Beer Garden or Outdoor Cafe?


The long-awaited review of Mickey’s Snack Bar by the Beer GardenersThe “Garden”Our heated debate over whether or not Mickey’s patio could be considered
a true beer garden or merely an outdoor cafe was only interrupted by a short discussion on the merits of Tom-o’s newly grown soul patch. The
area, let’s call it that for the moment, stretches out a good 20+ feet in front of Mickey’s and all the way to the sidewalk on Clark. A few shady trees combined with tiki torches give the place a beer garden feel. However, openness is the theme – glass doors on the front of the bar open up so there really aren’t any walls on any side of you, leaving you with more of an outdoor cafe feel where Lincoln Parkers might be better suited to drinking a Steve Martin-like “half double decaffeinated half-caf with a twist of lemon.”

The location is unbeatable: one can spend the better part of a day watching people along Clark Street, a few feet above grade, while surrounded by hundred-year-old architecture. This can provide for some surreal theater, as we observed an older gentleman racing his motorized wheelchair down the sidewalk, throwing several Urban Outfitter-clad pedestrians into a tizzy. The sight sure beat a fictitious round of crowd surfing or Segway commandeering but, alas, such is the danger of not being able to handle your Jagermeister.

Despite the anchored furniture, the garden is a pretty laid back environment. The lack of structure and direction are a true positive to this bar: sit where you want, stand if you wish, order food or don’t it just doesn’t seem to matter
as long as the drinks keep coming. This is a nice relief from the plethora of beer gardens that relegate their space to sit down dinner service only and end up not having much of a social scene (for example, Galway Arms next door).

Only an ugly mug would drive one of these to a bar

Some were clearly intimidated by the presence of the
Beer Gardeners

Liquids and Solids

Mickey’s serves a cleverly named selection of appetizing pub grub. In line with the rock and roll theme, not only is the menu shaped like a record (remember those?), but the items all have catchy song-title names. It was quite odd to hear ourselves ordering “Can’t find a Cheddar Man” for example. One interesting item was the plate of Sliders. Yes, Mickey’s saves you the step of going to White Castle after a night out and serves up a copyright-infringing version of the culinary oddity that’s been messing with digestive tracts for generations.
The beer list was of a garden variety as well, save the cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon that are sure to provide a profoundly awful case of “gut rot” the following morning. Our recommendation: get your white trash on and wash a “couple-tree Sliders” down with a bevy of Mickey’s Big Mouth brewskies – the finest malt liquor to be found in Lincoln Park.

The Talent

We know what every guy reading this article wants to know: were there enough women there? The answer, at least on this evening, was an emphatic yes.
The patio area had a nice assortment of comely young ladies and, once we were ushered inside, we were able to grab a table next to a group of ten attractive women. These lovelies were able to rally two our team to screech out “Living on a Prayer” and “The Gambler” until we were booted just prior to 2:00 a.m. on a school night. We were also shocked to hear a surprisingly good rendition of “Only the Good Die Young” performed by an honorary Beer Gardener who, whenever he was heard singing previously, could make your hair curl more
than a Nelson Reilly orgy. While the Beer Gardeners are always happy to provide some entertainment, the real payoff for Birda – digits, baby! And it wasn’t even the weakest of the herd…

A fine young lass getting sweet on the Beer

…despite an Honorary Beer Gardener’s game of

Random Thoughts…

Mickey’s did impress with an intriguing hodge-podge of seating surfaces. The
stools at the main bar are doughnut-shaped – there is an actual hole in the seat. Outside, we were fascinated, by the plastic yellow chairs, which we hadn’t seen since junior high. It’s quite possible that junior high students filled a couple of them that night. (Note: skirting around the ID checking process by jumping the fence between the beer garden and the sidewalk ain’t so tough and we saw the feat accomplished twice that night, despite sitting about 15 feet away from the bouncers). The karaoke room featured diner-style booths with real Naugahyde
and olive shaped, ottoman-like seats upon which to place your caboose.

When we weren’t pondering the furnishings, there was no shortage of bizarre anecdotes being shared, such as the time a Beer Gardener acquaintance got exceedingly drunk and piddled in his pants at a friend’s apartment. The friend– a girl woke up two hours later to the sound of the smoke alarm and the smell of smoke, urine and strawberries. You see, in his infinite wisdom, he decided to wash his pants with the girl’s strawberry shampoo and put them in the oven to dry; rather than setting a timer, he just passed out and left the girl to take care of the ensuing calamity. This yarn was easily topped by G-Banger’s tale of woe that took place last November: he began the day by having his car creamed by a deranged driver right outside his front door. While waiting for the officer to finish his lunch at the police station so that he could finish filling out the accident report, his girlfriend called to inform him that she had decided to take their 19-month relationship off life-support and kick his ass to the curb.

“Just wanted to say that I voted for the Beer Gardeners without reading bios, because I recognized your name from having used theChicago Bar Project several times. Unfortunately, I couldn’t vote often in the great tradition of Chicago, at least not from the same computer. I took another look at the site today, and think the revisions are great.”

Jean (who loves Chicago too), June 13, 2003

“Love your site, especially when it starts off by insulting those idiot wanna-be beer drinkers being paid to whine on Metromix, bleah!!! Keep up the good work! We Chi-town native beer lovers salute you!”


– C.O., August 7, 2003



“It was unfortunate the voting for your favorite Beer Garden Guy did not include the option of ‘None of the above’. Sophomoric antics aside, I imagine the Ugly Mugs couldn’t organize themselves out of cardboard box…obviously the dredges from the bottom of the keg.”

Bob McGann, Lincoln Park, August 7, 2003



Final Thoughts
Is this a beer garden or an outdoor cafe? The Beer Gardeners address this burning issue:

  • LaGuardia: Although I would not call this a true beer garden, it is
    a great space.
  • Warda: Mickey’s supplies the right amount of foliage by having trees growin’
    within the beer garden (Oops, I mean “outdoor cafe”).
  • Welton: It,s a hybrid genetically modified.
  • Kelly: Cher sucks.
  • Parnell: Quit asking stupid questions and drink your beer.

~ Have a good story relating to this bar? E-mail it to me.

[back to the
Chicago Bar Project


assembled by Sean Parnell

“G-Banger” Kelly

“Once the karaoke machine gets plugged in and you
hear the forced strains of ‘If I Could Turn Back Time…’ do as I did: knock
down the rest of your PBR and head for the hills ASAP!!!”

“Seany Baby” Parnell

“With plenty of doe-eyed innocents
from the Arlington House hostel down the street in the beer garden, and a


litany of wannabe rock stars full of Big Mouth-induced
courage inside, Mickey’s Snack Bar is a classic Chicago joint anytime of
year even with a few mopes doused in Axe body spray milling around looking
for, ‘single girls who like to party.’”

“Marc” LaGuardia

“Is there balance in the universe? At times one
would say no and this would be a cause of concern, but a night out at
Mickey’s Snack bar appears to make it a norm.”

“Tom-o” Warda

“I saw punk, hip-hop, rasta, trixie, young
and stupid, old and confused, yet not one seemed nor felt out of place.”

“Birda” Welton
“Overall, an interesting array of seating surfaces.”