Not to be confused with the candy bar or the film, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, the upscale saloon known as Goodbar has become a Lincoln Park institution almost overnight since its opening back in 2000. Few other places deliver on the promise of what many erroneously believe is standard in this posh neighborhood: a sea of young, well-dressed, single professionals looking to hook up. This is particularly impressive considering that the bar’s former life as Deacon Brodie’s did a fairly good job of this at just a step above dive bar status. Today, Goodbar is a sleek, DJ-infused haven for those wishing to star in their own personal Sex in the City episode.
Goodbar is located on Halsted, just north of Fullerton and across from the Tonic Room (formerly the Jub Jub Club and Everleigh Club before that) and Taco Burrito Palace #2. The interior of Goodbar is a far cry from its ancient, brown wood-sided, Old West-like façade, which just happens to be located next to a building just like it. They don’t make buildings like this in Chicago anymore, perhaps because of the lessons learned following the Great Chicago Fire. A modest wooden sign with “Goodbar” painted in gold upon brown that seems incongruous with the neon stick-figure holding a beer, hangs over three worn cement stairs that lead into this candle-lit den of iniquity. While you might have to wait in line on the weekends, at least they’re not pompous enough to charge a cover like at nearby Rockhouse. Once you’re past the bouncer, you have two choices: head to the bar or to the back room on the first level, or head up the red-painted staircase, lit with red string lights and a small crystal chandelier, to the lounge or beer garden on the second level.
The front room is highlighted by a long wooden bar lined with high-backed wooden chairs, a plethora of booze and a large mirrored bar back that allows for subtle scoping of the talent behind you without having to look around. Across from the bar is a smattering of cocktail tables in front of a copper painted, partially wood-paneled wall with a painting of what looks like the physical representation of someone describing an ice cream truck. This picture has an even more curious effect when you take a step back and observe the aqua-painted staircase side wall that runs above it. Additional seating can be found just inside the plate glass windows that open out in summer and which are adorned by gold curtains. Beyond the front room bar is a hallway featuring a nicely framed mirror, mural of a blue-eyed, bleach-blonde with an oral fixation, and a green-outlined blue door. At the end of this hallway lies a copper-columned entrance to the rear lounge with gray curtains. Here in the back room, you’ll find another long wooden bar on your left across from a long, gold vinyl banquette, cocktail tables and high-backed, orange vinyl stools. In the southwest corner of this room, just past the bar, additional seating can be found at low, backless leather couches where you can put your drinks on a tiny coffee table and watch whatever’s on the flat panel television just above your head.
For those looking for an even trendier vibe within Goodbar, just head upstairs lounge. Here, you’ll find another wooden bar, although somewhat smaller and more crowded than downstairs, with a mirrored backdrop, aquamarine-painted side wall and seating at more high-backed, wooden chairs. To the left of the bar is another lounge area filled with purple velvet sofas and cushions below another flatpanel television screen and a few windows overlooking Halsted. A series of wooden columns not only hold up the ceiling but provide another small area to set your drinks. Across from the bar is a Pink Floyd-like mural on north wall just above another sofa. Towards the back are a few black leather couches, two tiny bathrooms (in which the sink begins to look like a third urinal in the men’s, when crowded), and sliding glass patio doors that lead to the rear outdoor deck known as the “Aqua Lounge,” where you’ll find what was only hinted at downstairs.
Goodbar joins the Citizen Bar, Vertigo Sky Lounge, Plymouth Restaurant, and Rock Bottom as having one of the few rooftop beer gardens in the city (though it’s only on the second floor), which is a true shame especially considering how excellent each one of them are. In Goodbar’s case, the Aqua Lounge is encased in aquamarine walls painted as brightly as the “eye of God” track lighting inside. This ultra cool beer garden is filled with polished wooden picnic-like tables with benches, is adorned with trellis and is absolutely chockers with people in summer. When the weather is warm, this is easily the best place in the bar to enjoy one of 15 of Goodbar’s signature martinis that will run you about $7 per, including the Coffeecake Martini (Stoli Vanilla, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua and Goldschläger), the Willy Wonka (Stoli Vanilla and Godiva white and dark chocolate liqueurs), “Vodkaritas” (swapping Stoli for tequila), and the “Valentini” on Valentine’s Day). Goodbar also has a good selection of Margaritas, highlighted by the mango-citrus selection, as noted by the “Margarita Girls” – six girls, “CPAs and teachers by day, margarita fans by night” on Metromix (July 2002). These lasses of the night went on to enthusiastically rate Goodbar’s Margaritas with a “3” out of 4 for flavor, size, surrounding “eye candy,” and “aftermath” (hangover factor). According to this alternative rating system, a rating of “3” equates to “Good. I’d miss ‘Friends’ for this.” The Lincoln Park femininas went on to give Goodbar a top “4” rating for service, but the “buzz factor” only received a “2” even though each Margarita was served in a 16-ounce glass for $8. Goodbar also features 20 beers on tap, 10 more in bottles and several wines for about $6 a glass. Whatever your poison, you can also sample selections from the “palette pleasing” menu, which is a relatively uninspired array of appetizers, salads and $8 sandwiches that are served until 11:00 p.m. The Aqua Lounge is said to be open all year, with a series of shiny metal heat lamps to keep you warm, but I didn’t see any foolish souls out there on my visits.
