Editor’s note: Coyle’s Tippling House closed sometime in early 2003, and has replaced by Crush, Mix Bar and now Draft
According to Dictionary.com, “tippling” is defined in this way: to drink (alcoholic liquor) or engage in such drinking, especially habitually or to excess. Much of this transpires at Coyle’s Tippling House. The pub, formerly known as the Sidelines Grill, has grown up to be one of the better places to take in some local music while staying true to its sports bar roots. All of this is rounded out with a decent selection of pub grub, an outdoor patio (in times of warmth), fancy wallpaper, and one of the more unique names for a bar in a city where this can be a difficult accomplishment.
Since June 25th, 2000, Coyle’s Tippling House has been located near the terminus of George and Halsted Streets, across from the Big 10 supporting Union and half a block south of the subterranean depths of Parrot’s. The tavern can easily be spotted with its giant stein lit up in bright, Lucky Strike-like orange neon, “tippling” over, and its gold-painted promise of “Live Music, Good Food and Cold Beer.” A few concrete steps lead up to a weathered wooden door, which is located under the weekly concert billing. Through the door, you’ll find a long and narrow space called, “The Family Room.” This area features a long bar that runs the length of the north wall, behind which is an impressive collection of coasters surrounding a tasteful wooden depiction of the Tippling House logo. Several maroon padded, leather booths lie across from the bar, under stained glass lamps that hang from a green-painted ceiling. Additional seating can be found at the front windows overlooking Halsted, and in the outdoor patio fenced in by red-painted wood at the rear of the pub (where music from bands inside can be heard). The Family Room’s décor consists of needlepoint and black & white family photos framed in gold-painted wood that hang from unique purple and beige flowered wallpapering.
If you’re feeling a bit peckish, you’re in luck at Coyle’s. The saloon serves a cleverly named array of food, highlighted by Electric Blanket Wings, Haystack Nachos, Lazy Boy Pasta Salad, Loft Style Pork Chop, Momma Mia! Mostaccioli, Grandpa’s Walleyed Po’ Boy, The Ribeye, The Neighborhood Famous Salami Cheese Burger (a 1/3-pound burger topped with a hearty slice of salami and topped with baked bleu cheese), and The Ol’ Bacon Bleu. The average dinner will set you back a meager $8, on average. Each day also features its own special: the Uncle Fredo Chicken Alfredo (Monday), all-you-can-eat spaghetti (Tuesday), “The Sandwich” (a chicken breast topped with buffalo wing sauce and bleu cheese – Wednesday), The Irish Feast (one potato and three Guinness – Thursday), and “The Mexican” (nachos, poppers and a quesadilla – Friday). In addition, Coyle’s “Afternoon A Fare” includes a build-your-own omelette, chicken hash & eggs, The All American (two eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausage links, two pieces of toast, and seasoned hash browns), French Toast, and pancakes. Getting hungry? So am I…
Drapes separate the Family Room from the Living Room. Here in the back, those fortunate enough grab a seat on one of three groups of sofas set their drinks on coffee tables and have food served to them on TV trays. A nice Persian rug covers the hardwood floor and wood-paneling covers the exposed brick walls. Additional seating can be found at a few other cocktail tables near the entrance to the room and at the barstools in front of the small bar in the back of the room. A few televisions hang around the room and the high, slatted-wood ceiling opens up to reveal a skylight during the day. Local bands of the same ilk featured at Lyons Den, Gunther Murphy’s, and the Underground Lounge play on an elevated stage at the east end of the room every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a modest cover charge of $3 to $6. Coyle’s also joins the Beat Kitchen and Hog Head McDunna’s as a local Pat McCurdy haunt. Additional entertainment can be found during the week, including: euchre tournaments (Monday), movie night (Tuesday), open-mic (Wednesday), and comedy (Sunday).
All of this is a big step up from the bar’s former life as the Sidelines Grill, which opened in 1992. In those “pre-Coyle” days, Sidelines was more of a sports bar and was described in the following way in the 1994 edition of the Official Chicago Bar Guide: “Smallish bar up front, garage-like room in back. Another Hi-Tops clone. Satellite dishes sprout like mushrooms, TVs sprout like weeds.” Back then, patrons dined on sandwiches, chili and burgers under a white, water-stained drop ceiling up front. The walls were painted green and red behind a series of wood-framed mirrors, and photographs and shamrocks were hung with care above the bar-back. Sidelines featured the same type of local rock bands now at Coyle’s from Thursday through Saturday, but seating could only be found in the sea of cocktail tables rather than the comfy sofas today. Nothing in particular stood out about Sidelines, which made it ripe for repositioning and renovation. Atta boy, Coyle.
