Editor’s Note: Jack Sullivan’s closed as of November 1, 2005 and reopened as Barleycorn’s Sports Bar on New Year’s Eve 2005. Jack Sullivan’s may re-open in a new location soon.
“A sophisticated sports bar for the discriminating fan”
Jack Sullivan’s Public House, not to be confused with Peg Leg Sullivan’s on Halsted or Jack’s on Southport, has become one of the city’s most popular sports bars, particularly as the neighborhood around it has been cleaned up over the years. Sports aficionados head to Jack Sullivan’s every night of the week to catch a variety of events, often after their own softball or volleyball games. The tri-level place is rather capacious so you should be able to find a table even on the weekends when when a load of Buckeye fans descend upon the bar to watch their beloved in football and basketball. A slew of televisions ensures you won’t have to worry about craning your neck no matter what you’re watching. Throw in a pretty good selection of pub grub and you’ve got your spot at Jack Sullivan’s.
Jack’s can be found at the western edge of Lincoln Park, also known as Sheffield Neighbors, which is located between Sheffield and Southport, Armitage and Webster. Though it sounds close to the North/Clybourn El stop, it’s actually over five long diagonal blocks away. Your best bet is to catch a cab as it can be surprisingly difficult to find a parking spot due to Jack Sullivan’s close proximity to the cinemas at Webster Place and, to a much lesser degree, Flounder’s, Webster’s Wine Bar and Zella. If you do drive, you might have to be somewhat “creative” in the surrounding commercial and semi-industrial area. Jack Sullivan’s can be found lording over a fire plug, adorned with a tasteful wooden sign with gold lettering lit by old-fashioned lamps, cement planters sporting evergreens, and Ohio State flags during college football season. Walk under a humble wooden sign with the Jack Sullivan’s logo, through a pair of French double doors, and you’re sure to be carded by a perma-bouncer. This causes a backlog, which frequently causes both sets of doors to be kept open – keep this in mind as you’ll not want a table near the door in winter.
The biggest part of the bar at Jack Sullivan’s can be found up the wooden stairs right as you walk in. Here, you’ll find a classic wooden bar that runs the entire length of the north wall. The bar looks like it is made from the same wood used to make the sea of cocktail tables, high-backed chairs, balcony, and wooden beams – all of which goes very well with the patterned tile floor and gold-plated, ornate tin ceiling. A skylight is a rather pleasant surprise during the day, as are the ceiling fans in summer that hang next to a series of old-fashioned hanging glass light fixtures. Another bar can be found just to the left of the front door that serves those at street level. A couple of stools provide seating at this bar and a few more cocktail tables offer a view beyond thick wooden blinds out onto Clybourn Avenue through windows that stretch almost all the way to the ceiling.
On either side of the second bar are a few stairs leading down to yet another room with a bar. The staircase on the left allows almost secret, back-door access to the subterranean space as that is where you’ll find the bathrooms (straight down the hall). The downstairs bar is about half the size of the one upstairs and runs along the west end of the room. On the right is a pool table, Golden Tee and dartboard. Elsewhere, there are a smattering of both cocktail and low-rider tables amongst more wooden beams that hold up a low-hanging ceiling. A fireplace can be found in the south wall. The whole area is somewhat smallish but is easily big enough to be used for most private parties and events, which is what it’s primarily used for.
Just about any sporting event you can think of has been broadcast on either one of the two big-screens on the west wall, one of which serves the street level area specifically. In addition, there are over 30 TVs sprinkled throughout the bar. Ohio State University alumni will be especially pleased to know that Jack Sullivan’s has specialized in showing Buckeye games for the past four years. Pennants and banners can be found everywhere. Games are shown at full volume, provided by both DSS and Big Dish satellites, and the OSU fight song plays throughout the bar before kick-off and after every Buckeye score. Jack Sullivan’s also plays host to North Carolina State Alumni as a gathering known as “Wolfpack Chicago” takes up residence, and is one of the few places where you can find Northern Illinois University games in addition to rival sports bar Joe’s. In 2003, I saw NIU beat Toledo at Jack Sullivan’s thanks to a clutch catch by P.J. Fleck, the man with the hands. The bar has also sponsored my volleyball team for several years, but have offered less and less each year; one would think the opposite would happen, especially considering that we’ve pumped thousands of dollars into the place. All in all, Joe’s was nominated Best Sports Bar in Citysearch Chicago’s 2002 poll as well as selected runner-up in Chicago Scene’s Best of 2002. If you’re not into sports, head over to nearby Charlie’s Ale House instead or you might find yourself annoyed with your distracted companion(s).
