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February 17, 2004

21 and Over with Dorothea Hunter

Considering how we all pay a lot of attention to the North Side of Chicago—Old Town, Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville (the list goes on)—I thought I should give the West Side some time in the limelight. I started my weekend off with a visit to Transit on Thursday night and capped it off with a Valentine's Day stop at Rednofive. They were both lots of fun and good reasons to venture outside of the North Side for a change.

Transit, 1431 W. Lake Street

www.transit-usa.com

If you like to dance, Transit is your place. Bumping and grinding is almost not optional in this venue given the way it is set up. The dance floor is definitely the focal point of the club with the bars being on the sides. In the main area, there are almost no places to sit, so if you aren't going to test your moves out, you will have to be a wallflower (or in this case, a barflower). There is a small room upstairs, looking out onto the dance floor, where you can lounge, but lounging generally isn't encouraged among the Transit crowd.

If you can get into the VIP room at Transit, please do. It is awesome. My friend Liz and I made friends with the owner, Barry, and he gave us a tour of it. I've noticed that VIP rooms in most Chicago clubs are not even separate rooms—just extensions of the main one. I've also noticed that regardless of whether they are individual rooms, they are often tiny. Here, at Transit, Barry and company defied both expectations. The VIP room is not only very large and airy; it's completely separated from the main area of the club and even has its own DJ.

I was tempted to go back to Transit on Saturday night because I had a really good night on Thursday and, after all, I had made it onto Barry's list. However, for the sake of good journalism, I chose not to. Also, Transit was doing a singles-themed Valentine's Day party because, according to Barry, "most couples don't like to go out dancing" (mind you, I honestly don't know what couples he's speaking of, because I think I went out with at least 10 couples Saturday night). Instead, I headed to Rednofive for my Valentine's Day festivities.

Rednofive, 440 N. Halsted Avenue

www.rednofive.com

Going to Rednofive was actually a pretty appropriate choice for Valentine's Day, considering its name and the normal décor (lots of red). All the owners and promoters had to do was throw down some rose petals, and the place was a perfect spot for Valentine's Day reveling.

Early on in the night, there was a special champagne cocktail reception. After that, it was anything goes. When I first entered, I thought the layout of the club was very strange. We had to walk back a bit and then down some stairs before we came to the lounge/bar/dancing area.

The downstairs atmosphere added to the experience, however, because of the intimate ambience. Couches and cushy ottomans were scattered throughout the space, and transparent red curtains separated different seating areas from one another. A long bar stretched across half of one side of the room. There was a small dance floor in the back of the room in front of the DJ booth. The DJ made the dance floor crowd happy by playing a lot of old school stuff—classic Michael and Janet Jackson, fun dance hits from the early 90s—with a nice mix of current hip-hop thrown in.

Unfortunately, on my way out, I realized there was a whole other area of Rednofive I had left unexplored. The music on this level was in a quasi-live performance format, a guy playing drums to background recordings. The décor was more sophisticated rather than romantic. I found out, courtesy of the bouncer for the VIP area (not a whole VIP room, but to its credit, it was pretty spacious) that the room is always open, but it opens much later than the downstairs area.

In general, I think more people would be able to have a good time at Rednofive because of its more mixed atmosphere. If you're like me, though, and you're always one of the first people on the dance floor, you have to go to Transit. When you make your Transit appearance, do sign up for VIP room on the website.

Should you make a trip out west? Definitely. There are some great venues in the western areas of the city that, sadly, are overlooked in favor of the North Side bar scene. The next time you go out, try the West Side—you won't be disappointed.