Where the Gays Are
Arts, eats, nightlife, and health care too
By Kathie Bergquist
September 22, 2006
WITH ALL THE recent Gay
Games hoopla, Chicago is
finally getting some overdue
credit for being gay friendly. In 1961
Illinois was the first state to decriminalize
any private sexual behavior
between consenting adults. In 1988,
the City Council passed the Human Rights Ordinance, outlawing discrimination
based on sexual orientation
and including GLBTQ folks in
hate crime protections. Ten years
later the rainbow pylons lining North
Halsted Street were erected, giving
the nation one of its first officially recognized gay ghettos. Mayor Daley
loves the gays so much he wants to
gay-marry us. If your sexual preference
strays in any way from one-on-one
penis-vagina action, as far as
places to live go, you could do worse.
Today the scene continues to
revolve around North
Halsted in Lakeview, aka
“Boys Town,” and its
North Clark Street,
roughly from Argyle to
Bryn Mawr). Both areas
are chockablock with
shops, restaurants, culture,
and nightlife, although property
values are such in both places
that only the most upwardly mobile
can actually afford to live there.
Sidetrack (3349 N. Halsted, 773-477-9189, sidetrackchicago.com),
Berlin (954 W Belmont, 773-348-4975, berlinchicago.com), Circuit (3641 N. Halsted, 773-325-2233,
circuitclub.com), and Roscoe’s (3356
N. Halsted, 773-281-3355) are known
internationally as gay places to get
your groove on, and for the ladies
Chix Mix parties (chixmixproductions.com) offer some of the most sophisticated
clubbing experiences that
you’ll find anywhere.
But who can afford to go out like
that all the time? And if you’re
under 21, it’s not even an option.
Sometimes it might seem like
everyone else is having a great big
boozy butt-sex party 24-7 but that
you, youngster, are not invited.
What’s a young, fixed-income
sexual deviant to do? If your ID is
liquor friendly and money’s your only
problem, there are plenty of ways to
make the system work for you.
By taking advantage of nightly
specials at many venues you can get
the most of your thin dollar and cut
down on your grocery bill as well.
Just watch the savings stack up!
The week starts with perhaps one
of the most famous good deals in
town—the free buffet at Big
Chicks (5024 N. Sheridan,
773-728-5511, bigchicks.com). Every Sunday at
4, owner Michelle
Fire lays out a spread
that goes much further
than your typical
weenies in a crock.
In summer the fresh-off-the-grill fare can
include burgers, chicken,
and brats with a host of sides, and
in winter look for steaming pans of
lasagna or southern fried chicken.
There are always veggie options as
well. The buffet is 100 percent free
Tuesdays are dollar night at the
Eagle leather bar (5015 N. Clark,
and all top-shelf booze and draft beer
goes for a dollar a pop. Also on
Tuesdays, from nine to one, Hydrate
(3458 N. Halsted, 773-975-9244,
hydratechicago.com) offers martinis
and manicures for $15 for women
and men. Pricey, maybe, but hey—
manicure! At What the Fuck
Wednesdays at Spin (800 W.
Belmont, 773-327-7711, spin-nightclub.com) all well drinks, wine, and
domestic beer cost only a buck all
night after you fork over a $5 cover.
On Thursday nights at Jackhammer
(6406 N. Clark, 773-743-5772,
beer is $1 all night with no cover. If you
want a little class on your Thursday
night, the lesbian-owned wine bar
Joie de Vine (1744 W. Balmoral, 773-989-6846) offers flight night, featuring
$10 wine and cheese flights.
On some nights you can actually
make an honest buck at the bars.
One Sunday a month Jackhammer
has its “Strip Search” amateur strip
contest with a $200 cash prize (guys
only), and on the fourth Friday of the
month at 11:30 guys can also participate
in the hot jock strap contest at
Crew (4804 N. Broadway, 773-784-2739, worldsgreatestbar.com), also
with a cash prize. Both guys and gals
can compete in Spin’s sexy shower
contest, which takes place every
Friday night at midnight and offers
the winner 150 smackers.
Locals consider Friday and (especially)
Saturday “amateur nights” at
the bars, when all the suburban punters
come to the city, shaking things
up with their eight-balls, mullets, and
tucked-in shirts. Two of the best
alternative dance parties for queers
under 30 take place on weeknights:
Outdanced, Tuesday nights at the
Funky Buddha (728 W. Grand, 312-666-1695, funkybuddha.com), and
Trans-mission, the multigenderfriendly
dance party every first and
third Thursday at Star Gaze (5419 N.
Clark, 773-561-7363, stargazechicago.com). Both of these parties are mixed
women/men/others, as is the queer
rock ’n’ roll cabaret Flesh Hungry
Dog Show, held every third Friday
night at Jackhammer. For mostly
women, Dirty Girl Thursdays at the
Lakeview Broadcasting Corp (3542
N. Halsted, dirtygirlthursdays.moon
fruit.com) is an upstart ladies’ night
that usually doesn’t charge a cover.
