"You have on a nice suit coat," he says, reviewing my fly blue blazer with the white pocket square. "You're dressed real nice right now. In Chicago, you need to get you a nice little suit coat on and some smell good. They like a sweet-smelling man. I'm tellin' you, Chicago is sweet! You go down to the bar and watch somebody come up to you and greet you. Nobody's going to let you drink alone in Chicago. You won't be allowed to drink alone," he says so loudly the candles flicker. "Somebody will come up and greet you. That's the fun thing. You can go to a party by yourself and come out partying with eight or nine people. That's how friendly Chicago is."

"Okay, so what time will we meet at the bar?" I ask, mentally already rolling into one of the great hotel lounges he's suggested, like the new Peninsula, the boutique Amalfi (which he singled out for great martinis), The Whiskey Bar in Sutton Place, or the ultrahip W off Wacker Street.

"You need to be in the bar at 5, because you want to eat around 6 or 7," he says.

"That early?" I ask. I'm thinking, I've got one night with Bernie Mac. I want it to be a late one. But Mac insists. Dinner, 7 p.m. sharp. "Yeah, because you won't leave out of there until 10, 10:30, after you get through wining and dining. I'm tellin' you, man!"

When the dinner bell rings, Mac's more than likely headed to a steakhouse. He practically sings the names of the steakhouses "where I bump and grind." It's a litany of prime beef, beginning with Ronny's Original Steak House, a Chicago classic, to a long line of newer spots. "I love to go to the Chop House and Gibson's," he says.