By ROBERT ELIAS DEATON
Following up on last week’s introduction to Chicago, Illinois, we return to President Obama’s onetime hometown to scour the gayborhoods best bars, clubs, and cafés.
Chicago’s largest gay village is nicknamed Boystown, though it’s legally known as Lakeview. The first officially recognized gay neighborhood in the United States, it is also the cultural center of one of the largest LGBT communities in the nation. For those who keep track of such statistics, Boystown also has more resident drag queens per square inch than any other place in America.
Our hands-down favorite club in the area is Sidetrack (3349 N Halsted St., between Roscoe and Buckingham). Currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, Sidetrack is a labyrinth of seven bars, lounges and a celebrated balcony from which all things wicked can be observed. It’s the largest video bar in Chicago, and swears it sells more vodka per night than any other bar in the entire U.S.A. Just down the block and across the street is Roscoe’s (3356 N Halsted St.), where the kids go to dance, and the Daddies go to spoil them. Roscoe’s, now in its 25th year, is a great place for eats in spring, summer and the beginning of fall, with its sidewalk café. The big draw is the wet boxers contest the first Sunday of each month— boxers as in underwear, not pugilists.
Continue walking up Halsted Street and visit Cocktail (3359 N Halsted St.), where the drinks are fun concoctions like strawberry mojitos, legendary DJ’s spin sizzling hot music, and some surprisingly good Chicago pizza and salads are served at The Garden. Very hot go-go dancers perform on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights.
Hydrate (3458 N Halsted St.) gets points for its College Night on Tuesday. Drinks are $1 each and you don’t have to be matriculating to attend. Those that are, however, get inside for no cover charge with appropriate college I.D. The rest of the week are drag events at Hydrate, with all the drama and hair such a schedule suggests.
For those into leather and bear packs, there is always the tried-and-true CellBlock (3702 N Halsted St.). While the front bar is rather tame, the back bar is serious leather, with porn videos to prove the point.
For something a lot sleazier, pump it up and head to Manhandler Saloon (1948 N. Halsted St.). This place is Chicago’s bar-equivalent to a bathhouse, so don’t give us those Betty Boop eyes when your pants are pulled down around your knees and a wet mouth enters your sightline. This does not happen in plain view, of course.
Mosey right through the front bar with its surly bartenders, and right through the back patio. The action takes place beyond the stockade fencing where crowds as large as three dozen will be doing the nasty nightly. Chicago’s alternative gayborhood to Boystown is Andersonville. This one-time Swedish settlement has given way to upscale LGBT residents who flock to @mosphere (5355 N Clark St. at Balmoral Ave.). The attractions here are drink specials, a large dance floor, and go-go dancers from Wednesday through Saturday. Go a little further north and discover Touché (6412 N Clark St. at W Devon Ave.), a fancy name for a leather bar that’s been around for 35 years. The place is sweet with just the right stench, and men’s men playing in the backroom. Our kinda town.