Drink up, Chicago

How the nightlife scene looks in different 'hoods

November 30, 2011|Emily Van Zandt and Brian Welk | RedEye

All it takes is a 2 a.m. visit to a strip on Hubbard, Clark, Halsted or Milwaukee to know exactly how Chicago drinks: hard.

The city has a documented reputation. Nearly 20 percent of adults age 18 or older in Chicago have engaged in binge drinking in the previous month, according to a report last year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while the state isn't currently No. 1 in overdoing it -- that classification goes to Wisconsin -- the Land of Lincoln does come in at No. 5 in the Centers' nationwide rankings.

While certainly not all who enjoy the city's night life do so irresponsibly, the boozy weekend is an indisputable element of Chicago's patchwork. From bottle service on a West Loop roof to rounds of Jameson in a Wicker Park basement, each neighborhood has its own style of nightlife, and people are quick to defend -- and define -- their favorites.

"Lakeview, Lincoln Park ... you go there to be seen, flash it up a little bit. Logan Square ... well, we just come to get wasted," said Parri Finister, music publicist at Cole's bar in Logan Square. "Most of the night owls around here live in the neighborhood, so we're walking first ... good luck getting a cab around here."

But mention the idea of walking to a group in River North and see what kind of reaction it brings. "The majority of people take the `L' to River North, but take a cab home," said Eric Rose, general manager of Hub 51.

With so much focus on Chicago's drinking patterns, RedEye hit the streets to talk to residents about what drinking in their neighborhoods is really like. From how much they down to how much they spend to how hard it is to get a cab, here's what to expect from a night out in six of the city's biggest hot spots.


Just south of downtown, there's a neighborhood in transition that packs in plenty of action in a slightly-under-the-radar nightlife scene. From hipster dive hangouts like Simone's where beers are only a few bucks to late-night Mexican eats like Los Comales to destination dining like Nightwood, there's a little something for anyone who finally breaks out of their routine to explore this area.
The timeline:
Neighborhood dwellers tend to keep standard bar hours, with weekends getting busy around 10 or 11 p.m. at most spots.
The transport: Look to the cross-town No. 8-Halsted and No.9-Ashland busses for a reliable ride; the Pink Line takes you right to the heart of things. But a cab? Not likely.
Word on the street: "All sorts of social statuses come together to chill out." -- Arturo Aguirre, 28


Think neighborhood bar-and-grills with serious beer menus (Lady Gregory's) where you'll probably spot a family or two and plenty of LGBT-centric spots filled with Boystown ex-Pats (The Call).
The timeline:
Look for bar/restaurant hybrids to be packed and family-friendly for dinner, with the crowd switch happening around 10 p.m.
The transport: Not flooded with cabs, but not a desert. The Red Line is an option, but it's a bit of a hike to the Clark Street bars. Busses are easy to navigate (try the No. 22-Clark to take you into the main drag of venues) and if you're the driving type, parking is plentiful.
Word on the street: "We're seeing more gay couples and some of the regulars will bring their parents out...You're not going to be embarrassed by Andersonville. You'll catch families and they're totally open and cool." -- Michael Hogan, co-owner of The Call.

Loop/West Loop

A few blocks (and a few hours) can make a huge difference in defining the nightlife scene in the Loop. These `hoods win the prize for packing the most post-work drinkers Monday through Friday and for packing in the most tourists the rest of the time. In the West Loop, tabs can add up when you're sipping the buzzed-about cocktails at Aviary or Maude's Liquor Bar.
The timeline: Bars situated near big workplaces clear out well before 9 p.m. Head for the South Loop and West Loop clubs for more late-night action, where venues often stay open until 4 a.m. or 5 a.m.
The transport: Busses and trains abound (it's the Loop, after all) but if you're staying out late, the taxis will start to look mighty inviting.
Word on the street: "Fun until 7 p.m." -- Jessica Biedron, 26

Bucktown/Wicker Park/Logan Square

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