Time Out Chicago guide

Old school oddities to see and visit in America's Windy City

In ultra-modern Dubai, you might begin to crave a little vintage, retro antiquity. Time Out Chicago finds some of the Windy City’s old-school oddities hidden away and just waiting to be explored.

Southport Lanes
Located in a former pub, this Lakeview bowling alley clings to a simpler time when a malfunctioning machine was never in danger of ruining a perfect game. Before the mechanical pinsetter was invented in the 1930s, alleys were staffed by teams of pin boys who manually reset pins and returned balls to players. Southport Lanes is one of the few places left that carries on this old-fashioned (and somewhat dangerous) tradition, employing a pair of individuals who work behind the scenes, dodging balls, picking up pins and keeping games running smoothly in return for rolled bills stuffed into a ball’s finger holes.
3325 North Southport Avenue.

Tastee Freez
Tastee Freez is a vintage time warp, and while there aren’t nearly as many locations of the fast food restaurant as once dotted Chicago (there were dozens), you can still find one in Logan Square. In the summer, there’s a walk-up window and picnic table seating. The savoury items, like corn dogs and burgers, aren’t much to talk about, outside of living out rock singer John Cougar fantasies of suckin’ on chilli dogs. The ice-cream menu, with milkshakes, sundaes and soft serve, is the main draw.
2815 West Armitage Avenue.

Chicago Brauhaus in ‘Germantown’
Lincoln Square was once known as Chicago’s Germantown, though most traces have been erased, save for a mural, Merz Apothecary and the Chicago Brauhaus. This bastion of fun, baron-sized beverages and heaping platters of carb-tastic classics brings locals and tourists alike. The lederhosen-clad Brauhaus Trio performs nightly, packing the raucous dining hall with duos who dance zwiefacher-style (think polka dancing with quick turns).
4732 North Lincoln Avenue.

Patio Theater
Before generic multiplexes began springing up, going to a movie meant dressing up and stepping into an ornately decorated theatre with a single screen, much like the Patio Theater in Portage Park. After opening in 1927, the Patio transitioned to showing second-run movies in the ’80s before closing in 2001 when its air-conditioning system broke. After a series of extensive renovations, the building was sold to Portage Theater owner Eddie Carranza in 2014, who began screening first-run movies and booking special events. Today, you can admire the beautiful lobby and see a film in the city’s oldest operating movie theatre.
6008 West Irving Park Road.

Cascade Drive-In
It’s a bit of a hike out to suburban West Chicago (as in the city in DuPage County, not out on the Green Line), but Cascade is the last old-school drive-in movie theatre in the area. The stereo audio comes in on 88.5 FM, or nostalgists can use the drive-in’s in-car speakers. The season kicks off with the automobile-appropriate Furious 7 on Monday April 13.
1100 East North Avenue, West Chicago.

Ohio House Motel
There are plenty of fancy hotels in downtown Chicago, but if you want to stay in a charming, historic, independent motel, you’ve got one choice: the retro Ohio House Motel, which opened in 1960. It still has its distinctive diamond sign, although rooms have a contemporary feel and wi-fi. It feels more authentic if you pull up in a wood-panelled station wagon. While the Ohio House Coffee Shop closed in 2014, chicken restaurant Leghorn took it over. Fried chicken sandwiches and breakfast biscuits are available.
600 North LaSalle Drive.

Novelty Golf and Games
More commonly known as ‘The Bunny Hutch,’ which is technically the name of the hot dog joint across the parking lot by the batting cages, this vintage gem on Devon and Lincoln is probably the most challenging miniature golf course we’ve played. The pedal-powered mechanical elements are delightful, animating the windmills and gates under giant dinosaurs and monsters.
6438 N Lincoln Ave, Lincolnwood.

Jazz Record Mart
This is a vestige of a bygone area on a few fronts. Downtown Chicago was once filled with record stores – Virgin, Tower Records, etc. Now, there is a Reckless Records in the Loop and this sprawling bastion. Bob Koester bought Seymour’s Jazz Mart in 1959, relocating it in 1963. He was also a blues pioneer, owner of the Delmark label, recording Hoodoo Man Blues. Iggy Pop once slept on the couch here.
27 East Illinois Street

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