The Run Down

The truth is that there are a million and one ways to have a classic Chicago outing. It’s the blessing and curse of living in a city with as many beautiful traditions, neighborhoods and attractions. What’s most important to remember is that big bucks don’t always buy you the best experience. Chicago is a Midwest town that was built on the shoulders of blue collar workers. There’s a time and place for $30 appetizers and formal attire, but burgers at the bar are rarely a bad call either. Tonight we’re taking a trip to three of Lakeview’s less assuming hideaways for some of the best food, cheapest drinks and hardest hitting comedy we’ve had the pleasure of discovering. Here are the details.

1. Burgers @ Red Hot Ranch

2. Beers and Games @ Cody's Public House

3. Theater @ Stage 773

1. Red Hot Ranch

First we need to lay down a base. Aside from an Old Style sign hanging above a bar’s entrance, few things are more comforting than a bright yellow sign advertising Vienna Beef out front of a typically modest stand or storefront. It subliminally commands you to eat there right now.

Some Chicagoans will tell you that, if you’re going to Red Hot Ranch, you should visit the hot dog stand’s original location on Western Avenue first. Don’t listen to them. Do whatever your french-fry-loving heart desires. In fact, it was at the Ashland location where the menu’s real star first appeared.

There’s nothing obviously extraordinary about Red Hot Ranch’s cheeseburger, but the beauty (and taste) is all in the details. Its crispy, griddled edges add texture to every bite. The house burger sauce (a 1,000 Island-style dressing) should please fans of West Coast chain In-N-Out’s animal style. The addition of grilled onions on top makes for the best topping combo. We also can’t stress the importance of upgrading to cheese fries enough—especially if Merkts cheddar is your jam.

2. Cody’s Public House

From here, it’s just a quick walk down Barry Avenue to one of our favorite Chicago corner bars, Cody’s Public House. Bring your burgers with you if you’d like—Cody’s allows it. You’ll find all three signs of an excellent neighborhood watering hole here: cheap beer, entertaining bathroom art and dogs. If there’s a friendly canine occupying the barstool next to you, you know you’re in the right place. There’s also pool, darts and a spacious patio. In short, it’s an easy to lose a few hours here. Just be sure to bring cash or be prepared to use the ATM. Your credit card is no good here.

3. Stage 773

Finally, once our stomachs are full and we’re feeling toasty, it’s time for some entertainment (that doesn’t come in the form of dogs on barstools). You can find performances of almost any type at Stage 773. Its signature shows include Vaudezilla! (a burlesque cabaret) and the annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. The four-stage venue also offers an intimate space. None of its theaters seat more than 150 guests. Its ticket prices, typically between $10 and $20, help to keep your adventurous night affordable.

We know what your next question is. Yes, there is a bar. In fact, the lobby space is actually a great place to hang out and wind down if you’re still not ready to go home after the show. There’s also non-boozy options like coffee and tea if that’s the direction you want to go. It’s your night. End it however you’d like!