We understand that sometimes a late night turns into an early morning. We also know that there are many dedicated third-shift workers for whom "evening" equals "to-work commute drudgery." And we'll admit that sometimes you (ahem, we) just need to get started early.
We would never condone any kind of alcohol abuse, nor suggest that life is best gone through while drunk and stupid. However, in the interest of complete service journalism, we do realize that if—if—you want to get an early start on things, you might need to fill up with some chow at the same time. Now, for your bleary-eyed perusal, Centerstage's favorite A.M. shots-and-sausages joints:
The Classic: Billy Goat III Often overlooked by locals and tourists alike, this South Loop outpost of the original Goat is part bar, part grill, all smoke and grease and boozy cheer. Believe it or not, the bar here opens at 6 a.m. and stays open as long as you do (and longer), closing anywhere from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., depending on the crowd. For people who actually want to eat, this Goat is far preferable to the Michigan location, due to the simple fact that you can actually order. Rather than have "do-ble cheez! Do-ble cheese!" shouted at you as you walk through the door, you can choose steak and eggs for $6.25 or get odious with salami and eggs for $3.95.
The Diner, With Beer: Old Timer's Restaurant and Bar "We're open for breakfast at 6 a.m., but if someone wants a drink early, we'll serve 'em," is how Old Timer's owner explains its drinking attitude. If you want a Budweiser with your Gypsy Skillet, more power to you. You can even attempt some sort of healthy meal with the triple-decker Breakfast Club Sandwich special: two eggs, lettuce, tomato and turkey sausage patties on toast. Also featured are Greek-diner specialties like gyros omelets and eggs with corned beef hash. Located at Lake and Michigan, Old Timer's has $3 domestic bottles every day, and daily specials like $6 pitchers are certain to make even the harshest of hash browns go down smooth.
IBG at UIC: Illinois Bar & Grill UIC students and near-South Siders need early options as well, and the blandly-named Illinois Bar and Grill on West Taylor answers with an 8 a.m. open time. IBC serves up $7 pitchers and $2.50 domestic bottles, and the breakfast menu boasts some hardcore omelets: the Chicago "makes Denver look like a small mountain town," claims the menu. With five eggs, ham, green peppers, onions and a generous amount of cheddar cheese, this dish alone dwarfs lesser plates. Bonus points for having one of the most evil phone numbers in the city: (312)-666-6666.
Cocktails With The Scantily Clad: Crabbby Kim's Bikini Sports Bar The cream of the early-morning crop has to be Crabbby Kim's (perhaps the extra "B" stands for "Breakfast"?) at Western and Addison, where the bartenders are barely dressed and the beers flow early. Patrons (usually blue-collar diners) file in starting at 7 a.m. and the grill stays open all day. The wood-paneled interior and hanging surfboards scream "rec room," but the beers are cheap ($3 domestics daily) and the hours make this an oft-ignored destination.
The Diner, Part Two: Now Further North! Lincoln Restaurant A North Center favorite for years, Lincoln has a hammerlock on all things Abe: from the gaze of our 16th President peering down as you enter to the wall of pennies, Mr. Lincoln is well represented inside Lincoln, on Lincoln. And while most people associate the diner with quality breakfast skillets, variety shows and steins of soda, shock and amazement: there's a bar in there! It's only a few seats long, so show up early or hunker down in a booth anytime after 6 a.m. Beers come cheap: $2.75 for domestic bottles, $2.50 for 12-ounce drafts. Pair with some Civil-war themed omelets, and your early morning tour de beers is finished.