Calling Wesley Snipes; we’ve got the perfect locale for Blade’s next nightclub vampire hunt. Tucked away on Goose Island, Hearts (1115 N Branch St, 312-915-0734, heartschicago.com) is the very definition of a destination spot. Isolated and awash in blacks and reds, it’s gothic, exotic and open late (and if getting there is an issue, have the club’s car service chauffeur you in style). A fanged greeting from a cocktail waitress wouldn’t have been at all shocking.
A far cry from the bohemianism of the old Slick’s Lounge, Hearts is engulfed in floor-to-ceiling black, cut by a disco ball sparkle and the tall, backlit black-and-white photos of rocker dudes and club chicks. The club’s centerpiece, an angular red archway framing the DJ booth, drives home its Madonna-esque provocative chic. On the Thursday night I visited, the DJ wove progressive house with tasteful remixes of indie darlings, such as Florence and the Machine and Lily Allen. From the same family that brought us Crescendo and Sound-Bar, it’s a four-on-the-floor affair.
The crowd For the clubber who prefers house to hip-hop. They’re clad in Affliction and Rock n’ Republic, and ready to dance.
The music Partnerships with Relode and Exact Events mean high-profile house and progressive DJs. Sets from Dimitri from Paris (Thu 2) and Derrick Carter (Dec 9) have already been announced.
The drinks The seating is built for bottle service, but if that’s not your speed, three bars mean a drink is always close by.
Before financial scandal brought about its abrupt closure, Reserve boasted a residency from DJ AM. The DJ phenomenon was so highly regarded in club land that on those nights, there was no better place to be. Since then, the space has struggled through numerous failed ventures, including Theatro and Mansion. Now as 8Fifty8 (858 W Lake St, 312-455-2776, 8fifty8.com) it’s being restored to its former glory.
With crystal chandeliers, gold and crimson detailing and a spacious VIP section, 8Fifty8 boasts a lot of class. Even the cabaret-style dancers—black-clad with tights and fedoras, they take shifts in the oversize second-story windows and a mini-stage—aren’t there to throw cleavage in your face; they’re there to add an after-the-meal supper club appeal.
The TV screens that line the bar and dancefloor are the only things that seem incongruous. DJs mixing pop, hip-hop and dance videos have grown trendier thanks to software advances, but a well-to-do crowd, good-looking bar staff (that includes Stacie, the bartender of The Hills) and the dancers are a far better feast for the eyes.
The crowd The VIP section and dance floor overflow with young partyers with a preppy sense of style and an affinity for bottle service.
The music Programmed by hard-working Hollywood DJ Mr. Best and Outfit Events, the club has already seen high-energy hip-hop and top 40 sets from Samantha Ronson and DJ Spider.
The drinks Beyond popping bottles, guests can enjoy a number of craft cocktails made from organic ingredients.
Clubs in the Viagra triangle need more pomp and circumstance than their underground cousins. There, the crowd comes dressed to the nines and the bottles of premium vodka come with a leggy waitress and an industrial-strength sparkler attached. Like Level before it, Proof (1045 N Rush St, 312-397-1045, proofchicago.com) knows this is how to make an impression.
Straightening out much of Level’s awkwardness, a sprawling VIP section has replaced the former dance floor, now on the other side of the room. That cumbersome staircase has also been moved out of the way. The new layout is matched by an interior that softens Level’s obsession with blue, giving creams, dark woods and leather equal footing.
The late-night club is also the new celebrity hang. Two ultra VIP tables bookend the DJ booth, and those seats have recently been filled with a number of Bears. Accordingly, the bottle service list is not for the light of pocket. Like the nickname of the neighborhood it calls home, at Proof, it’s go big or go home.
The crowd Channeling T.I., the see-and-be-scene crowd has stacks on deck, Patrón on ice and pops bottles all night.
The music With Global Adrenaline and like-minded promoters on board, it’s house heavy with splashes of pop.
The drinks There’s the usual mixed drink and beer fare. For all you ballers, there are $1,000-plus bottles of Champagne and punch bowls overflowing with saccharine-sweet sangria.