Chicago's Alhambra Palace has to be seen to be believed. It is named after and inspired by the 13th century fortress in Granada, Spain. After I entered the arches of its grand entrance, I asked myself, "Am I really in Chicago anymore? Could I instead have been suddenly beamed down into an elaborate dining den in the Casbah -- or the most plush Las Vegas nightclub?" Ah, Alhambra's over-the-top facade, inviting balconies, ornate balustrades, secret nooks and exotic crannies of its bar area, the vastness of its main room. Alhambra Palace is beyond fabulous and so is the entertainment.
My party and I sat in the sideline mezzanine at a table for four, noshed on small plates of hummus, baba ghanous and batata, sipped on Almaza beer from Lebanon, and took in the wondrous hour-long show. Soul and Duende is a flamenco dance company based in Chicago, offering up multiple numbers of group and solo flamenco dances in an endless array of authentic costuming. The troupe is headed by Azucena Vega, who has danced with the great Jose Greco and the Ballet Espanol de Madrid. Soul and Duende's set also includes two numbers by Mexican dancers who perform authentic folk dances from the Mexican state of Jalisco.
For a great night out for a big party or a special date for two, I am pressed to think of where in Chicago you can get so much atmosphere and entertainment than at Alhambra Palace, all for the price of a meal or, perhaps, just some appetizers and drinks.
Musical accompaniment is by guitar, castanets, and two drums -- the Spanish cajon, and darbuka or goblet drum, which is a thick ceramic drum traditionally covered in sturgeon fish skin. Orale, ole! The Soul and Duende flamenco performance is followed by an Arab band and bellydancer at 9:30, which we stayed for and enjoyed, as well.◦