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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.

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