Gone are the days where gays in Chicago identified themselves with a scarlet article of clothing. Boystown's Scarlet rekindles this period while evoking the city's Roaring '20s and '30s famed for its parades of madams and pimps, female impersonators and tramps. The barís website goes on saying, ďToday, it isnít necessary to wear a small piece of scarlet, we can display it proudly across the top of our door.Ē The educational concept makes a lasting impression, differentiating itself from competitors yawning with pulsing techno and where shirts and sweat drops fly.
A fire once destroyed the lounge, but the comeback kid flashes its sash with exposed brick and stained glass meddling with dark-wood floors and rich red drapery. Mirrors, pieced together and collected from art deco era buildings, make a drawn-out disco ball display and add conspicuous touches to the two full-service bars. Ostrich feathers stem from Grecian-style vases. Tear dripping chandeliers shaft lights in canary yellows and watermelon pinks, and framed black-and-whites shape moments in early 1900s homosexuality.
Frat Night Thursdays channel guests to another time point, say 1996, involving beer pong tables, mystery beer shotguns and 40-ounce King Cobras garnished with a brown paper bag. One observer likened the scene to an Iowa college-campus offsite, and generalized the patrons were enjoying the perks of home in a ritzier New York-like setting. Donít confuse the tongue-in-cheek celebration with trashy merriment.
Comparing Scarlet with other bars, youíll find a polished group whose personas reflect class absent of pretentiousness. The staff also forwent the dollar drink nights offered elsewhere, in effect avoiding the haggardly drunk "who am I going home with?" crowd.
Speaking of the staff, we were impressed at how knowledgeable and committed bartenders were to the brand and its historical attention that the owner, Paul Cannella, worked so hard constructing. Come mingle during the First Ward Balls, referencing the soirees in the once vice-ridden ward. Grab a liquid brunch on Sunday where specials include $12 bottles of champagne and $4 bloody Maryís. Or sip some spiked coffee during daytime hours when Scarlet operates as a coffeehouse offering wi-fi.
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez