush booths, making reservations helps snagging one. The seating goes hand-in-hand with the French provincial backdrop, accented with gold-drizzled statues, crystal-crusted chandeliers and single stem roses sprouting from homey brick walls.
A number of plasmas, lit like halos over booths and a burnt orange bar, pacify music video fanatics with choices by Lady Gaga and Three 6 Mafia. Enjoy videos on Mondays when Smirnoff-flavored cocktails run $5 and salads are half price. Videos equally entertain on Saturday nights (no cover) when well before midnight, a decent crowd fills a room fit for 82.
Going for a low-key night? Visit during the week for dinner and take advantage of plenty of available street parking. Try the signature apple ravioli ($15) and pair it up with the caramel apple martini. Looking for bar food? Enjoy burgers, pizza and fresh, never frozen, hand-breaded calamari and chicken tenders; appetizers range from $8-$12. The kitchen serves all night, but closes early enough for visitors to catch an after party elsewhere.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez