One surprising aspect of life in Chicago is the easy juxtaposition of suburban picket fence-hood with lively night life. A stroll down a typical city street reveals picturesque houses and brownstones peacefully — at least to my eyes — co-existing with pubs, restaurants and dynamic live music spaces. Schubas Tavern, which sits on the corner of North Southport and West Belmont Avenues in East Lakeview, is one such establishment.
It began life in the early 1900s as a tap house for the Schlitz Brewery, and still proudly serves the brew (When walking east to west, you can spy a Schlitz sign). Today, Schubas hosts a diverse range of acts: indie rock, folk, experimental (the UK’s Micachu and the Shapes recently played a gig there), country, pop and everything in between. The performance space is a cozy room. It achieves the difficult feat of being small enough to ensure no bad “seats” in the house, while never feeling stuffed to the gills. Thanks to the excellent sound system and judicious acoustics, bands’ sounds fill the room without overwhelming it (a welcoming facet for those of us over 30).
The back room also has a rugged, well-earned charm. Strategically placed votives accent its mood lighting. Above, elegant ceiling fans hang silently, incongruous with their surroundings. Below, the hardwood floors have seen better days, but somehow they only add to the character of the place. A small bar at the back keeps libations flowing as spectators move between getting beers or cocktails and watching the show. Occasionally, a big screen TV is brought into the performance area for viewing sporting events. But most nights, you’ll spy trendy 20 and 30-somethings standing enraptured by the performances, while absently stroking their BlackBerries.
Just off the entrance to the music room is Schubas’ fully stocked bar, an unassuming, but welcoming piece of real estate, where — if you’re not feeling a particular performance — you can take in the Cubs’ game or whatever major sport is in season.
Next to the performance space is the Harmony Grill, the restaurant added by management in the mid ’90s. The amiable eatery serves typical pub fare: burgers, wings, sandwiches and the like.
Yes, Schubas tries to have a little something for everyone — from those seeking a transcendent live music experience to those stumbling in on an impromptu bar crawl. And, for the most part, it succeeds. With admission prices averaging between $8 to $15, Schubas is the ideal neighborhood bar that also happens to feature an eclectic live music lineup.
Extra feature: Remember our wintry sponsored event, Tommorrow Never Knows? We do!
Gene Ween – “Friends” (Live @ Schubas)
07/24 – The Wrens, The Biltmores
07/25 – The Wrens, Zelienople
07/26 – Electric Touch, Jonny Rumble, Ash Avenue
07/27 – Judson Claiborne, Mazes, David Daniell
07/28 – Zach Deputy, Andreas Kapsalis Trio
07/29 – El Ten Eleven, Coltrane Motion, Scratch Track
07/30 – Mekons, Mar Caribe
07/30 – DJs Upstairs: DJ Elia of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, DJ Jon Langford
07/31 – Pete And J, Andrew Belle