Township was formerly a punk rock Mexican restaurant called Pancho’s where my then 14-year-old son James first discovered the local art punk scene via great bands like the Loose Dudes, Twin Peaks and White Mystery. One of many small and groovy multi-purpose music venues that has popped up on the plus side of Logan Square gentrification, it’s a hugely comfortable place to play or see a show, but it’s the unique fusion of American breakfast classics and southern Indian cuisine on the brunch menu that really sets Township apart. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered saag paneer scramble on a menu before, and the spicy, funky, turmeric-yellow little potato patty that comes with it drags my jaded old taste buds back to the post-pub tandoori houses of wild west Yorkshire where I learned to eat properly in the first place.
2200 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL 60647
2. Roy’s Soul Food
Roy’s Soul Food is a cheerful lunch spot deep in Chicago’s horribly segregated South Side. Former Motown producer, saucy R&B legend and avant-garde novelist Andre Williams first took me here when we were working on “Night and Day” — an album he made with the Sadies that was conceived at a drug- and booze-addled low point in his life but completed in the glorious sunshine of recovery. The menu here is ruled by ham hocks, smothered steaks and oxtails, and the clientele is almost exclusively African-American retirees. Andre liked to introduce me to everyone as his “fat-faced white buddy.” Actually I’m lying, he’s only ever called me that once, from the stage of the Hideout at a record release show, but I still cherish the moment. At Roy’s, in fact, I am treated with great reverence. “Are you in the Average White Band?” inquires the waitress. “No, I’m in an average white band.”
403 E. 71st St., Chicago, IL 60619 just off MLK Drive
3. Bucket of Blood
Bucket of Blood is not to be confused with the infamous but sadly deceased Westside dive bar the Bucket of Suds, where ancient gangsters and bleary WXRT DJs did shots of evil-smelling hooch from dusty bottles full of lizards and eyeballs — but a rather excellently curated secondhand book and record store on the terminally unfashionable six-corners at California, Elston and Belmont. There was nothing here when I moved into my painting studio five years ago, but now things are looking up: We have a sushi joint, a vegan cocktail bar, a beer museum, a superior super mercado complete with taco bar, and this stridently hip emporium where the vintage horror mags and dub vinyl flows like yoghurt down a Greek hillside. It’s worth a visit for the street-front paint job alone. Farther west on Belmont, there’s a heavy metal burger joint, but you need a tattoo on your neck to get a table.
3182 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL 60618
4. Ash’s Magic Shop
A disclaimer here: Mr Ash is a friend of mine. I had a painting studio next door to his magic shop for many years, and always knew where to go if I needed an exploding pen, fart powder or an old school country song with an Armenian twang. He came to the States as a young man because he loved rock and roll but pretty soon fell into the northside hillbilly scene, singing Haggard and Twitty ’round the honky-tonks, as his alter ego Country Ash Ryan. In a city that dyes its river green on St. Paddy’s Day, that name seemed like a safe bet. He’s done magic at my kids’ birthday parties, opened for my band the Waco Brothers, and sometimes we still go out to the few remaining country-western bars to deliver slightly out-of-date Christmas cookies to grateful late-shift guitar pickers. “Jon, does your wife like to talk when she’s having sex?” “Er… sometimes.” “My wife loves to talk while she’s having sex. Last night she called me from Wisconsin!”
4955 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60625
5. Frank & Mary’s Lunch Tavern
Frank & Mary’s is a proper workingperson’s lunch bar I will wholeheartedly recommend because I know they could do with the business and I’m not so greedy that I’d want to keep it to myself just because a bunch of hipsters and straights might start coming in and ruining my early afternoon golden foaming pint and meatloaf sessions. In a city with no regard for its glorious beer-drinking past, this place is both a jewel and a survivor! Neighborhood taverns in Chicago are disappearing faster than white rhinoceri off the Namibian veldt as the spooks and vampires in City Hall construct their Bud-trough sports-slurry 94-inch screen inter-tainment pods in the Rush Street plastic-paddy pleasure zone. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Panzers of Bland are forever rolling across this blighted urban prairie, so take my advice and order up the pork chops with gravy and mash, do a shot of Malort and cherish the comforting serenity of the lunch tavern… I know I do…
2905 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL 60618
Delilah’s is Chicago’s premier whiskey bar and owner Mike Miller throws a party 365 days a year. There is a hyperactive energy within these walls and so very many reasons to raise our glasses on a nightly basis: We may be saluting Johnny Cash’s birthday, 20,000 shots of Maker’s sold, a rotating exhibit of local artists’ depictions of the bar, Punk Rock Monday DJ Joe, Mike’s new Delilah’s brand bourbon bottling, Bloodshot Wednesday DJ Scott or, most recently, the bar’s own 20th anniversary, but trust me, we’ll always find something to celebrate. My first paying job when I moved to Chicago was DJing here when it was still called the Crash Palace and I have vivid, searing memories of being dragged into the ladies’ restroom by Cynthia Plastercaster to peruse Genesis P. Orridge’s various metal appendages. Nothing much has changed around here — and that’s a good thing.
2771 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60614