Chicago’s Greektown neighborhood in the West Loop is rather small, but it does offer a few good bars with Spectrum Bar & Grill being one of them. While Spectrum won’t make anyone’s “Best Bar” list, one would be hard pressed to get a better gyro in any pub in the city. In addition, Spectrum’s atmosphere is quite conducive for watching any of Chicago’s finest sports teams.
Somewhat outside of present-day Greektown, near Clark and Kinzie, was the destination for over 1,000 Greeks that settled there primarily from Laconia and Arcadia in Greece to help rebuild after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. And, like the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, a mass exodus occurred from Greece in the 1890’s due primarily to the tumble of currant prices. Vile weed! However, Greece’s loss was Chicago’s gain as a large number of destitute farmers descended upon the city, in a triangular area bordered by Halsted, Harrison, Blue Island, and Polk Streets. This area was so dense with Greeks that it was nicknamed “The Delta.” This area thrived until the 1950’s when Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley when most Greektown residents were ousted to make way for the construction of the Eisenhower Expressway (I290) and the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle Campus. Today, all that remains of Greektown is centered between Madison and Van Buren on Halsted. Even with its dramatic reduction in size, Greektown retains much of its initial flavor, due in large part to being revitalized in time for the 1996 Democratic National Convention by Mayor Richard M. Daley – perhaps as a way to make up for the sins of his father. In addition, a smaller version of Greektown is intermingled with German restaurants, bars and delis in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.
Spectrum Bar & Grill is located near the corner of Adams and Halsted Streets in the heart of present-day Greektown. To find it, keep an eye out for a lighted green and white awning beneath a large neon cocktail glass and “Spectrum Bar & Grill” sign in letters that look like they were drawn by a small child. While the building above looks a tad run down, Spectrum sparkles with its fresh coat of red painted-brick and plate glass windows choc-a-bloc with neon beer signs and team logos. Step through the glass door and you’ll find a large room with parquet flooring, dominated by a rectangular bar lined with faux copper and stone that juts out from the east wall. A small army of glassware hangs above the bar from brass fixtures and reflect the glow from the string of mini lighted Beck’s bottles adorning the overhang. A mirrored bar backdrop on the east wall compliments the mirrored columns with white string lights. These disco posts hold up a white drop ceiling from which a few plants hang.
Grab a seat at one of the beige-padded, high-backed metal chairs at the bar or at one of the cocktail tables that overlook Halsted near the front windows. From either locale, you can catch Bulls and Blackhawks games from one of a few satellite-fed televisions around the room or on the big screen against the east wall. Between commercials, relive the glory years of the Bulls and their remarkable six NBA championship seasons by having a gander at the framed newspaper headlines around the room proclaiming “Bulls Win!” Feeling restless? Have a game of darts on the electronic dartboard up front or along the east wall, at the Pop-a-Shot basketball, or on the Golden Tee machine located next to the wall-mounted jukebox on the north wall. Hungry? Several Greek specialties including gyros, chicken pitas and other, more traditional pub grub fare dot the menu and cute young Greek waitresses take care of the nightly crowds made up of old Greek regulars, younger UIC students, and the occasional North Sider like myself. “Happy Hour Buffet” is featured Monday through Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
My recommendation: head over to Greektown and start off with an order of dolmades (grape leaves filled with seasoned ground beef and rice, topped with a lemon-based sauce) and wash it down with a couple three Mythos across the street at Parthenon. There, you can also enjoy a round of coffee ground readings by Demetria Nanos every Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Hopefully, yours will be better than mine: “don’t let others interfere with your relationship, protect your family, guard against thieves and con artists, executive or manager is unbearable and cannot be toppled without help, watch out for territorial behavior at work and pulling rank.” Fortunately, I also got: “friend has secrets but trusts you to help him – he can help you as well” and “much love and affection increases with time.” I think you was throwing me a bone on the last one. In addition to Parthenon, there are other popular favorites like Athena and the Greek Islands located nearby, and then head over to Spectrum to get a your nightcap and your Golden Tee fix, to adjust for the culture shock no matter how subtle. If you still don’t feel like turning in or are up for late-night action on the weekend, hang out with Chicago’s finest one block up Halsted at Dugan’s or try to hit on the Greek crowd at nearby Barrel Cafe or Cafe Kallisto. For more information, check out Spectrum website. Opa!