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The best gay hangout spots of Halsted

There are plenty of places off Halsted Street where you can seal the deal on your homosexuality.


Charlie’s Ale House
A young, straight couple parks a stroller at a sidewalk table. Inside, lesbians watch baseball on flat-screens. Gay guys sip their concoctions from the DIY Bloody Mary bar. And, on one recent visit, porn star Jason Adonis lunches with a “friend.” All told, this joint serves beer and pub grub to arguably the most sexually diverse crowd in all of Andersonville. (5308 N Clark St, 773-751-0140,—NP

Cheetah Gym
The Andersonville location of Cheetah courts DINKS (Double Income No Kids). Gay and lesbian couples are commonly seen hitting the StairMasters or taking yoga classes, but there are also tons of singles scoping out same-sex partners they’ll later meet via Craigslist’s Missed Connections. (5248 N Clark St, 773-728-7777,—TB

Furniture shopping
Two things only gay men and rich straight women seem to have a knack for are fashion and furniture shopping—a walk down North Clark Street provides you with a great deal of the latter at places such as urban antique store Scout (5221 N Clark St, 773-275-5700,, contemporary boutique Urbanest (5228 N Clark St, 773-271-1000) and the new vintage addition Room Service (5438 N Clark St, 773-878-5438,—TB

At T’s (5025 N Clark St, 773-784-6000,, lesbians rule (if benignly), especially during jam-packed viewings of The L Word, while the popular sidewalk tables host folks of all sexual stripes. T’s nearby “sister” bar, the man-heavy Sofo (4923 N Clark St, 773-784-7636,, doesn’t tout itself as a gay bar but doesn’t have to: Men in tight tees staring up at mid-’80s, Madonna-heyday videos do all the touting any nongay gay bar could need.—NP

“Norm!” Well, if not “Norm” exactly, the patrons at Scot’s are likely to shout some regular’s first name. This cozy gay Cheers of Ravenswood is among the most relaxed, easygoing queer bars in the city. Just off the Montrose Brown Line stop, Scot’s sees a steady stream of after-work foot traffic and, especially on weekend nights, chatty, friendly old standbys. (1829 W Montrose Ave, 773-528-3253).—NP

There are two kinds of people (both usually men) who unwittingly wander into Gentry: those who don’t know and those who “don’t know” this downtown spot with dark windows is a gay bar. The latter group finds its way from the massive wooden bar to the side room’s cabaret acts to the clubbier bar downstairs, where music videos and overt cruising get constant play. (440 N State St, 312-836-0933,—NP

Intersection of Clark Street and Devon Avenue
The gay community isn’t afraid to travel to the Far North Side for its fun. Dive bar Jackhammer (6406 N Clark St, 773-743-5772, hosts “The Flesh Hungry Dog Show,” a monthly gathering with live music from local queers (the next one is Sept 5). A couple of doors down is Touché (6412 N Clark St, 773-465-7400,, a leather bar that hosts after-parties for events like the Mr. Midwest Rubber competition. And if you need something to wear, try Mephisto Leathers (6410 N Clark St, 773-508-0900,—it’s got you covered, though barely.—TB

Hollywood Beach
Straight girls, take note: When the men at this beach look too good to be true, they’re probably gay—especially when they’ve got the balls to don tight swim trunks. While the beach is officially called Kathy Osterman Beach, Hollywood is much more fitting for this North Side spot and its tanned and toned crowd. The southernmost patch of sand, where even the bathrooms are known to host some gay action, is for the boys. On the other side, you’ll find more families with toddlers than twinks. (5800 N Sheridan Rd).—TB

Leather Archives and Museum
S&M fans can only experience International Mr. Leather once each spring, but cowhide lovers can spend the other days of the year exploring this museum, which houses extensive exhibits and items from leather’s history. While the museum’s not just for the homosexual crowd, it’s possible some heteros won’t be able to fully appreciate some of the sections, such as the toy-filled dungeon (whips, chains and masks) or the leather-bar exhibits, which feature artifacts such as posters, trophies and dress-code details from leather bars’ 50-year history. (6418 N Greenview Ave, 773-761-9200,—TB

Hamburger Mary’s/Mary’s Attic
Even lesbians don’t mind indulging in meat at this restaurant/show house. The downstairs space, Hamburger Mary’s, serves up spectacular burgers with homo-tastic names (don’t miss the Barbra-Q Bacon Cheeseburger), while the upstairs Attic gays it up with theater, dancing and “Mary-oke”. (5400 N Clark St, 773-784-6969,—TB

Specialty Video
If your specialty is pornographic films, Specialty Video is the place to set up a membership. Many people head straight to the store’s back section, which focuses heavily on the male-to-male variety. But the ladies aren’t left out: There’s a section devoted to films for “GirlFriends” with titles not normally found in Blockbuster’s Community Favorites such as She Likes Girls 2. (3221 N Broadway, 773-248-3434; 5307 N Clark St, 773-878-3434).—TB

Spyners Pub
Chicago’s lack of true lesbian-only establishments leaves the ladies to their own devices. This bar on Western Avenue has been one of the places taken over by women who love karaoke—and the Chicago Force all-women football team (the bar is a sponsor). (4623 N Western Ave, 773-784-8719,—TB

Swedish Bakery
Andersonville used to be known for its Swedish settlers, but now that heritage is rivaled by its rep for gay inhabitants. This bakery makes custom cakes and is happy to top a tier with two brides or two grooms for commitment ceremonies. The sweet shop is a neighborhood favorite, as gay and straight alike appreciate baked goods such as coffee cakes, sweet rolls or a chocolate-suicide torte at reasonable prices. (5348 N Clark St, 773-561-8919,—TB

Wicker Park/Bucktown
Banks and condos are attempting to take over the Northwest Side of the city, but the Wicker Park/Bucktown LGBT community stands firm in its outings at Subterranean (2011 W North Ave, 773-278-6600) every third Monday for the queer party Chances Dances and its sister soiree, Off Chances, at Danny’s (1951 W Dickens Ave, 773-489-6457) every second Tuesday. This year’s addition of a Marc Jacobs store on Damen Avenue also helps the ’hood retain its pink tinge.—TB

Women & Children First
The novels and nonfiction are certainly skewed for women and feminists (Emma Goldman’s Living My Life, Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas), but the huge section of lesbian erotica will probably tip off visitors that the workers and customers at this bookstore tend to be of the sapphic variety. The new monthly Sappho Salon featuring lesbian writers and performers is the latest queer addition to the store’s regular events calendar, which is already home to local and touring lesbian-writer panels and parties. (5233 N Clark St, 773-769-9299,—TB

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