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Chicago’s hidden gems: Kiss Kiss Cabaret, Unabridged Bookstore, Lulu Lule Belle’s Pancake House and TNT at The Annoyance

Courtesy of The Real Chicago magazine.

Kiss Kiss Cabaret

If you’re looking to break the monotony of a typical Friday night out, every week is a different adventure at the Kiss Kiss Cabaret’s “Filmstrips: An Evening of Cinematic Striptease,” complete with movie trivia to get the audience involved.

The Claptrap Family Orchestra, starring Velma and her accordion, promises “You’ll laugh your asses off tonight at Kiss Kiss Cabaret!” And to make sure of that, she returns to the stage later in the evening with a euphemism-laden ode to the female anatomy that would make a gynecologist blush.

Each show features a charismatic host, various guest comedians, a juggler and a magician. The night is filmed with hilarious variety and talent. The dancers move effortlessly between allurement and comedy. And there is never a dull moment with the movie-themed performances.

The evening’s host declared Filmstrips ideal for “lovers of movies and boobies,” and there was plenty to appreciate in both categories. Kiss Kiss Cabaret is great for any occasion: birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, or in my case, a first date. He was impressed.  

Kiss Kiss Cabaret’s “Filmstrips” is on an open run Fridays at 11 p.m. at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N Lincoln Ave. in Lincoln Park. Advance tickets are available for $15 at 773-404-7336 or

— Corey O’Day

Unabridged Bookstore

There are bookstores in Chicago, and then there are bookstores. You know, the kind you can spend an entire Sunday afternoon in and not feel one bit guilty. The kind where the staff leaves hand-written recommendations in each section.

Unabridged is one of those such bookstores, a Lakeview staple since 1980, offering up one serious array of books — fiction, non-fiction, mystery, classics, poetry, children’s, history, cooking, gay and lesbian and, especially, travel.

That particular travel section, somewhat isolated down a flight of stairs, is what drew us in recently. And it never disappoints. Looking for the best steakhouses in Buenos Aires, hiking trails in Breckenridge, museums in Prague or how best to maximize three days anywhere from Milwaukee or Miami? It’s all here in book form. So are foreign language programs, maps and atlases. Unabridged will get you prepared for your trip, no matter where you’re headed.   

Unabridged Bookstore is located at 3251 N. Broadway.

— Trent Modglin

Lulu Belle’s Pancake House

If the kids need to eat and you’re running low on caffeine, stop by this new Lakeview staple for an espresso while the children eat deep-fried French toast or fruit-filled pancakes. While the kids are distracted by the syrupy goodness, you can even plug your laptop in at the java bar and write that last minute e-mail to the office.

The menu is quite large, split pretty equally between sweet and savory. Don’t leave without trying the fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Lulu Belle’s is located at 3819 N. Southport.

— Richard Ray

Tuesday Night Thing (TNT) at The Annoyance Theater

TNT is a pure improv show in two acts. Every night, 14 cast members are shuffled like playing cards and divided into two teams, each responsible for one act of the evening’s show. This means you could see the show every week for a year and there will be a fresh new team and topic to entertain you. 

An energetic and ever-changing cast combined with the availability of drinks that are both well-priced and well-poured insures your soft giggles will turn to snorts and gasps in no time.

The versatility of many of the cast members, T.J. Jagodowski in particular, is impressive. On the night I went, he bounced from angst-ridden teenager to simple, sputtering gardener in a blink and did so with incredible authenticity. 

The slightly dilapidated black box theater has a charming, come-as-you-are vibe that encourages audience members to let loose their inner guffaw. And the whiskey doesn’t hurt either.

— Corey O’Day