7313 S. Halsted St. (7300S, 800W)
Chicago, IL 60620
Though not mentioned in the same breath as some of the city's top blues joints like Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S., Buddy Guy's Legends, or Rosa's Lounge, the 7313 Club offers some very authentic South Side Chicago blues and is a mainstay of the annual Chicago Blues Tour. When I say authentic, I mean that the focus at 7313 is the blues, so much so that you'll often find the owner jamming out with guests that play at Chicago's Blues Festival every year. Beyond that, the place is a dive in a pretty rough neighborhood, so choose wisely when you decide to head down to Hamilton Park to check it out.
As you can see, the name of the club has more to do with its address than the owner's imagination, who used to be someone named Denise but the place has since has been acquired by Fred Johnson of "Fred Johnson and the Checkmates." The outside of the club features a black and red-painted brick façade, with white "7313 Club" lettering painted directly onto the brick, and windows covered with iron bars an unfortunate must in this neighborhood. As you walk in the club, you'll find a somewhat small, single-room space covered in trampled red carpeting, faux wood-paneling and a drop ceiling that was once white. A smallish wooden bar with high-backed, black vinyl barstools runs along the south wall, over which hangs blue string lights, gold and red tinsel and a series of gold light fixtures with electric candles. Just past the bar is a pool table, a Ms. Pacman machine, and the bathrooms can be found just beyond that through the eastern wall.
The blues is featured nightly by musicians playing on the slightly elevated stage along the southern wall with its columns of mirrored glass set in a wall speckled in gold, matching more tinsel above. There's also an electronic dartboard just to the right of the stage, which I don't recommend playing as you might plug the band (at least the darts are plastic). If you can't get a seat at the bar, grab one at a smattering of oddly constructed, low-rider tables near the front of the room. A few more cocktail tables and a payphone can be found just to the left of the bar. When bands aren't playing, check out the jukebox in the northeast corner, under a TV straight out of the 70s that's switched off during performances.
"The few regular patrons greeted us with raised eyebrows and the bartenders charged us downtown rates for drinks served in plastic cups from a couple of dozen bottles lined up behind the bar and lukewarm canned beer. When ice ran low or another twelve-pack was needed a local customer was sent to buy more. I offered to go for ice once and the streetwise gin slinger behind the bar rolled her eyes to the heavens and exclaimed, 'Child, you would not last one block out there!'"
My first and only visit to 7313 Club was part of the annual Chicago Blues Tour, organized by Chicago's "Blues University." The Blues Tour that year also made stops at Alcock's, Linda's Place, East of the Ryan, Rosa's Lounge, Quenchers, and the House of Blues. It might have been an off night, but when we walked in the stench of urine was so strong, it made my nose run and then burn, and the PA system sounded like a broken Mr. Microphone machine. However the music was from the soul, much to the delight of the down and dirty crowd as well as the white-bred visitors such as yours truly, and I'd give the place another chance on the next Blues Tour. Also of note is Billy Branch who plays every Monday night. If you like the 7313 Club, you'll probably also like Von Freeman's New Apartment Lounge and the New Checkerboard Lounge.