My City: Second City Actress Carisa Barreca

Second City comedian Carisa Barreca tells us the best thing about performing in Chicago and where she loves to eat

Carisa Barreca

[Cast member at The Second City]

Carisa Barreca earned her acting, dancing and comedy stripes performing for The Second City aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines, at the UP Comedy Club in “What the Tour Guide Didn't Tell You,” and at Lyric Opera with Patrick Stewart and Renee Fleming in “The Second City's Guide to the Opera”. She is a founding member of Matter Dance Company and was voted “Best Choreographer" by the Chicago Reader.

Carisa Barreca of The Second City

What are the best things about performing in Chicago?

The best thing about performing in Chicago is the people. You won’t find this amount of top-quality comedians anywhere else in the world. As a performer you feel lucky to be surrounded by this level of talent. As an audience member you will never stop laughing.

What local theater venues/talent inspires you?

Chicago is full of so much talent that you could spend every night of the week being inspired by something new! Of course, the talent at Second City inspires me nightly. The building is so full of history and comedy that it is impossible not to be. Some other heavy hitters in Chicago that are sure to inspire include Steppenwolf , The Lyric Opera, and Hubbard Street Dance. Of course, you can’t forget about the small but mighty venues in Chicago like Stage 773, The Neo-Futurists, iO Chicago and House Theater.

What’s it like performing on such a historic stage?

It’s an honor. Every night is an honor. I still get butterflies when I think of all the amazing people that have performed on that stage.

What are your tips for getting the most out of a Chicago winter?

Well, winter is tough in Chicago but there are so many things to do even during the coldest days that the weather shouldn’t keep you from experiencing everything the city has to offer. 

Step 1: Dress for the winter. Thick socks, layers, and gloves.

Step 2: Give up. Go inside. No matter how many layers you put on, sometimes it’s too cold to be outside.  

This is the time of year when you can utilize Chicago’s many world-class museums.   Whether it’s a day exploring the Museum of Science and Industry or wandering through exhibit after exhibit at the Art Institute, you can stay inside all day and never even know its winter.

What’s on your radar of things to do that you haven’t yet in Chicago?

I have never been to the sight of the Chicago’s first World’s Fair aka “The White City”. The 1893 World’s Fair has always intrigued me and although many of the structures were taken down or were destroyed, there is a beautiful Japanese Garden located on the site. When Chicago thaws I will definitely be visiting. 

What are some of the Second City after-work hangs?

After a show the cast can usually be found getting a drink at Corcoran’s or after hours at The Ale House.  Both of them are across the street from Second City and performers have been going to them for nightcaps for years. 

What Chicago landmark makes you go, “Wow” every time?

The view from the top of The Hancock Building. I have been up there countless times and every time I go I still get that weightless giddy feeling in my stomach that makes me feel lucky to live in this beautiful city.

What are some of your top spots for classic Chicago dining?

Ok, I love food and there are just so many unbelievable places in Chicago. If you are coming to Chicago - come here with an empty stomach! 

  • If you want an amazing hot dog there’s Portillos, or off the beaten path there’s Hot Doug’s.  It usually has a long line but it is definitely worth the wait. 
  • If you want deep dish pizza there’s Lou Malnati’s and Pequod’s, which has an excellent $5 lunch special. 
  • For old-school dining in Chicago, you will need to check out Gene and Georgetti’s for outstanding steaks and Sabatino’s for perfect Italian food.
  • You can hit a ton of amazing restaurants all in one place by going to Randolph Street.  There you can enjoy Girl and The Goat, Little Goat, City Winery, Au Cheval and Dragonfly, just to name a few.
  • And finally, at the end of a long day you will want to top it all off with something sweet! Stop by Hot Chocolate in Wicker Park for any of their mouth-watering desserts and then head down the block to swanky cocktail bar The Violet Hour for a nightcap.



    Coffee and donut at Glazed and Infused

    A classic way to start the day - With a sugar rush and caffeine. 


    Wander thru the Art Institute 

    You can see Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet along with 260,000 works of art! Pick just a few exhibits to explore otherwise you could spend your entire day getting lost in this museum. 


    Architecture River Tour 

    I used to work on Shoreline Architecture Tours as a tour guide.  I would go up and down the river over and over again every day and I never got tired of seeing the city this way. Chicago’s architecture is breathtaking and the history of the city is so rich that I still go on this tour a few times a year. 


    Lunch at The Purple Pig

    This is just another one of the incredible restaurants Chicago has to offer. If you are a wine, cheese, and/or meat lover, you have found heaven. 


    Walk Off Lunch 

    Take a quick walk up Michigan Ave to walk off lunch and window shop the amazing stores along this historic stretch of Chicago. 


    Sunset at the Hancock Building 

    Grab a cocktail at The Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building and watch one of the most awe-inspiring sunsets you will ever see as the sun goes down over Chicago. 


    Lincoln Park Zoo

    If it’s the Holidays in Chicago, like it is now, you can visit ZOOLIGHTS at Lincoln Park Zoo. The entire zoo is lit up and turned into a giant glittering holiday experience. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and see the lights, visit the penguins and take a ride on the carousel! 


    Comedy at The Second City 

    For me, performing with the talented cast of The Second City etc’s A Clown car Named Desire is part of a perfect day.  However, if you were to follow this itinerary, this would still apply for you too! Go see one of the shows at the legendary Second City. For those of you who are not familiar, The Second City has been home to such talent as Joan Rivers, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers, Bonnie Hunt, and more recently, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. The Second City is the world’s premier comedy theater! 


    Swing Dancing at The Green Mill 

    In Uptown, The Green Mill, is a classy cocktail lounge that has been around since 1907. You can hear top-notch live music, get a perfectly mixed cocktail and sit in Al Capone’s old booth! It’s the perfect place to end a perfect day.