A line of beer taps at the bar at Risqué Café
Risqué Café, in Lake View

Ah, the fiascos of New Year’s Eves past. Readers, allow The Chaser a gander down memory lane:

2008: Attended a house party in Lake View with an ex. Everyone was married; the two of us were mostly off-again. After a terrifyingly awkward zero-eye-contact moment right around 11:59:59 p.m., I slipped out to look for a cab on Southport Avenue. How do you think that turned out? If you’re guessing the night ended in New Year’s tears, you are correct.

2009: Proceeded to Carnivale with two friends in tow to direct a midnight photo shoot. The place, always huge and echo-y, was filled with stilt walkers and all sorts of mayhem. I’d lost my voice a couple of days before, so beseeching party-goers to turn their heads this way and that when all they really wanted to do was toss back another shot proved to be pure torture. At approximately 12:34:52 a.m., my friends and I huddled on the Fulton Market sidewalk, desperately scanning for a cab. How do you think that turned out? The photographer made an extra $25 to drive us home.

2010: Despite my friend Jenny’s pleas to join her at a Playboy party attended by 1,500 revelers at the Chicago Hilton, I exercised an incredible amount of common sense and stayed home to stir up a pot of lentil-sausage soup and watch the ball drop alone. Jenny texted that the party was a nightmare, she had waited in line at the bar for an hour, and she had slipped and fallen on a patch of ice, so I was feeling pretty smug around 12:47:25 a.m. Then, a different ex texted something along the lines of: “Hey, havnt seen u in a while im in chitown wanna met up?” Fueled by the aforementioned smugness, I forwarded the missive directly to his then-girlfriend, who was no doubt sitting right next to the drunkenly swaying oaf. “Ugh, it makes me sick to look at his lying face,” was the gist of her reply. She married him the following spring.

Now, let’s talk 2011. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s this: DO NOT GO OUT ON NEW YEAR’S EVE. Do you want to get into a high-drama fight with your date while attempting to flag the one available cab in all of Chicago? Do you want to cry on a sidewalk, shivering in your sequined dress in below-freezing temps? Do you want to meet a patch of ice in your night-out heels and fall on your ass? Do you want to drop hundreds of dollars on cocktails and spend the first day of what’s supposed to be the best year of your life nursing the worst hangover in history?

I didn’t think so. The Chaser’s advice: Go out on New Year’s Eve Eve (i.e., Thursday) and spend the next night snuggling on the couch with a loved one or a cherished pet. Or go out on New Year’s Day and (smugly) raise your glass to a new year of wise decision-making.

A few suggestions:

Football fans, the bowl games take over River North on New Year’s Day. At the hood’s newest flat-screen mecca, Moe’s Cantina, the games will be broadcast on 23 screens, and brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Similar sports-focused scenarios will be underway at nearby English, where $10 gets you a burger and any domestic bottle, and at LaSalle Power Co., which aims to lure fans with $15 you-call-it buckets and games on its mammoth 187-inch plasma video wall.

If the thought of watching sports all day makes your brain feel like it’s going to explode, spend New Year’s Eve Eve at the Empty Bottle in Ukrainian Village. On Thursday night, you’ll “get your skull crushed by local hardcore heroes” Chicago Thrash Ensemble, a band that claims to take ’80s thrash metal to the next level and will no doubt send your 2010 packing with a bang (admission is $8). For a less intense early-bird option, try Beauty Bar’s West Town Holiday Fest, featuring food from neighborhood eateries, rock and soul spun by DJ Ryan Weinstein, and a hosted bar from 7 to 8 p.m. (Admission is free when you RSVP to chicagorsvp@thebeautybar.com, with “WEST TOWN” in the subject line.)

If you refuse to heed my warning and end up getting hammered on NYE, a hangover brunch the following day should help pull you out of the gutter. At Risqué Café in Lake View, an all-you-can-eat shrimp boil is $10 per person (Old Style and Old Style Light bottles are $3) and starts at 3 p.m. And at The Drawing Room in the Gold Coast, a Breakfast for Dinner menu runs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. with offerings such as a short stack of buckwheat pancakes with a side of Kansas City–style links for $12. For those who want to start the new year the same way they ended the old, brunchy cocktails are $12.


Photograph: Jeff Schear