A Wild Goose Chase with Pals Old and New in North Center

Last night I resolved not to let a drop of alcohol pass my lips. The previous night’s cocktail tasting at Bridge Bar was more imbibing than I’d usually do before midweek, so I sautéed up a piece of mango salmon and settled in with the remote, happy to catch up on my Glee stockpile…

The sign outside Wild Goose Bar and Grill
Wild Nights Are Calling: the Goose, in North Center

Last night I resolved not to let a drop of alcohol pass my lips. The previous night’s cocktail tasting at Bridge Bar was more imbibing than I’d usually do before midweek, so I sautéed up a piece of mango salmon and settled in with the remote, happy to catch up on my Glee stockpile.

Then came a text: “At goose bar at cullom and lincoln with dave if you want to come up.”

It was from Billy, a college-to-mid-20s boyfriend with whom I remain on friendly terms. So friendly, in fact, that he recently purchased a three-flat directly across the street from my apartment where he will soon reside, with living room windows facing directly into mine. This is one small town.

Anyway, I figured it couldn’t hurt to walk up the block for one beer at Wild Goose, a close-to-home bar I had yet to check out.

Billy (apparently known as Bill to everyone in Chicago but me) was there with Dave (his coworker) and Julie (Dave’s wife), who, I learned, are also neighbors of mine. Another discovery: Billy and Dave had prefaced the outing with several shots of Fighting Cock Kentucky bourbon, which placed them on a different conversational plane than us ladies. I ordered the Tuesday night special, $2 Labatt’s on draft, pulled out my notebook, and informed the table that anything said was fair game for this column.

The Bulls-watching crowd was light and mercifully low-key, but Julie and Dave—Wild Goose regulars—said it’s a different story on Thursdays ($3 appetizers, $3 drafts, $3 call drinks). “You won’t see an open seat,” reported Dave, who, moments before, had inadvertently barged into the women’s restroom.

Despite our waitress’s steady delivery of Labatt’s and, for the guys, ever more bourbon, the conversation remained mostly on an even keel. I only had to hiss my most insistent “Shhhhhhhhh!” two or three—or seven—times, and much of the discussion centered on the North Center neighborhood, of which we are all now residents and/or homeowners.

“Do you think it’s ‘North Center’ or ‘Northcenter’?” I mused.

“Northcenter, one word? That’s dumb,” my companions scoffed. “It’s definitely two words.”

(Note: “North Center” versus “Northcenter” has been a source of debate between The Creative Director and me, so this morning I finally put in a call to the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce. They explained that “Northcenter” refers to the neighborhood as established prior to World War II, and “North Center” applies to a “community area” designated by the University of Chicago in the 1920s and ’30s. The parameters of Northcenter and North Center are different but encompass much of the same territory. It was a helpful, if confusing, explanation, and the upshot is either one works. Kinda.)

Billy brought up a nearby place called Goldies Bar ($1 PBR all day, every day), where he was once told that a pole in the middle of the room is the geographic center of North Center. “Do you think that’s true?” I wondered. No one knew.

Then I fished for which other bars everyone likes in the hood, and got Tiny Lounge (“It’s unique,” Julie said) and Bowman’s (“Have drinks, not food”). The entry that elicited the most enthusiasm was Lincoln Restaurant (4008 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-248-1820), a combo restaurant/breakfast spot/dive bar that got high marks for its Monday banjo nights.

“It’s like an 18- or 20- or maybe 25-piece band!” boomed Billy, who ran down the list of instruments involved (“Harmonica! Guitar!”) in an effort to demonstrate that not everyone in the band plays the banjo.

Leaving them to debate whether or not Dave should eventually take over Lincoln Restaurant’s banjo night, despite the obstacles of his neither owning nor playing a banjo, I got up to research the aforementioned restroom. The stalls were so tiny I had to flatten myself, mouse-style, to squeeze inside. And then I looked up and saw it—a bar first for The Chaser: a chain-pull flush. They’ve got to be pulling my chain, I thought. Now that’s what I call neighborhood charm.



3 years ago
Posted by Donna-Northcenter


Thanks for the article highlighting some of spots here in the Northcenter (one word!) neighborhood. I happen to live in the Northcenter neighborhood. And from your article, you and your friends do too. I love living in Northcenter. The Lincoln Restaurant is my favorite place for breakfast on the weekends. There’s lots of great places to eat and enjoy a night out with friends. We even have some great small theaters. Ribfest Chicago here in Northcenter kicks off summer and we have a series of free outdoor summer concerts in Northcenter Town Square. Who couldn’t enjoy living in the Northcenter neighborhood.

