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Sterch's, not your typical Lincoln Park bar

Sterch's on Lincoln
Sterch's on Lincoln
Dean Pappas

Located in the heart of Lincoln Park amongst the stereotypical twenty-something bars is Sterch’s (Sterch’s 66 according to the outside sign). Contained in one room, the bar doesn’t seem to have any surprises from the outside where a passerbyer can get a good idea what to expect at Sterch’s; an unpretentious atmosphere where one can drink affordably.

The left side of the tavern is mostly taken up by the bar itself. On the right side near the rear bathrooms sits a video poker machine next to a coin operated Boxer arcade game and several tables and bench-like seating. Across the worn hardwood floor, towards the back there’s the standard bar juke box. Among the wall decorations are beer mirrors touting brands like PBR, Bud, and Harp, old license plates, a Led Zeppelin black light poster, a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas poster (more on that later), framed photos, and a bronze plaque commemorating the founding of Sterch’s on November 18, 1971 by Harlan Stern and Bob Smerch; the name being a combination of these two original owners.

Four widescreen televisions are ready for sports. According to the bartender Mark, Sterch’s has the college and pro football package. So feel free to come in and request the Arkansas State-North Texas game or the Browns-Chiefs game. But don’t be disappointed if the Bears are the game of choice like they were on a recent Thursday night. A sparse crowd of seven patrons had gathered to watch the Bears-49ers game, which was going San Francisco’s way. To change the Bear’s luck, Mark the bartender suggested that the remaining customers all shotgun a beer-something that he said was usually reserved for touchdowns. While shotgunning did nothing to save the Bears from another loss, it did help to make the evening enjoyable, along with the complementary pizza that Mark had ordered.

Sterch’s has a variety of drink specials, depending on the day, with most ranging from $3 to $4. Pabst and Busch Light cans are always $2. The Thursday special was $3 “You Call It.” And they weren’t kidding. Any drink. Jack and Coke? Kettle One martini? $3. Not a bad deal.

Both bartenders, Mark and his replacement Tony, were down-to-earth, friendly, and seemed to want to make a visit to Sterch’s a good time for each person that trickled in throughout the night. While some long-time regulars still come in, Sterch’s has changed with the times and is increasingly bringing in a younger crowd, most likely overflow from the neighboring bars. The bar is dog friendly. One made an appearance and had no reservations about stretching out on the floor. The tavern also caters to bar industry workers offering them discounts. Sterch’s is accommodating, if nothing else.

Now getting back to that Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas poster: Apparently the poster is a reminder of an incident that occurred at Sterch’s. According to Mark the bartender, author Hunter S. Thompson smashed up one of the urinals in the men's room. Sterch’s website confirms this story and even adds that “in a display of remorse, he later sent in a check for $700 to pay for the damage but added on a further $2500 for the potential of future visits.”

The friendly atmosphere and drink specials alone make this a tavern worth checking out. If that’s not enough, you can always visit the bathroom where a famous drunken author won a confrontation with a urinal.

2238 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL.
(773) 281 2653

Update: On a Saturday night Sterch's takes on some of the attributes of its Lincoln Park bar neighbors. The music is loud, the place is crowded with twenty-something patrons, and the bartenders are in constant motion serving drinks. If you want to get that "dive bar" feel, it's best to save your visit for a Sunday through Thursday, preferably if there's a game on the TVs. 


  • CHICAGON8IV 5 years ago

    This was so brilliantly put that I had to go check it out. The key is in the details and there are a lot here that really speak volumes. This is my new local haunt. Thanks!

  • chitown 5 years ago

    sounds like a cool unpretentious place :)

  • Eddie Varlet 5 years ago

    The long-winded sales pitch review is totally inaccurate. There were no urinals there at the time of the alleged incident. As a matter of fact, there are no regulars in there any more to correct the myths perpetuated by the clowns running this place now. They keep referring to this place as a 'dive bar.' It once was, but they rehabbed the joint into an appallingly garish echo of the other mindless joints on Lincoln Ave. Try the Skylark in Pilsen...they do it right. NO T.V.s, and the music is at conversation level- the WHOLE REASON for socializing in a tavern. Their hours are erratic at best, service crappy, booze stock is horrible, and the place is just downright depressing which is why on a Friday night people are lined up at the other dumps and this hole stands empty as the 'bartender' stares blankly at the useless televisions blinking from a neck-breaking height. The finally gave up opening for college football Saturdays, since everyone was in one of the other creep-joints.

  • jasonl 5 years ago

    I've been to Sterch's. Review is pretty accurate. Heard the Hunter story from the bartenders. Urinal or toilet. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE??? You get the idea that Hunter damaged the bathroom. Maybe b.s. but still a good story.

  • Craigie 5 years ago

    The review sounded good to me. I think I'll check it out tonight, on my Birthday and see if I can get some of them free drinks. Cheers!

  • UrbanNinja 5 years ago

    Eddie says this review was "totally inaccurate." We went to Sterchs a few months back. OK place. Review described it to a "T." I'm guessing that this review was based on what Sterch's is now. Not what is was. Eddie is probably just a bitter former regular. 70s are over. Move on.

  • Hates Eddie V 5 years ago

    Go away Eddie V. You trash this place on every sight out there. Get over it that your old timer bar changed and got better. Go to a different bar and stop slamming Sterchs.

  • nipsyrussell 5 years ago

    Good description of the place- a decent bar option for a cheap drink in an area where that's rare.

    Eddie I'm concerned. I'm sure there's a listing for a good therapist somewhere on this site.

  • OptimusJohn 5 years ago

    Stick with this joint during the week. it starts looking like the other LP bars on weekends. still worth stopping by on weekends.prices are very good for LP.

  • Danny 5 years ago

    Bar is O.K. Like it during the week a lot more when it's more of a laid back bar. Review is right about the "you call it" night. That's a pretty good deal especially around there.

  • jim t. 5 years ago

    looks like this eddie guy turned out to be right. word on the street is a lot of infighting and ignorant business practices have finally killed the bar for good. Thanks guys! now we get ANOTHER nail salon on Lincoln ave.!!

  • Danny 5 years ago

    They did it themselves. Should have kept the old vibe or at least the "dive bar-like" atmosphere they had during the week. Was a cool place in a sea of twenty-something jackoff places.

  • Cabe 5 years ago

    You mean selling drugs and taking money right from the till isn't a good idea? I am surprised things didn't work out? Not.

  • Tracy 4 years ago

    Yep. The place is dead. liked it on a Thursday night, but just became another jerk bar on the weekends.