It's just like the clichés say — when a neighborhood gentrifies, things get all artisanal and crafty while those darn h-words strut around like they own the place. Highland Park has become the nation's model 'hood for upwardly mobile, creative-class gentry, so it's no shock that cute, quaint and artsy has ruled every recent business model there. Not at the Offbeat. It's new but not newfangled; clever but not too crafty. The Offbeat didn't contrive itself into a concept, and thanks to quality local DJs, every night comes with turned-up volumes rather than noses. Sure, it has some local craft beer, but working folks on a working folks' budget can still get cheaper suds without feeling as if they just clubbed a rescue puppy. A few people did mourn its divey predecessor, Dusty's, and while it's not the festering pit of authenticity it once was, the rising neighborhood property values didn't kill the laid-back local essence of the place.
Credit: Timothy Norris