A Classic Speakeasy

678 N Orleans St Chicagoundefined

Chicago's Public Enemy #1/A Classic Speakeasy
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Written By Choose Chicago

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During Prohibition, a green front door to a restaurant often meant that there was a speakeasy lurking in the basement. From this tradition, the Green Door Tavern derived its name. As one of the oldest taverns in Chicago, it has a long and sordid past with the mob and Capone. 

"When I sell liquor, it's called bootlegging; when my patrons serve it on Lake Shore Drive, it's called hospitality."-- Al Capone 

The Green Door Tavern served as a major distribution center for Dean O'Banion's illegally smuggled booze. O'Banion, who was "whacked" at his flower shop by Capone's gang in 1929, was a major rival of Scarface. It was the rivilary between O'Banion and Capone that lead to the infamous St. Valentines Day Massacre.

The Drifter

"Cool restaurant, but not much of a speakeasy," you might say. But, if you make your way toward the bathrooms and down a set of stairs at the Green Door, you will come to an eclectic bookshelf filled with a variety of peculiar items including china mugs, candlesticks and things that don't even have a name. This kitsch collection exists as camouflage for a small shelf that is home to a doorknob. Turn the knob and you will enter The Drifter. 

“This bar will have a different feel. A gritty, raucous, rowdy place where you can kick back and let the hours melt away.”- Bartender Liz Pierce featured in Anthony Todd's Chicago Sun-Times article "Diner’s Notebook"

The Drifter is the speakeasy in the basement (and behind the hidden door) at the Green Door. The narrow room is a cacophony of clinking glasses and hushed voices. The room is dimly lit, and behind the bar, straight out of The Untouchables, is an array of sinister looking bottles. In classic 1920s fashion, there are a variety of shows that come onto the cramped stage every hour at the Drifter. They have everything from jugglers and comedians to musicians and burlesque dancers that Capone himself couldn't have resisted.  

Cover photo credit: @thedrifterchicago via Instagram

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Chicago's Public Enemy #1

A Classic Speakeasy

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