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LGBTQ Nightlife at Big Chicks

Michelle Fire opened the Uptown bar, Big Chicks (5024 N. Sheridan Road) on December 11, 1986. From the start Big Chicks has been a neighborly and inclusive LGBTQ-focused watering hole.

 

Fire explained, “Big Chicks has always been a friendly meeting place for gay men and women, neighborhood friendlies, and out of towners. It has a wide range of customer demographics, from age diversity to gender diversity, since the beginning.”

Since the beginning, Fire has also made sure that Big Chicks has been an integral part of Chicago’s LGBTQ and Uptown communities. Big Chicks has sponsored numerous LBGTQ sports teams, held political fundraisers, hosted benefits for numbers AIDS and HIV organizations, offered game nights, and presented artistic performances.

Big Chicks

The popular night spot has also hosted various LGBTQ friendly events including Feast of Fun, Homolatte, a queer all-inclusive dance party, and much more. Because of its longstanding service to the LGBTQ community, in 2016 Big Chicks was inducted in the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame.

 

A Gallery With Cocktails

Big Chicks

Another notable characteristic of Big Chicks is the array of incredible artwork and photography on display. The walls of the bar and its adjoining sister establishment, Tweet, are decorated with over 150 pieces of original art and represent some of the favorite works from Michelle Fire's private collection. The pieces on these gallery walls include numerous artists and photographers from the Chicago art scene as well as those with both national and international acclaim — names such as Leon Golub, Abelardo Morell, Ruth Bernard, Weegee, and Lisette Model.

Tweet

“Many of these artists can be seen in museums around the world,” explained Fire. “It’s fun to have a drink in front of a Diane Arbus photo. Tourists from around the globe come to see the artwork and architecture buffs come to enjoy the original terra cotta façade of the building.”

There is a lot for aficionados of design to see here as well. The full decor of Big Chicks is a stunning work of art — from the neon lighting to the tile design on the floor to the vintage fixtures and furniture. Every inch of this place has been put together with a cohesive aesthetic and an eye for detail.

 

Tweet

Brunch at Tweet Chicago patio

Fourteen years ago, Fire opened the adjoining restaurant, Tweet (5020 N Sheridan Rd), which quickly became and remains one of the north side’s top brunch destinations. The goal of the eatery is the provide the freshest, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and organic meals possible. Fire elaborated, “Tweet, the morning breakfast and lunch sister (to Big Chicks), was opened to serve the neighborhood and its environs a healthy and beautiful breakfast or lunch. I have many favorites on the menu, but the French Toast is right up at the top.”

Other popular items on the healthy and eclectic breakfast and luncheon menu are Chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican dish), the Vegan Southwest Tofu Scramble, The Santa Fe Special, The Portobello Burger, The Croissant Sandwich Platter, Breakfast Burritos, and Abeleskiver (the Danish equivalent of donuts). Tweet also features “Artist Special” meals and a gluten-free menu.

 

For the Tourist

Fire also has some terrific ideas for those visiting Chicago or even for Chicagoans looking to do something different. “Weather dependent, my plans would start with a lakefront walk/bike ride/car trip up Lake Shore Drive to Tweet, to eat and do a self guided tour of the artwork. With the whole day ahead, I would head back downtown.” Fire recommends starting at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington Street) and checking out the beautiful Tiffany mosaics and dome. After this, Fire suggests a “stroll down Michigan Ave, there is the Gage Gallery (18 S. Michigan Avenue), then the Art Institute of Chicago (111. S. Michigan Avenue).”

For lunch and a glass of wine, Fire says the Terzo Piano Restaurant (The Art Institute of Chicago, 159 E. Monroe Street) is lovely. “Then you can walk over to Macy’s (111 N. State Street) and look up at the beautiful mosaic ceiling in the center.” Another of Michelle’s picks for a real Chicago gem is the Cadillac Theater (151 W. Randolph Street) and while you’re there she recommends the back stage tour.

If the weather is cooperative, Fire is also a big fan of the Architectural Boat Tours which is one of the finest ways to get a unique perspective on the city as well as many of Chicago’s loveliest buildings.

“For dinner I would go to Boystown and dine at Yoshi's (3257 N. Halsted Street) or Wood (3335 N. Halsted Street), both are nice spots. Then perhaps a cocktail on the strip. Of course, you could always end up back at Big Chicks for a night of dancing on Fridays and Saturday nights. Bed. Rest. Start again.” Fire, adds that for a gift she would go to Unabridged Bookstore (3251 N. Broadway Street) in Boystown.”

Another neighborhood Fire highly recommends is Pilsen which has some of the finest street murals in the city. “Pilsen also has great restaurants.” One of Fire’s favorites is Nuevo Leon (3657 W. 26th Street). When visiting Pilsen, she also recommends The Mexican Art Museum (1852 W. 19th Street) which Fire feels “is one of the best museums in the city.”

 

Big Chicks is one of the friendliest and most welcoming bars in Chicago. This nightspot has been an institution in Chicago’s LGBTQ and Uptown communities for decades. Plus, if you’re in town for a visit and the timing is right, Big Chicks even has a decades old tradition of a complimentary Sunday BBQ. Learn more at bigchicks.com.

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