There was a time when River North
wasn't all skyscrapers and high-priced restaurants. There was no Martini Park, there was no California Pizza Kitchen, and there sure as hell wasn't any ESPN Zone. But there was – and still is – Rossi's Liquors, nestled in between high-rises on State Street.
Sometimes a dive bar isn't really a dive bar, and in shiny fresh River North you'd expect a gritty-looking place like Rossi's to actually charge $6 a beer. But Rossi's is the real deal, with High Lifes for just $3, Bell's bottles for $4 and cheap shots of fruit-flavored liquor for another $3. A small cooler stocks six-packs for commuters, a door opens onto the alley for quick escapes, and the slamming of the screen door signals another patron.
Bellied up to the semi-circular bar throughout the day are the career drinkers and construction workers next to the skyscraper slaves with their loosened ties and their whiskey and cokes. Bad jokes get told, rough-neck elbows rub with expensive suits and arguments erupt over Jeopardy answers at 3:30. Cardboard signs and lighted markerboards instruct patrons to the specials and ropes of Christmas lights cast a colored glow year-round.
Rossi's is a good bar, just one that seems to have locked itself into the mid-'80s, save for the lack of smoke and the addition of the internet juke box. Not that that's a bad thing – at least there's one place in River North where you can get liquored up for $20, then stumble up to the Grand Red Line stop, or down to drink in the riverfront skyline.
Centerstage Reviewer: Karl Klockars