Mondays with Mike: Know any joints without a TV?

October 5, 2015 • Posted in Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, Uncategorized by


Sometimes I just want to talk to somebody. It could be an old  friend, an acquaintance, or maybe even someone I haven’t met before. Taverns used to be the best place to pick up a conversation, but it’s become nearly impossible to do so these days without the
omnipresent, glowing, flashing distraction of TVs. And not just one small TV at the end of the bar–now they’re multiple behemoths, tuned to multiple events–usually sports but sometimes talking heads. Sometimes the sound is on, and when it’s not, there’s loud music playing.

I think it started in the 80s, with MTV, cable channels, and 24-hour sports channels. And it’s crazy now.

Hackney’s, our local watering hole (food’s good, too), is usually relatively quiet, but the crowd there was boisterous after yesterday’s Bears win. Our friend Brad, whom we’ve mentioned here before, came in and despaired at how difficult it is now to find a quiet place to have a drink before dinner.  When an out-of-town guest visited him last week, Brad brought him to the Coq d’Or, an old-school, wood-paneled cocktail bar in Chicago’s vaunted Drake Hotel.

A good choice, I thought. Beth and I used to go to see the piano player there, Buddy Charles, who at the time was a local legend.

Well, apparently the Coq d’Or still has the clubby wood-paneled feel-but it also has TVs. Wide screen TVs. When Brad and his friend were there, all the TVs in the bar were tuned to some news story about a police raid in the Chicago area. One wide-screen was on the wall right next to Brad’s head, he told us. “Everyone was staring my way, not at me, but at the TV!”

The three of us, as well as Sean, the Sunday night bartender at Hackney’s, were hard pressed to come up with bars in Chicago that don’t have TVs. Sean did come up with one: the California Clipper at the corner of California and Augusta. So we have a list of one, and I’m hoping there are more. I’m pretty sure that a list of such places in various major cities would become a valued part of any travel guide.

So, got any secret TV-less taverns to wet your whistle and/or grab a bite to eat at the bar? Whether it’s in Chicago or elsewhere, please leave it in the comments section.

Because we all need a little respite from phosphorescent screens from time to time.

Evan Hatfield On October 5, 2015 at 11:16 am

I’ve spent a lot of time and money at the Duke of Perth – Clark and Oakdale in Chicago’s Lakeview. Scottish pub, wood grain feel, two fireplaces, back patio, fantastic scotch and Scottish beer list, tasty food, conversational decibel level.

Mike On October 5, 2015 at 11:32 am

Thanks Evan. Another reason for us to get out of our little neighborhood cocoon.

Fabulous Niece in Orlando, FL On October 5, 2015 at 11:27 am

Our friends recently opened a Brewery and when talking to another friend about our visit they said – “have they got their TVs installed yet.” Apparently we are on the other end of the spectrum and scared to go to a bar without TVs! Scary!

Mike On October 5, 2015 at 11:34 am

FNiOFL: Yeah, we’re the codgers on this. It’s funny–you know that building you stayed in? A good tapas restaurant just opened in the first floor. We went during their first week. As the hostess seated us, I told Beth I saw a big bar without TVs. The hostess, thinking it was a complaint, immediately piped in, “They’ll be installed in a couple days.”

Fabulous Niece in Orlando, FL On October 6, 2015 at 8:28 am

Funny and sad all at the same time!

Hank On October 5, 2015 at 11:35 am

That was ‘bars’ not ‘bats.’ Thanks spell check!

Mike On October 5, 2015 at 11:35 am

That’s too easy. And what would I have blogged about?

Lori On October 5, 2015 at 11:35 am

I’m making some recommendations but know that some of these places have tvs. It’s just that I don’t think the sound is on because I don’t recall the tv being bothersome or a distraction. Some of these places may be less tavern-like than you are asking for and the music could be an issue depending on what time you go (not for all but some).
Pretty much all the tap rooms in the city are great for just chatting – Dryhop, Begyle, Half Acre, both Revolutions.
Table, Donkey and Stick
Lone Wolf
Old Town Ale House
Tack Room
Three Aces
The Game Room in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
The Drifter
Pub Royale
Best Intentions
The Betty
Ok, I’ll stop. As you can see, I like to get my drink on and chat with friends too.

Mike On October 5, 2015 at 11:41 am

Wow. Thanks. Yeah, know Hopleaf is a good spot. I’ll have to some research for a followup!

bethfinke On October 5, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Lori, I have to butt in here.
Even if the sound is off, the TVs are a distraction. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said something absolutely fascinating in a conversation (well, okay, maybe just mildly interesting) and the person I’m talking with doesn’t respond at all. “Oh, Sorry,” they’ll say once they realize. Then they feel compelled to tell me about some mundane thing they just saw on the television screen.
Experience tells me that nearly all of the bars in Chicago that have televisions do not put the sound on unless it’s an” important” sporting event, but to me that’s not the point. If televisions are there, people who can see them can’t help but look.

Julia On October 5, 2015 at 11:38 am

I am not a fan of the TV’s either!!! Sorry no suggestions for TV less taverns.

Brad On October 5, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Great column Mike, and some good suggestions already. I’m ready to try out the Game Room at the CAAH. One slight correction to the blog: The TV at Cog d’Or was not above my head but even worse, on the bar next to my head.

Mike On October 5, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Will correct, Brad, thanks.

Rick On October 5, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Firkin’s, in Libertyville, has a tremendous craft beer menu, great food and no, none, zero TVs. It has a very long, wood bar that runs almost the length of the place. It is a wonderful spot on Sunday afternoons!

Mike On October 5, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Who knew!?

Rick On October 5, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Debbie and I; short drive from our house; longer drive from the city!

Bonita Mall On October 5, 2015 at 6:15 pm

Love this particular rant. It is not our world any more. I am tired of hearing myself on this but I cannot stop.
Hi to Beth.

Sue Doyle On October 5, 2015 at 9:18 pm

The “usual suspects” who usually fill the front “peninsula” at Hackneys from 4-6 daily held an “executive session” today over this topic. We came up with … Italian Village (upstairs bar). Good Luck with this, Mike. Hi to Beth from all of us “usual suspects”!

Sue Doyle

Mike On October 6, 2015 at 9:11 am

Appreciate the hard work of the usual suspects!

nbollero On October 5, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Champaign: Blind Pig

Mike On October 6, 2015 at 9:12 am

Always and forever the model.

Sheila A. Donovan On October 6, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Mike, we’ve got another Mike to blame. Jordan. When the Bulls were red-hot back then, everybody stayed home to watch the games. Restaurants and bars suffered financially. In desperation they installed televisions and advertised for people to come in and watch while they eat. It snowballed and today it’s rare to find a bar or restaurant that isn’t blaring the t.v. (including all those gross medical ads) every hour they’re open. I, too, was shocked and disgusted when Coq D’Or installed a t.v. It’s like a disease spreading through the world.

Janet On October 6, 2015 at 12:07 pm

The Club…in Elmhurst, well I think they don’t. If they do, it’s probably broken. I will research this and get back to you. Also, in Urbana, Popcorn and Pauls!! Miss that place.

Shelley On October 7, 2015 at 9:50 am

While I can’t help with any recommending in the Chicago area, I predict that the TV-less — or even “silent” — bar will become a thing in itself in time. But being a trend it won’t last. Your friend’s Drake Hotel story made me sad.

bethfinke On October 7, 2015 at 11:50 am

Shelley –Eyebrows up! Mike and I went to Jazz Showcase Monday night after this post was published, we heard a fantastic trio and…still no TV there. Maybe we should stick with jazz clubs from here on out…


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