Chicago/Lakeview-North Center

Lakeview has the lion's share of Chicago nightlife, starting with Wrigleyville, home of the Chicago Cubs and major players in the city's theater and music scenes, and Boystown, one of the largest and most vibrant GLBT communities in the United States. Down the street from both is the Belmont strip, where teen punks flock to shop and show off in the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot.

Further west are the neighborhoods of North Center, Roscoe Village and St. Ben's, which have fun, laid-back bars and restaurants.

Understand hundred years and counting, Wrigley Field

For many years, Lakeview was so far away from the action that opening a saloon on Clark Street was a considered a peaceful retirement for convicted ex-politicians in Chicago. With the expansion of the elevated train system, however, that changed rapidly, and with the 1914 construction of Weeghman Park, later to be known as Wrigley Field, Lakeview became the capital of the North Side. The Chicago Cubs, also known as the most dominant baseball franchise of the 19th century, took up residence at Wrigley and commenced the relentless lack of success that has made them famous. Other teams have slumps, but the Cubs are beyond compare, tormenting their fans a hundred years of near-misses, late collapses, and abject futility unrivaled in American professional sports. So why is Game Day still a joy in Wrigleyville? As the last franchise in baseball to install stadium lights for night games, the Cubs' schedule still features more early afternoon starts than any other team in the league, and the sun-soaked ivy walls of Wrigley Field are a pleasure no matter what the score. Today, it's a rare thing in America: a genuine neighborhood ballpark, surrounded by streets that amplify the Cubs fandom into frenzy on game day. As a nightlife destination, Wrigleyville also supports the Metro, one of Chicago's foremost rock venues, and other great ones like Schuba's, Martyrs', and The Vic. The storefront theater scene also thrives here.

But there's more to Lakeview than Wrigleyville. A short walk east is Boystown, home of a cheerful, lively GLBT community and a great destination for anyone who enjoys high-energy nightlife. It's also home to the massive annual Pride Parade in June. Roscoe Village is west of Wrigley, and is popular with older gay couples and young people lured in by fashionable boutiques and the promise of a sunny day at one of the many sidewalk cafes on Southport, not to mention Chicago's premier movie revival house, the Music Box. And Lakeview embraces its inner dive bar in North Center, full of converted warehouses, quality bowling alleys and cheap beer without the jocks.

Get in

By train

The CTA Red Line makes stops in Lakeview (Belmont) and Wrigleyville (Addison, Sheridan). The Brown Line, further west, connects with the Red Line at Belmont, and makes additional stops in Lakeview (Diversey, Wellington, Southport), Roscoe Village (Paulina), and North Center (Addison, Irving Park). All but Belmont and Sheridan are wheelchair accessible. The Purple Line from the Loop and Evanston also stops at Belmont during weekday rush hours.

By bus

By car

Lake Shore Drive has an exit at Belmont. Beware of driving on Clark Street on weekends and during Cubs games, though. The taxis are a menace and the drunks are drawn to the middle of the street like flies to lights. You'll go nowhere fast and see Chicago at its worst in slow-motion.


Baseball on the mind, Wrigleyville


Take me out(side) to the ball game

Cubs games can sell out months in advance, especially for weekend games and battles with their crosstown rivals, the White Sox, and their Midwest rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. But if that's the only time you have to visit, don't despair. Show up early and inquire at the Day Of Game ticket windows at Clark and Addison. If they turn you away, walk around outside and see if the scalpers are offering anything within your budget. (If you're feeling really confident, slip into one of the long lines for the rooftop parties on Sheffield or Waveland and claim to be with whatever party the guy two spots ahead of you claims to be with. IDs are not always checked, and once you're in, security is nil.) Still no luck? Relax outside the sidewalk-level fence on Sheffield to get a decent view of the game. There are always a few people watching it there for free. Scalpers will get desperate by the fourth inning and approach you with offers. If you have no money at all to spend, head down to Waveland Avenue and join the die-hards camped out there to chase out-of-the-park home run balls. Somebody usually has a radio tuned to the game action, and you might come away with a souvenir.


A few great venues are also listed under Drink as well.


The Music Box

Events & Festivals


There are a few shopping areas of note. The Southport Corridor (3300 N to 3800 N) has a row of independent boutiques along with a few specialty stores. Lincoln Avenue in Roscoe Village also has some worthwhile shops, particularly near the Paulina Brown Line stop. Clark Street near Diversey has a few chain retailers like Marshall's, and a number of upscale boutiques are crammed alongside resale behemoths on Belmont, near the train station.

On game days, the streets of Wrigleyville are packed with vendors selling cheap Cubs gear.


Good advice from a Lakeview diner

It's not until you reach the high-end that Lakeview dining becomes especially memorable, but there are plenty of quick, reliable places. Most importantly, a lot of them are open late — this is probably the best place in the city to grab a bite after midnight.





Boystown pride


The nightlife in Boystown may be the best in Chicago. It's wild, uninhibited and just plain fun, regardless of sexual orientation. Most of the action is on Halsted/Broadway between Addison and Belmont.


Yes, Elwood, the address is correct

The Captain Morgan Club, at 1060 W Addison, is attached to Wrigley Field. Non-ticket holders may enter and imbibe to their hearts’ content while watching the game on TV. Ticket holders will find a separate entrance to the ballpark inside the bar that circumvents the chaotic Sheffield entrance right next door. It's open 10AM-10PM Su-Th; 10AM-11PM F-Sa.

There is a watering hole for just about every personality type in Wrigleyville, particularly if you venture off the Clark Street drag near the ballpark. If you're here for a Cubs home game, rest assured that you'll be surrounded by thousands of merry Cubs fans and a world that desires nothing more than to put beer in your hands; on the downside, you'll be surrounded by thousands of Cubs fans and a world that desires nothing more than to spill beer on you, so get comfortable with sharing personal space with strangers. If you're drinking well into the night, choose wisely; as the evening wears on, a few of the bars on Clark turn into half-eaten piles of rancid nachos and the city's ripest gathering ground for date rape statistics.


Lakeview bars may get a bad name from the roiling mess on Clark Street, but there are actually several great places to drink within range of Wrigley.

Hot tamales?

One man connects the many bars of Roscoe Village and North Center. His name is unknown to most, but his offer is a local legend: "Hot tamales?"

For several years, the number of places visited by the hot tamales guy in one night (roughly 9PM to close) has put Santa Claus to shame. Many of these bars serve cheap beer but no food, so five tamales for $5 can seem like a pretty good deal, and he's even got cheese-only for vegetarians. He's not long on presentation, doing a steady trade of Ziploc bags from a cooler, but damned if those tamales don't hit the spot sometimes. Bargoers tend to hold him in awe for his sheer ubiquity, even when they're not hungry.

So if you're getting hungry but you're settled into a good dive, be patient. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, in the Roscoe Village and North Center bar scene, nothing is certain except death, taxes, and the hot tamales guy.


Most visitors will feel comfortable staying here in terms of safety, and Lakeview is a better place to experience something of the real city than the retail isolation of the Near North. Given the boozy atmosphere, though, it's probably better for singles and young couples than families with kids in tow. (You can get to Wrigley from anywhere in the city via the Red or Brown Line, after all.)

There are also a handful of budget and mid-range options just south of Boystown in Lincoln Park. Hotels are usually booked solid for the Pride Parade in June, so make reservations early or be ready to check in other areas.





Go next

Routes through Lakeview-North Center

END North Lincoln  NW  SE  Lincoln Park-Old Town The Loop
Rogers Park Uptown  N  S  Lincoln Park-Old Town The Loop

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, January 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.