448 N. State St. (450N, 0W)
Chicago, IL 60610
"Your neighborhood place"
There are two types of people in the world: those that pass Snickers Bar & Grill and say "Hell, no!" and those that pause for a moment and say "Why the hell not?" If you're among the latter, you can appreciate a no-frills dive bar/fast-food joint mash-up. A place that serves up "mystery shots" and has a somewhat mysterious clientele. A place that looks like it's part of a 1980s time capsule, yet employs some of the best looking bartenders you'll find anywhere in the city. If any of that sounds like your cup of (Long Island iced) tea, then Snickers is no laughing matter.
Formerly known as Snickers Deli, and renamed "Bar & Grill" a few years ago, Snickers has been plying its trade at the corner of Illinois & State for the better part of three decades. A simple, if wordy, green awning wraps around the façade, with storefront windows beneath, all liberally covered in signage that obscures the view inside. Enter the plate-glass door and find yourself in a rectangular room, with a counter-bar running the length of the space and tables along the outside wall. Both the service bar and open kitchen are housed behind the same counter, giving the place a quasi-diner feel. The tile drop-ceiling, miscellaneous photos and sporting paraphernalia and assorted house plants (?) seem suited to a suburban rec room. TV coverage is adequate and they're usually tuned to sports, good for catching a couple innings, but not really set up for a long haul. The jukebox probably hasn't been updated in years and, as such, is filled with the disco-era toe tappers and hair-metal ballads that may remind you of when MTV actually played videos. Perfect for livening a late-night visit.
Are there cheaper dive bars in the city? Yes. Are they located in River North? Not really. With the possible exception of nearby Rossi's and CND Gyros, Snickers is about as low-brow as you'll find in the 60610 zip code. Old Style and a designated beer-of-the-month will cost $3.50. The other 18 or so bottled selections can run a couple dollars more. There are only two beers offered on tap, but, surprisingly, both are currently Goose Island varieties. A full bar is at your disposal, with shots of "Jamo" and Jäger being among the most popular. Speaking of shots, if you're feeling bold, "ask inside" about their $2 mystery shot, which I've seen described as tasting somewhere between a kamikaze and Windex. Then again, if you]re drinking $2 anything, you probably don't give a crap what it will do to you come morning.
The fast food menu of burgers, hot dogs, gyros, grilled cheese and the like are about as greasy as you might expect, and therefore tasty in an "I shouldn't but just did" kind of way. Prices are fairly reasonable, with a full lunch plus tip running $10 or less. One drawback: as you watch the meat sizzling on the grill a few feet away, you can almost feel the smell infiltrating your clothes like a deep-cover Russian spy.
Snickers is busiest during the weekday lunch rush, where you'll find a blue-collar/white-collar mix, but to get a sense of Snickers true character, a visit during happy hour or beyond is encouraged. The assortment of people you might see is among the most diverse in the city. In my various visits, I've encountered friendly gregarious drunks, 20-somethings in the midst of an impromptu pub crawl, shifty-eyed guys who seem nervous for no reason, dead-eyed men lost in their drink, and cougars (30s/40s women) having a quiet chat and everything in-between.
One thing that never varies is the sheer beauty of the bartenders. (Apologies to the missus, but I'm married, not blind.) I don't think I've ever seen the same bartender twice, but each has been more beautiful than the last, all eastern European types, the most attractive you'll find this side of Jedynka. Some are friendlier than others—I'm sure the slack-jawed looks they get all day/night can be wearying—but overall, service has always been quick and efficient. For some (aka the dudes), this may be reason enough to pay Snickers a visit. For others, a safe play is during the annual St. Patrick's Day parade, when you're sure to find the place packed wall-to-wall with at least 50% out-of-towners.
For some quirky atmosphere, a quick meal or drink or high-quality eye candy, Snickers really satisfies. If you enjoy Snickers, you may want to check out Matchbox (no food) in River West, the original Blue Frog (food) or Hooters, both in River North. For more info, you'll have to give Snickers a cal as they don't have a website. Do svidanja.