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Friday, November 4, 2011

Bar #43: Tuman's

2159 W. Chicago Ave.
10:00pm, Thursday, October 28
Price of Old Style: $3.00 cans

I moved into my first apartment in Chicago back in 1999 after graduating from college.  It was in Uptown just north of Irving Park Rd., and there wasn't much of a bar scene near us (and still isn't).  My roommate and I brought it upon ourselves to search out destination bars that sounded cool.  This consisted of us actually looking in the phone book under bars/taverns.  That's when we saw it: Tuman's Alcohol Abuse Center.

The best bar name EVER.  It was like the Holy Grail of bars...  When we finally made it there it was the spring of 2000.  We went during the day on a weekend, because the Ukie Village neighborhood was still kind of a sketchy place, and we had never been down there before.  The main thing I remember was how dark it was a sunny day, and when we walked in pretty much any outside light was gone.  I also remember how damn smokey it was...there were a few regulars there and every one of them was smoking...packs of cigarettes placed on the bar along with a few dollar bills that would buy them at least 2 more beers.  I don't think we stayed there was intimidating...had one beer and left, but we experienced the enigma that was Tuman's Alcohol Abuse Center.

The bar closed in 2003 and reopened in 2005 with the Tuman's name sans "Alcohol Abuse Center".  Please read this wonderful write up of Tuman's, which done by the Chicago Bar Project back when it was still open.  The quotes are priceless, and is a wonderful testament of how beloved this bar once was.

Back to the present: walking into Tuman's on a Thursday, the bar was PACKED.  Probably the most crowded Old Style bar we've been at.  The problem was that Tuman's 2.0 could fit in perfectly in Wrigleyville or Lincoln Ave.  I don't want to be another people that bitches about the clientele at these types of places, but it was sad that at a place that was once cash only, every transaction I saw was made with a credit card.  All "bomb shots" and bottles of Corona (sigh).  They did keep the original window sign, which is hanging on the back least they understand the history of this classic bar.

Tuman's has been reinvented and is a popular place, but I think it's the bar that's least deserving of the Old Style sign hanging out front.

UPDATE (Dec. '11): Tuman's look down their Old Style sign...good riddance.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bar #42: Ola's Liquors

9:30pm, Thursday, October 25
947 N. Damen
Price of Old Style: $1.75 drafts

Ola's is another "slashie" and is located in Ukrainian Village, which has the highest concentration of Old Style bars in the city.  Its "Zimne Piwo" Old Style sign is easily hidden among the trees and condos along this busy stretch of Damen, with "Ola's Liquors" barely visible on an old, brown awning.

On this particular Thursday there was a pretty decent crowd, but it was tame because Anna was behind the bar, not Agnes, who is known to have made grown men cry.  All was not lost, because the group of three guys next to us were trying to see if Anna could tell which one of them was gay, and then proceeded to tell her a story about a friend who loved dry-humping more than sex.  Yes, apparently when this guy was in the mood, he would excuse himself, go to his room, put on some Umbro soccer shorts and just go to town on you.  Um...

So anyway, this place is also a liquor store, with all the bottles nicely placed behind the bar.  I was also impressed with the range of sizes of each type of liquor (1.75ml, 750ml, pints) and also this party in a bottle (man, it's awful):

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bar #41: Time Out Sports Bar

4641 N. Rockwell
6:30pm, Wednesday, September 1
Price of Old Style: $2.50 bottles

Time Out Sports Bar is just north of the upscale Ravenswood Gardens and Ravenswood Manor, part of a beautiful stretch of retail shops just off the Rockwood stop on the CTA Brown Line.  It's a great location, and one of the few areas where the El runs on ground level.  Our soon to be imprisoned ex-Governor lived a few blocks from this place -- wonder if he ever stopped in for a beer?

I wasn't going to do a write up on this particular visit, because I was hoping for a more exciting experience.  I thought about coming back on a Thursday or Friday night, but then I realized that this visit was the true representation of an Old Style Bar.

We watched Wheel of Fortune.

Yep.  My brother and I stopped by before our softball game so it was a bit early.  There were 4 people at the bar, one who looked like Stanley from The Office, another who sounded just like Wanda Sykes, a guy drinking Powers and Coke, and another guy having a very tough time trying to figure out what to order for delivery.  Gotta love bars that let you order in...  Anyway, the point is that neither of these 4 came in together...but they all knew each other and were having a fun time watching Pat & Vanna.

