Editor's note: The Corner Pocket closed in 2006 during the weekend of August 4 after 17 years, and has been replaced by "Victory Liquors."
From the same people that brought you the Daily, Hudson Club (now closed), Southport Lanes, and Lucky Strike, the Corner Pocket is one of the best places to order from an impressive beer selection, grab some better-than-usual quality pub grub, and play some pool on some of the best kept, full-size pool tables on the North Side. And now with the demise of PhilosoFur's, in favor of aberration Cherry Red, the Corner Pocket is one of the few places where you can shoot some stick on something other than a tiny, slanted, beer-soaked table like the one found at nearby Burwood Tap.
The Corner Pocket is located in the Wrightwood Neighbors section of Lincoln Park, just north of the Shell station at the corner of Halsted and Wrightwood and kitty-corner to La Bamba (burritos as big as your head, gringo). While it used to have a green awning, the Corner Pocket now sports a tasteful wooden sign of billiard balls enclosed in a triangle. Walk through the glass door, up the handicap-accessible ramp, through the next glass door, and have your ID ready as they card as religiously as bw-3 around the corner.
The front room offers a long wooden bar to your left and table seating along the side and in the back. The bar offers a wide variety of beers on tap and in bottles, including Stella Artois and Samuel Smith Purebrewed lagers. The vast drinks selection, illustrated on the large chalkboard behind the bar, comes in handy as there is usually an hour wait for tables (unless you get there between Monday and Wednesday). For those seeking more sophisticated fare, the Pocket has 18 blends of Scotch available almost rivaling that of Duke of Perth. The Corner Pocket also serves a good variety of pub grub that is one step above what you usually find (including some pretty damn good buffalo wings). As you're filling up on brew and grub, you can also check out the game on the room's big screen. If you want to play pool, just tell the bartender and they'll take your name. When your name is called, they'll pass you your tray of balls after you give them your credit card. Pool costs of $9 an hour during the week, and $12 on Friday and Saturday prompted the writers of Shecky's Bar, Club & Lounge Guide 2002 to comment, "You shouldn't have to hock your engagement ring to have a drink and shoot some pool."
When your table is ready, head to the pool room to the right of the front bar area. Here you will find several regulation size tables with plenty of elbow room between them, along with pretty good cues and plenty of chalk. This room has hardwood floors, a black drop ceiling, and maroon-painted walls adorned with mirrored beer signs and old pictures of Chicago. If you get the table at the easternmost end of the room, you can spend time between shots checking out the talent walking by on the sidewalk, over the brass bar and tartan curtain that runs along the windows. If it's really crowded, they'll open up the back pool room, which sports additional tables and mirrored beer signs. This room used to be an alley beer garden. If pool isn't your bag, there is a Golden Tee, candy machines and pinball to keep you occupied.
Service is usually top notch at the Corner Pocket. Bartenders are helpful in suggesting beer choices, and the waitresses are rather attentive. They even have coasters with their name on them.
This hardwood pool palace rivals cousins Southport Lanes and the Lucky Strike. Overall, the Corner Pocket is one of my favorite places to shoot stick in Chicago, but you may not want to head there too often unless you want to live in a cardboard box under the Kennedy. Pocketbook permitting, by the end of the night at the Corner Pocket, you are sure to be sated with food and drink, and your competitive drive should be satisfied. Eight ball in the corner pocket, chief.
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Photograph taken by Carla G. Surratt of Picturing Chicago
Old-School Corner Pocket