A Chicago Treasure

Okay, friends. I had to take a brief moment away from New Orleans postings to tell you about an awesome little something you might be missing out on in the city.

Now, for local Chicagoland-ers, we know the North side of the city to be quite the happening place to be. Restaurants, bars, music spots, and more are everywhere. Doesn’t hurt that Wrigley Field is there, either.

While the South side offers a fantastic side of everything as well, this post centers on a few North side adventures. And let me tell you, when it comes to Christmastime, you won’t be disappointed. 😊

One of our traditions as a family is to go down to the Music Box Theatre, a working theatre that has been in business since 1929. Renovated several times over the years, this place has became very much a treasure. They feature foreign films, classics, “Rocky Horror” showings, and more. And the best, may I add, comes in the holiday season–with a “The Sound of Music” sing-along just after Thanksgiving, and a double feature of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas” in the weekends following. You’re missing out, folks. This is a goodie.

My post for today centers on “The Sound of Music” sing-along. Now, for some reason, our visit to this event every year falls on Small Business Saturday. This is great, as a day down here will take you to some of the best.

For dinner there are several options, including a Latin American steakhouse, pubs, and more. We chose Pasta al Gusto, an Italian place mere doors down from the theatre. I did call ahead to see if they recognized GF options in their restaurant, and was told they have GF pasta and other options. So there we went.

What I love about this place is the simple menu, closeness to the theatre, and the fact that these people just serve good food. Honestly, it has that Mom n’ Pop feeling that you’re getting something special when those plates hit your table. I remembered that about this place before being diagnosed with Celiac, and hoped I wouldn’t completely have to miss out.

Here are some images of the menu. The restaurant serves GF penne pasta as a substitute, so many of these pasta dishes can be made with that. There is no dedicated GF menu, but it’s a doable place. I asked if my pasta was cooked in separate water and about the other ingredients in the dish. Our server wasn’t very knowledgeable, and there were times when she sort of guessed the answers to my questions. However, at my request, she was willing to find out the answers I was looking for.

I ordered Farfalle Aurora (with the GF penne in place of the farfalle, of course). Seriously, pasta with cheese hardly could disappoint.

Hello, my friend.

The dish was great, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only issue was that I did have a slight upset stomach afterwards and took some Tums to combat it. I don’t think it was a gluten issue, but rather my stomach wondering what was going on since usually don’t eat rich dishes like this. Additionally, I was in the process of being diagnosed with a type of esophagitis and acid reflux, which I had never suffered before, so that certainly didn’t help. But I am pretty certain that my dish wasn’t contaminated, and this restaurant is worth going to.

Additionally, there are some dessert options. Save some room, though, since you can purchase treats at Candyality next door and at the theatre. But here’s the basic menu.

As you can see, the GF options aren’t extensive. However, there is a nice panna cotta and gelato as well. Our table ordered the gelato, and it was amazing–as gelato often is. However, be sure to order it without the cookie sticks. It comes with cookie sticks that are served in the dish itself, so steer clear of that.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

This was a tough one, since my experience with the server involved some guessing and there is little in regards to soups and desserts. But we all know that there are different servers and experiences to be had, and this place does serve some lovely options that deserve a chance. And yes, I would go again.

Candyality

My tradition when going to the Music Box is to stop at Candyality, a sweet shop located just next to Pasta al Gusto. Open the doors, and the displays just start beckoning that kid in you to come on out.

Now, while much of the chocolate candy in the scoop bins to the left contain gluten (graham crackers, malt balls, etc.), you have chocolate covered raisins or–my personal favorite–M&Ms in pretty much every color you could think of.

I know M&Ms can be iffy depending on the flavor, but I haven’t any issues with these. And as I considered my options, I decided on some nice green and red ones to add to my bag.

Here we find one of several lovely ladies modeling the colorful nature of the shop.

Seriously, people. I think I would wear this if they let me.

You can also find a wealth of other wrapped candies and treats. In particular, I found two things that made my heart dance around a little bit.

Now, if you are as big a fan of the books as I am, you’ll love finding this table. Chocolate replica wands, frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. Lots of little things that, as far as I could tell, are gluten-free. I have seen a few of these products advertised and carried in specialty shops, and here they are at Candyality for your magical enjoyment.