Isn't this what a neighborhood bar is all about?  People stopping in after a long day at work, having a beer or cocktail before they head home...  Maybe they have someone to come home to, maybe they don't.  Regardless, their neighborhood bar is a second home...a place they feel comfortable.  Maybe they choose to share their problems/stories with the bartender, maybe they don't.  We had a great time chatting with the folks at the bar and then went off to softball.  This place is a great companion bar to Loafer's, right up the street on Rockwell and Lawrence.

Monday, October 31, 2011


1734 W. Division St.
10:30pm, Thursday, October 20
Price of Old Style: $3.00 bottles


Zakopane, named after a town in Southern Poland, is the last true Polish bar standing on Division St. (a.k.a "Polish Broadway"), which at one point in the 30's and 40's was the hottest place in the city to catch live Polka music.  Polka was HUGE at the time in Chicago, and one of the best polka musicians in the world, Li'l Wally, played at the bar with his band on a regular basis.  This guy was so good, he was one of the first two people to be inducted into the International Polka Hall of Fame, certifying himself as the "Polka King of Chicago".  The other inductee back in 1969, Frankie Yankovic (no relation to Weird Al), was the biggest Polka musician in Cleveland.  He also wrote the song "Let's Go Go Go White Sox", but honestly, he's no Steve Goodman.

(Side note: Our grandfather, who was an avid Old Style drinker and Polka fan, gave my brother an accordion when he was in high school.  After Frank Yankovic died in 1998, my brother wrote Frank's widow a letter saying he was a big fan.  The woman sent Aaron a huge care package a few weeks later, with stickers and cassette tapes, saying she was so happy he had younger was awesome.)

Back in 1999, Chicago's favorite punk-polka band The Polkaholics played a legendary show with Li'l Wally back at Zakopane.  Having retired to Florida, Wally came back to play this epic show, which was captured in a documentary.  Zakopane rarely has shows anymore, hiding the stage behind a red curtain, but anyone would be luck to share the same stage as the Polkaholics and Li'l Wally.


If you don't look high enough, you may miss the Old Style sign above Zakopane.  It's actually hanging on the 2nd story of the building.  What you won't miss is the Zakopane sign, along with the sign of the previous bar, Maria's Lounge...yep, that one is still up too.  When you walk in, the bar is on the right and the jukebox on the left towards the end of the bar.  Bathrooms are on the left and in the back is the aforementioned stage area with the red curtain.

The real attraction at Zakopane is Monika.

The blonde, curvaceous bartender worked the crowd with the grace of a ballerina.  One minute she's pouring shots of Zubrowka for a group at one end of the bar, then dancing with some shady old guys on the dance floor, and then outside having a smoke with some more of the bar regulars.  The bar was packed, and she was gone for 5-10 minutes and people didn't mind waiting for her to get back to order their next beer.  As she walked back in, necks turned as she went over and put in a bunch of songs on the jukebox.  G'n'R...nice.  The bar was seemed like everyone knew each other and everyone was just having the time of their lives.  This bar had the most energy of all the bars we've been to.  If you walked by, you'd definitely say the bar was "hopping".  Everything revolved around was incredible.  More people started dancing in the back as Guns n Roses turned in to Polish dance music...the place was up for grabs.

Li'l Wally would have been proud.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bar #39: Bill's Pub

4104 N. Pulaski Ave.
10:30pm, Thursday, October 13
Price of Old Style: $1.50 frosted mugs

Rose's, Sunnyside Tap, Western Tap, Sportsmans Lounge, Steve's...we've seen this place before.  Walk in the bar, bartender watching TV...weird regular sitting at the corner stool.

I was excited about Bill's because some of their Yelp reviews talked about how cool the place was decorated for Halloween.  Well, that was then and this was now...there wasn't a single decoration up, just some weak wooden replicas of the Chicago baseball stadiums.  Bill's doesn't distinguish itself as a Cubs or Sox bar, but Cubs fans usually sit on the left side of the bar where the Wrigley replica is, and Sox fans on the right side under U.S. Cellular.

Chris was the regular, who had 70's acid rock on heavy rotation on the jukebox.  He also told horrible jokes and mumbled a lot, mentioning 'heroin' to us a few times (we didn't bite).

