A couple of weekends ago, we were out with some friends on the west side getting some drinks, listening to live music and enjoying the night. As often happens in Chicago, 2am sneaks up on you, but you're not ready to go home.
None of us lived on the west side, so it was time to go somewhere closer to home, but where? We weren't aware of any late night spots in the Sloop, but thought to give Reggie's (2109 S. Sate) a call. We looked them up on our phone, gave them a shout but unfortunately it was closing time. Luckily someone at Reggie's did pick up the phone and suggested a bar called George's Cocktail Lounge on Wabash and Balbo (646 S. Wabash).
We like to think that we know a lot about the neighborhood, but have never heard of George's and we've walked by that intersection a thousand times. Regardless, we were intrigued so it was off to George's Cocktail Lounge. As our cab sped down Congress, I couldn't help but try to think of what this place might be. As we arrived and saw the sign it all made sense...sort of.
You've probably walked or driven by George's Cocktail Lounge many times, but never ever thought twice about going in. From the exterior it looks like a run down liquor store and to be fair, it actually is. However, as we strolled in at about 2:30am lo and behold it was also a bar, with a decent amount of characters enjoying the early morning.
To say George's is a 'lounge' is comical. It's more like a liquor store, with tables that allow people to stay and drink past the typical 2pm closing time. It has popcorn and a big screen projector TV from the late 90s. As we walked in, the scene was interesting. The bartender, who we presumed was a 40ish year old woman of Eastern European decent, was yelling and angrily cutting off three Hispanic men (who understandably quickly got up and left the establishment).
As I approached the bar to get a pitcher of beer, the bartender quickly looked over me and started yelling at a foreigner standing next to me (why? I have no clue). The bartender and foreigner awkwardly tried to converse for 20 second before I stepped in and started talking to the foreigner to break up this sad attempt at communication.
The foreigner was a late 50 year old man from Finland and his English was spotty (however presumably better then my Finnish). Once I got the pitcher of beer, I went back to a table where my friends were sitting. I invited the foreigner to our table because he was having trouble staying out of trouble (not completely his fault, just that the bartender couldn't really communicate with him).
Our Finnish friend was excited to talk with us and as a result proceeded to give us his perspective on life, Chicago, the US, women, rural life, marriage, hockey, and on and on. It was pretty entertaining, but after 45 minutes it began to be a little much. Luckily for us, some floozy (who was spending most of the time 'talking' to his Finnish friend) grabbed our Finnish friend and started dancing. Wow was that a hilarious sight!
As 3:30ish came, we figured it was about time to leave. It goes without saying but the place left an impression on us. Although it's a little dicey and not classiest joint in the Sloop, it definitely has character and is what I would consider the epitome of a dive bar.
So if you're ever looking to keep the night going after 2pm in the Sloop we highly suggest checking out George's Cocktail Lounge. You might be a little scared, but you will definitely be entertained!