Gettin’ Ripped at Old Chicago

It takes a certain type of person to go to Old Chicago on a Friday night. With over 150 bars in the Twin Ports, deciding to drink at a chain restaurant in Canal Park takes a very special kind of personality. And by “special” I mean “retarded.”

As I take a seat at the bar, sandwiched in between a guy in his 40s wearing a baseball cap, and another guy in his 40s wearing a baseball cap, I try to figure out what the allure is to all of these guys, because there are a lot of guys here.

It can’t be the music, because even though whatever’s being piped in through the sound system is louder than all fuck, I can’t hear it over the vociferous conversations about golf scores and prostate exam results. It could be the high-definition TVs lined up against the ceiling, but nobody is watching them. There are women, but there’s probably one chick for every four dudes, and all of them are starting to look a little menopausal, as if they could spontaneously start scrapbooking at any moment.

It must be the cheap drinks, I decide, thinking about Old Chicago’s World Beer Tour, where people from one walk of life attempt to get fucked up in eight different languages. I flag down a bartender named Greg (that’s right: this is the kind of place where the barkeep is forced to wear a name tag), who brings me a mug of Michelob Golden Draft and charges me $6.70, nearly the price of a 12-pack of the stuff at any liquor store. I give him a 30-cent tip, because obviously with that kind of profit margin Old Chicago must be paying its staff a living wage with full benefits, right?

Mainly, these people are here because Old Chicago is the kind of place where you’ll never find anyone who doesn’t, as Charlie Bell might say, “fit in.” They’ll never have to have their lives threatened by something as dangerous and terrifying as an opinion other than their own, much less a skin color.

Sipping my beer, I glace to my right to find a guy at the end of the bar who has apparently given up on fun altogether and started reading the comics. He’s staring really intently at Hi and Lois, trying to appear as though this is what he really wants to do on a Friday night: drink beer at five times the retail value while interacting with no one and reading old news.

Meanwhile, one of the baseball cap guys has left and been replaced by three douchebags rapidly scarfing something off a plate. I ask the douches what it is they’re eating and they tell me it’s called Italian Nachos.

“One time I gave this chick from Fond du Lac an Italian Nacho,” I tell them. “She never spoke to me again.” I’m the only one who thinks this is funny.

“It’s the best nachos on the planet,” one of them says, spitting garbage all over the bar. I look at the plate and see a pile of greasy chips covered in waxy pepperoni slices, and I can’t deny that it probably is pretty good. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe Old Chicago isn’t as bad as I’ve been making it out to be.

Then I notice a guy wearing a visor cap. That’s right, a motherfucking visor cap. Forget the Charlie Bell crack I made earlier. I now realize I agree with him. I think people have moved into Duluth that don’t belong here. I think we see people walking the streets that don’t fit the identities, that don’t fit what we normally have, don’t fit the citizens that have lived here for years and years. They do stand out. They are grown men wearing visor caps. I don’t know if they came from Detroit or Mississippi, but they need to go back where they came from.

And I need to go back where I came from. If I leave Old Chicago now, there’s still time to buy that 12-pack of Mich Golden and save myself about $50. If I stay, it can only be a matter of minutes before someone invites me to an informational meeting to learn about multi-level marketing opportunities.