All of these suggestions assume
you were born on or before this date
in 1985. But it’s a mistake to think
that queer Chicago only happens in a
bar. All of the restaurants around
Boys Town and Andersonville are
going to be gay friendly. Unfortunately
they are also going to be expensive.
Nookies Tree (3334 N. Halsted,
773-248-9888) is open 24 hours on
Fridays and Saturdays and offers
decent value on diner fare, and the
Thai restaurant Joy’s Noodles (3257
N. Broadway, 773-327-8330) is
supergay and also won’t break the
bank. In Andersonville, Angel’s (5403 N. Clark, 773-271-1138) serves
awesome chilaquiles and has a beautiful
back patio and reasonable
prices. Down the street at Reza’s (5255 N. Clark, 773-561-1898) the
prices are higher, but servings are so
huge they’ll feed you for a week.
A few off-the-rainbow-road
restaurants have the type of hippie/urban environment that makes them
attractive to young gays. Alice & Friends Vegetarian Cafe in Edgewater
(5812 N. Broadway, 773-275-8797)
offers a wide selection of un-meats.
Earwax (1561 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-4019) in Wicker Park is queer
and vegetarian friendly. Rogers
Park’s Heartland Cafe (7000 N.
Glenwood, 773-465-8005) is a leftwing
haven, making it a popular spot
for political queers, and Lula Cafe (2537 N. Kedzie, 773-489-9554),
with its eclectic menu, is a popular
“Queeribou” at Broadway and
Aldine (3300 N. Broadway)—that’s
Caribou Coffee for the uninitiated—is
considered by many to be Chicago’s
ground zero for boy-on-boy cruising.
Pause Cafe, under the Berwyn stop
on the Red Line (1107 W. Berwyn,
773-334-3686) is another popular
filling station for the gays, and Kopi Cafe in Andersonville (5317 N. Clark,
773-989-5674) has long been a preferred
locale for lesbian lingering.
And then there’s shopping. If you
want your thrifting dollar to support
a gay cause, check out the Brown
Elephant (locations in Boystown,
Andersonville, and Wicker Park,
howardbrown.org/hb_brownelephant.asp), which benefits the
Howard Brown Health Center. And
speaking of health, both Howard
Brown (4025 N. Sheridan, 773-388-1600, howardbrown.org) and Chicago
Women’s Health Center(3435 N.
Sheffield, 773-935-6126, chicagowomenshealthcenter.org) offer services
on a sliding scale. At Howard
Brown that includes HIV and STD
testing and treatment, general health
care, and, for women, insemination
services. At Chicago Women’s Health
Center it mostly means lady business.
The city’s GLBTQ cultural scenes
offer many options that don’t discriminate
against age or income level.
Gerber/Hart Library (1127 W. Granville, 773-381-8030, gerberhart.org), Chicago’s 25-year-old GLBTQ
lending library and archive, offers
queer culture aplenty, with a regular
schedule of lectures, art exhibits, film
screenings, and book groups—and
friends, they are all free. Scott Free’s
free queer words and music series,
Homolatte (7:30 PM on the first and
third Tuesdays of the month at Tweet,
5020 N. Sheridan, 773-728-5576,
homolatte.com), features one homo
writer and musician a week. Chicago’s
two most gay-friendly bookstores are
Unabridged Bookstore (3251 N.
Broadway, 773-883-9119) with a
great selection of well-chosen, ultracheap
remainder titles, and Women &
Children First (5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299, womenandchildrenfirst.com) with great free programming.
Chicago also has an active queer arts
scene full of writers, filmmakers, musicians,
theater groups, and visual and
performing artists. Every November,
Chicago Filmmakers (chicagofilmmakers.org) mounts Reeling: The Chicago International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Estrojam (estrojam.org)
is an annual showcase of feminist,
queer-leaning music and art, featuring
top local and national acts.
Queer burlesque is alive and well
too: productions such as the monthly
Girlie-Q Burlesque (girlieq.com) offer
vaudeville, striptease, drag kings, and
other gender-subversive expression
to enthusiastic crowds.
The Youth Pride Center (youthpridecenter.org), in its new space at
637 S. Dearborn, holds movie nights,
weekly chat groups, and dances and
social mixers for GLBTQs aged 23
and under, including the monthly
Curiosity Youth Jam and Grrl Jam
parties. In addition, the Youth Pride
Center offers housing and job assistance
and financial aid for gay teens
and young adults. Not to mention a
hip-hop dance troupe.
Cafe Pride (cafepride.com) is a
weekly drop-in center for queers
aged 17-21, Friday nights from eight
to midnight, housed at the
Lakeview Presbyterian Church (716
W. Addison). Their Web site promises
they won’t beat anybody up
with Bibles, so if that’s your thing,
you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Chicago is a big enough city that
we have room for many diverse
GLBTQ communities—and it’s not
that unusual to find two or more of
these communities at odds. No
matter, Mayor Daley loves us all the
same. If you can’t find the scene
that you’re looking for here, get off
your dupa and make it happen.
Send a letter to the editor.