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© The Chicago Bar Project   Written by Sean Parnell

Martyrs' Restaurant & Pub
3855 N. Lincoln Ave. (3900N, 1900W)
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 404-9494

"Music is good for you"

Since 1995, Martyrs' has established itself as one of the best mid-size music venues in the city. The same building once housed a US Post Office, greeting card factory, and a dive bar called Quicksilver's. Now as "Martyrs' Restaurant & Pub," the owners have brought respectability to the structure by hosting rockin' bands, serving good food, offering plenty of beers, and displaying some sweet artwork to boot – all you could want to make a great night.

Located between Goldie's and Brownstone along north Lincoln Avenue in the tiny enclave of St. Benedict's, Martyrs' is a gem for those in the know even though it does not look like much from the outside. Patrons are greeted by several sun-bleached beige awnings, a few potted evergreens, and a doorway peppered with band advertisements. Enter the purple overcast musical den through the double doors and pay your cover, which ranges from $5 to $15. While not cheap, many of the acts playing at Martyrs' are some of the best in the area, including Bobby Broom (Sundays), traditional Irish Music (Mondays), MVP (Wednesdays), the Dark Star Orchestra, Robbie Fulks, and Brother Brother. I also once saw a band called Guided by Voices with songs like, "Tractor Rape Chain," that I can only describe as ethereal and bizarre. Not bad for a family guy from Ohio. Whatever the genre, the quality of music is generally quite good, thanks to owner Ray Quinn's experience booking bands for Schuba's and the Vic Theater. And, like the Empty Bottle, the second story of Martyrs' even houses a recording studio to record these live events.

Beyond the front door is the main bar. If you have a seat at the bar, take your pick from 20 beers on tap. In front of the bar is enough space to accommodate 300-400 music fans, but don't get caught behind one of the many posts and be sure to wear laced shoes as the floor can often be so sticky you might come out of them. For lower profile shows and earlier in the evening, this main area is filled with tables where you can enjoy some of the food Martyrs' has to offer. The dining selection includes a selection of hand-rolled pizza, chili & cornbread, salads, sandwiches, and burgers. Brunch is also available on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. During shows, check out the quiet(er) back bar area if you need a break from the music or need to get your fix of Golden Tee, pinball or electronic darts (located to the left of the back bar and down the narrow corridor leading to the bathrooms. Wherever you sit or stand, make sure you have a gander at the large mural on the back wall that is a gnarly depiction of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and other dead musicians. Tables are also adorned with rock legends that have passed, painted by local artists. Hopefully, those playing at Martyrs' will not become martyrs as well.

New Year's Eve 1996
A friend of mine and I were ready for some New Year's action. We selected Martyr's as our venue of choice as they had a good all-you-can-drink special as well as having Brother Brother play. On our way to Martyr's, we bumped into a friend of mine that I knew from my surreal AIESEC experience in Finland. She was on her way to a party in my neighborhood and I was unable to resist accepting her invitation to join her friends at said party later in the evening. We finally arrived at Martyr's and the drinking began. My conscience kicked in a few hours later and we made our way back to the 'hood for some private party shenanigans. Unfortunately, instead of the anticipated tomfoolery, the party was about as exciting as watching a pitcher's duel between the Cincinnati Reds and Anaheim Angels. I spent my time chatting with a guy studying theology in hopes to become a priest. I couldn't have found a person that I could find less in common with had I tried. Back to Martyr's it was, with seconds to spare before midnight. Then it was champagne and kissing what turned into a former college buddy's ex-girlfriend and her friend. After grinding and snogging away, we were informed by the girl my friend was kissing that the two lassies suddenly had to drive to Michigan (the state of) right then (2:00 a.m.). Why not just say, "I probably shouldn't have made out with you. Now I feel I have to leave immediately. Happy New Year's!" At least Brother Brother was good...

Martyrs' is a great place to check out a smorgasbord of live music while not having to put up with a mob scene. For a listing of upcoming band and further information, check out the Martyrs' website. Rock on.

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