Editor’s Note: PhilosoFur’s closed in 2001, was been replaced by Cherry Red and is now Uncle Fatty’s.
In 1998, PhilosoFur’s replaced the Cue Cub at the corner of Wolfram and Sheffield and went on to become one of the best pool halls on the North Side, rivaling nearby competitors Corner Pocket, Southport Lanes & Billiards and Lucky Strike. Sadly, PhilosoFur’s was replace in 2001 by a bar called “Cherry Red.” Preliminary input on Cherry Red is that it is a bastardized version of PhilosoFur’s, serving outragously-priced drinks and having a club-type atmosphere amongst the pool tables and dart boards.
Located in what used to be a former warehouse, PhilosoFur’s was a “garden-level” bar, a few steps below street level. It could be seen by its maroon awning, decorated with a picture of a white fox with top hat and cane. You’d need your ID ready as you walked through double glass doors and into PhilosoFur’s maroon carpeted expanse, as you’d be sure to be carded by the guy at the games counter. There at the counter was the place to get your pool balls, sticks, and darts.
PhilosoFur’s offered 10 Brunswick Gold Crown III tables and had pretty good house cues. They also have a “Pro Shop” behind the counter where you could buy your own cue at prices ranging from $49 to over $1,000. The main floor had plenty of space to play pool between the giant white columns. Table rental was a bit pricey at $12 per hour, but was only $6 if you were playing alone. Tables were free on Mondays and free for the ladies on Thursdays. Tuesday was league night, so you wouldn’t be able to get a table unless you want to play late-night. PhilosoFur’s also had darts available, for play on one of three regulation boards in the front room. PhilosoFur’s darts where pretty bad, so you’d have to bring your own darts unless you wanted to peg one of the pool players in the head on accident. If you found yourself short on dart supplies, you could head over to Shoes Pub on Armitage beforehand and they’d set you up.
For those not up for pool or darts, or were waiting (quite likely unless you got there before 8:00 p.m.), one could head over to the long oak bar just beyond the Golden Tee and track bowling machines.Seating was avialable in high-backed wooden chairs at the bar or at one of the cocktail tables opposite. PhilosoFur’s had 24 beers on tap (10 taps were added), and had a limited menu of appetizers, wraps and pizza. This menu was slimmed down towards the end. PhilosoFur’s also had two televisions behind the bar that are usually dedicated for NTN trivia. While I love NTN trivia, they needed a to add a third TV behind the bar so that, during the long NTN breaks between rounds and games, you could watch whatever game is on. They did have additional TVs throughout the pool area for sports fans. If you were feeling sophisticated, PhilosoFur’s offered a variety of cigars located in a glass case at the end of the bar. And, if you looked closely, you could see a stuffed version of “PhilosoFur” himself – the white fox with top hat and cane in the logo – on one of the glass shelves propped up with glass blocks behind the bar. PhilosoFur was just above the strange vine with string lights thing running behind the bar and below the giant inflatable crocodile with a Foster’s can in its mouth hanging from the ceiling.
PhilosoFur’s got its name in part from the bar’s furry mascot, as well as from the bar’s philosophical theme. The theme was illustrated by 50 framed quotes adorning the walls from such “philosophers” as Johnny Carson, Marilyn Monroe, David Letterman, Mark Twain, as well as Descartes and Socrates. A friend of mine once got himself a free beer because he could tell that one of the quotes was made by Aristotle. Lucky bastard.
While service on the main floor was pretty good, service at the bar left something to be desired as it is usually very slow even with multiple bartenders. It seems most of the bartenders’ time was spent standing around and catering to orders from the waitresses. Another pet peeve of mine regarding the bar was that if you were sitting at the bar you were sure to kill your knees as they didn’t have a railing to put your feet on. So, between the weak bar service and uncomfortable seating, you could get your fix of NTN and then go play some pool.
Photograph by Michael Betts
If the front room or bar was crowded, you could head to the backroom, which was nicely renovated from its former state. This room offered a back bar, big screen TV, dartboards, more cocktail tables, and another pool table. PhilosoFur’s also had stand-up comedy on Wednesday nights performed by “The Elevated.” The cost of comedy ranged from $3 to $5. This room also served as a place for private parties on most weekends.
PhilosoFur’s was not only one of Chicago’s better pool halls, but was also one of my favorite bars in Chicago. Once, while unemployed, I used to go to PhilosoFur’s every week to have epic battles with a British friend of mine over darts and pool, complimented with several pints of Sierra Nevada. I used to kick his limey ass in darts, and then he kicked my yankee butt in pool. Pool, darts, NTN, and comic relief all helped PhilosoFur’s stand out along this popular drinking corridor along Sheffield that included Brother Jimmy’s (now defunct), Vaughan’s Pub, Star Bar, and Matilda at that time. PhilosoFur’s was the best during the week on Monday, Wednesday or Thursday night when you’d be sure to get a table or a dartboard and was even selected Best Pool by The Official Chicago Bar Guide (2001). Rack ’em up, chief.