Ahh, another Cubs Convention is upon us. Which means half the state of Iowa will descend on the Chicago Hilton to show just how dorky Cubs fans can be. It’s enough to make a guy want to have a drink or 10. But where do you go to drink away 100 years of sorrow?
As a public service, we did some extensive research (five hours’ worth, to be exact) to come up with a guide to some places to go in the neighborhood to get housed. Here’s what we found:
Of course you have to start with Kitty O’Sheas (720 S. Michigan, 312-294-6860)–the logical choice for conventioneers, since it’s right in the hotel and all. But honestly, it’s just not a very good sports bar. The few TVs are small. The chairs aren’t very comfortable. The wait staff is less-than-attentive, at best. And our order of fish and chips tasted funny.
If you’re an Irish bar (as the name and hundreds of chotchkies on the wall suggest) and you can’t do fish and chips, well, I don’t know what to tell you.
But it is right in the hotel. And it is supposed to be about 2 degrees this weekend. Hey man, you make your own decisions. As for me, I’m moving on …
The next stop in our South Loop bar crawl took us to Kasey’s Tavern (701 S. Dearborn, 312-427-7992)–just a few blocks west of the Hilton. It’s almost like the anti-O’Sheas: Big TVs, huge beer selection and literally nothing else on the walls, save for one Cubs banner way in the back. If there’s a game on, I can’t think of a better place in the area to go.
The second you walk in, you’re inundated with eight huge screens behind the bar, all showing sports. And it will only get better, as they are in the process of putting even more TVs on the other side of the narrow bar.
Our bartender Callie (pictured at the beginning of this article in her pink Brett Favre jersey, which we won’t hold it against her) quickly rattled off the 18 beers on tap, and then showed us the fridge stocked with another hundred or so types of bottles. I tried each of the three different Two Brothers selections on tap and thoroughly enjoyed everything about the place.
We got there as the Patriots were about to play, and for some reason, the place was packed with Pats fans. When you see a chick in a Mike Vrabel jersey, you know you’re among got some die-hards. But, again, we won’t hold it against them.
On to South Loop Club (701 S. State, 312-427-2787) the place I was most excited to see. While the name makes it sound like a cigar-and-cognac party, it is anything but. In fact, I’m told, it was probably a place you wanted to avoid until the homeless shelter across the street recently closed. (“The only place I’ve ever seen where they sell Streetwise on the inside,” commented someone in our group).
You can still see the remnants of a rough-and-tumble place, such as the numerous “No public bathroom” signs. Fortunately, they do have a bathroom for club “members,” although it’s not much more than a cement floor and a couple of urinals.
But the burgers are adequate, the service is solid and the people-watching is incredible. I saw a dude in a Lofa Tatupu jersey (and full Seahawks gear), a guy with a Welker jersey, and one dude who had a Reggie White Packers jersey pulled over his biz-casual ensemble. And then there was the dude in the T.O. Eagles jersey who proceeded to put ketchup on nearly every available inch of his plate. Very classy.
South Loop Club also has a Red Bull menu, with 10 different kinds of RB drinks, including the “Bull Shit” — RB, crème de cocoa and Kahlua. Now that’s good stuff!
After plowing through a couple pitchers of Black Dog (it’s on special for $11 every day, for no apparent reason) and a Slutty Bull (RB, peach schnapps and cranberry — I couldn’t resist) we were finally able to stumble out of there.
The final stop of the night was the Tavern Tap Pub (520 S. Michigan, 312-427-3800) located in the Congress Hotel. And what a scene it was. By this point in the night, it was well past 10 (which meant well past 5 hours) and the remaining members of the group were feeling pretty darn good about the South Loop. But we had nothing on the SAE fraternity guys from Arkansas, who were on a road trip from Little Rock and pretty much made up the entire bar’s clientele.
First, the bar, which was kind of a cross between a college dorm rec room and something out of “The Shining.” The floors are some sort of white linoleum, which takes any hint of hominess out of the fireplace and pool table in the corner. But on the plus side, the only people you’re battling to get drinks are a bunch of hayseeds from Arkansas (pictured).
The bartender was in no mood to deal with these guys (whose names included Austin, Tanner and Tucker Shaw) and announced last call at about 11:05, which led to a mad dash of rednecks to the bar to pour down as many shots as were allowed.
With a party look in their eye, some of the fellas asked where they could find a good time in this town. Not really knowing how to answer that question from these guys, I told them where we had been that night and which places were the best. The one dude replied, “Hey, I hear there’s some place called Rush and Division that’s supposed to be cool.”
I don’t know if they actually did find the Viagra Triangle that night, but if they did, I can only hope they made it out of there alive.
After parting ways with the boys, we decided it was probably best to get our asses on a bus back to Wrigleyville. The South Side after dark is no place for a Cubs fan.
Points of Interest: Places we didn’t hit, but you might want to check out
733 S. Dearborn, 312-461-1116
You may know it as the suburban chain with locations in Wheeling and Lake Zurich–among other places you don’t ever want to go. We passed it twice on the way to Kasey’s and it was jumpin’ all night. All you suburbanite conventioneers might be comfortable here. These are your people.
720 S. Michigan, 312-920-4400
This is the Hilton’s resident steak house. If you’re in the mood for a 12- ounce prime rib for more than the price of a grandstand seat at Wrigley, this is the place to be. Anything else, and you probably want to move on.
755 S. Clark, 312-786-1161
The place has been around as long as the Cubs have been losing. We didn’t make it there, but heard they have an elaborate decoration setup for every major holiday. A quick look at their somewhat technologically challenged Web site reveals a pretty elaborate menu, so it might be worth experimenting.
By Matthew Wood