Best Gay Bar
Reader’s Choice: Sofo
Clean and nicely furnished, with abstract art adorning the brick walls, Sofo is the quintessential home-away-from-home drinking establishment. You can show up in an old T-shirt and jeans, or walk in direct from that fancy benefit decked out in your tux, and no one will say boo. It’s not a dance bar, although spontaneous dance parties occur, and it’s not a sports bar, although the big game is often showing on one of the several TV screens, competing with music videos. Play a low-key round of darts, or pool—even if, like me, you suck at both. Certainly Sofo’s a gathering place for groups of friends, but if you drop in solo, someone is going to chat you up. Each and every one of the bartenders is the basis of someone’s obsessive crush, even (or perhaps most especially) the straight ones. (Hi Zack!) If the camaraderie of the back patio and a pint aren’t enough for you, avail yourself of nearby naughtiness: Banana Video is upstairs and the Chicago Eagle is steps away. a4923 N. Clark, 773-784-7636, sofobar.com. —Robert McDonald
Readers’ Choice: Sidetrack
a 3349 N. Halsted, 773-477-9189, sidetrackchicago.com.
Best Lesbian Night Out
Reader’s Choice: FKA
FKA as in Formerly Known As, as in formerly known as the trans-positive dance party Transmission. FKA changed names and locations—from the lesbian bar Stargaze to Michelle Fire’s Big Chicks—more than a year ago now, but the party never stopped hopping. These days FKA is a veritable alphabet soup of GLBTQs, with an emphasis on the Q. Produced monthly by irrepressible promoters Nako Okubo and Ali McDonald, aka DJ Reaganomix, it stays fresh with an ongoing rotation of wacky themes (jocks versus nerds, for example, or the recent “A Night to Remember Under the Sea in Paris” prom theme), and DJ Reaganomix’s eclectic playlists, which rely as much on pop and indie music as the latest dance beats. aFirst Thursday of the month, Big Chicks, 5024 N. Sheridan, 773-728-5511, myspace.com/trans_mission. —Kathie Bergquist
Readers’ Choice: Big Chicks and the Closet (tie)
The Closet a 3325 N. Broadway, 773-477-8533.
Best Bar for Mixed Company
Readers’ Choice: Glenwood Bar
a 6962 N. Glenwood, 773-764-7363, theglenwoodbar.com.
Best Drag Show
Readers’ Choice: Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club
a 3700 N, Halsted, 773-525-1111, kitkatchicago.com.
Best Gay Bar for Straight People
Reader’s Choice: Sidetrack
While Big Chicks and T’s, with their reputations for friendliness, seem like obvious choices, and the devil on my shoulder wants me to recommend the Chicago Eagle or Little Jim’s, the reason I’ll go with Sidetrack as the best gay bar for straights is the overall nonthreatening wholesomeness of the place. Every guy you see could pass for safe and comforting Will Truman or Jack McFarland, and the regulars tend to gather in groups, so cruisiness is minimal (not that every single straight person in a gay bar doesn’t think he or she is being relentlessly cruised anyway). Furthermore, the always joyful and riotous show-tunes nights (Monday night, and Friday and Sunday evenings) give straights an opportunity to embrace their inner ‘mo. a 3349 N. Halsted, 773-477-9189, sidetrackchicago.com. —Kathie Bergquist
Readers’ Choice: Sidetrack
Best GLBTQ-Friendly House of Worship
Reader’s Choice: Pillar of Love Fellowship at the Center on Halsted
When the whole Reverend Wright brouhaha came to the fore, occasionally a fellow gay (typically a Clinton supporter) would moan, “I can just imagine how he is with gay people,” referring, no doubt, to the stereotype that gay-bashing is the norm within African-American communities. But actually, as reported by Windy City Times, many black gays and lesbians came out in defense of Reverend Wright because of his (and Trinity United’s) tradition of support of GLBTQ people. Doing just as much to debunk the stereotype, but with less Clinton bashing, is the Pillar of Love Fellowship, a self-described “radically inclusive, justice-minded ministry” in the African-American spiritual tradition, open to all but catering particularly to the spiritual needs of GLBTQ folk. Helmed by openly lesbian pastor Phyllis Pennese (whose sermons frequently draw on examples from gay culture), it meets at the Center on Halsted every Sunday from 1 to 3 PM. a 3656 N. Halsted, 773-472-6469, pillaroflove.org. —Kathie Bergquist
Readers’ Choice: Broadway United Methodist Church
a 3338 N. Broadway, 773-348-2679, brdwyumc.org.