I looked up the company and the ingredients and, upon not finding any red flags, I did pick up a Hermione wand…but I haven’t tasted it yet. If your family is like mine, they tell you to get something you like and then proceed to keep it from you until “Santa” puts it in your stocking. So, friends, I will let you know in a future post about the experience of the chocolate wand. Hopefully it won’t disappoint.

Additionally, there is a beautiful little table with these yummy frosted rice crispy treats, adding to all the yummy things to be had on a stick. I’ve found these at various places and they are specifically labeled gluten-free. Goebbert’s Pumpkin Farm, if you have ever been, carries an extensive Halloween line of these. Seriously, I think that place is where all Chicagolanders go to celebrate the fall season. But I digress. That is for another post.

Aren’t they adorable?

I do believe Santa is bringing me a couple of those as well.

When you pay for your goodies, the shop attendant will give you a “candy horoscope” based on what you bought if you like, which is a fun little treat as well.

Overall Rating: 4/5

I love Candyality, and it will always be part of my Music Box Christmas tradition. The only shortcoming is that the owners carry so many candies, but do not know the ingredient info for all of them. They carry a few things without the ingredients printed on the wrapper, and upon asking, they weren’t able to provide that information. Also, the scoop/bin method employed by these specialty candy shops gives a pass for possible cross contamination, though I believe the whole set up is well managed to avoid that. The scoops are tethered to their bins to dissuade people from cross use. I also feel like the GF chocolate selection could be clarified a bit.

The shop owners are sweet (no dad joke intended there) and do not hesitate try and answer questions. Definitely stop here when you are in the neighborhood and satisfy your sweet tooth.

It’s Showtime!

I am in love with this place. The theatre has been in continuous operation for decades, opening as a talkie theatre opening in 1929. Usage continued after its golden age, though some of those years in the middle served as the smut film years that no one wants to remember. But since the 80’s, it has been transformed back to its grand former self, and serves up foreign films, classics, the ever-loved Rocky Horror experience, and–my personal favorite–a smashing holiday season.

The space next to the theatre was purchased by the Music Box owners and turned into a lounge. They knocked a doorway between the spaces, and viola! An in house bar serving cocktails for your happy and warm movie watching pleasure.

Concessions include a selection of movie candy, soda, popcorn, and more. Yes, it’s pricey, but you’ve got to get something to celebrate the nostalgia.

Our film was the sing-along showing of “The Sound of Music.” The show is a huge deal, complete with people showing up in costume and an, ahem, very interactive audience. As you sit, a gentleman’s fingers dance across an organ, playing an overture of music from the film. Props are given out to use during the film, prizes are awarded for costumes, and the scarlet curtain rises.

Be prepared to laugh at some of the funny crap people shout during this thing.

If you’ve ever been to a Rocky Horror screening, you’ll be familiar with this type of experience. People don’t just sing the songs. They yell comments, cheer for Maria, hiss at the Baroness, and boo and scream at the Nazi soldiers. It’s actually awesome. Everyone is enjoying it together, celebrating the characters and story they love so much. And, if you’re anything like me, being in a festive place celebrating something you love can be the best place to be.

Further fun…

Friends, the “Sound of Music” showing is usually the two weekends following Thanksgiving. After that, the theatre switches gears to their annual Christmas show–a double feature of “White Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It shows every weekend until Christmas. You do not need to see both shows, but they are cheaper if you purchase them together. Expect the same rowdy shenanigans as I described before for these shows, but remember–these are all family friendly experiences.

If you’re interested in any of these showings, purchase your tickets as soon as possible. Tickets sell out like you wouldn’t believe. My family couldn’t even get seats to all but one of the showings.

Also, James G. Blaine School, just down for the theatre, provides paid lot parking to supplement the street parking. It’s so much easier.

What a night!

Phew! What a night. There’s so much more to be said for this region of the city, and there is more to come in later posts. But for now, start planning your next trip to see all this Chicago neighborhood has to offer.❤️

My brother and sister-in-law taking in the sights.
Fantastic lamp near the ladies’ room of the theatre. I approve.

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