Tuesday, July 9, 2013

T's Bar and Restaurant

T's Bar and Restaurant interior
T's Bar and Grill 

Location: 5025 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Opened: 2001

Closed: March 2013

Here's an undated review of T's from Chicago Reader:

T's is a little of everything: a casual neighborhood bar, a sports bar (if there's a game on), and the closest thing Chicago's got to a lesbian bar. It's not exactly a beer bar, especially given the recent explosion of places with extensive tap lists, but they do specialize in double pints and variations on the Black & Tan like the Black & Blue (Blue Moon and Guinness) and the Black Magic (Magic Hat and Guinness). The food's better than average for a watering hole, with plenty of vegetarian and healthy options—balanced by stuff like garlic mayo fries and mozzarella sticks for those whose arteries need a little clogging.

"The closest thing Chicago's got to a lesbian bar"? But not not a real bonafide lesbian bar? 

More research was obviously necessary. 

It seems that T's conformed to a very old pattern commonly seen in women's spaces and lesbian spaces in particular: the "front" was dominated by the straights/gay males, while the "backroom" was conceded to the lesbians. 
T's Bar and Restaurant

Yelp has a variety of customer reviews which confirm this spatial arrangement to one degree or another.

From R.J. W., May 2007:

The perfect neighborhood bar in a great eclectic neighborhood.  From biker chicks to folks with kids, this is the perfect melting pot....

They have a girl's bar in back.  But I always felt welcomed. No attitude is the perfect description of T's.

From Erika G., June 2008:

Great place, great energy.The back bar was girls, girls, girls, but the other areas were mixed with all sorts of people. I got sort of a "beach bar" vibe from the back part, not sure why - but I really liked it, and will be back. The drinks were well poured, and the nibbles of food I snuck from two of the people in our party - well, I want to come back for more of that!!

From Yvonne B., February 2012: 

T's definitely holds it's own as a restaurant and bar. In fact, the surprisingly good food lands T's in the top 10% of it's class. Solid. What sets it apart (at least in my mind), is that it's my favorite lezzie hang-out.

Complete with good eats, yummy drinks, and a pool table, what more could a girl ask for? Oh yeah - that's right. Women! It's just a relaxed place to go and it seems as if everyone loves it. Although I haven't necessarily seen kiddos at T's, I've definitely seen all other types....

The front portion of T's has an expansive bar, but it definitely feels more like a restaurant with the good lighting from the large windows. The back portion is a spacious den: another bar, dim lighting, pool table, and a juke box to play some Melissa Etheridge as many times as you can afford.

From Iliana C., October 2008:

Great lesbian bar!  Walking by it we thought it was just a restaurant but then you get to the back and see the lovely sea of lesbians and alcohol.  I was told this was the place to be on Saturdays.  I wish they had a place like this in California.

Of course, there were always the complainers: 

From Kellie K., July 2009:

T's is just that.  It's a place that I often forget about.  Not because it's forgettable, however it's not really memorable either.  I will say that it's significant to have a decent place in the neighborhood for the girl-girl crowd to congregate.  With that said, T's is also friendly and welcoming for everyone.  The typical crowd at T's tends to be clique-ish, but I don't fault the place for that at all.

From Shannon K., October 2012: 

It's a lesbian bar, which as a lesbian I adore, but what I didn't adore was the bitchy ass lesbians who didn't want to share the pool table. I was informed the table was theirs for their night. Um ok. Who said so? Am I missing an unwritten (or written) rule that says first lesbians to claim the table own said table for the remainder of the night? Please advise.

From Nhung T., September 2011:

I have no idea why some Chicagons recommended this bar. Literally on a Sunday night it was full of Lesbians and it was dead. I have nothing against them because I have a few gay/lesbians friends, but I wanted to mingle. Get to know the crowd and have some fun. It was so low keyed, literally we took one shot, stayed for a little bit and just left.

But there were also loyal fans: 

From Stephanie H., August 2009:

T's is a friendly, laid back neighborhood, predominantly lesbian bar/restaurant. There's a pool table, a large outdoor seating area, a great jukebox, excellent food (turkey burgers!), and cuties running amok. What more could you want?

Chicago Bar Project also gave T's a great review: 

There aren't enough good things that I can say about T's Bar & Restaurant. I'm usually not a huge fan of gay bars and come from a city unlike Chicago where they're all pretty much the same and geared towards gay men. Instead, T's is all about the ladies! Whether you're there to play or just observe, you will not be disappointed with the selection.

Located at the southeast corner of Clark Street and Winnemac Avenue in Andersonville, T's is a lesbian's dream when it comes to eye candy—I swear that all of the city's attractive lesbians can be found at T's on any night of the week. T's front room is used as the restaurant area and also has a full-size bar. The back room sports a jukebox, pool table, smaller bar, and some tables but is mostly an open space meant for the crowds that pack the place on weekends. In summer months T's offers a huge outdoor patio that is often packed full, leaving the inside of T's almost empty. On any given night, and especially weekends, T's is typically 90% women with 10% being the gay men who love them. However, the quality of food attracts straight couples during the quieter weekday nights when T's mostly acts as a restaurant.