The bartender, Sylvia, was a nice woman...she even gave me a cough drop...was getting over a cold.  Not sure what brand it was--it just said "cough drop" on the wrapper.  It could have been 10 years old for all I know.

Oh, and considering the clientele that frequents Bill's Pub, this is probably a good thing:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bar #38: Home Tavern

2828 N. Lincoln Ave.
8:00pm, Thursday, October 6
Price of Old Style: $2.50 bottles

The Home Tavern has the most accurate name of any bar we've been clubs in the corner, plants everywhere, and a huge bag of dog food sitting next to the pool table.  I think we warped into some dude's basement when we walked in the door.  The dog food belonged to a nice black lab named Potato who never moved the whole time we were there.  Also, there is a very creepy collection of stuffed toys that hangs from the ceiling (no picture, which I will describe why in a minute).

The highlights of the evening were this exchange between two regulars:

"Hey Nancy, what's new?"
"Well, I saw that 'Craigslist Killer' movie the other night, and it really reminded me of you..."

Also, there were a couple of locals hanging out, and these guys were true locals.  They grew up and have lived in Lincoln Park for 40+ years...never left the neighborhood as it has changed over the years.  These were some tough mofos guy, Mike, decided to tell us his entire life story, and it scared the shit out of me.  I didn't want to break eye contact in fear that he was gonna bust his beer bottle over my head.

Mike told me about his four daughters, and how his oldest one was dating a real degenerate, and that their car was just repossessed.  He also then told me that he might have to deal with the situation himself (like this guy), and then tells us about his time in prison (stealing cars) and shows us the scars from when he got stabbed (was hanging in Mexico with the wrong people).  Then he rants about how technology is ruining the kids nowadays...needless to say my iPhone stayed in my pocket the whole time.

I did my part though.  I listened.  Mike and I hugged it out when we left.  I survived.

A warning to all you Lincoln Park-ers with the popped collars, texting your buddies non-stop, drinking Bud Light Lime and doing Jaeger shots.  Don't go to the Home Tavern, because if Mike is there, he will mess you up...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bar #37: Peacock Liquors - UPDATED

11:45pm Wednesday, May 18

If you thought the Old Style Bar Project was all about those square signs, think again. We celebrate all types of Old Style discrimination. Further down on Montrose is Peacock Liquors, with an amazing sign that says "Old Style Lager" underneath.

"Is this just a liquor store?", we wondered... We walk into the store and are surrounded by boxes upon boxes of beer. Shoulder high, but it's a pretty small place. We make our way through the beer maze and come across a cute cat, and then meet the owner (of the store? Cat? No idea). We look beyond them and see a bar that looks transported from a basement in Wisconsin. There is a man behind the bar who couldn't have been less than 70 serving beers to a few customers who didn't bring the average age down much lower. "Bars closed," the owner says. Our watches say 11:45pm, but we won't argue, but we will be back. Oh yes, random bar in Peacock Liquors, we'll most definitely be back.

8:15pm, Wednesday, September 21
Price of Old Style: $1.50 12 oz mugs

So we finally made it back to Peacock after our first "visit" a few months ago.  They actually let us in this time, as it was still early.  There was a good group sitting at the bar, and we loved our options on tap!

We chatted with the bartender, Sal, who had been working there for over 30 years and was part owner of the place...he said that this location has been Peacock Liquors for almost 80 years, right after prohibition, and that the neon sign has been up since the 50s or 60s.

Sal was an old guy, probably in his 70's, and was decked out in a nice vest...he kinda reminded me of Lloyd the Bartender from The Shining, except I had to pay for my drinks and well, Sal was very much alive...  He also told us that the cats name was Garth, and I immediately thought of "Wayne's World", but my brother informed me what kind of music that was on the jukebox..."both kinds".

Peacock Liquors is a one of a kind, with a one of a kind sign.

Monday, September 26, 2011

R.I.P.: Andy's

3601 W. North Ave.

Andy's must have recently closed...I took this picture about a month ago and it was still open.  It's in a good location so I bet something will open up there soon.

Bar #36: Jadran Liquors

3025 W. Irving Park Rd.
7:30pm, Wednesday, September 21
Price of Old Style: FREE
Price of Hennessy: FREE

Most people are afraid of something--heights, the dark, public speaking, calculus...  With me, it's spiders.  I hate em...make my wife kill them...  Other bugs, snakes...I'm totally cool with them, but not spiders.  People say if you want to conquer your fear you need to take it head on.  Well, I'm not going to jump into a tub with tarantulas, but I did end up conquering a different fear last week.  My fear of Jadran Liquors...

