Editor's Note: after a run of over 10 years, the Lyons Den is no longer king of the jungle in Chicago. The tavern was sold, closed on July 25, 2004, and has since been transformed into The Globe Pub.
The Lyons Den, located between Orange Garden Chop Suey and Katerina's, looks cheesy with its 50's stone facade but is really a cool place in the not-too-happenin' Irving Park North Center corridor. The Den is a great place to see football games, grab some food, check out some live music, and is far more inviting than the "Silvie's Triple D Lounge" or Foley's down the block (even though those two are good bars, just out-of-touch neighborhood joints). The Lyons Den was originally opened by Terry Lyons but was bought in 1993 by current owner, Joe Tozer, formerly of the Baja Beach Club. For about 60 years prior to that, the place used to be a country & western bar called Buffoons and initially attracted neighborhood locals by offering the first television in the area.
Bands playing at the Den are primarily folk and country-tinged rock, but the place also attracts purer folk, rock, R&B, pop, and alternative bands with most acts of the up-and-coming variety. Music can be heard almost every night, including such regulars as the Pete Special Band every Sunday, Seers Poncho every Tuesday, Jan James every Thursday, Sonic Voodoo, and the SugarfriedsuperOs, as well as open-mic comedy night on Mondays. In fact, many teachers and students at the Old Town School of Folk Music have gotten their professional music career started at the Lyons Den. You'll find all this entertainment in the back room, which is a pretty good size unless they expect a smaller crowd and don't take out the tables. The cover charge is usually nominal, at about $5 for multiple bands. For its efforts, the Den was voted Best Music Venue 2000 by the Chicago Area Music Webring, and was selected Best Live Sound, Best Place to Record Live and Most Eclectic Bills in the Chicago Tribune's Friday Section in 2004.
The crowd used to be mainly neighborhood types, but the music is attracting a larger following from beyond. The atmosphere remains pretty laid-back all the same. Evidence of this presented itself, when I attempted to pet a woman's furry red coat and was not slapped.
In the polished wood-paneled front room, the Den has become known as a haven for football fans with their "NFL Sunday Ticket." With 10 televisions, and multiple satellite feeds in the front room, one can catch any NFL game on any given Sunday. Schools supported include Iowa and Wisconsin. This sports atmosphere led Metromix to rank the Den as one of the Top 20 Sports Bars in Chicago for 2000. If sports isn't your bag, sit back and play some NTN interactive trivia.
The Den also serves the "best pork chops in the city" as well as other standard pub grub fare, and they have a nice selection of brews to go down with it. One special to take particular note of: $2 domestic beer every night except Friday. Bring on the Bud.
My recommendation: check out the Den on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night when you're in the mood to see some new live music, and you don't want to pay House of Blues prices for cover and drinks. For more information and upcoming shows, check out the Lyons Den website (still around for the moment). Oy!
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