Credit: Andrea Bauer

Second Story‘s reputation preceded it. I’d heard for years about a North Michigan Avenue bar, perhaps mythic, that was proximate to but untouched by the Mag Mile’s hypercapitalist excess, its Burberried masses, its clog of traffic and light and iParaphernalia. By god, it was true: a small and exceedingly charming gay bar, Second Story is sandwiched between an Armenian restaurant on the first floor and a psychic’s parlor on the third. Which is to say that you could really make a night of it without leaving the building. Ascend the fraying, red-carpeted stairway and go through what looks, frankly, like a pretty sketchy door. It’s not sketchy inside—the bar is lit with Christmas lights, the drinks are cheap and generous, and the ‘tenders total sweethearts. The music is upbeat and gay in just about every sense of the word; it’s eminently danceable, though there’s no room to dance. Just please don’t tell anybody else about this, OK? Thanks.