Guilty Pleasures 2
[ SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER ]
My friends don’t panic when I’m MIA. They know where to find me: at Oakbrook Center, my personal paradise and my ultimate demise. With stores suited primarily for society’s upper echelon, Oakbrook Center is a playground for the west-suburban well-to-do. Although I don’t fall into that category (at least, not yet), a girl’s gotta dream, right? And what better way to climb the social ladder than by studying the fashion flora at the top? The mall’s lovely setting is just one reason I have been known to hit the place upwards of five times on a single weekend, often spending all my meager pay there. Good thing I know my way around a sale rack. (Oakbrook Center is situated at the intersection of Cermak Road/22nd Street and Route 83 in Oak Brook; 630-573-0700 or www.oakbrookcenter.com.)
Photo: Leonard Gertz
[ PIGGING OUT AT HOT DOUG’S ]
After a week of abstemious desk dining on salads, I blow off the diet and rush to Hot Doug’s (3324 N. California Ave.; 773-279-9550). This self-described “sausage superstore and encased meat emporium” has the standard hot-dog stand décor, but the fare goes far beyond the classic Chicago-style dog. Offbeat sausage offerings (they change daily) include chicken, lamb, crayfish, vegetarian, and “game of the week”—which might be alligator, antelope, buffalo, elk, kangaroo, ostrich, pheasant, rattlesnake, venison, or even the “mountain man” (a combination of venison, caribou, elk, and muskox). Condiments can include truffles, Dijon mustard, and gourmet cheeses. Not to be missed: the finger-lickin’ duck-fat fries, served only on Friday and Saturday (the place is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Don’t let the long lines scare you. Service is as snappy as the repartee from the owner, Doug Sohn, a graduate of the culinary arts program at Kendall College.
A Closeted Cheesehead’s Chagrin
[ ROOTING FOR THE PACKERS ]
Some things should never be acknowledged—at least not in Chicago—but here goes: I am (gasp!) a Green Bay Packers fan. And the thing is, there’s no excuse for it. My family has no ties to Wisconsin; it’s just always been that way. My father, a Chicago fireman, bleeds Packer green. His reasoning: “Honey, I just like good football.” But recently, after years of hiding my secret passion, I finally came out. Now I proudly wear my Packers tee while kicking back a few beers with my father at Will’s Northwoods Inn (3030 N. Racine Ave.; 773-528-4400), the local bastion of Green Bay glory.
Courtesy Shaw's Crab House
[ SLURPING OYSTERS AT SHAW’S ]
The first time, I had to be persuaded. It was a slow night during one of the early oyster slurping contests at Shaw’s Blue Crab Lounge (now The Oyster Bar at Shaw’s Crab House, 21 E. Hubbard St.; 312-527-2722). The challenge was to down a dozen oysters as quickly as possible with your hands behind your back; the hostess was begging customers to compete. I reluctantly agreed—and quickly discovered an unexpected talent. I smoked the competition and won a bunch of cool stuff, along with a shot at the slurping finals—the first woman ever to break into that peculiar men’s club. I’ve been at it ever since (though I have yet to take the top prize), and I am already anticipating Shaw’s 17th annual Royster with the Oyster (October 24th to 28th), a five-day orgy of downing half-priced oysters, sampling an endless variety of wines, and, each night at six, going face to messy face with a legion of lightning-fast slurpers. I wouldn’t be anywhere else.
[ A GOOD BAD CHICAGO MOVIE ]
Every time the 1996 courtroom thriller Primal Fear comes on TV, I can kiss two hours goodbye. Yes, it’s ham-fisted and ridiculous, and Richard Gere may be at the absolute nadir of his powers, but it’s still the great forgotten Chicago movie. The city looks fantastic, and the film’s 129 sleazy minutes are packed with riffs on multiple personalities, sexual conspiracies, and political corruption—plus a great cast that includes two Chicagoans, John Mahoney and Andre Braugher. But perhaps the real reason I’m a sucker for this tawdry little piece of celluloid is because of the menacing plot twist at the end, which once and for all wipes that trademark smirk off Gere’s smug mug.
[ A GOOD BAD POP HIT ]
It was a hot summer night. In the land of the dollar bill. The town of Chicago died, and they talk about it still. You know what I’m talking about. In 1974, a British band called Paper Lace scored a number one hit with “The Night Chicago Died.” It’s a terrible song, but so good. Quarrel with the line about the “old East Side,” but try to wipe that smile off your face. Fun fact: In 1993, Banda Toro climbed up the Hot Latin Tracks chart with a remake called “La Noche Que Murió Chicago.”
[ EXPLORING EROTICA ]
“Repeat after me: ‘Every woman has a G spot.’” Fifteen women stare at their feet and mumble the words obediently. Our host, Rebecca, ups the stakes. “Repeat after me: ‘I, state your name, have a G spot!’” A pause. One woman identifies herself as Whitney Houston. There’s some laughter, and the ice starts to thaw. We are a group of smart, 21st-century women who can talk openly about love and sex—but when it comes to erotic toys and, well, sexual experimentation, we fall strangely silent. It takes a few bottles of wine, one easy-going and knowledgeable host, and a private party at G Boutique (2131 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-1234) to elicit real girl talk. Once there, the prim can explore the wide collection of pretty lacy thongs and camis, while the more adventurous browse through lubes, videos, and a “toy chest” stocked with vibrators and dildos (handpicked by the store’s two owners, Cheryl Sloane and Kari Kupcinet-Kriser, granddaughter of Kup, the late Sun-Times columnist). Once everyone is relaxed, Rebecca gives the group a frank 20-minute introduction to the toy chest and its contents. By the time she’s through, the questions are popping, the ladies are talking, and even the most demure gals are whipping out their credit cards.