Kirkwood Bar & Grill
The city is up for quite an experience starting next year, when Nebraska joins the Chicago-centric Big Ten Conference. Husker fans are a singularly loyal (crazy?) crowd; Northwestern will be challenged to keep Evanston purple and not to turn red when the new kid on the block pays a visit. Of course, plenty of Cornhuskers already call Chicago home and five or so bars have taken on the identity as “Nebraska bars” either out of ownership affinity or simple entrepreneurial opportunism. All fill up during Nebraska games, some standing-room-only, and the ones we visited each made for outstanding gathering spots for fans, with plenty of televisions, lots of Huskers-red paraphernalia decorating the space, and drink and food specials that sometimes even included runzas and Valentino’s Pizza, hometown favorites in Lincoln. We ever-so-slightly favor Kirkwood for the overall experience: not only are the basics solid, but the fans are very focused on the game. And these fans raise the level of spirit inside the room as close as we can get to the Memorial Stadium experience. One night, a fan served as a sort of cantor, slowly singing out “Gooooooooo……….Bigggggg…………Reeeeeeeedddddd,” which was answered by the entire crowd chanting back a thunderous “Go Big Red!” The game ends, for better or for worse, and the fans quickly disperse. Leaving, we encounter a reminder of where we are and who makes up the usual crowd of this Lakeview hangout, as an inebriated twentysomething screams into the face of the bouncer over some life-or-death slight. It is 10pm after all.
Best of Chicago 2010