It's Tuesday night, a thousand miles north of the Mason Dixon, and you've got five bucks and the unshakable urge to hear some down-home banjo pluckin'. Worry, not: Duke's has got you covered. Lurking underneath the L track, this tiny Rogers Park
bar holds its own as the place to be on any night of the week; because sometimes you want to go where there's never a cover charge, parking is free, the drinks are dirt-cheap and the regulars have been glued to their barstools for the better part of a decade. Four large televisions tuned to the game hover above the extra-long bar that dominates the room, but an enormous sign demanding that, “hippies use the back door,” sits as the focal point of the space. Indeed, Duke's is a honky-tonk for the rest of us.
When it comes to country-fried tunes, Duke's serves them up piping hot and sour-mashed, regularly hosting local bluegrass, Americana, country and blues bands on a tiny stage. If you'd rather do your drinking before the sun goes down, the jukebox stocks all the Hank, Johnny, Merle and Patsy you can handle. Fridays feature $2 shots, which suits Duke's; it's nothing if not a whiskey-drinker's bar. Sunday mornings find the barmaid pumping out $2 bloodies to hungover saps singing quietly along to whatever heart-breaking songs that spill out of the juke.
With all the romance of a local dive, the credibility of an underground music venue and enough colorful banter amongst the barflies to keep you off Cheers reruns for life, Duke's is a neighborhood tavern that just keeps on giving.
Centerstage Reviewer: K. Tighe