Purchased by the adjacent Heartland Cafe owners Michael James and Katy Hogan in 1996, the Red Line Tap (formerly Roy's) is a no-frills place to do the basics: drink and hear live music. With Red Line trains pounding the L tracks just beyond the walls and a customer-bartender relationship that resembles that of care provider-patient, it's easy to imagine yourself as an extra in "The French Connection" when you take a seat at the bar.
Painted a deep red to mirror the train line across the street, the interior is perfectly sparse and delightfully dreary. The long bar that runs the length of the room is well acquainted with the shapes that regularly settle near it, drinking beers and watching tube. A handful of bottled and tap beers are available and the standard cocktails are generously poured.
The neighboring room has a pool table at one end and a small stage at the other where individuals sing, strum and drum nearly every night. Rock, bluegrass and jazz acts are common, but no musical form is outlawed. The simple $5 cover charge seems an appropriate price to pay for the usually solid tunes within.
The Heartland Cafe menu, full of earthy, natural food, is available to Red Line drinkers. The bar not only shares its walls with the cafe, but also its ideology. The Red Line's Web page boasts that its name also symbolizes the progressive, left-leaning nature of its staff and patrons, existing as a political haven for those more in tune with Marx and Engels than Kerry and Edwards, a cozy Capitalist-free zone in the heart of Rogers Park.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Centerstage Chicago Staff