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Call Of The Wild At Zebra Lounge

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Feb 9, 2006 5:15PM

2006_02_ZebraLogo.jpgIf Bar Chicago stumbled off Rush and Division, turned 38 and decided to sing a show tune, you’d have the Zebra Lounge. A small piano bar, Zebra Lounge is located at 1220 N. State Parkway, next door to – and yet social circles away from – Bella Lounge. The to answer Bella’s trendy, well-dressed, wine-and-martini-drinking professionals are Zebra Lounge’s rowdy, mixed-nuts eating, show-tune singing 30- and 40-somethings. But that’s precisely the appeal. Zebra Lounge has an unpretentious, boisterous, all-in-good fun atmosphere that makes it worth checking out when other nightspots have lost their luster.

2006_02_ZebraStreetShot.jpgChicagoist nearly missed the entrance when rolling into Zebra Lounge last Thursday. What appears to be the lobby to the Canterbury Court’s high-rise apartment building also doubles as the lounge’s main entrance. For all the subtlety of the black-and-white Zebra Lounge sign on the outside, the inside is brimming with energy. True to its name, Zebra Lounge is a safari adventure with animal prints on the wall and a zebra motif running throughout the bar’s fixtures. Not shy on festivity, the lounge currently features dim red lighting and Valentine’s Day-themed streamers and tinsel. Against a backdrop of orange and deep purple walls, Tommy Oman takes his place at the corner piano belting out show tunes, classics and everything in between. He transitions seamlessly from Neal Diamond’s "Sweet Caroline" to a smooth cover of Britney Spears' "Oops I Did It Again", breaking only to make a dig at some woman from Naperville.

After 10 p.m., the bar is standing room only, and a rambunctious crowd of middle-aged couples heartily sings along with Oman. One woman gets onstage for a karaoke spotlight, and Oman accompanies her in a solid rendition of Etta James' "At Last" that would surely earn her a top spot on American Idol. Although seating at the few free-standing tables and crescent-shaped black leather booths is limited, the free bowls of snack mix – a blend of goldfish, nuts, pretzels, Cheetos and crackers -- are plentiful. And as far as Chicagoist is concerned, nothing beats show tunes and snack mix.

Correction: We forgot to thank Hanna for this post. Apologies.