Gay Spots in Gay Cities
|For those of you who have not discovered Chicago Illinois, the gay and straight life in Chicago as well as the theatre, culture and art, you do not know what you are missing! Chicago is one of those unique cities with something for everyone and just an excellent quality of life. It is a large city with a ton to do and still extremely affordable...hell at some of the bars in this review, I got my absolute martini's for just 5.75 (non happy hour or special price) and was able to drink all night for under $60...the same tab in DC, NYC or somewhere else would have easily been $100+ for just the beginning of the night.
In this city review, I am going to cover some of the hotels, the bars, the shopping and of course a link to a page I am dedicating to a show who found a permanent home in Chicago, Wicked the Muscial.
Days Inn Boystown
Ok, so the Days Inn is seriously not a nice hotel name or place I would normally stay at, however, if you want to stay in boystown you are definitely limited in options when staying in Chicago. Although you have the Intercontinental and the Westin, both hotels are at least a $20 cab ride to and from the gayborhood nightlife, restaurants and shopping in Gay Chicago. The $20 isn't the issue, it is the length of the ride,,,,who wants to be stuck in a cab for 30 minutes after a night of drinking when all you want is to use the bathroom and head to bed. This is why the Days Inn by Wrigley field in Boystown Chicago (Lincoln Park) on Diversey and Broadway makes a great option for you.
The Days Inn is very old and very cramped. The rooms are small and not renovated, however each has a safe and they at least come with goose down pillows and blankets. The elevator is very old fashioned and you can feel a bit more secure in the building because you need to use a key to call the elevator from the lobby. The bathtubs are open and small and the soap, etc... kind of sucks so bring your own. Also, the toilets are very small and cramped so aim right and sit with caution lol...
Now onto the good. I've stayed at some of the most expensive and fabulous hotels around the world from Barcelona to Asia and more, and the Days Inn in Chicago in Boystown has one of the most friendly and hospitable staff there is. They are extremely attentive and very friendly. They really go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure you are happy and always have something to do. Not to mention the hot guys that work there. The hotel also features a free breakfast everyday including waffles, fresh squeezed juice, cereal, donuts, bagels and a hell of a lot more. It was really nice to be able to fall out of the lobby and into a chair and eat a hot and fresh meal after a long day of walking around the city and night of exploring the clubs. Even though the hotel is old and sort of run down, the service makes it worth the stay. Well, that and you are walking distance from the gay bars and shopping as well as each night on a holiday weekend only costed me $127. You cannot beat that in any other major city!
The Triple Boutique Hotels of Boystown
There are three independent boutique hotels in the boystown area which are worth a mention. Majestic (528 W. Brompton Place); City Suites Hotel (933 W. Belmont Ave.); and Willows Hotel (555 W. Surf St.). These hotels are gay owned I believe and have a fantastic gay following. All are by the bars and easy to get around in. I am not sure how safe some of the neighborhoods are around them, but you should be fine when staying there.
All three have an extremely helpful staff who will offer advice on what to do and where to go in Chicago, and each just like with the Days Inn in Chicago, they all have gay and gay friendly employees who will make recommendations of their favorite hangout spots for gay and straight nightlife in the Chicagoland area. The hotels are fairly well kept and I would give them a 3 for 5 on star ratings. The prices are also very fair so you cannot go wrong with any of these three either.
Hawthorne Terrace Best Western
Hawthorne Terrace Best Western (3434 N. Broadway St.) is the other option directly in Boystown. Now when I think of Best Westerns, I think of big hair and trailer people, however this one is a bit unique. It has a court yard and I believe a good portion of the hotel is junior and regular suites which is a nice change. The prices are low and reasonable, and they have a nice courtyard. I am not sure if the courtyard is smoke free, however it is easy to sneak one in down there if you need one and you do not want to step outside.
Gay Bars and Gay Nightlife in Chicago Illinois
Spin in Chicago is a perfect gay bar to start your night out in. It features three different bars and has videos playing bar wide and a dance floor by the back bar. There is a side room with plenty of seating and the drinks are alright. The bar staff is definitely not attentive, I was offended that the people by the stairs care more about their cell phones and texting than they do about the patrons, but that also probably explains why they were empty on a Friday night on Labor Day Weekend.
Another negative about this bar is that the bathrooms are down a flight of stairs and the layout is sketchy. Although the bathrooms resemble a gym's locker room with no privacy, they keep it remarkably clean. The music is ok, most songs are extremely overplayed, but hey, isn't that the same with most gay bars who feature video? One thing which you may enjoy or may not is the shower contest where people from the crowd are stripped naked and come out in little white towels to dance in a shower for bat tabs and small cash prizes. Hey, men with hot bodies in wet towels are ok in my book! =0). This bar gets a 3 for 5 in my book.
