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  1. Photograph: Michael Jarecki
  2. Photograph: Michael Jarecki

South Side gay bars

LGBT taprooms prove gay life exists below the Loop.


Thanks in part to an ebullient drag show hosted every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday by the legendary Mz. Ruff ’n’ Stuff, this club wins the blue ribbon among South Side queer bars. The drinks are cheap and stiff, the genders are evenly mixed, and the live acts are off the charts. One devotee informed us the club is popular with the south suburban crowd, has a core following of white dudes, and is especially popular on Friday and Sunday nights. 1530 E 75th St (773-667-6454).

This divey joint resembles Margaritaville—if a giant hurricane blew through it. Vaguely nautical in theme—think fish netting adorned with seashells, life preservers and a fake parrot—Escapades has seen better days. A digital jukebox looked promising until we realized it was broken, and the bathroom door was missing (although with only six patrons on a Friday, does it even matter?). Still, diva-driven tunes prove this is definitely a gay bar, and if you’re looking for a hangout that serves cheap hooch and has managed to stay off the Yelp crowd’s radar, this is your place. 6301 S Harlem Ave (773-229-0886).

Rainbow paraphernalia heralds “alternative lifestyles” (i.e., a queer crowd) at this bar serving a mostly working-class mix of Latino and white (and mostly lesbian) patrons. Bump ’n’ grind on the tiny dance floor (although the light show looked as if it was being handled by a laser pointer), salivate over go-go boys on Fridays or become the house American Idol on Sunday karaoke night. A bit suspicious of newcomers at first, the locals were ultimately quite friendly—so much so that we dragged them 17 miles north for a late night back in Boystown. 5758 W 65th St (773-582-3510).

A frisking at the door and an inquiry about concealed weapons is either a gateway to adventure or reason to bolt (happily, here it’s the former). On a recent Saturday at this smallish club for LGBT people of color, it was girls’ night and many of the women were either canoodling in the corner or grooving hustle-style to R&B on the bustling dance floor. Cocktails were pricey—and strong as hell—and strangely, our glasses were smaller than everybody else’s. Still, we made friends and can see why South Siders flock here for spoken-word poetry every Tuesday and neo-soul night every Wednesday. 7041 S Jeffery Blvd (773-363-8555).

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