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Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts Entertainment Chicago Illinois
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Dark Days and Blue Ribbon Nights at the L&L
Originally named for Lefty & Lauretta, now it's more like Live & Learn...
Monday Jan 15, 2007.     By Karl Klockars
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Lakeview's L&L Tavern has long been a watering hole for the seedier section of the central North Side. But once you get past the dark room and the somewhat surly exterior, you'll find that it can be one of the homiest joints in town. With a decades-long history, the L&L is home to cheap booze, cheaper beers and the city's largest selections of Irish whiskey.

The L&L has been named one of the best dive bars in the nation by the frat-tastic legions of Stuff Magazine (who, we assume, at least knows its bar lifestyle) but don't hold that against the place. Proprietor/bartender Ken Frandsen took a few minutes from slinging PBRs ("cheapest in the city," he likes to add) to address a couple rumors, discuss game-show drinking and list a couple other favorite watering holes.

The best drink in the house is: A frosty longneck bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon, of course. And it's the most popular. But I'd pair it up with a shot of Powers Irish Whiskey, if I was given my druthers. But that's just me.

Patrons might score a free drink if: We frown on the 'free birthday' cocktail, because then you get people that are just walking down the block trying to cadge free drinks. If you're a regular we'll throw you a free drink for your birthday, but if you're here regularly, we take care of you enough anyways. I'm apprehensive of someone trying to get a free drink when our whiskey of the month is $3 and a beer is $2...I mean, you can get pretty buzzed for 20 bucks, including tip!

But we do Final Jeopardy every day. If you get the final question right, we get you a free drink. And I shit you not: we have a guy that cheats. And he only drinks cans of Busch! They're $1.75! [laughs] It's like, what's the point? Every day at six minutes to 4 p.m., people will run in and ask "Is it the final question yet?"

Little known fact about this joint: The question is, who's the next serial killer who drinks here? We've got our eyes on a couple guys. When Dahmer was arrested, [L&L employee] Frankie—who Dahmer hit on—said "Oh my god! That's the guy that used to drink in the corner by the window and 'chickenhawk' [watch for young men at] the Dunkin Donuts across the street!" And John Wayne Gacy showed up in full clown outfit back in the '70s.

For good grub before or after a shift, you hit up: socca, which is one block north [of the L&L]. Best hanger steak in town. If I just want a fast nosh, I'll go to Clark St. Dog at Halsted and Clark.

When you're not boozing here, you prefer to patronize: Beat Kitchen. They've got great food, and great staff. Plus, if necessary, I can crawl home.

Another bartender/owner we should know is: The father-daughter combo at Friar Tuck is great. "Cricket" is her nickname; her and Dominic have a great little bar. Another undiscovered gem is the fabulous Millie's on Wellington, two blocks east of Damen. They're a tiny little place with flocked black and red wallpaper like something you'd see in Vegas and the worst men's bathroom in the city—you can see your breath in there in the winter. It was an ice cream place during the depression. You should get there quick—as soon as the woman who owns it passes away, her kids are most likely going to sell it for the land.