Smoking ban, we don't need no stinking smoking ban. Indeed, the Charleston was one of the first bars in Chicago to voluntarily go smoke-free even before the alderman got around to snuffing out cigs. Just one more notch in the belt of this ultimate neighborhood spot, a homey lair with an ancient wooden back bar, a classic cash register, and plenty of bourbon and beer to quench the thirst of North Bucktowners.
Actually, the Charleston's appeal extends far beyond the neighborhood borders, thanks to an annual summer block party (featuring a huge Weber grill cookout and street volleyball) and a cheap pool table year-round (50 cents on the honor system, just clank your quarters into the coffee can). As a cathedral to rest weary bones and tired minds, it draws folks from across the city in addition to its share of local hipsters and grizzled regulars.
Weekend nights usually see a gathering of the mandolin and guitar set for a quiet bluegrass throwdown amidst the bizarre decor, which includes stuffed armadillos, a ramís head lamp, carved cupids and a photo of Fidel Castro.
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant