Market Days is almost upon us. Get ready for two hot days of even hotter queer folks crammed into a few blocks on Halsted Street, eating, drinking and otherwise making merry. No street fest beats Market Days in my mind because, to my knowledge, it's the only one in Chicago with a booth selling champagne. While the rest of the city is making do with cheap beer, we wash down our funnel cakes and meat on a stick with bubbles. Leave it to the gays!
To be sure, there's no shortage of delicious, diet-destroying street food available at the fest, and I encourage you to sample it all. However, if you find yourself in need of a balanced meal, an air-conditioned reprieve from the heat or a quiet table for two to woo the cute boy you picked up at the Belmont stage the night before, Boystown has plenty of excellent restaurants where you can take shelter. Here are a few of my favorites.
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All photos by Kirk Williamson unless otherwise noted.
After the last band has played, after the food vendors have closed their booth, and even after the late-night bars on Halsted have made their last calls, you can keep the party going at Melrose. OK, I wouldn't recommend partying per se, as the less-then-enthusiastic night waitresses will probably kick you out, but you can get some pretty decent diner fare to satisfy your 3 a.m. cravings. Melrose is open 24/7 and serves breakfast all day. Mozzarella sticks, French-dip roast-beef sandwiches, fettuccine Alfredo, pork chopsyou name it, and you can probably get it here. I'm not saying the food here will knock your socks off, but it's stumbling distance from the heart of Market Days and it's open all night. Melrose is at 3233 N. Broadway; call 773-327-2060.
Vegetarians and vegans can't help but love this meatless mecca. For once you won't be relegated to ordering a grilled cheese or a side salad. Chicago Diner serves up meat-free (and vegan) versions of diner classics like "meat loaf" and mash potatoes and a Reuben in which remarkably convincing seitan stands in for corned beef. Definitely order the buffalo wings, and if you really want to indulge, the peanut-butter milkshake is to die for. Chicago Diner is at 3411 N. Halsted St.; call 773-935-6696 or visit www.veggiediner.com .
minibar Ultra Lounge and Café
It's hard to be all things to all people, but minibar actually pulls it off quite successfully. You can cool off with a martini in the lounge or grab a table and order a nice bottle of wine and some interesting nibbles like bruschetta with prosciutto, figs and brie or a "carne asada" pizza topped with cilantro, pine nuts, red onions and, of course, grilled steak. The adorable waiters at minibar will even serve you breakfast. For $20, you get unlimited mimosas and a buffet of scrambled eggs, French toast, hash browns, bacon and all the other requisite a.m. goodies you need to soak up the damage you did last night. minibar is at 3341 N. Halsted St.; call 773-871-6227 or visit www.minibarchicago.com .
Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club
Kit Kat gets most of its acclaim from its killer martinis (with at least 50 different varieties, including Snickerdoodle and Key Lime Pie) and the drag queens who sing tableside throughout the evening. However, I'm here to remind you to put down your martini, take your eyes off of the Madonna look-alike prancing in front of you and order some food. The calamari and the bacon truffle mac and cheese are two stand-out starters. If you want to make a night out of it, try one of the entrees named after iconic females. I recommend the Jayne Mansfieldseared sea scallops atop a crisp truffle polenta cake with spring onions and artichoke pureeor go with a classic like grilled skirt steak with blue cheese and truffle fries, aptly named after the timelessly elegant Audrey Hepburn. Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club is at 3700 N. Halsted St.; call 773-525-1111 or visit www.kitkatchicago.com .
Wilde Bar & Restaurant
Wilde is one of the most refined Irish pubs you'll ever find. Luxe brown leather booths and a library section in honor the eponymous Oscar Wilde make the space feel special and dignifiedand the food matches the atmosphere in which it is served. Feast on pub classis like juicy burgers and crispy fish and chips. Or, sample some Wilde specialties like beer-battered cod served with Irish cheddar on a pretzel roll or the decadent macaroni and cheese: curly macaroni and Irish cheddar sauce baked to creamy goodness with Irish bacon, sliced garlic, diced tomato and caramelized onion. I'm salivating just thinking about it. Wilde also serves a great brunch that you can enjoy on the street side patio. Wilde Bar & Restaurant is at 3130 N. Broadway St.; call 773-244-0404 or visit www.wildechicago.com .