1612 W. Irving Park Rd. (4000N, 1600W)
Chicago, IL 60613
The Long Room is very long indeed. Long and narrow. Think of it as a great cocktail opportunity as there is plenty of room to belly up to the bar. Even the red and green neon sign hanging above the maroon awning out front is long. In addition to its length, the Long Room is also known for being its loungey atmosphere and refreshing lack of televisions and Golden Tee. Music on Sunday nights with no cover is a well-appreciated bonus.
Next to the Popeye's Chicken, the building housing the Long Room dates back to a bygone era and looks as though it should be wedged in-between two others – but isn't. Instead, the Long Room stands alone in all its long, red-brick glory with its green neon fish skeleton and "COCKTAIL LOUNGE" written in blue neon lettering. Marvelous.
Through the glass door, you'll find the bar's most open area in front by the windows overlooking Irving Park Road. To your right, the infamous bar with its elongated fez lights above it, wine taps and Belgian beers behind it, and 38 barstools in front of it, stretches along the east wall for 60 feet. On a recent visit, the bartender was observed giving cash back with largest bill on top with a sneaky look, in hopes that his tip would be that top bill. Cheeky bastard! Further visits revealed him to be none other than Jason, one of the owners. While you have to keep an eye on him, he'll light your cigarette for you and prepare for you an expertly mixed Manhattan or Martini. Opposite the bar is a smattering of cocktail tables and if you're in search of Golden Tee, pool or darts head over to Ginger's Ale House instead, just down from Irving Park on Ashland. Three large half-moon, black vinyl booths lit by funky lights lie in wait in the back, beyond the metal o-ring screen sculpture. It was in one of the booths that I received a strange message, that ultimately was not heeded: "Remember the balancing glass trick." Hmmm... An enclosed patio can be found all the way in the rear.
Across from the booths are the bathrooms: one for the ladies and one for both women and men. This is the best the Long Room could do to address its limited restroom facilities while trying to make it work for the fairer sex. If only the McCaskeys could learn from this to improve the horrendous bathroom situation at Soldier Field. If you're meeting friends, I suggest meeting them up front or in back, and to let them know which, beforehand. Huge bottlenecks develop in the narrow aisle between the cocktail tables and the bar, making it very uncomfortable if you're standing in it.
The room itself is decked out in a combination of wood paneling, glass blocks, corkboard, mirrored tile, hardwood flooring, and wallpaper from a bygone era depicting teddy bears with martinis. The green walls are decorated with circus animals, martini glasses, and funky artwork. It sounds weird, but it works in a 70s throwback sort of way.
Nicholas Barron and his band, Hyperactive, used to play on Sunday nights, which was ideal on those long holiday weekends, but he's moved on to Motel Bar and I'm not sure if the Long Room has found a replacement, so check with them before you go. If and when a replacement band is found, get there around nine so you can snag one of the booths or corner barstools so as to avoid the epileptic dancers. Long Room doesn't charge a cover and they open at 7:00pm on Sundays.
Peckish? The Long Room doesn't serve food, but you're in luck. The Diner Grill can be found across the street and is just big enough for you to be seated at the counter as you wait for them to serve up your Slinger: two hamburger patties served with American cheese on a bed of hash browns, topped off with two fried eggs and chili. For those with the drunken munchies at 2:00am, a Slinger is magnificent, even with the inevitable consequences the next day... Oh, and if you actually finish it, they'll give you a certificate of completion. I believe one Yelp reviewer said it best: "Diner Grill is greater than six black steeds pulling a chariot made of human corpses and skeletons being driven across the plains of Hades by a nine-foot demon with a flaming sword in one hand and a case of Old Style in the other. Go there and eat and be awesome," (Dirt B. – April 20, 2008).
If you're in the area and the rowdy Southport bars aren't doing it for you, check out the Long Room. Owners Clark Fowler and Jason Burrell have done an impressive job of making the Long Room one of the hippest places in the area while managing to be unpretentious to boot. This is especially impressive given that the Long Room used to be a shot-and-a-beer dive, though it's still best enjoyed when topped off with a Slinger afterwards. For more information, check out the Long Room website. Capital!