4923 N. Clark St. (4900N, 1500W)
Chicago, IL 60640
"The neighborhood bar south of Foster"
Having replaced the divey "Different Strokes," Sofo is a newer addition to the gay bar scene, and one without the attitude. Hence, you won't get strange looks if you are straight and, unlike its sister bar T's, you won't find any lesbian drama. Sofo stands for "South of Foster," the small but booming area that inhabits the Uptown neighborhood south of Andersonville. The bar sits on the southeast corner of Clark and Argyle and is the neighborhood pit stop when locals are looking for a quick drink.
Sofo is a small but open bar with crimson painted walls matching the façade and covered with brightly colored artwork created by locals. The bar area offers a laid-back environment when compared to other Chicago gay bars. It's a great place to hang out, to enjoy good though slightly expensive drinks, and to shoot some stick. If the pool table is taken, as it often is on weekends, there are dartboards and even a Thursday night darts league for anyone looking to get really competitive. And what would a gay bar be without an excessive number of TVs playing music videos? A boring horrible place, or so most bar owners think in this town. As such, there are more then enough TVs playing music videos but they're hardly the main focus, particularly on Wii Night at the bar. Sofo occasionally hosts competitions and Wii enthusiasts can duke it out with the best on Wednesday nights. If you aren't a gamer, watching it is just as entertaining—I swear I've seen grown men almost in tears after losing a game of Wii bowling.
Now back to the drinks: unfortunately, Sofo's mixed drinks start at $7. That's right, you heard me correctly. I'm not sure what the steep pricing is all about since last I checked I wasn't in a swanky downtown bar but what can you do? On the upside, the expensive drinks are probably the main reason you won't find attitude at Sofo since most of the drama set regulars can't afford to get wasted on $7 a drink. Beer prices are average, ranging from $3-$5 and double pints are the best deal at $7. There is no happy hour, and only the occasional drink special. A major downside is the lack of drink specials, especially when you consider that their sister bar, T's Restaurant & Bar, is right down the street and has fabulous drink and dinner deals all week long. Sofo doesn't offer food, but you're more then welcome and encouraged to walk two blocks to T's and bring food back to Sofo.
I like that Sofo is an escape from the younger and wilder crowds found in Boystown. If you're looking for a quiet night out with your partner or friends, this is the bar for you. The best part of the bar, in my dog-loving opinion, is how canine friendly it is and we know how gays love their four-legged friends! Pups are allowed in the bar as long as they are well behaved and leashed, a perk that dog lovers take full advantage of as there is almost always at least one dog in the bar at any given time. The only downside is that on some of my visits to the bar, the smell of dog lingers in the air, especially in winter months when there is a lack of fresh air. Summer months are better when the beer garden is open.
Sofo is a neighborhood bar that welcomes all who walk through their doors and although it sometimes get the reputation for being a middle-aged bar but every time I make a stop at Sofo I have seen a nice mix of people old and young. If you like Sofo, you might also like Glenwood in East Rogers Park, also owned by Colm Treacy. For more information, check out the Sofo website.