photo: Sara Dykstra
After finishing a day's shopping at L'Occitane en Provence or The Blue Jeans Bar in Lincoln Park, you've probably had this thought: "I could certainly go for a fireplace, a heady concoction, glistening cowboys and some man porn." Well, it just so happens there's a place for that.
"Welcome to the Manhandler, where dreams come true" was our unlikely welcome to this sweet little cowboy-loving, woman-owned man bar. The humble saloon's cowboy roots are apparent from the get-go thanks to the mounted deer heads, wooden bar stools, and the Texan bartender's pronunciation of the place: "Mainhandler." Less authentic I guess would be the photos of scantily clad cowboys with lusty, albeit innocent, eyes—and of course, the utter lack of cowgirls.
"Would you call yourself a leather-daddy bar?" I asked the convivial bartender. "Nope nope nope. I mean, we do have the annual International Mr. Leather competition. Other than that, we're just a friendly neighborhood bar." He was being unintentionally coy. These are some of the friendliest people I've met in this town. Everyone said hello when we blew in and goodbye when we parted.
The bar—I'm sorry, saloon—appears to be in squalor at first glance. The shades are drawn (sadly, to shield its patrons from shameless passing snoops and sneers) and underneath a straightforward sign ("Manhandler Saloon") is creme and rust wooden siding and a small American flag. It gives the place an unsociable look that contradicts the sanguine effect inside.
This ain't a place for everybody, but it's good for what it is: a lone ranger, I'd say, in comparison to some of its sleeker competition. Manhandler has retained a late-night liquor license, and offers $2 shots during Desperate Housewives and free pizza on Sundays. Oh, and a back patio seating almost 40. And ... occasional porno flicks. Call early to book your fraternity formals.
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Anderson