Cal’s Liquors, at 400 S. Wells, has been closed for many months. I’ve been waiting with trepidation to see whether this old, iconic, one-story building would be demolished. More
The Brown Line snakes through River North toward the Merchandise Mart on a frigid day. The temperature is lifting toward zero in a city snoozier than usual, one just beginning to stir after a paralyzing storm.
The backside of buildings opposite the Mart comes into view as the train snakes along. Snow outlines their fire-escapes, a perilous set of spiral stairs, garbage waiting to be collected by crews that, because of the weather, probably won’t arrive. The normally bright windows of the design lofts are dark, their workers safe at home on a dangerously cold day.
A midget compared to the other buildings, the Shamrock Club is at the center of the scene. In the perpetual shadow of the Mart, the dive bar asserts its presence professionally, its red doors cheery, its sign channeling some deep strain of Chicago history.
Given its tiny capacity, one may need the luck of the Irish to get a seat at the bar. For the Shamrock has many denizens. According to Time Out Chicago, “Strangers are regarded with suspicion here, so stay away from the regulars until you become one yourself.”
A hopeless traditionalist, I have been known to go to the Drake sometimes. Yes, I go to the fusty old bar and drink a Manhattan, after a night of Molière (updated). I love the old colonial wallpaper of the Coq d’Or. . . . Upstairs, the Palm Court exudes old-fashioned glamour. . . I enjoy seeing this room when it’s full of people. When a live band is playing and people are dancing, this place is positively lousy with charm.
You may enjoy this view of the Drake on a vintage postcard.