When Boystown gets boring
Escape the Gay Games crowds at these
queer-geared spots outside the gayborhood.
There’s something really exhilarating about taking part in a Pride event such as the Gay Games. The sports-manship, the camaraderie, the hot athletes—it’s been incredible so far. On the other hand, we’ve all experienced that critical-mass moment at a GLBT event when we’ve had enough of the long lines, inflated bar prices and constant cruising (there are only so many West Hollywood water-polo players you can make out with in one week). Don’t worry. You don’t have to keep trekking up and down Halsted Street to find gay life in Chicago. There are a surprising number of places where you can hang out off the beaten path and still feel the queer beat of the city. Here are some of our favorites:
If we were to give a Chicago neighborhood one of those bullshit “honorary” awards, we would hand this oasis of urban cool a blue ribbon for being the closest thing to a third gay neighborhood. Take two cups of ersatz bohemia, add a dash of heroin chic, and stir in a little gentrification, and that’s Wicker Park. But the queer vibe is palpable. Check out the ambisexual hipster style at bar/clubs like rodan (1530 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-276-7036), Four (1551 W Division St, 773-235-9100) or Goldstar (1755 W Division St, 773-227-8700); dive into queer comics and anti-Bush lit at Quimby’s (1854 W North Ave, 773-342-0910); eat the tastiest effin’ brunch of your life at gay-owned Bongo Room (1470 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-489-0690); or cruise on over to Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret (1383 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-278-1830), where NYC drag sensation Edie is performing this weekend (see listings). If this ’hood doesn’t give you a pink vibe, we suggest having your gaydar checked.
This neighborhood was a stinky tract of nothing 15 years ago. But the Wrigleyville crowd couldn’t stay young forever, and soon many of them moved west, bringing with them double lattes, double strollers and double rent prices. Today this ’hood is a fashionable strip of ever-changing baby boutiques and Thai restaurants, but the one constant is the glorious Music Box Theatre (3733 N Southport Ave, 773-871-6604), a movie house built in 1929 with two screening rooms, a resident ghost (Hi, Whitey!), and a rotating lineup of independent, avant-garde and classic films. The highlight of any week is the midnight movie series showcasing cult faves like Eraserhead and Rocky Horror Picture Show. This weekend’s midnight film is the queer and campy musical on wheels, Xanadu, featuring Olivia Newton-John as a heavenly muse (see Film, Indie & revival).
There are 77 officially designated neighborhoods in our sprawling lakefront metropolis. Sofo (South of Foster) isn’t one of them. However, as property values in nearby Andersonville started to soar, some residents living below Foster Avenue decided to juice up their boring Uptown addresses with a new name (we’re not surprised that neither St. Boniface Cemetery Heights nor Andersonville Adjacent failed to stick). However, two bars, T’s (5025 N Clark St, 773-784-6000) and the eponymous Sofo (4923 N Clark St, 773-784-7636), lend credibility to this area. Neither identify as straightforward gay bars, but the casual pub fare, comfy backroom lounge (yes, there’s a pool table) and beautiful outdoor patio at T’s attract same-sex–loving ladies in droves, while the gay boys seem to have discovered the beer garden, divalicious video screens and dog-friendliness at Sofo.
If it’s good enough for German immigrants, it’s good enough for gays. This neighborhood has been on the rise over the past half decade, especially after the square itself received a much-needed face-lift a few years back. Now it’s a fashionable place to live and play, anchored by a half-dozen German bars and businesses and the historic Davis Theater (4614 N Lincoln Ave, 773-784-0893). It’s not gay per se, but we defy you not to find homebound queers enjoying the area’s multiple charms. Spyners (4623 N Western Ave, 773-784-8719) is a local hangout for lesbians in the know, which busts out a halfway-decent karaoke night on weekends. There is no sign out front nor are there any identifiable GLBT markers for that matter, but when you can snuggle safely with your partner at the bar, you know you’re among family.