THE place for late-night jazz and cocktails, classic Chicago-style
The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is a long-standing jazz club located in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Since its opening in 1907, it has hosted performances by many jazz greats and presented a broad range of styles, including traditional, Dixieland, bebop, contemporary, and gypsy jazz.
In the 1920s, the club gained infamy as a hangout for mobsters (one of Al Capone’s people, Jack McGurn, was at one point a part-owner). It has also been featured in several movies, including Thief, High Fidelity and The Untouchables.
Nowadays, the “Mill” retains its speakeasy atmosphere, and in addition to live music every day of the week and special events, it is home to the Uptown Poetry Slam, a series of poetry performances on Sunday nights.
When you approach the intersection of Lawrence and Broadway (see map below), you will have no trouble finding the club. A large, glittering marquee with “Green Mill Cocktail Lounge” on it hangs above the entrance.
The place was initially called “Pop Morse’s Roadhouse” and was a frequent stop for mourners headed to a nearby cemetery. The name was later changed to the “Green Mill Gardens,” and finally to its current form. It is a nod to the Moulin Rouge (“Red Mill”) in Paris, and “green” was selected to distinguish the venue from the city’s red light district establishments.
The club’s no-nonsense attitude continues today. Upon entering, you will be greeted by a bouncer, who will inform you to turn off the phone and keep your voice down during music. The same announcement is repeated before each set, and the staff (as well as some regulars) are serious about the policy. You can sometimes hear people shushing those who are talking during performances.
The front part of the Green Mill features a bar, lining the left side of the room, curving around the corner and ending by a retro juke box. There are several green velvet-upholstered booths around the bar area and more seating near the stage, but the space is intimate and fills up quickly. When that happens, patrons are asked (and expected) to share their table with others. Near the curve of the bar is a booth once preferred by Al Capone. With a view of the main and side exits, it allowed him to keep a watchful eye on both doors.
In the left-hand corner near the stage is the statue of Ceres, Goddess of Harvest, nicknamed Stella by Starlight by Green Mill performers, in honor of the classic jazz tune. Art deco and art nouveau wall art and light fixtures complete the throwback décor of the club.
Weekday performances, featuring regular acts, are from 9pm until 1am ($6 cover), Friday and Saturday shows from 8pm until Midnight ($12 cover), and Sunday’s poetry slam from 7pm until 10 pm ($6 cover). Most Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights also feature late-night jazz.
Green Mill Jazz Club
4802 N. Broadway Ave.
Phone: (773) 878-5552
Cash or American Express, ATM on site
Public transportation: Red Line (Lawrence stop)