Three bars to avoid costly New Year's madness
"It's business as usual," says bartender Todd Sleeper, describing one of our favorite ways to celebrate New Year's Eve: neighborhood bar, no cover, no big crowds. Just some straightforward holiday spirit. "We turn the TVs on for the countdown," he says. "The bar might buy a round." It gets better. Half of this Hyde Park bar sports nautical touches, and a large second room has long wooden tables and benches, just like a European beer hall. In other words, you've got yourself a theme party. 1750 E 55th St at Everett Ave (773-684-1013).
A former transvestite hangout, this Pilsen bar has an old-fashioned, cozy-but-weird vibe and a devoted group of drinkers, mostly under-30 types from the neighborhood. On New Year's Eve, plans call for champagne at midnight and the rare sight of a TV, broadcasting the countdown from some dark corner of the roomy bar. Meanwhile, the owners expect a quiet night, predicting that many of their regulars will flock to some nearby loft parties. Think of this place as a potential private party, without the long lines and obscene cover. 2149 S Halsted St at Cermack Rd (312-948-5275).
If your friends are bad with directions, just give them a brief description of this quirky spot. It's the building that looks like a liquor barrel and has a medieval, the-Hobbit-comes-to-Lakeview ambience. New Year's Eve at this decades-old bar is typically a tribute to its regulars. Luckily, they like to share the wealth. The bar hands out free champagne and pub grub; but as casual as the place is, last-minute "perks" like Jell-O shots are always a possibility. 3010 N Broadway between Barry and Wellington Aves (773-327-5101).