The food at Jack Sullivan’s is served from a large metallic kitchen area on south end of upstairs barroom. Overall, you’ll find the typical array of bar food selections though a bit more upscale. Wings, chicken fingers, quesadillas, calamari, and potato skins are served as appetizers with bruschetta, goat cheese marinara, and French onion soup being the highlights. Ribs, pork chops, kabobs, blackened chicken, pasta primavera, and cheese tortellini are balanced with hamburgers, pizza, chili, and sandwiches, most of which are served with bacon. Overall, the food is good but a bit pricey for what you get: $6 appetizers, $7 sandwiches, $12 entrees and, get this, they will charge you an additional $1.75 if you share anything with someone. I find it hard to believe that they’re not making enough money or have any way to justify this aggravating charge. At least this is counterbalanced with some decent daily specials: $2 domestics on Monday; $2.50 Coronas and burgers on Tuesday; $2.50 drafts, $5 Red Bull and vodkas and $0.25 wings on Wednesday; $2.50 16-oz. bottles of Miller Lite, Bud Light and $5 pizza on Thursday; and $2.50 Jack & Cokes and a free buffet with carving station from 5pm to 7pm on Friday. Saturday’s special? Nada. You pay full price, thank you very much. On the weekends, you can make your own Bloody Mary from over 50 ingredients (including 10 kinds of mixes, several brands of hot sauce, three kinds of olives, pickles, and celery), served on Saturday from 9am to 3pm and Sundays from 10am to 3pm. Half-price bottles of wine and pasta dishes are offered after 6pm on Sunday night. The service at Jack Sullivan’s is decent but won’t win any awards, just like most any other bar in Chicago. When it comes time to settle up, Jack Sullivan’s does not have an ATM so you’ll have to run a half a block north to the Bank One to get some cash (you’ll need it). Even the once free shuttle to all Hawks and Bears home games will cost you $5 but only if you purchase an entree, presumably one that you don’t split with someone.
Jack Sullivan’s is very similar to the other Bar 1 creations but does not have the irritating dance music of Durkin’s, the tiny bit of room around the island bar at the Wrightwood Tap, the packed-to-the-gills-ness of McGee’s, or the obnoxious University of Michigan fans of Duffy’s. If you want to check out these other bars, free trolleys are often available to take you to any one of them, usually as part of a “Screw Cupid”-type event. On the other hand, Jack Sullivan’s does have basically the same slightly pretentious crowd where patrons wear baseball hats with $300 leather jackets and the staff often displays a better-than-thou attitude. As the games finish, SportsCenter is put on the TVs, the music is turned up, and the place adopts somewhat of a meat market atmosphere, especially on the weekends.
For me, Jack Sullivan’s has special significance. You might not know it, but there are many Australians that live in and around Chicago – approximately 10,000 with 6,000 visiting at any one time. I know, scary stuff. Anyway, they have formed not one but three amateur Australian Rules Football teams, referred to colloquially as, “The Footy.” The real Grand Final, Footy’s version of the Super Bowl, is played every September and Jack Sullivan’s shows the game in the room downstairs (which is much better than the subterranean rec room in Sedgwick’s). In 2001, I watched it and drank enough Blue Moons to create another incident. In 2002 the Brisbane Lions played the Collingwood Magpies at the “MCG” (Melbourne Cricket Grounds) in the Grand Final, on Saturday, September 27 (but actually was viewed in the U.S. on Friday, September 26 – think about that one for a moment…) Members of the Chicago Swans organized a Bar 1 pub crawl in honor of this event, with Jack Sullivan’s being the final destination. The deal was $25 for four hours of drinking and transportation via school bus between each bar. So, there I was at Jack Sullivan’s, knockin ’em back and taking in the Footy with a couple of Australians that I had met through the now-defunct Chicago branch of Austravel when I met a pair of South American femininas. One was an Argentinean dating one of the Aussie lads, and one was a Colombian who was very cool, very sexy and very single. Fortunately, she’d had a couple drinks and, because her judgment was no doubt somewhat impaired, she and I had a good chat together. While the Aussies were enraptured by the Grand Final, I was enraptured by her and thankful that she hadn’t yet run for the hills. Providence clearly smiled in my direction as I was able to get her number. We have been together ever since. You’d never think that an American would meet a Colombian at an Australian pub crawl, but it happened. The world is a global village, indeed. I think I had a quesadilla that night as well…
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“If you look up the word ‘standard’ in the dictionary, you’ll find Jack Sullivan’s. Your bare bones Chicago sports bar and grill, this place really couldn’t get any more predictable… It’s a haven for post-grad, first job types who don’t yet understand that only a twelve-year-old can wear a backwards baseball cap without looking like a dink.”– Shecky’s Bar, Club & Lounge Guide 2002
Since New Year’s Day 1996, when Jack Sullivan’s opened, the bar has been one of the most sought after venues to watch big games, to sponsor your sports team and to placate your appetite. The service could be better and the prices a bit less, but Jack Sullivan’s delivers consistently. Forward Huskies!