When Ivy on Clark shut down, not many tears were shed for the solid but otherwise unremarkable sports bar set amongst sports bars. When Rebel Bar & Grill opened, many understandably felt: “Great—another Wrigleyville sports bar,” as just about every property between Roscoe and Addison has been converted into a drinking den worshipping the Cubs and light beer. Though its beer selection reflects the preferences of the average Cub fan, the pub grub is a cut above adjacent alternatives, the DJs know how to get the place jumpin’ after the game and on weekends, and the 60-ounce Mike Tyson Punch-Out is bound to set you on your ass so make sure your friends are functional enough to pull you into a cab afterwards.
Rebel Bar & Grill is located on the west side of Clark, just north of Newport and in-between an indoor parking lot and Rockwood Place (formerly Central). The black-painted façade with red trim makes the place stand out on this part of the block. Step through the plate-glass door and you’ll find a room more spacious than you would expect, starting with a smattering of cocktail tables in front of folding windows that slide open on warm days and steel piping to hold in wobbly patrons. A seldom-appreciated, century-old ornate wooden bar that made its way up from a neighborhood tavern in St. Louis runs half the length of the northern wall with high-backed wooden barstools, and lies opposite a black banquette and additional cocktail tables running all the way down the southern wall. A DJ stand lies just beyond the bar, where residents spin a loud Top 40-Indie mash-up from Thursday through Saturday. The surprisingly spacious restrooms are located down the narrow hallway, just before the kitchen. The burgundy-painted walls feature black & white photos of famous “rebels” such as James Dean, Jack Nicholson, Mike Ditka, and a nice shot of the Cubs’ Michael Barrett slugging the Sox’ AJ Pierzynski. A wooden floor and black-painted cement ceiling with exposed ductwork rounds out the décor. Private parties upstairs accommodate about 150 with a bar resurrected from its long residency at the now-defunct Tequila Roadhouse.
Former Tequila Roadhouse Bar
If you’re hungry, you’ve found the right place. The mini-burgers are crowd favorites, but the buffalo chicken egg rolls are phenomenally good (and a meal unto themselves), while the turkey-on-pretzel concoction with dijon mustard and buffalo chicken sandwich are pub favorites, as are the hand-packed, half-pound Rebel Burgers ($2 with fries on Wednesdays). One reason the food is a step above its Wrigleyville brethren at Rebel Bar & Grill is that all meat comes from purveyor JDY Meats based in Lincoln Square and in business for over 35 years. Those with a sweet tooth are doomed: the “Cookie Monster” is the only dessert item and consists of a sadistically alluring, plate-sized chocolate chip cookie, served fresh from the oven and topped with ice cream & whipped cream—it’s large enough for a party of five, but we know you’ll put it away single-handedly… Don’t worry, there’s always Weight Watchers.
We wish the beer selection were more expansive, but good beer is sadly not in high demand ’round these parts though we love the $3 Fat Tire drafts on Monday nights when all pints are priced at PBR prices with a basket of 10 wings for $3 to match. The ladies may appreciate a few whites and reds by the glass, and you’ll also find a few single malts. If, for some reason, the ten 16-ounce beers you drank at Wrigley weren’t enough, the 60-ounce Mike Tyson Punch-Out—served in a giant glass goblet—will take you out. It may taste innocuous, but they don’t call it “punch” for nuthin’… The staff is surprisingly attentive to boot, which always makes the libations flow more freely…
As you would guess, the crowd on gamedays consists of drunken Cub fans somehow able to meander this far down Clark without urinating publicly and being picked up by the police, while on other days Rebel attracts a loyal crew of neighborhood regulars and softball/kickball teams, including Illini fans for football and basketball with 32-ounce Illini mugs and $5 O&Os (Bacardi Orange and orange soda), and you’ll even find a few UNLV fans from time to time, drawn by the name of the bar… Bears fans congregate at Rebel on Sundays ($4 Cutler Bombs, and Da Bears Crew upstairs) with a few Chargers fans thrown in for geographic balance and NFL Sunday Ticket to cover everything else. Eighteen flatpanel TVs ensure you’ll never miss any action. Tuesday nights in the off-season feature industry night with guest bartenders, and Wednesday nights feature trivia night with “Jeremy” as your host and prizes as your compensation. Some speak of past “mailbox nights” where everyone gets a number and other patrons leave semi-anonymous “letters” for you, as announced by the DJ, but we’ve not had the fortune to experience this for ourselves.
While my initial impression was that Rebel Bar & Grill might appeal to the chopper-oriented crowd of Twisted Spoke or Delilah’s, the “rebelliousness” of this bar instead stems from offering something better for the same price (or less with specials) as everything around it. Opened in March 2008, Rebel Bar & Grill is brought to you by the same people behind Waterhouse and Bluelight (and who also originated Matisse and Bowman’s). For more information, check out the Rebel Bar & Grill website. Until next time, just remember the words of the original rebel, James Dean: “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”