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in Lakeview or Irving Park on the Brown line

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El Gato Negro

View Map1461 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago
Tel: (773) 472-9353
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Editorial Review of El Gato Negro


Grit meets glamour. Seediness meets campiness. Rocky Horror meets Desperado. Have any two tastes worked so well together since that fateful meeting of chocolate and peanut butter? Yes? Then perhaps El Gato Negro is for you. The self-proclaimed "HOTTEST spot for T-girls in Chicago" is also one of the city's dive-iest dive bars. Near total darkness envelops the place, but for the gentle glow of a giant Budweiser bottle and a small light-up Spuds Mackenzie, and T-girls cozy up to their honeys at the bar. Brushing up on your Spanish skills before heading over might be a good idea, although English is accepted currency as well. Perhaps more importantly, leave your judging hats at home, because Latino transvestites and the men that love them are the norm here, and they aren’t about to judge you either. They also happen to be some of the friendliest bar-goers around.

So sit back and relax with your five-dollar Miller or Corona (yes, drinks are more expensive than at the typical hole-in-the-wall) and listen to the surprisingly talented house jazz band, play a little pool or just ogle the clientele. Sunday nights at midnight, the girls put on a burlesque show of sorts, so plan on being tired for work on Monday. Otherwise, your best bet is to come late on Fridays and Saturdays, because this place is slow and a little bit depressing before the crowds pour in. And unless you're looking for a date, weekdays are probably not the best time to pop in for an expensive beer. There's just not much going on.

El Gato Negro is the wild and wooly cousin to Lakeview's other, more typical watering holes. If you're not too intimidated by the black façade with its curt stenciled lettering, or for that matter, feeling out of your element, it is definitely worth a visit.

Centerstage Reviewer: Eden Robins

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noon-2 a.m. Monday-Sunday; noon-3 a.m. Saturday

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chicago, metromix