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Southport Corridor offers relaxed yet sophisticated fun to aspiring adults

Even the "cheap seats" in the balcony of The Mercury Theater afford excellent views for its entertaining productions.
Even the "cheap seats" in the balcony of The Mercury Theater afford excellent views for its entertaining productions.Emily Naser-Hall

Just as Virginia is for Lovers and New Orleans is for Livers, the Southport Corridor neighborhood in Chicago’s West Lakeview neighborhood is for grown-ups. An ongoing debate rages throughout the Millennial Generation in particular concerning this elusive term “grown-up.” Does anyone ever really grow up, or does everyone merely go through the motions of being a mature adult who does all of those stereotypical things that children think that adults do?

The Southport Corridor doesn’t care if you’re actually one of those mysterious grown-ups or merely pretending. In this situation, however, “grown-up” should in no way be equated with “stuffy.” Despite its inherent sophistication, this is not a neighborhood devoid of laughter and appreciation for self-deprecation, where humorless coffeehouse patrons sip overpriced espresso with their pinkies extended and disparage the laziness of “these kids today.”

Instead, this charming Brown Line neighborhood the kinds of entertainment that allows college students, young professionals, and families alike the opportunity to be those fancy grown-ups they imagined they would be as kids without losing sight of that kid.

As the Southport Neighbors Association boasts, the Southport Corridor hosts such diverse attractions as excellent restaurants, public playgrounds, a weekly green market, theaters for both live plays and movies, and great shopping, both of the local and chain variety. While this description may apply to a variety of neighborhoods in the Chicago area, the Southport Corridor’s take on these attractions differs significantly from approach to similar offerings in Logan Square, Lincoln Park, or even nearby Wrigleyville. SNA's website includes assistance for new residents, updates on coming events, and ways to get involved with neighborhood activities. Visit it here: http://www.southportneighbors.com/index.html. Southport Corridor's Facebook page also offers routine updates on neighborhood activities: https://www.facebook.com/SouthportCorridor.

On Southport, bars aren’t just bars. Historical Southport Lanes, built around 1900 as a way for Schlitz Brewery to circumvent federal laws prohibiting brewers from owning taverns, offers patrons the kitschy nostalgia of vintage bowling along with a wide beer selection.

The building’s salacious history further adds to its unique appeal—Southport Lanes served as a speakeasy and brothel during 1920s Prohibition, a favorite hangout for Mayor Anton Cermak to hold his secret poker games. Visitors to this Chicago institution can revel in their adulthood with their draft beers and the ghosts of bootleggers while returning to their childhood memories of many a birthday party spent at a bowling alley. Visit Southport Lanes' website to learn more about the building's history and extensive menu: http://southportlanes.com.

North of Southport Lanes are two theaters that offer amusement at almost any time of the day or night. The independently owned Music Box Theatre specializes in indie and foreign films but does not hesitate to expand its horizons to cult classics, classic films, and frequent movie marathons. Every holiday, the theater hosts a seasonal sing-a-long, such as the recent Mother’s Day showing of Mamma Mia, the Valentine’s Day screening of The Princess Bride, and the yearly White Christmas sing-a-long, all of which include interactive games and unique goodie bags.

The Music Box is also the place to meet the occasional celebrity. The late lamented Philip Seymour Hoffman attended the Chicago showing of Sundance USA and director Wes Anderson visited the theater for the kickoff of a recent film marathon in his honor. Weekend matinees offer a bit of culture after brunch at nearby Deleece or Southport Grocery Company.

The upcoming midnight showings of cult favorites The Rocky Horror Picture Show on May 24 and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on May 30-31 are not to be missed. Perhaps best of all, tickets for most shows cost only $10, a budget-friendly alternative to the somewhat pricey chain movie theaters, with the added bonus of a classic theater feel and films that actually make you feel smarter. Keep informed on upcoming showings at http://www.musicboxtheatre.com.

If live theater is more appealing, The Mercury Theater is a mere few steps from The Music Box. This small venue boasts a main floor and a small balcony, with not a bad seat in the house. If the prospect of live plays elicits bad memories of painful high school productions of Hamlet or over-the-top yet exceedingly dull interpretations of The Glass Menagerie, then take comfort in knowing that The Mercury Theater will erase all of those unpleasant associations. Buy tickets and plan your evening out at http://mercurytheaterchicago.com/index.html.

The current production of Avenue Q alone will restore all faith in the entertaining power of theater. This 2003 irreverent ode to Sesame Street highlights the challenges and joys of living in an unsympathetic world and resonates just as fully today with Millennials, some of the most reliable patrons of the Southport Corridor. Kris Vire of Time Out Chicago hits the nail on the head, detailing just what makes Avenue Q the ideal musical for Southport Corridor patrons:

[S]o many of the characters’ youthful dilemmas ring truer than ever for millennials confronting a hostile job market where college degrees can feel worthless, and establishing an adult life that feels secure financially, socially and romantically, let alone finding a special purpose, is enough to make you wish for some educational-programming guidance. (Read Kris's entire review at http://www.timeout.com/chicago/theater/avenue-q.

Southport Corridor, therefore, represents exactly the kind of people who live in this excellent Chicago neighborhood. As friendly as it is quirky, the area between Addison Street and Irving Park Road offers entertainment that appears from the outside to be mature and sophisticated and on the inside proves to be unconventional, nostalgic, and downright wacky. So feel free to order those business cards and boast of your 401(k), but don’t put away your Legos. Southport Corridor is grown-ups—as much of a grown up as you are.