In a different neighborhood, the Streetside Cafe would be a dime a dozen: just another bar. But nestled lovingly between Logan Square and Humboldt Park (at the corner of Kedzie and Armitage) as it is, it gets a chance to stand out. Owned by a couple who specialize in buying run-down storefronts and renovating both the building and the location, the Streetside is a multicolored throwback from the turn of the century (the last one) that really does make the neighboring currency exchange, dingy dry cleaner and crappy video store somehow seem a lot hipper.
Inside you'll find a host of bar standards: nice-but-nothing-special wooden bar, a DJ in his booth (think mellowed-out Happy Mondays) and a set of regulars who can be counted with the furniture; but there's a factor there that makes it different, too.
The ceiling is ornately molded plaster with red enamel, one of the nice things about old buildings. The bar itself sits in the middle of the room, dividing the space in half (one side feels more like a restaurant, the other like a bar). But there's something, be it the red lights that make the liquor bottles glow or the two fireplaces that provide most of the heat and light for the room, that convinces everyone to check their baggage with the bouncer and relax. No one is trying to impress anybody, they're just there to have a good time. It explains why the regulars keep coming back. The bar is busy without being crowded, and the calm and friendly atmosphere is perfect for a night out without any hassles.
If it's warm, go ahead and sit at the bar; the bartenders are friendly and there'ís a decent selection of beer and liquors. However, if it's cold, do yourself a favor and grab a table by one of the fireplaces. The servers are as nice and relaxed as the customers, and the greasy bar food (burgers, onion rings, mozzarella sticks: business as usual) will keep you plenty warm. Besides, what kind of maniac doesn't like buffalo wings?
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Mac McCormick