Last night I had plans for dinner — though the only plan we had at the time was that we were going somewhere or other around 8. I got home from work at 7:45 and ran a comb through my hair, just as my friend called to say I had five minutes to pull it together because he was five blocks away from picking me up in a cab.

I asked where we were going. He said he didn’t know. I asked how we were ever going to make a decision about where to go in a split second (my track record for deciding on a restaurant in less than 30 minutes isn’t good) — so perhaps he should come in so that we could decide. He said not to worry, we’d figure it out en route.

Who was I to argue?

I got in the cab, and within seconds it became clear that he’d been having a conversation with the cab driver — Shaquiel — who emphatically suggested a place (couldn’t understand the name). He insisted that we’d like it because it’s new and is the hot place to go in the West Loop.

So after trying to brainstorm a few places that I’d actually heard of, we decided to just let the cab driver take us to his suggested spot. I didn’t know whether I was in for hot dogs, pasta, fish or sushi.

We headed west on Randolph. Past the restaurants. Past the grocery warehouses.

Pretty soon we pulled up in front of it:


The Alhambra Palace. It became clear that we’d be having couscous for dinner.  Seemed reasonable enough. I like couscous and falafel. A nice glass of wine, a nice lamb chop, a quiet dinner to end a busy week.

We stepped inside and saw a moderately filled bar area in front of us — and an empty dining room to our right. Hmmm. We asked for a table for two. And then waited 10 minutes. Hmmm. My friend went to the restroom while I continued to wait.

5 seconds later he was back. “You gotta see this,” he said. So we walked through the bar. Into a ginormous room (14-ft ceilings with huge balcony) seating hundreds of people. With a huge stage featuring a flamenco band. And flamenco dancers on the dance floor in front of the stage.


stage 2

Right then the host found us to take us to our table.

I was speechless.

But it got crazier. After the flamenco band and dancers, another small band came out — I’d call it Moroccan. And a belly dancer with her DD’s covered in a fuscia bra with rhinestones. 


Despite the cheese factor, she was GOOD. I couldn’t believe it. (Or perhaps it was the wine…)

After her performance, a trio of young mafia members came and sat next to us. And proceeded to come and go to smoke outside at least three times in 15 minutes. Then the rest of the room got up to bellydance as a group.

We left before midnight, and the crowd was out of a movie. Tons of people dancing to Arab music. And plenty of greasy men looking on.

If there’s ever a sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this is where it will be filmed.

I’m still mute.

P.S. I’d give the place a C for food, a C for level of taste and an A for entertainment value.


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