Editor’s Note: Parkway Tavern succumbed to market forces and closed in February 2005, was torn down and is now a bank.
“A tradition in Lincoln Park”
Old-school, neighborhood tavern meets new-school, sports bar and meat market at the Parkway Tavern, which is not to be confused with the New Orleans sports bar of the same name. The atmosphere at the Parkway is much in the spirit of Kelsey’s, Kendall’s and O’Malley’s West – all located just a few minutes south along Lincoln Avenue. If it were bigger, it could even give John Barleycorn’s Memorial Pub (Lincoln or Wrigleyville) a run for its money. Regardless, the Parkway Tavern still packs in an impressive amount of Lincoln Parkers and suburbanites on the weekends, all of whom have their minds on drinking and debauchery much to the dismay of the intelligentsia next door at the Bourgeois Pig Café.
Since 1955, the Parkway has been located on Fullerton, just east of Halsted and next to the Corus Bank in Lincoln Park East. A humble wooden sign with gold lettering hangs above forest green awnings stretching between the wooden and glass façade that is two storefronts’ worth of drinkin’. The entire bar itself is located on the first floor of a two-story, white marble building that might look stately if it wasn’t cracked and missing its decorative columns once placed between the sterile, black metal-framed windows on the second floor. On the other hand, the large picture window with “Parkway Tavern” stenciled upon it in gold lettering and the French windows that open out during Summer draw the eye where it should instead be focusing: towards the door to the saloon.
Upon entering the Parkway Tavern, you might feel like you are stepping back in time. A long wooden bar runs along the west end of the room, floor-to-ceiling wood paneling and a worn wooden floor have soaked up more beer than John Daly, the stained glass behind the bar has local college names engraved on it, and a classic Chicago tin ceiling rounds out the décor. Instead of crusty old curmudgeons sitting at the bar enjoying a shot and a beer, you’ll find a rowdy baseball hat-wearing crowd, decked out in their finest Banana Republic glad-rags. While it offers the usual array of brewhaha, the Parkway is notable for an impressive array of specials every day of the week, including $2.50 Bloody Mary pints on Sundays, $0.50 drafts with the purchase of a mug on Mondays (watch out so that no one steals it, cheeky bastards), and $10 bucket-o-bottles on Saturdays. In addition, karaoke night at the Parkway, lubricated by $2.50 pints, once prompted the insightful folks behind Shecky’s Bar, Club & Lounge Guide (2002) to remark: “And, after a couple stiff ones, you just might start to believe that the more you drink the better you sound and get up and show those bozos how its done. Isn’t that how Celine Dion got started?” More importantly, the Parkway Tavern hosts turtle races and $1 bottles on Thursday nights in the spirit of pre-Bar One Deja Vu. If you really want to get nuts towards the end of the week, try a turtle races double-header (of sorts): Parkway Tavern on Thursday and Big Joe’s on Friday. While many enjoy the drink specials at the Parkway, some take issue with the bartenders and their open and well-established “better the tip, the quicker the service” mantra.
Towards the end of the bar is a passage leading to the back room, on your right. Step through this portal and you’ll find the evening’s entertainment, consisting of electronic darts, foosball, pool, Golden Tee, dancing, and the occasional band. This room has the feel of Lakeview Links and Beaumont’s with its bare floors, exposed-brick walls and lack of furniture. On the other hand, instead of people – mostly of age – grooving in front of or on the stage, girls dance on the tables. Speaking of dancing, I am reminded of a story I was once told by a fanatical redheaded girl. It turns out that one of her friends – a good Dutch Christian Reform girl from Michigan, as they all are – spent the better part of a drunken evening dancing on the afore mentioned tables. In doing so, she attracted the fancy of one of Lincoln Park’s finest young men. After a few minutes of chit-chat, she went home with him. Nine months later, she had his baby but could never find him again. Just warms your heart, doesn’t it?
“Time has not been kind to this dingy brute of a bar, which has begun to look like a frat house the morning after a blowout with the Tri-Delts. We came, we saw, we played Golden Tee.”
– The Official Chicago Bar Guide (1994)
The Parkway… First and Last Time for Me! – a Friend’s Tale of Woe
“Last Friday, I was with a few friends at an all you can drink. For some reason, I was jumped by a group of guys. I literally had anywhere from 15 to 20 guys punching the crap out of me just because they didn’t like us. I never got a punch in. Then the bouncer threw me out of the bar and they followed me outside. One of my friends laid some guy out though, while my roommate and another buddy were pulling people off of me. Of course, we ended up at the Green Mill to lick our wounds. Even better, I spent a few hours in the hospital on Saturday, when I got out I went over to my sister’s house and her roommate made me a hot toddy!” Editor’s note: we’re not sure that “hot toddy” refers to the drink but something rather lurid.
While one would be hard-pressed in stating that stories like the one above are anything close to common, they are not surprising all the same at the Parkway Tavern. When you go there, just be in the mood to put up with a bunch of craziness and, for the love of God, bring some condoms! Either that or come during the day on Saturdays in the Fall and enjoy a Fighting Illini game on one of the 10 TVs fed by four satellite feeds, along with free popcorn, and then head over to Lincoln Station up the street for something to eat and a cooler though somewhat less debaucherous crowd. Dance, baby, dance!