Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday List #16-Where to Play Pool in the Chicago Area

When I was a kid, my parents had a summer home in Florida. Once school ended in June, we packed up the car, left Chicago and spent the next 3 months in the small beach town of Gulfport Florida. I spent most summer days at the local community center and my friends and I did what most kids in the early 80's did before computers, internet and cell phones, we swam, fished, sailed, listened to music and hopped from party to party and pool to pool. It was a great way to grow up.

Florida in the summer is about as hot as it gets and Mother Nature thankfully usually sends in a summer shower every afternoon to cool things off. At the community center there was a rec room for rainy afternoons where we could play pool or ping pong, darts, fossball, board games or make arts and crafts. When I was about 12 my friends and I became obsessed with pool. We would play every day for hours, rain or shine. Our pool competitions could get quite serious, fights would break out over the right to "combo" a ball or not and frequently we'd end up playing the counselors for the right to jump off the seawall into the Gulf if we won. We became pool sharks after playing every day all summer until we were about 16 and moved from the community center to friends homes or beach bars.

When I went away to college at Ohio University, playing pool late at night in the bars was as common as anything else we did. It was also a great way to meet guys. A friend and I would stake out a table, play a game until inevitably a guy would walk over, tell us he could show us a thing or do about the game and offer to pay for the next game and buy some beers. Well at that point, we'd make a little wager and easily win their money. Most men just don't expect a woman to know how to play pool.

Chicago is a great town to play pool in (The famous pool hustler movie The Color of Money with Tom Cruise and Paul Newman was filmed in Chicago at Chris's Billiards and Lincoln Tap Room). There are a few nice pool halls, but better yet are the dive bars, with a back room and a nice pool table. So for today's Monday list, here are a few of my favorite places to play pool in the Chicago area.

  1. Pete Miller's in Evanston. I've been playing pool here for 15 years. There are 2 pool tables in the bar area, each one is separated from the main area which makes playing and hanging with your friends easy. Rates are hourly. Great atmosphere and good drinks. I played here about a week ago, the tables are in serious need of updating (rail bumpers and felt are tired) but still worth a play.
  2. Southport Lanes in Chicago. Nice bar in Chicago with a pool room. Rates are hourly, space between tables is kinda tight so you often wait while the person playing next to you is taking their shot. Good bar food, good place.
  3. Glascott's Salon in Chicago. Located in Lincoln Park not far from DePaul University, Glascott's is a good place to play on a weekday afternoon. Only 1 table that still takes quarters. I wouldn't even attempt to play here on a weekend but if you have time to kill on a Tuesday afternoon, this is the place. Plus Glascott's is attached to the fantastic restaurant Athenian Room, good Greek food and great prices.
  4. Rose's Lounge on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. This place is a dive. Blink and you will miss it mixed in with all the trendy bars in the area. Beer is $2 and a game of pool for 3 quarters. Ignore the atmosphere, have fun. Rose might even be there serving you.
  5. Kathy's Lakeside Inn in Lake Zurich. I can never remember the name of this place which is ridiculous since it's so easy so I just refer to it as "that biker place on the lake". Nestled on a tiny lake in the middle of nowhere, but within a 20 minute drive from my house. This place is like visiting someones vacation home in backwoods Wisconsin, comfy, old and friendly. And they make a great grill cheese. Plus it's a nice place to sit and watch the sunset.
Other places to play include the infamous Chris's Billiards on Milwaukee and Marie's Golden Cue, with the best sign of all time, "We have smooth shafts and clean balls."

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