Black Lesbians Open a Queer Haven in Chicago

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Nobody’s Darling brightens the queer nightlife landscape as lesbian-led spaces dwindle.
Instagram/Nobody’s Darling

Nobody’s Darling, a Chicago bar with its moniker snatched from Alice Walker’s poem, “Be Nobody’s Darling,” is a long-awaited Black- and lesbian-owned haven for outsiders, misfits, and outcasts.

Located in the Andersonville neighborhood of the city, proprietors Renauda Riddle and Angela Barnes, a business lawyer and an event organizer, opened the LGBTQ-friendly space in May 2021, responding to a need for community-based bars that also double as a women-focused sanctuary on a tree-lined street away from the toxicity of Boystown.

Nobody’s Darling isn’t a large bar: There are probably 10-12 stools along the bar, another 10 stools against the wall parallel to the bar, and additional table seating set up outdoors if the weather permits. During busy afternoons and evenings, the venue adjusts to standing-room, and patrons can dance to upbeat tempos and familiar hits on their feet. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for it with charm and appeal.

“We have a space where our only expectations are respect, relaxation, and refreshment. It’s safe, and it’s resonating,” Barnes said to the Washington Post during an interview. “There’s nothing aggressive about it. You have women in their 60s next to gay guys in their 20s or lesbians in their 40s. And then they start talking with each other.”

Both stylish and mood-lit, Nobody’s Darling is accessible. Alice Walker’s beckoning words, “be nobody’s darling; be an outcast,” are placed prominently on the wall; there isn’t a bouncer or any other barriers to entry (beyond the examination of vaccination cards); and the crowd regularly comprises an energetic congregation of patrons of all ages, persuasions, races, and identities. And when it comes to its moderately priced cocktails, Nobody’s Darling utilizes queer, Black, and locally-owned spirits for its libations.

The Nina Simone-styled lounge pours up a bevy of exciting beverages, including seasonal citrus flavors, elderflower, and strawberry peppercorn shrub. The collection of featured cocktails includes the Kahlo Margarita, the Darling Old Fashioned, the Tiger Highball, the A. Walker Winter Martini, and more. House favorites include Pink Kitty, Carry Me Home Darling, and Darling Sangria, as well as a few decadent options, such as the Japanese Whiskey Flight and Hibiki Old Fashioned, which uses Saigon cinnamon syrup and vanilla bark bitters. They also carry a selection of beers and wines.

A visit to Nobody’s Darling proves to be gladdening experience, and is a rite of passage for queer folks and allies seeking an uncomplicated cheerful evening out with friends and family.

Nobody’s Darling is located at 1744 West Balmoral Avenue, a space previously occupied by the now-defunct lesbian-owned wine bar Joie De Vine.