As you may have guessed, the crowd at Goodbar consists almost exclusively of homogenous Lincoln Park and Lakeview trendsters with more black leather jackets, hip hugger jeans and lecherous intensions than you can shake a stick at. Perhaps it is this that makes the place so popular for special events hosted by Chicago-Scene, Promo Chicago, Northwestern Law, Princeton Alumni, and Elimidate. Additionally, the Chicago I-Club gathers every Saturday in the Fall to watch the Iowa Hawkeyes and, contrary to what some have said, Goodbar does not really have a college vibe, but certainly does have plenty of cliquey frat-ernizing. If the crowd isn’t enough for you, additional entertainment can be found on Monday nights with the jazz band Q-Blue and theatrical folks who are a member of Free and Cheap Theatre – “more play, less pay” – get their first drink for free at what’s known as the Monday Night Theatre Mixer. Wednesdays also feature live music and Thursdays bring “Twisted Thursdays @ Goodbar,” which consists of ladies getting in for free until midnight enjoying all the well drinks, wine and beer they can consume for free between 9:00 and 10:30 p.m., while guys drink “free” during the same time after paying $10 at the door. Loud dance music is also spun by resident DJs and will ring the ear on Fridays and Saturdays, when the drink specials have gone the way of Deacon Brodie’s. Goodbar is closed on both Tuesdays and Sundays. Thanks to the artistic impression of Jeff Zimmerman, the décor throughout Goodbar is pleasantly funky, much like that of the now-defunct Jub Jub Club – perhaps that’s part of what led to the Jub Jub “flub” across the street. If you like Goodbar, you might also like Spoon at 1240 N. Wells, which is also owned by Tommy Leone and you may want to become a member of Chicago-Scene so that you can have access to their call-in VIP service, which allows you to call ahead and get in with one guest without waiting in line, a 20% discount on food Monday through Thursday, and a 10% discount on food on Friday and Saturday.
“Lincoln Park hangout for yuppies not quite ready to move to the suburbs. More emphasis on food than a typical bar. Clean, safe (read: dull) and a bit smug.”– description of Deacon Brodie’s from The Official Chicago Bar Guide (1994)
All of this is quite a significant departure from the moderately popular Deacon Brodie’s (not to be confused with other Deacon Brodie’s in Edinburgh and Dundee in Scotland, and Rochester Hills and New York City here in the States). Deacon Brodie’s featured an average selection of brewskies and pub grub (pizza, burgers and pasta), lots of televisions, and plenty of annoying Green Bay Packer supporters on Sundays. Presumably, Goodbar was named after a combination of the legendary Scotsman Deacon Brodie and the 1977 film, Looking For Mr. Goodbar, starring Diane Keaton and Richard Gere. According to the sign on the Deacon Brodie Tavern in Edinburgh: “In manhood, Brodie’s business inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write that famous classic – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By day, William Brodie was pious, wealthy and a much respected citizen and in 1781 was elected Deacon Councilor of the city [Edinburgh]. But at night, he was a gambler, a thief, dissipated and licentious. The annals record: ‘His cunning and audacity were unsurpassed.’ Brodie was hanged from the city’s new gallows on Oct. 1st 1788. Ironically, he himself had designed the gallows that were eventually to seal his fate.” The two-facedness of Deacon Brodie was also found in Diane Keaton’s character, Theresa Dunn, who led a legitimate life during the day, as an instructor for the deaf, and one filled with hedonism at night in the film based on Judith Rossner’s book of the same name. The morale of the movie: a person can’t wear two faces at the same time without them interfering with each other, and second, hedonism can only lead to eventual self-destruction. Goodbar patrons take note.
“The final artistic touch is on the wall that spans the length of the bar; it creates an abstract art that becomes more meaningful to you after each drink. It’s never obnoxiously packed and young professionals make up the majority of the clientele. The ratio of men to women is fair, but more women are usually present. Waitresses and bartenders are very accommodating, friendly and efficient. They don’t emanate the bitchy attitude typical of other bar staff. These people are down to earth and even take time to do a little bonding with the customers. Goodbar doesn’t fall under the meat market umbrella, but there are certainly some yummy eye candy traipsing about the joint. — Erin Burke”
“Goodbar is a good bar if you’re a 14oz. rib eye looking for a plate… A rich environment for a group of friends to spot their future exes or just hang out, take your mega vitamins and head to the most hectic hormone hacienda this side of Lake Michigan.”– Shecky’s Bar, Club & Lounge Guide 2002
While Goodbar is one of the least pretentious Lincoln Park hotspots, no one should confuse it with being laid-back or down-to-earth like its described in the first quote above. The atmosphere is that of a trendy meat-market and there’s plenty of attitude going around from patrons and staff, unless you happen to be somewhat on the naïve side. Just watch out for swinging, somewhat psychotic playboys with bad Italian accents, liberal social workers harboring darkness inside, perverted furniture salesmen, hypocritical police detectives and the women that sleep with them because it’s the sex that matters, not the person, as featured in Looking For Mr. Goodbar. Regardless, Goodbar is an a great place to enjoy a martini, a night out with friends (when there’s at least one you’d like to pick up), or a meal in their stellar rooftop beer garden. For more information, check out the Goodbar website. How you doin’?
“Find a quiet corner; breathe; close your eyes,
Hide in the solitude of the crowd.
A blur of voices, a shroud of smoke,
And the world can slip away outside.
You went running down that lonely road,
Chasing your destiny like an endless goal,
You went stumbling down that lonely road,
Chasing your dreams like some poor soul.”– lyrics from Deacon Brodies by Grant Macaskill