While our own Dili Yang normally does these types of reviews, I was in Chicago last weekend and decided to go to both bars on the same day. For those of you that don't live in Chicago but visit at some point, hopefully my thoughts on both places will help you at some point in the future
I would encourage any of you to visit one or both of these places the next time you are in Chicago. Especially if the Fire are playing or another soccer team you support is. I usually make it to Chicago 2-3 times per year, but oddly enough I hadn't been to either one of those places yet. I decided this situation must be reconciled, and fortunately my wife was more than happy enough to come with me. Most of you have probably heard of one or both bars as they are popular spots for Section 8 watch parties when the Fire are out of town. Last Saturday, A.J. Hudson's was the official designated watch party spot.
Saturday started off with good Irish food and drinking at Tweed Thornton's 8th Annual St. Patrick's Day Breakfast. After some corned beef and Jameson whiskey by 10 in the morning, we decided to walk to the Globe first to check it out before the Fire game at 2. We took a leisurely stroll down Sheffield Avenue and past the very familiar Wrigley Field. Though I have been there many a time, it's always fun to walk by it. The Globe was not too far away from the Wrigleyville area, sitting on W. Irving Park Road.
While many of you have undoubtedly been to the Globe more times than you can count, for some of us living out of town it's an experience we can't get anywhere else. There is nothing remotely resembling a soccer bar near me for example, short of a 2 hour drive at best. Most places in my town don't even accidentally have soccer games on during the weekend. When I ask for one I usually get an odd, quizzical look. I have only ever seen 2 MLS jerseys in town (other than myself of course). One was a Fire jersey, which was cool. The other was a Sounders jersey, and that's all I have to say about that guy. So I wanted a taste of what a true soccer bar is like, one where supporters groups meet for fun, fellowship, and a good bit of drinking. The concept of getting to watch games at a bar with fellow soccer fans is lost here in Iowa.
From the front, the Globe doesn't really tell everyone that a soccer extravaganza lies just inside. However, it's clear from the first couple of steps into the bar that everyone is there for love of the same sport. It was the day before St. Patrick's Day, so the bar was already packed to the gills with people celebrating the holiday on Saturday. The first section of the bar was pretty big, and packed with fans. I saw Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U, and Liverpool jerseys. There were a lot of big TV's and every one of them had either EPL action on, or 6 Nations Rubgy. I was rocking my Fire jersey, but didn't see any other MLS jerseys from what I could tell since the MLS matches hadn't kicked off yet. Past the first room there is another large area on the left, along with a hallway where the restrooms were at. The 3rd large bar area is in the back, and this is where we sidled up to the bar for a couple of drinks.
The big rugby contest was England vs. Wales, and I was surprised to see only one England jersey in the house. Most of our section was cheering for Wales, and they ended up winning easily in a romp. Every good fortune was met with cheers, singing, and toasts. Our bartender was a pretty cool guy, and engaged in a bit of playful banter with those around the bar. It was instantly clear within seconds of sitting down that this type of bar would be something I would call home. The walls are lined with scarves from almost every club you can think of. Different groups of supporters sat together, and there was a real feeling of community and fellowship. Even though I wasn't cheering for any of the teams playing at the time, it almost felt like home being around people that share the same passion for a sport that still gets made fun of routinely here in the USA. Maybe it's just because I am not used to a true soccer fellowship like that in my neck of the woods, but it was really awesome to see.
The service was very good and prompt. The bartender was knowledgeable about the products, and the $4 Tennent's wooed me. The prices were honestly very good, and even though we didn't eat there the menu looked very solid from what I saw. The biggest things I noticed was the huge selection of beer available. No matter what your preference is, the Globe has it. I counted something like 9 or 10 pages in the menu just filled with beer. It was a very impressive sight to see. If you are looking for a true soccer bar and a huge drink selection, look no further than the Globe. While we weren't there for very long, I will be back every time I am in Chicago from now on.
By the time we tabbed out, it was time to get to A.J. Hudson's to get ready for the Fire game. So it was off to North Ashland Avenue via the Brown Line. We only had to travel 2 stops (Paulina) to get there. It wasn't a very long walk at all, and the place was also packed when we got inside. Wales fans were once again represented well as the rugby match was now 2/3 of the way over. And ever Wales point resulted in the same atmosphere as at the Globe. Singing, cheering, and laughing.
We actually had to wait about a half an hour to sit down as the Wales crowd finally thinned out after full time. While A.J. Hudson's didn't have as big of a menu from what I saw as the Globe, they too had some pretty good St. Patrick's Day deals that I took advantage of. The bar has a heavy EPL feel to it, as evidenced by the various scarves and other paraphernalia on the walls. The one side of the Public House has a pretty big bar with additional seating. That's where i ended up at first. The other side is solely seating but no matter where you look there are big, bright TV's to show all the action.
Overall A.J.'s does feel quite a bit smaller than the Globe, but the inside is quite a bit brighter compared to the visibly darker Globe. Now, I don't have a preference of lighting levels usually so I liked both places. But A.J. Hudson's just seemed to have a lot more natural light in the place.
Once 2 o'clock rolled around, someone came from the other side to tell myself and a couple of other Fire fans that had shown up that everyone was watching together on the other side. So over there we went to watch that game with 15 or so Fire supporters. And one SKC fan. Yep, some skinny kid with a scarf sat right in the middle of us. Let's just say some fun banter was had.
Again I didn't eat there as I was still pretty full from breakfast. The menu was solid though, and the drink specials were good as well. Beer selection didn't seem anywhere near what the Globe offered, but you would be hard pressed to not find something you liked. Service was good, and the Fire ended up finally getting a point so that was pretty nice considering the first 2 games of the season. It was a really fun time hanging out with some of the Section 8 people, and it's an experience I would recommend to anyone that hasn't experienced a watch party.
We left A.J. Hudson's to head downtown to celebrate St. Patrick's Day a little more and get some supper. All in all it was a tremendously fun day. I would definitely be a regular at both bars if I lived in Chicago. They both offer a unique experience, and it's hard for me to put one above the other. The Globe feels like a bigger bar, but not so big that you are some far away stranger. A.J. Hudson's felt smaller and more intimate, but still big enough to feel like the place to be.
No matter which bar you choose next time you are in Chicago, you can't go wrong if soccer is your game. No matter what league is on, the TV's will be filled with wall to wall soccer action. No matter who your team is, you shouldn't have a hard time finding some fellow supporters to cheer with while your favorite team is playing. And that's an atmosphere that you simply don't find every day, especially anywhere outside of a big city. If you have time, I would encourage you to try out both bars the next time your are in town. You won't regret it and if you can cheer on the Men in Red while doing it, it doesn't get any better than that. If it's a home game you obviously have to be at Toyota Park, but you can't go wrong watching an away match at either place.
Again, it's my hope that some of you find this information useful next time you want to catch a game. For those of us without regular access to places like this, it will truly be a joy. Next time you are in town, a must see destination is either, or both, of these bars. Don't forget to bring your jersey, your lungs, and your thirst/appetite. The Globe and A.J. Hudson's will have just what you need and then some.