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March 2, 2004

21 and Over with Dorothea Hunter

It's oddly fitting that when I looked up "Moda" on metromix.com, both Moda and Lot 48 came up; coincidentally, I went to each on Saturday night and I was planning on writing about them. Lot 48's description expresses its desire to be Lincoln Park's answer to Moda. It's true they both emanate a swank aura (complete with modern decor and clubby lighting concepts), but that's where the similarities end.

Lot 48

The night began at Lot 48. First of all, the biggest difference between Lot 48 and Moda is that they are completely different types of clubs. Lot 48 is a lounge. There's almost no dance floor (which is a shame, as the DJ spins such a great mix of songs), and it's really tiny. My friends and I basically created a dance floor ourselves just by grooving in the area by the DJ booth, but we were the only people dancing until we left at 2 a.m. We couldn't help ourselves; the night's playlist consisted of a mix of contemporary hip-hop with several techno-ized '80s hits thrown in.

What's funny is that even though Lot 48 is a lounge, there are not too many places to sit (a beef I have with other Chicago lounges as well). In the main room, there is just a small corner area by the DJ booth with tables, couches, and ottomans. The back room is definitely the area in which to lounge around: The room is half-full of places to sit. Unfortunately, the back room is so small you can't find a table on a crowded night (and there can't be more than 10 in the whole room). Lot 48 does not have a coat check or a VIP room either.

At Lot 48, there is no cover, which is great for its young, professional clientele. The drinks are relatively cheap (a well drink being about $4). A few specialty nights pepper the week, including a Thursday '80s night featuring $2 Blue Moons, $3 cosmos, and chocolate martinis. Considering how many good songs the DJ spun on Saturday, I would trust a similar showing on the '80s night. Cheap specialty drinks and fun '80s hits—it can't get much better than this.

Moda

As I said before, the similar design concepts of Lot 48 and Moda are just about where the similarities end. The scene at Moda is completely different. It is much, much trendier and is a true club. The crowd is older, everyone dances until the club closes, and techno (as opposed to hip-hop) rules. Dotting the room were men in tight T-shirts and people wearing sunglasses (mind you, it was 2:30 a.m. when we got there). The design concept of Moda is high fashion. On one wall, it says "clothing provided by Barney's NY." On other walls, lights spelled out names of fashion designers and fashion magazines.

The normal cover at Moda is $20; $10 earlier in the night. You must expect to pay a cover—and spend a lot of money—if you go there. On average, the drinks are more expensive than Lot 48. There are promotional nights at Moda, but I can't imagine a price reduction being part of the allure. It is also a celebrity hot spot, with Lenny Kravitz among its recent visitors.

In addition, the music was definitely different from Lot 48. There was a lot of house music, which meant that a lot of it was unrecognizable (except diehard fans). Techno reigned throughout the night; it wasn't until the crowd started to die down at 3:30 that the DJ started playing current hip-hop hits. Around 4, it was anything goes: OutKast from three years ago, the Jackson 5, INXS, etc.

On the main floor, a row of elevated booths looked out on the massive dancing space. The basement area reminded me of LePassage. It was less crowded than upstairs, but felt a bit cramped because of the low ceilings. It had more places to sit, and some people were sprawled out on the couches—including some less than tactful couples.

I'd been to both of these places before and was indifferent. To get the best impression of a place, I think, you have to see it when its true character is revealed. That is why, even though the $20 cover might pain you, you should go to Moda when the club is in its zone (around 1-3 a.m.) or at least come early in the night and make sure to stay until 3. I guess this all goes to say first impressions are not necessarily lasting impressions. I'm already thinking of going back to Moda sooner rather than later.