Duffy’s is a spacious bar that’s perfect for watching the big game, satiating yourself on some excellent food, and taking in some live music at night. This is especially impressive considering that Duffy’s used to be a scruffy neighborhood dive. It liked to present itself as a nightclub, but was really a cheesy dump where brawls would regularly spill out into the street. Today, the bar has been renovated by the same people that brought you Durkin’s, McGee’s, and the Wrightwood Tap. Even the transient hotel atop the bar is going upscale with rooms going for a record high $69 a night.
When you walk into Duffy’s, you’ll see a nice wooden bar to your left, anchoring a sunny room filled with tables and chairs and exposed brick walls. In the summertime, the large plate glass windows open out onto Diversey, where you can take in a nice view of the Elks National Headquarters standing lonely across the street in its wrought-iron cage. This room is of pretty good size, but keep moving through the hallway and down the ramp, and you’ll find a cavernous room where most of the action at Duffy’s takes place.
The majority of Duffy’s original back room used to be hogged up by a large, square center bar. Now, the bar is off to one side, allowing the huge space to be filled with tables and chairs, and plenty of loud, boisterous patrons. Two big screens at the front of the room form the nexus of patron attention, showing two different games simultaneously. This caused a strange effect when JB, Terry, Howie and Chris of Fox’s NFL half-time show came on both screens, out of sync by about three seconds because of the satellite delay. This made Howie Long look like the star of a bad Japanese movie as what was coming out of his mouth did not match what you heard over the loudspeakers in the bar. One of the few drawbacks of Duffy’s is that the big screens are often obscured by the many wooden columns holding up the hotel above. My recommendation: for a big game, get there early. Otherwise, there are over 30 televisions suspended from the ceiling elsewhere in the room to keep you entertained.
The back bar is very long with plenty of room to sit and peruse the wine racks and many beer taps. There is also a fireplace near the bar for cold winter nights. On Thursday nights, the elevated area in front of the big screens serves as a stage for rock bands, and jazz musicians play there during Sunday brunch (except during football season and March Madness).
“Duffy’s is not a sports bar, but rather an establishment that shows sports.”
While not explicitly a sports bar, Duffy’s does support and provide a haven for cretinous Michigan Wolverine fans. The walls are painted blue, they have blue shot glasses, the big screens are dedicated to Michigan games when on, the staff was seen wearing blue t-shirts with “Chicago’s Big House” written on the back, above the University of Michigan logo, and “The Victors” is played following Wolverine touchdowns. Considering all the other bars in the city that supports Michigan, the following question is raised: does Chicago really need another Michigan bar? Duffy’s is great, but what supporting Northern Illinois University or Illinois State University instead?
Regardless of your views on the subject or the team you support, Duffy’s has a great sports atmosphere on game days. I once witnessed the crowd in a joyous uproar when the Bears’ Brent Maynard threw a touchdown pass to Brian Urlacher in a field goal fake against the Washington Redskins in 2001. The resulting cheering, high-fiving and stomping on the floor made it all worth having gotten out of bed and out to the bar before noon that Sunday (especially considering what had occurred the night before, just a few hours prior…)
Hungry? Duffy’s serves up some excellent pub grub including eggs benedict and huevos rancheros for brunch, goat cheese/artichoke fritters and sliders for appetizers, buffalo chicken sandwiches topped with bleu cheese, and the tastiest hot turkey sandwich I have ever had. For the upscale bar patron, New York Strip steak, garlic shrimp, and a variety of Caesar salads can be found. All of this served on plates with pictures of bottles of beer and athletes around the edge gives a nice touch. The service is also top notch thanks to an army of wait staff.
Also for brunch, Duffy’s has a Bloody Mary bar set up on the stairs leading down to the main dining room, where you can have a shot of whatever vodka you like and you can make it yourself. In addition to Bloody Marys, Duffy’s has recently been promoting their impressive wine list. They even have scheduled a wine tasting of Argentinian and Chilean wines along with four courses of South American food for $40 a person. Given the high quality of food found at Duffy’s, I’m sure it will be an event not to miss.
Following the recent renovation, Duffy’s has been transformed from a nasty dump into a stellar bar and grill, that shows sports. Duffy’s is now a great place to go to catch a game with a large group of friends, or purely for dinner or brunch on the weekends. For more information, check out the Duffy’s website. Go Blue! (not)