Spin has just opened a brand new room with a new dance floor. It is actually kind of fabulous if you are younger and into really loud music and dancing on podiums with bright LED lights blasting in your face and tweeked out people rubbing you. Although this isn't my scene, it is kind of cool to check out. To find it, you need to head down the stairs across from the coat check, walk towards the men's room and make a left through the doorway. There is also a new upstairs with some seating. There were servers serving drinks at tables when I was there, but I do not know if that will continue. I hope it does because that would be the nice touch that the bar really needs.
The not so gay not so straight sports bar
Crew bar and grille is another place to stop by when in Chicago. They are known as the not so gay not so straight sports bar due to the fact they play sports on the TV yet serve more martinis than they know what to do with. The crowd is mixed although it is mostly gay and the service is like that of any sports bar,,,,,well except all the servers are pretty darn queeny. I really enjoyed sitting outside at the tables to start my first night out in Chicago, and it was the perfect setting to have a conversation with my straight friends who never once felt out of place here. Crew bar and grille is a nice place to start your night off with a beerita, martini, jump it up with a redbull and vodka, as well as get some finger foods to control how fast you get drunk for the night that will soon follow.
Scarlet lives up to it's name. It is all red and there is barely any light inside. Scarlet is a gay bar that caters to the Hip-Hop crowd and seems to unfortunately be very clicqueish. I wasn't a big fan of the bar as the spacing is bad, you cannot hear yourself speak inside and the bars are not set up very well. Although it has a hip hop crowd, the music is a mix of house, lounge and crap. OK, crap is a bit harsh as it wasn't that bad, but the bar isn't really my scene. I would have enjoyed it more if they had a bit more light and actually made it a lounge like they tried to. The bathrooms are small and in the center left wall in the bar. They are just normal dirty bar bathrooms which is unfortunate. I was hoping for something special from a bar that acts like a lounge and was decorated to be like it's namesake Scarlet. This gave a ton of room to go crazy with the bathrooms, but unfortunately, they spent no time and no money on it. Scarlet gets a 1 out of 5 from me. I might go back there, but it would definitely be one of the lowest places in my stops on a night out.
Sidetracks Sidetracks in Chicago is freaking Awesome! This bar has something for everyone, except dancing. It has lounge and booth seating, decent music and video screens, multiple bars and a clean and friendly environment. The place is huge and the drinks flow freely. The patrons range over all gay stereotypes from twinks to leathermen, lipstick to bull dykes, young and old. The nice this is that at this bar there are tons of people out by themselves so it is very easy to talk to people and meet someone.
Now, on your way out of Sidetracks, you're in for a surprise. Before you leave the bar, look left and you will discover a gigantic second bar and atrium room which is also part of sidetracks. Although we did not explore this section to much, the second bar at Sidetracks Chicago is huge and gorgeous. It looks just like an LA styled club and bar. It is open, clean, sexy,is decorated to be like nature and features many organic decorations like plants and rocks and is seriously a nice place to chill if you do not want loud music and smokey atmospheres yet you need something trendy and fun. Sidetracks gets a 4 out of 5. It would have been a 5 if it had dancing and good music.
Roscoe's bar in Chicago
What else can you say about Roscos? It is just Roscos. From the outside it looks so tiny, but do not let looks fool you. Roscos in Chicago is a great bar for everyone. The front bar when you walk in has a ton of seating and is a huge wooden bar where the drinks here are strong and cheap. Then as you pass it, you will go by a few standing rooms (which block the flow of traffic but ohh well) and you'll have the choice to go left into the dark or right outside, or straight into the back.
If you choose the right at Roscos in Chicago, you will end up outside in their courtyard. There is a bar here and lots of fun conversation going on. You'll see a ton of twinks and their hags outside so if you are trying to pick one up, get ready for the cockblock boys. ;-). This is however a great spot for lesbians. Although there were not many in there, the outside is an awesome place for them to meet and for some reason just screamed dyke to me. Go outside and you'll see what I mean. It just looks like a perfect meeting ground for gay women.
If you go straight you wind up in a bar area set up like a sports bar. The music from the left carries in here strong, but it is still easy to talk. The seats are uncomfortable however, it is not a place where you sit for a long time. They have a miniture bar in the back of this area with a friendly bar tender who takes very good care of you. Also, you'll begin to notice a theme. This place starts to resemble OZ in New Orleans. There are beads for decorations and rainbow painted bottles of Absolute Vodka all over the walls.
If you travel to the left you are going to be smack dab in the middle of a dance floor. It is set up to be exactly like OZ in New Orleans. The difference is that they do not have a catwalk above, but they marked the walls where the holes and windows would have been. If you look up, there are chandeliers made of mardi gras beads and they even have the large boxes with people dancing on them just like in NOLA. If you go to the left wall, there is a railing with standing room for when you need a break from dancing, and there are archways to the right to stand under. Although the dance floor is small, the music and sound systems are perfect and will keep you going. The crowd is enthusiastic and energetic and this is definitely the place to go if you need or want to dance to some old skool and modern house music in Chicago. They also have a drag show everyonce in a while where you have one queen come out into the back of the room and perform one song for you. It doesn't take much time at all and gives you a nice break from the noise and allows you to either get a drink or catch your breath. When we were there, they had a Cher impersonator do Believe.
