Skip to contents
Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Andersonville’s Octavio Rebrands As The Bird Cage, A Restaurant-Club Where ‘Bondage Meets Cabaret’

The Bird Cage has a stage for performances, a DJ booth, massive disco balls and a "bondage wall."

Martin Cournane, center on swing, poses with staff at The Bird Cage, 5310 N. Clark St.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

ANDERSONVILLE — An upscale Mexican restaurant on Clark Street has rebranded as The Bird Cage, an inclusive and body-positive restaurant-club in the heart of Andersonville.

Octavio Cantina & Kitchen, 5310 N. Clark St., reopened July 10 as The Bird Cage, which owner Martin Cournane describes as “bondage meets cabaret.”

While Octavio was a trendy and vibrant restaurant and bar, The Bird Cage is an adult-themed spot complete with a stage for performances, a DJ booth, massive disco balls and a “bondage wall.”

“This is not dinner theater,” Cournane said. “It’s a place where people can come and let their hair down.”

Credit: JOE WARD/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO
Burlesque dancers are depicted throughout The Bird Cage, 5310 N. Clark St.

Cournane, who owns Lady Gregory’s, LG’s Bar in Old Town and Wilde in Lakeview, opened Octavio in March 2018. The restaurant was known for its elevated Mexican dishes and a lively atmosphere.

But Cournane said he wanted a more lively, nightclub-like atmosphere with a focus on personal expression and inclusivity. One of Octavio’s most popular features was a drag brunch, which routinely sold out. He decided he wanted to go more in the direction of a performance venue and nightlife spot.

The idea had been circulating in Cournane’s head when the coronavirus hit, causing the closure of Octavio’s 6,000-square-foot dining room.

“In my mind I wanted to do some kind of rebrand,” Cournane said. “Then COVID happened. There was nothing going on inside, so I thought it was as good a time as any.”

A stage, enhanced with a swing and an overheard, pink-colored catwalk, are front-and-center in the new restaurant. Booths near the stage hide massive speakers, and the space in front of the stage is intended to act as a dance floor. A gold, human-sized bird cage is in the rear of the space, near the bondage wall.

Credit: JOE WARD/BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO
The Bird Cage’s “bondage wall.”

The bondage wall is framed by red curtains and highlights BDSM equipment, including an X-shaped plank with wrist restraints. Cournane said employees have to frequently disinfect the restraints, as the wall has become a popular photo opportunity at the new space.

Murals throughout the club depict an array of burlesque dancers, including those with diverse body types, genders and races. Cournane also commissioned a photo shoot in the new spot, the framed photos also highlighting the diversity and inclusivity that The Bird Cage wants to be known for, he said.

“This started before all the protests,” Cournane said. “Now everyone knows how badly this is needed. Especially in the gay community.”

As people and institutions think through their role in racism, LGBTQ establishments are also reconciling with exclusive practices. Boystown, in recognizing its problems with racism and transphobia, is even considering a neighborhood name change.

The Bird Cage will not hold events like “Latin night” or “hip-hop night,” Cournane said, in an effort to be as inclusive as possible.

“A big part of this was creating this space and message that will really have a positive effect in our community,” he said. “Especially in the gay community, sometimes that message is needed.”

The Bird Cage has retained about half of Octavio’s menu, with the addition of wood-fired pizzas and lighter fare like a salmon club and “power bowls.” A new cocktail program has been implemented to mesh with the new nightlife vibe of the establishment.

The restaurant’s name is not a reference to the 1996 movie “The Birdcage,” about the gay owners of a drag club, though Cournane doesn’t mind if people make that association.

The name was inspired by the feathered boas that adorn the murals throughout the space. “Cage” is a reference to the bondage theme, Cournane said.

“The idea is: whatever you’re into,” he said. “If you’re not bothering any one, do your thing.”

The Bird Cage, 5310 N. Clark St., is open 4 p.m. to close Monday-Friday and noon to close Saturday-Sunday. For more information, click here.

Credit: JOE WARD/BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO
The Bird Cage’s patio at 5310 N. Clark St.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.