I can only guess you haven’t lived in Chicago (or Northcenter) long enough to understand the difference between “community area” and “neighborhoods.” Community areas are kind of like Wards with names---big chucks of the city divided up and given names a long time ago. And the chamber was correct in telling you that “North Center” as two words refers to a much larger “community area.” The North Center community area runs from Diversey on the south, north to Montrose and east to Ravenswood Ave. Ever been to some of the places in Roscoe Village, just south of us? Well, Roscoe Village is in the North Center community area as well. I can’t image you writing, “Roscoe Village or North Center, either one works,” and not expect someone to be upset.

The Northcenter “neighborhood” is just one small part of the greater community area, from Addison on the south, Montrose on the north, California on the west to Ashland and Clark on the east. We hardly encompass much of the same territory as the North Center community area. As a matter of fact, east of Ravenswood Ave. is a “community area” named Lake View (two words). Just so happens that a small quadrant of the Northcenter neighborhood is in the Lake View community area. And while the community area of Lake View is two words, I am sure the residents of the Lakeview (note, one word) and Lakeview East (one word again) neighborhoods that are within the Lake View community area, prefer to have their neighborhoods spelled correctly too, as one word, regardless of whether it seems incorrect, odd, awkward or otherwise.

If you go the City of Chicago site and look up community maps, you’ll find the listings for North Center and Lake View, as well as Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park, Uptown and the other community areas in Chicago. However, you won’t find Roscoe Village, Andersonville, Ravenswood, Northcenter (as one word), Lakeview (as one word), Wriggleyville, West Lakeview, or any of the other multitude of small neighborhoods that are within the larger community areas.

Each one of these individual, small neighborhoods has its own identity and charm. Some neighborhoods have the same name (spelling included) as the greater community area, like Jefferson Park and Lincoln Square. Others, like Northcenter and Lakeveiw spell our neighborhood names differently. That doesn’t mean “either one works.”

Two years ago, I did research on the Northcenter neighborhood for the chamber’s annual community guide. Guess what I found at the Sultzer Library? A folder full of clippings from a neighborhood newspaper---Northcenter News. Yep, that’s right, spelled as one word. In a December 29, 1971 page one article, it stated that in "1925 Northcenter News opened its office at 1940 W. Irving Park Road and in 1967 moved to 3903 N. Lincoln Ave." Throughout the clippings every reference to anything within the neighborhood was spelled as Northcenter, one word. Granted the newspaper is now defunct, but as a writer for a publication, you should give some merit to the fact the neighborhood had a thriving, local newspaper and spelled our neighborhood name as one word.

Next time you’re at the Wild Goose, take a walk across the street to the large grocery store. In big letters, right on the front of the building you’ll see that is it is Jewel, Northcenter (one word again) Chicago. And if you live in the neighborhood, I can’t imagine you haven’t seen the numerous banners with Northcenter on them, the big Northcenter flag flying at the intersection of Lincoln, Damen, and Irving Park, or the window placards in numerous stores and restaurants throughout the neighborhood asking residents to Shop Local, Shop Northcenter. Obviously, to us, either one doesn’t work.

3 years ago
Posted by TCD

Very informative, Don Na!

3 years ago
Posted by Cory

Donna, is douche bag one word or two? Actually, you were incorrect with so much of your condescending, pretentious response that I doubt you'd know the answer to that question. So next time you're out at any of the neighborhood spots you mentioned, just go back home to your cats and do some additional research before you waste your time attempting to correct someone while making a fool of yourself. You'reanidiot or you're an idiot, it's all the same to us in ALL of North Center.

3 years ago
Posted by Killaflav

Cory, I hate to say it but you're actually wrong. The distinguishing between Northcenter as a neighborhood and North Center as a community area is correct. I am affiliated with the organization in Northcenter that has been instrumental in making the distinction between the two. So please check your own facts before making such malicious claims as to call Donna names. Thanks.

3 years ago
Posted by yikes

wow. donna's tone makes me a bit embarrassed that i live in that area and we're represented by attitude like that. amalie, the story made me laugh, lighthearted, thanks. your neighbors aren't all full of sass like her. some of us actually just enjoy living and experiencing the neighborhood no matter what it is 'supposed' to be called.

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