Although she was lifeless and not energetic, at least she knew the words and stayed in character. Her outfit was pretty accurate as well. I loved the jeans which were very cheresque. They were sewn pieces of fabric running longwise and made into some great pants. My only complaints about this bar are the dirty bathrooms which also do not have enough toilets to sustain the amount of people inside and the rude staff when the dance floor closes. We all know you are tired of people just standing around but be a bit friendlier or you will watch your crowds leave just like Spin did. Overall, Roscos in Chicago gets a 4.5 out of 5. If the guy who pushed us into the front bar which stays open 30 minutes longer than the dance floor and the bathrooms didn't stink, they would have gotten a 5.
Bobby Love's Chicago Illinois
Bobby Love's is like a little hidden treasure in Chicago's Boystown. It is far up the street from the main drag, but it is well worth the trip. Bobby Loves is your neighborhood dive bar with some of the most friendly and fun loving people in Chicago. Every Friday night Bobby Loves has Karaoke and on Saturdays you will find it packed with fun loving party people who love to listen to remixes from the 90s and early 2000's as well as some hot pop culture. One thing I love about Bobby Loves chicago is the tacky lighting and decor for the dance floor. They have stuffed a ton of lights and lasers all over and you know what, with the fun vibe and thoughts of 90s glam, it just works. There is also this really hot pierced and tattooed bar tender (I think his name was joseph the bottom) who wears a studded belt who is just absolutely fun and addorrable. You have to visit him! Plus Bobby Loves is right around the corner from Charlies which is a hot after hours nightclub with great house music at night and Country western music during the day and evening. I give Bobby Loves a 4 out of 5 for its neighborhood charms and friendly customers.
Gay afterhours clubs in Chicago
I only made it to one afterhours club in Chicago. You do have two other options though.
The two places I did not get to are Hydrate which I heard stops serving alcohol at 2 (this could be a rumor) however it has great music but a long line; and the bathhouse called the Steamworks which I did not go to because it is not my scene. I did however make it to Charlies.
Charlies in Chicago
Charlies in Chicago is nothing like the Charlies in Austin Texas. Charlies is the only bar that charged us a cover, which was only $5 per person, however they are open till 5 am and serve drinks all night long.
The bar wraps around the entire side walls and there is a smaller one on the other side of the short hallway that houses the dirty stinky bathrooms. Be drunk if you have to go, otherwise you will be grossed out.
Charlies was probably one of the best times I had in Chicago. The music was pumping and fun, the light show matched it perfectly and the sound system was just about perfect. The people who went there were by far the most friendly and talkative in the entire city and the entire staff had a great sense of humor and were a pleasure to be able to interact with. One thing that was unique and very cool at Charlies was the texting TV screens.
There was a phone number across the bottom, and if you texted a message to that number, all of the sudden your message appears. Although there were some seriously annoying and dumb/boring comments made, it is the perfect way to find your friends if you want to leave, hit on the guy, make fun of a song, or compliment the DJ. The texting screen was a very cool feature.
What I liked most about Charlies Chicago is the design of the club. They really maximized their space well. It is an angled building and they pushed all the bars and seating against the walls, however it feels like it is out enough that nothing is crammed. There are no traffic blocks and the dance floor is surrounded by lighting caging which just looks awesome. There are no large walls or anything blocking your view so the open air atmosphere is inviting and keeps you from feeling colostraphobic (sorry for the spelling). The only negatives about Charlies in Chicago are the fact that it is a bit of a hike from the main boystown bars and the dirty disgusting bathrooms, however, with the great staff, music and fun people, I give them a 5 for 5. If the night had been any different or the club did not energize me, they would have gotten a 4. However it was the perfect end to a great night so I am happy to give them a 5.
The Lucky Horseshoe Chicago
The Lucky Horseshoe Chicago 3169 N Halsted St. Chicago, IL 60657 is Chicagos premier gay mens strip club. Although the guys don't get naked, the music can be fun and the bar staff is the friendliest in the city. The drinks are very cheap here and you can usually find yourself getting a free shot from the bartender at least once during the night. Although the front is very dirty looking and the bathrooms seriously need redone, the back rooms/bars are fantastic. They are redone and the wooden bar is a great touch. It is clean, well lit and enjoyable. They also don;t blast music back there so you can actually hear yourself think and your friends talk. There is also a large screen TV in the back of The Lucky Horseshoe Chicago where on special occasions, they stop the make dancers from coming back and let you enjoy awards shows, etc... I like this bar a lot and I do recommend you visit it as it is the opening bar on your way to Boyztown.