So of course for a new series about famous (or not so famous) Chicago film locations, we’d start off talking about The Dark Knight. The big moody Batman movie that made eight billion dollars and turned the concept of “the Joker,” a mean clown who loves doing bad stuff, into a thing worth making approximately 15 movies about in the ensuing years, is easily one of the biggest moments for the City of Chicago on film in the 21st century.
Sure they’ve shot a bunch of like, Transformers movies (and movies that aren’t Transformers but basically are) here recently, showcasing countless awful robots and other foul beasties taking turns transforming the gleaming skyscrapers of River North and the Loop into piles of smoky rubble, but The Dark Knight’s massive success and embrace of some off-the-beaten-path locations makes it a perfect starting point.
That said, I’m not especially interested in talking about the way Christopher Nolan & co expertly utilized the stretch of Lake Street covered by the elevated train track during one of the movie’s more thrilling chase sequences, or the appearances of our gleaming tourist bait spots like Navy Pier or the Chicago Theater. Nope, I’d like to talk to you today about a rib restaurant.
The Twin Anchors, an unassuming neighborhood joint tucked away on a side street just north of North Ave, is a Very Good Dive Bar, featuring, oddly enough, some of the best ribs in the city. Opened in 1932, Twin Anchors has a lived-in feel, oozing history out of its walls in a way that only a great dive can. Over the years, the bar has attracted it’s share of famous clientele, including Frank Sinatra, who would make a point to stop by any time he was in town, Chris Farley, Oprah, and Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra, who went on a date there once. Anyways Two Face killed an old corrupt cop there:
There it is! The very good bar where you can get strong drinks at a surprisingly fair rate, especially considering the neighborhood. The bar overlooking a very cozy dining area where you can get really, really good baby back ribs. And Two Face just straight up kills an old dude there. Wild.
The Dark Knight wasn’t the Twin Anchors’ first time basking in the bright Hollywood lights. The spot was also used as the primary shooting location for the 2000 Bonnie Hunt rom-com Return To Me, starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver. One of the film’s primary locations is a cozy Italian joint called O’Reilly’s, where Driver’s character, a nice lady who received a heart transplant from Duchovny’s late wife, works as a waitress.
For five weeks in 1999, Twin Anchors became O’Reilly’s Italian Restaurant, a sort of non-functioning pop-up, well before pop-ups were the biggest bar gimmick of 2018. Here’s a scene from Return to Me which does a great job capturing the warm, intimate environs of the restaurant (with a few Italian/Irish tweaks and 100% more Duchovny).
I lived in Chicago for seven years before visiting Twin Anchors, and I regret not going sooner! You’ve seen it on the silver screen, now go soak up the old school Chicago vibes that attracted all those showbiz types, get all covered in bbq sauce, and thank me later.