The Litter Box Incident
My last visit to Coyle’s Tippling House was memorable, particularly contrasted to a few visits at Sidelines that were far from. Coyle’s happened to be the last on the infamous 12 Bars of Christmas pub crawl. You can only image what transpired on this fateful day. As the room spun around me, I remember sitting at the bar and noticing that one of the candles within its glass globe had gone out. In my somewhat less than sound judgment, I decided to light the candle by taking a beer coaster, folding it in half, dipping it into another candle globe, lighting it, and trying to take said flaming beer coaster to light the other candle globe. What I had not anticipated was the speed at which the beer coaster would be consumed by flame. By the time I was trying to insert it into the first candle globe, the flame was about three inches high and licking my hand. With a yelp, I threw the fireball down onto the bar. The bartender was over immediately to put it out with a wet rag. At this point, when what little judgment I had left returned, I immediately got up from the bar and put on my coat. My friends, incredulously, asked me what I was doing, at which point I told them that I had to go because I was about to be kicked out. I was surprised that it took the bouncer all of ten seconds to come over to “help” me out of the bar. I didn’t give him any trouble and left promptly, with a crushing feeling of embarrassment. The sad part is that the night didn’t end there, as it certainly should have. I was all set to hail a cab and return home, when my friends came running out of the bar. We then went across the street to Harrigan’s where we found a pizza delivery man trying to get rid of a pizza that no one wanted right outside the bar. I can’t even remember eating this pizza within the cozy confines of Harrigan’s or heading back to my ex-girlfriend’s place. What I do remember was the look of disgust on her face when I woke up. As I asked what was wrong, in the process of playing innocent, I expected to be chastised for being a drunken fool. While that was indeed what I received, it was only after I was led to the cat’s litter box. It was here that I relieved my bladder during the night. In the process, I was not only oblivious to to the fact that this was not the toilet but also to my ex-girlfriend that was standing there yelling at me to stop. What was worse – this happened not once but twice. The next morning, I had the distinct pleasure of cleaning the entire kitchen and removing the contents of the litter box. The cat has never been the same since.
Normally, Coyle’s is a good neighborhood pub, Lakeview style, but they appear to have fallen down in hosting New Year’s Eve 2002. The following posting was made by Abra Huskey on Metromix’s website: “I coordinated the ticket purchases of 24 people for NYE, and dealt with a very friendly and flexible staff. However when we got there, we stood outside freezing for 40+ minutes, the coat check was full even before half of the attendees were there, the bartenders and servers were severely understaffed so you waited at least 20 minutes to get a drink that you had already paid for, and the band lost power—all this for $105 per person. In the end our group managed to have a great time, but the Tippling House was severely unprepared even though they knew exactly how many people would be attending. I understand that NYE is a crazy night anywhere, but they could have done a MUCH better job.” Caveat emptor! Bar enthusiasts, take note: unfortunately, it has been my experience that what was experienced above is more the rule, rather than the exception, of what you’ll find at New Year’s Eve festivities throughout the city: at least $75 per person, long waits at the bar to get a drink, the tiniest bit of food which runs out early, a couple of cardboard hats and noise makers, a shot’s worth of champagne served in plastic cups that isn’t even doled out to everyone before midnight, last call made at least one full hour before closing, coat checks that can take up to an hour to both drop off and pick up your coat (if they can find it at all), and just try finding a cab in what is sure to be sub-zero weather. What could be the most fun night of the year usually winds up being an infuriating clusterfuck. My advice: find yourself a party to go to instead or stay at home and have sex all night with your significant other.
New Year’s Eve aside, Coyle’s Tippling House stands out for its laid back atmosphere, comfortable environs, and good selection of food. Combine that with intriguing daily selections and never-ending variety of entertainment, and Coyle’s is a great place to go any night of the week. Just try to avoid it as the twelfth bar on a pub crawl and let the bartenders relight the candle globes.
“It’s Your Home Away From Home…It’s Where You Hang Your Hat. It’s Your Place For Great Home-Style Food.”