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
(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.