photo: Courtesy of Nick Flandro
The Rainbo Club screams dive from the street, but those who slink inside find a hallowed bohemian hideaway that's changed little in the past seven decades. Snug booths huddle along one wall under work by local artists, and a small stage just behind the clover-shaped bar conjures images of bygone burlesque. Actually, polka ruled the Rainbo when it opened back in 1936, and these days you're more likely to see jazz, rap or poetry when the stage is used at all.
Most nights locals congregate for quiet, casual conversation, often with toddlers and pets in tow. When Friday rolls around though, be prepared to shout, crammed elbow-to-elbow with a hundred of your closest friends. Much has been said about a snooty, art-school vibe, but I didn't see it. Indie kids in signature too-tight tees mix with shaggy hoodrats, carefully tousled twenty-somethings and Northsiders slumming in expensive shirts (open a little too far at the collar). Bartenders pick music as eclectic as the crowd, so expect anything from the Stones to Sinatra to Tchaikovsky's first concerto.
The no-nonsense staff will grease your gears for starving artist prices. Choose from a decent tap selection at $3.50 a pint or grab a tall mixed call at $3.75. The short bottle of Chimay was a pleasant surprise and $3 rum and Cokes go down a little too easily. Come early if you want to sit and be sure to bring cash because credit cards aren't welcome here. Besides, you'll need change at the photo booth for those fuzzy pics you won't remember taking in the morning.
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Foreman