Gay Bar Alternatives for Dating in Chicago
By: Daniel Sullivan
The gay bars in Chicago can be a fun place to hang out – particularly if you are looking for a spot to chill with friends. But if you are like a lot of gay men who visit our Northside counseling offices, you are probably wondering about different places to meet someone away from the nightlife scene.
Let’s be honest for a moment – the bars along Halsted Street and in Andersonville are not always the best places for meaningful conversation. Who wants to compete with loud music, loud voices and loud personalities? This point is particularly true if you struggle with being around big crowds and jam packed social scenes.
So what alternatives exist for meeting guys here in the Windy City that don’t involve drinking? Are there places to meet your next potential boyfriend that don’t include the words like bar, nightclub or tavern? Well – according to an informal survey of therapy professionals here at 2SC – the answer is yes!
What follows are five places for you to consider for meeting someone new that are entirely based off of the anecdotal feedback we have received from our clients. This short list of possibilities certainly isn’t exhaustive but it does highlight the “biggies” for gay men in Chicago.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
1. Whole Foods/Center on Halsted Eating Area
If you are gay and hoping to meet someone new, you will want to grab a light lunch from the self-service area at the Whole Foods, centrally located in the heart of the “Boystown” at 3640 N. Halsted. Once you grab your eats, bring it to the shared lobby space that separates the grocery store from the Center on Halsted. Pick a table and take a seat. Then sit back and check out the scene!
Generally speaking, you will see many gay men coming in and out of this area because the market itself is a favorite among local LGBT individuals. It also happens to be home to “The Center” – a community agency providing an array of services to the gay, lesbian, bi and transsexual populations here in the city. Many of our clients have reported positive experiences at this location with more than a few sharing they met their boyfriends there.
2. CTA Redline and Brown Line
Many gay men ride the rails here in Chicago. If you take the right train at the right times, there is a good chance you will run into others who happen to be a “Friend of Dorothy”. Now obviously you will want to use caution and think about safety because public transit here in Chicago has sometimes had a history of problems.
But if you are feeling a bit adventurous, we encourage you to read the following article that lists the best train routes (including times) for meeting someone special on public transit. We particularly like the Redline and Orange Brown Line advice given in the piece! And yes – you need to absorb what is being shared with an eye for humor.
3. Lakefront Bike/Running Paths
If you are a fitness minded gay man, you may be interested in a kind of a twofer by including a walk, run or bicycle ride along the Lakefront. Not only will you be mindfully burning calories, you will also run into a lot of other guys!
Weekends in particular are super busy along the Lakefront Path. Many of our clients have shared that the area between the Belmont stop and Hollywood Beach is particularly busy. Again, use caution if you opt for this outdoor activity. Who knows – you might meet someone cool and set up a romantic date for later in the week!
4. North Broadway Street
There are a boatload of retail stores, eateries and cafes that dot the sidewalks of North Broadway Street in Chicago. Specifically, we are talking about the area between West Diversey Parkway and Grace Street. Many of these businesses are gay and lesbian own or are big time gay friendly.
Obviously, weather conditions will need to be factored into any plans you make but generally speaking, weekends are particularly “happening” on North Broadway Street. Some places to think about checking out include He Who Eats Mud at 3247 N. Broadway and Unabridged Bookstore at 3251 N. Broadway.
5. Gay Friendly Gyms
Yes – you should be going to the gym to exercise and mindfully build muscle. That doesn’t mean however, that you can’t use your gym membership to double as a conduit for meeting someone new! This is particularly true if the bars are a major turn off for you and you want to expand your circle of possibilities.
Chicago has tons of gyms to choose from however, we recommend 5 specific fitness centers that we consider to be among the best that also happen to be very LGBT friendly. The benefit of meeting someone at the gym is that you already know you two have something in common – fitness! Think about it for a moment. What do you have to lose?
If you are a gay man in Chicago and looking to meet someone new outside of the bar scene, there are plenty of options from which to choose. This maybe particularly true if you are in recovery and have made a personal commitment to avoid places that act as a “trigger”.
As a gay affirming organization with several of our counselors identifying as gay/lesbian, we hope you found the tips suggested here useful! If you have time, be sure to check out some other posts we have on our blog.