Unfortunately, T's ran into problems paying the rent, and they were evicted by their landlord earlier this year. See here and here

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Provincetown Landing

Bleecker and Thompson Streets today
Provincetown Landing

Location: Corner of Bleecker Street at Thompson Street, New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1940s/1950s

According to Lisa E. Davis,

Provincetown Landing was a popular lesbian bar and hangout that lasted at least into the 1950s. On the corner of Bleecker at Thompson St., it was only three blocks away from the Provincetown Playhouse on MacDougal, which originally linked Provincetown, MA, and the Village as twin bastions of liberality and creativity.

It certainly served as a magnet for lesbian writers.

According to Joan Schenkar, Patricia Highsmith was "something of a fixture" at Provincetown Landing back in the 50s. 

Sandra Scoppettone also visited Provincetown Landing  in 1955. These recollections are from a 2005 interview.

I was working for the now defunct National Airlines as a phone reservation clerk. There was this one guy, Bob, who was a very obvious gay man and we began to talk.  Nobody was intending to make a career of this job so he asked me what I wanted to do with my life.  I told him I wanted to be a writer.  He told me he had a very good friend who was a writer.  I asked who and he told me she wrote under the name of Vin Packer.  I almost fainted.  I had read her first novel Spring Fire and two others that were crime oriented.  I thought Packer was very good and I desperately wanted to meet her. He said he'd see what he could do.  It seems to me there was some negotiating on his part with Packer, who he told me was really Marijane Meaker.

I worked the 2-11pm shift so going directly home was out of the question. Eventually the night was set.  I was very nervous about this meeting.  She was an idol to me.  There was a bar in the Village called The Provincetown Landing.  We went there.  I believe Packer/Meaker was late so Bob and I got a table and I had two fast drinks while we waited a short time until she arrived.

She was so funny and smart.  I think we immediately started a sparring type conversation, but it was in fun.  I kept up with her and we both liked that.  She was the first published writer I'd ever met. I don't really remember, but I'm sure I asked questions about writing and her books, because that would be like me.  On the other hand, it would be like her to deflect them.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Undated postcard for Portofino

Location: 206 Thompson Street, New York, New York, USA

Opened: 1959

Closed: 1975

David W. Dunlap had a charming piece in the New York Times a few months ago. It was on Portofino, a little Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. It was not extraordinarily famous in its day. Relative to other New York restaurants of the time (the early 1960s), it was pretty affordable and informal. But the food was tasty (the boneless chicken Portofino and the scaloppine with butter and lemon were raved about by food critic Craig Claiborne). And on a good night, you might even spot a celebrity at the next table, somebody like Bobby Short or Lorraine Hansberry (the African-American lesbian writer). 

More than that, it had a reputation for being friendly to lesbian diners:

But Portofino offered something else — on Friday nights in particular. It offered a place where women who wanted to rendezvous with other women could do so discreetly, with little fear of exposure or entrapment.

In fact, this is where Edith S. Windsor (who brought about the end of DOMA in the recent Supreme Court decision) met her future wife in 1963.

At the time, Edie was divorced and 34 years of age. As Dunlap explains, 

She knew what she wanted but had no clue how to get it without risking her career at I.B.M. “I suddenly couldn’t take it any more,” she said in the documentary Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement (2010), “and I called an old friend of mine — a very good friend — and I said, ‘If you know where the lesbians go, please take me.’ O.K. So she took me to the Portofino for dinner.”

“The lesbians used to go there on Friday night,” she said, “and somebody brought Thea [Spyer] over and introduced her. And we ended up dancing.”
With more research, a picture of Portofino takes shape. 

“It was not one of the bars the ladies frequented regularly,” said the writer Marijane Meaker (pseudonymously M. E. Kerr), who is now finishing a memoir, “Remind Me.”

“You would be in error to write that Thea and Edie going to the Portofino was what began the landmark case coming up tomorrow,” she said in an e-mail. “It had begun years before, in many bars, mostly in Greenwich Village.” Some of the better-known among them were the Bagatelle, the Laurels, Provincetown Landing, the Sea Colony, Page Three, Seven Steps Down and Lonnie’s Hideaway.
“Most of these little joints were owned and run by organized crime in cahoots with the cops,” the novelist Ann Bannon said. “It was scary to be there if they hadn’t been raided by the police in a while. It meant the restaurant might be overdue for a raid, and you could end up in a paddy wagon on your way to the police station.
The dining room of the Malt House.David W. Dunlap/The New York TimesThe dining room of the Malt House, formerly Portofino
“Those were the days when they printed your name in the paper the next day,” Ms. Bannon continued. “And if, as a result, you were outed as L.G.B.T., your life was really turned upside down. It was not uncommon for people to lose their jobs, their friendships, even their family ties, so great was the opprobrium attached to that contaminated identity.”
If someone spotted you leaving Portofino, on the other hand, no suspicions were likely to be attached. The owner was Alfredo Viazzi, a restaurateur who became better known later for Trattoria da Alfredo, at Eighth Avenue and West 12th Street.
“It was a nice mix of people,” Mr. Guaitolini said. “A couple of the waiters were gay, but it was not a big issue. In that environment, it was taken for granted.”
The space is now occupied by the Malt House gastro pub.