Karaoke at Trader Todd’s
Toby sits in a mixing booth behind the stage and works on a Rubik’s cube. A woman is improvising a few dance moves to accompany “Come Sail Away” by Styx, but Toby wears a tranquil facial expression that indicates he’s seen it all. He’s the ‘KJ’, or Karaoke Jockey, at Trader Todd’s, and this particular night happens to be his birthday.
While no one has jumped up on the stage yet to sing him a birthday song, Toby doesn’t seem to mind. His form of celebration is pounding a beer, punching in the next requested Karaoke jingle and finishing his Rubik’s cube in relative peace, which he admits he can now finish in five minutes. “I have a lot of time back here,” he says, and this biased reporter can’t help thinking that Toby may actually have the best job in Chicago.
Trader Todd’s is located just off the Belmont red line stop in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. The management boasts that Todd’s has been “voted best Karaoke four years in a row,” by AOL and Citysearch, while Playboy Magazine deemed the bar “a great place for karaoke,” –- an observation that’s proudly advertised on the front window.
To get an impression of what greatness Trader Todd’s has to offer on a Saturday night, here’s the virtual walk-through. First of all, you’ll want to get there early. By 9:30 p.m. the place is so packed that a bouncer is enforcing a strict ‘one out, one in’ policy. In this case, five minutes later, four profoundly intoxicated individuals pour out of the front. There’s an “interesting” aroma when you first walk in, like that undeniable Saturday-night blend of spilt beer and pique. Immediately to the left is a television screen showing an intrepid (and again profoundly drunk) karaoke superstar. But the person on the screen is not the person on stage. That’s because once someone has belted out his or her tune, their likeness is projected on the screens around the bar — you know, for all those who missed it the first time around.
It’s typical karaoke, only somehow not typical. Trader Todd’s has a fun and quirky sailor theme going on. Fishing paraphernalia and pirate booty hang across the ceiling, and on warmer days you can go out back to a partially-covered patio where a replica of a sailing ship serves as a place to sit and eat (the Styx fan would be right at home). I even hear Todd’s has a famous “all you can eat shrimp boil” every Friday, and if you’re walking by after a summer Cubs game, expect to be invited in for some chicken wing deals.
Toby can’t say for sure what song has been most frequently requested lately, but he does know that the Aladdin Soundtrack is coming back with a vengeance. So if you make it to Trader Todd’s for some karaoke in the near future, try to request something he won’t expect. And make sure to wish him a happy belated birthday.
Location: 3216 N. Sheffield Ave.