February 24, 2004

21 and Over with Dorothea Hunter

The thing that sticks in my mind about Lincoln Station (2432 North Lincoln Avenue, is how young the crowd was. There really was a consistent crowd of 20-somethings the whole night. I am pretty positive that no one was under 21 (only a few people looked questionable) and no one was over 30—pretty nice, considering how strange it is to walk in a bar where the crowd is clearly older (or younger, if it's known to be easy on fake IDs.) Something else about this bar's crowd was also striking, though.

"It's quite a sausage-fest in here," exclaimed one of my friends. My other friend, who had picked the place, corroborated: "Yeah, this is a guy bar."

So, what does it really mean to be a guy bar?

Well, for one, Lincoln Station has no atmosphere. The website claims that its atmosphere is "relaxed, yet upscale," but I definitely disagree. "Upscale" only applies to the bar's location, just north of the intersection of Lincoln, Fullerton, and Halsted Avenues, in the famously hip Lincoln Park. Everything else about this bar screamed "ordinary." That's not necessarily a bad thing time and again, but you can't go there expecting an ultra-swank hangout.

The place is small, occupying two rooms. The room you enter from the street has a bar, and, supposedly, there is a bar in the other room. However, after walking around several times and not seeing one, I'm wondering if Lincoln Station's website needs updating. Rather than a bar, the second room has three pool tables. (You can sign up for the tables at the bar for $9/hour on weekends and $6/hour on weekdays.)

As for the seating arrangements, there is a choice of tables and booths in each room. The booths remind me of my beloved New Jersey diners. One of the rooms even has a large jukebox (another NJ diner staple). A waitstaff floats around both rooms, but its services are not necessary; a walk to the bar from the farthest point in the place is no more than 50 feet.

One reason maybe to have a waiter come by your table would be if you needed the volume turned up to hear the sports game being shown on one of the bar's many TVs. The bar is the self-professed home of the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns, and the Big Ten. The strong male presence at Lincoln Station is probably due in part to the sports bar vibe. It also has a full-service kitchen, so you can enjoy game-time favorites such as stuffed spuds and burgers. Oh, yeah—I almost forgot to mention that the most popular arcade game of many young men, Golden Tee, is featured on several machines.

The other exceptional thing about Lincoln Station was the cost. Everything is super cheap here—I was floored. After all, this is Lincoln Park, where you can easily blow $10 on a mixed drink. One of the best deals in the house is a $3 special, available daily, on the pint of the month. There are also a bunch of drink deals during the week, from Monday ($2 pints) to Thursday ($6 pitchers).

The only problem with Lincoln Station is that there are other, better places to go that have an equally laid-back vibe. Why not just stay in Hyde Park if you want something cheap with no frills? Then again, it's not a bad place to venture if you are in the mood for a small dose of Lincoln Park downtown pretension. Moreover, there is a movie theater right across from Lincoln Station. Since Hyde Park lacks movie theaters, why not relax by seeing a movie and heading over to the Lincoln Station watering hole?