640 W. Hubbard St. (450N, 650W)
Chicago, IL 60610
Whether you're looking for a game of 9-ball at 9:30 in the morning or a 7&7 and some 8-ball at midnight, City Pool Hall offers an inviting locale for anyone looking to put cue to ball. Sure, there might be a few sharks swimming in these waters, but with City Pool Hall's super-clean appearance and pleasant atmosphere, it's more likely you'll make a friend than become someone's chum.
You'll find City Pool Hall tucked away along the corner of Hubbard and Des Plaines in an elongated single-story brick structure that seems to perfectly capture the feel of this industrial-residential section of River West. The 6,000 square foot space was originally a machine shop used during WWII and then later converted into a series of underground nightclubs before its transformation into a "pool palace" almost a dozen years ago. The informative, old-school signage out front, which somewhat reminded me of Billy Goat Tavern, provides everything from the bar's website and phone number to the fact that City Pool Hall is closed on Sundays.
Once you've finished the required reading, step inside to the tiled main bar and service area. Here, a roomy glass-block bar dominates the north wall, with 6-8 tables adding to a seating area that can accommodate about 50. You'll almost immediately notice the interesting exposed steel frame ceiling, a holdover from the building's machine-shop days, which requires no columns that might otherwise obstruct a pool shot, necessitating the dreaded short stick. Otherwise, decoration is mostly limited to neon beer signs, promotional banners and murals depicting local sports teams. There are a number of flat-screens in the bar area, which are tuned to sports approximately 99.9% of the time (there are tests from the Emergency Broadcast System, after all). There's also free wireless internet, for reasons I don't quite understand, and a handful of video games. Out back is a small fenced-in patio that serves as both beer garden and smoker's lounge, but the main attraction is the 3,000 square-foot. carpeted playing area which houses a dozen high-end Brunswick Gold Crown IV tables, which City Pool Hall was the first in the country to install.
"Pool" is this bar's middle name and it shows. The tables and the playing area are immaculately maintained, as is the whole establishment for that matter. This is no smoky, dingy pool hall of yore, like the now demolished North Center Bowl & Billiards with its worn, rickety, tilting tables, where portions of The Color of Money were filmed. Leagues run Monday-Thursday nights, but there are plenty of opportunities for open play. From 9:30-4pm Monday through Saturday, pool is just $4 per hour, per person. From then until close (2am/3am Saturday) rates run $14 per hour for two people and $16 for groups of three or more, making for a cost-effective diversion. Those looking to catch up over racks and rounds will note that the music is kept at levels conducive to conversation and concentration.
City Pool Hall has six taps—seven if you count the chilled tequila-dispensing machine—and, by my count, 26 more beers by the bottle. Prices are average for the 312 area code, with daily specials like $3 Coors Light on college football Saturdays and $4 20-oz. Miller Lite drafts and tequila shots on Wednesdays. Monday is industry night, with half-price pool, food and drink specials. City Pool Hall serves better than average bar food for lunch and dinner and throws in a full breakfast menu for the early birds. So, from a cheese omelet to a Minnesota Fats burger, City Pool Hall probably has you covered.
Lunch is popular with construction workers and blue collar types and the bar also attracts a large number of office workers area regulars, most on a first name basis with the attractive bartenders and waitresses. But even as a newcomer, the service could not have been friendlier with an atmosphere that wasn't the least bit unwelcoming. In fact, the whole place brims with a sense of community. Witness a recent Happy Hour: at the cry of "Meter Maid," fully two thirds of the bar's patrons scrambled off their seats reaching for quarters, car keys and debit cards. (You see, parking is plentiful along Des Plaines and Hubbard, but 10 minutes a quarter doesn't get you very far.) As if this were a regular occurrence, a few minutes later people trickled back inside and everything returned to normal without a single ticket issued. (Editor's Note: Morgan Stanley can suck on it.)
Attracting both hardcore and novice pool players from around Chicago with its attention to detail and friendly setting, City Pool Hall deftly fills an under-served niche in our city's nightlife scene. If you like City Pool Hall, you should queue up Southport Lanes, G-Cue Billiards or Dave & Buster's (just kidding). For more information, check out the City Pool Hall website. Hey man, nice shot.