5024 N. Sheridan Rd. (5000N, 1000W)
Chicago IL 60640
"Service with charm"
Don't let the name fool you: Big Chicks is not a bar for big women and those that admire them, although it wouldn't be unheard of to see a few here and there. Rather the place is named for the nickname of owner Michelle Fire, who happens to be a sizeable woman who has embraced her stature. Big Chicks also isn't strictly a lesbian bar like it's often thought to be. It's a cozy bar with a club-like feel that can be best explained by just going there and checking it out for yourself. It's one of the few gay bars in the uptown neighborhood and one of the few offering cheap drinks, free food and a beer garden.
Big Chicks is a small and sometimes crowded bar but it's laid out really well. There are enough little spots to sit or hang out in that you won't be annoyed if you find yourself rubbing up against strangers. There's a small dance floor that is almost always in use, a convenient coat check, a small pool table, and benches along the wall for all the non-dancers and cool artwork on the walls. Tweet, the sister establishment to Big Chicks and also owned by Michelle "Big Chick" Fire, is located next door and offers really good organic comfort food with an eclectic feel.
"For the past 23 years, [Michelle Fire] has been the guardian of this little gem, designed in 1937 by architect Charles Kristen. Its asymmetrical facade, clearly influenced by the 1933-34 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, features dazzling decoration, with yellow vertical piers on a backdrop of cobalt blue, as well as splashes of aqua. Michelle Fire stripped off signs and ironwork that obscured the building's ornament."
– excerpt from Blair Kamin's article "Art Deco Darlings" in the Chicago Tribune (January 18, 2009)
Cheap drinks are one of the biggest draws to Big Chicks. If you're really thirsty stick to beer or cocktails because they are a way better deal then the almost $3 they make you pay for water. Water price-gouging aside, every night of the week Big Chicks offers irresistible deals on drinks and food—see the specials above and note the free buffet on Sundays. Alternatively, Tweet offers brunch all week long and offers quite the menu options for lunch and dinner but consider yourself forewarned: you may wait over an hour and (gasp) sometimes two for a table but you won't be disappointed with the food. Tweet offers a nice variety, including the typical brunch items aside sandwiches, fish, burgers, and greasy but delicious appetizers.
Amongst all of the dinner & drink specials there are events going on every month at Big Chicks. FKA (formerly known as) Thursday takes place the first Thursday of every month, also known as the night when a surplus of transgendered men and women make appearances at the bar. It is usually super packed on those Thursdays so best to arrive early to get a front seat to check out the women who used to be men and who look damn good doing it. I've only had the privilege to visit Big Chicks on one Thursday night and was not disappointed. I admit I could not stop gawking and my partner was slightly embarrassed to be seen with me. But hey, I'm impressed with any man who looks better as a woman then I do. Also a monthly event at Big Chicks is Homolatteperformances, which are every 1st and 3rd Tuesday at 7:30pm at Big Chicks & Tweet. It's a chance for local gay and gay-friendly musicians perform.
I must say that I've had so many bathroom mishaps at Chicago's best and worst gay bars, but things are a little different at Big Chicks and this review would not be complete without mentioning this fact. The bar only has one single stall restroom and women take priority. Men are always expected to let the ladies go first and there's a sign posted stating so—a nice reminder that chivalry is not dead. The only confusion arises on FKA nights...Although the bar's name suggests it caters more towards the lesbian crowd, I would have to say that there are more gay men then women on most nights. And unlike many gay bars, Big Chicks attracts a wide variety of gay men. There are jocks, nerds, old men, young men, fat, skinny, you name it and they are there. It's definitely straight-friendly but if you're straight, don't be surprised if you are vastly outnumbered but never out of place or unwelcome. It's often dubbed the friendliest gay bar in Chicago and I am inclined to agree. For more information, check out the Big Chicks website.
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