Jadran Liquors is this little bodega-looking place on Irving Park that I had been scouting out ever since I started The Project.  It looks like one of those sketchy corner stores that you can buy the essentials and not much else, and the two times I have scouted it out there have been older men hanging out, sitting in folding chairs, drinking bottles of strange liquor, yelling at each other.  Why would anyone want to go there?  If I lived next door, I'd rather drive 20 miles to a Wal-Mart than buy toilet paper from this place.

Anyway, my brother and I needed to get this done.  They have an Old Style sign out front so we had to go in...  We got to the corner across the street, and we see 8 gentlemen sitting down all looking at a guy standing up, speaking and pointing...he is very animated in whatever he is trying to get across.  What was going on here?  Was this a local CAPS meeting?  Was that guy an undercover cop finally busting the joint?

We were pretty nervous at this point, so we ended up walking one block away on the other side of the street, crossing the street at the light (Sacramento), and then walking back down towards Jadran.  When we were getting close, I turned to my brother and said, "I'm just gonna go in...".

"You are?"

"Well, you had better be right behind me...", I responded.  The whole time I have this picture of Biff Tannen in my head (What are you...Chicken?).

I walk in, everyone stops talking and this guy immediately grabs my arm... "$2 to enter the bar," he says with a menacing look and this death grip on my arm...  What the hell is going on?  Are we gonna leave this place alive?

Everyone else then starts laughing and I realize this crazy man is just joking...  They then ask us where we are from, and they don't mean what neighborhood...  "Um, well, we're American...uh, German, Scottish..."  They didn't care, but they did care to tell us where they were from..we met:

  • Joey, a Serbian who worked downtown and used to be on Blago's campaign team.
  • Some guy from Croatia who referred to Joey as "the enemy" and told us two of the most racist jokes I have ever heard.
  • A younger guy from South America who was talking about his time in the army and mentioned the term "friendly fire" a number of times.
  • Edgar, who was from Montenegro and the guy who greeted us at the door.  He paid for our Old Styles, and then asked if we wanted a shot...I wasn't going to say no.  Shot glasses?  Nope.  He just put a bottle of Hennessy up to our lips...still hoping I don't get mouth herpes.
We spent the next 15 minutes talking to Joey, who proceeded to tell us that the other guys playing cards at the table and not speaking English were also from the former Yugoslavia.  I didn't get around to ask him how the hell this place stays open, while looking at the rolls of TP on the shelf that had "99¢" written in ink on each individual roll.  We also saw Joey kill two cockroaches that scurried across the floor (I would have totally got that).  Disgusting.

Once 8:00pm hit, the old man sitting at the door who hasn't said a damn word starts motioning towards the door, saying something not in English.  Joey tells us that the place closes every night at 8, which is probably a good thing.  As we walk out, Edgar gives me a hard slap on the back and says, "Thanks for coming in, guys...", which I think was his way of saying, "Don't come back anytime soon..."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bar #35: Steve's Sports Bar & Lounge

3524 W. North Avenue
8:30pm Wednesday, September 14
Price of Old Style: $3.00 cans

Steve's door was locked when we tried it, but after a few seconds, a younger man in a wheelchair came over and unlocked it.  He said they were open, so we walked in, went through the saloon doors and grabbed a spot at the bar.  Steve was just finishing up some food so he cleaned up and went to the other side of the bar to get us our Old Styles.

Did I mention that this place had saloon doors?  Freaking awesome.  Unfortunately, that was the only awesome thing about this place.

After Steve got our beers he was nowhere to be found...I had read that Steve also owns the laundromat next door, so maybe he was over there.  That's when I noticed the security camera in the corner, pointed at the bar.  Seriously?  Also, wheelchair guy was just hanging out right behind us...not saying a word.  We felt like Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in the meth lab...was Steve watching us?  Also, the show "Cops" was on all the TV's...fitting.

Another thing I didn't like about this was the most cluttered bar ever, even more than Rose's, and at least Rose just had odd collectables and couches everywhere.  Behind Steve's bar there were stacks of paper, receipts, empty liquor bottles, random pictures, books, and who knows what else.  You know that friend you have in grade school who never lets you in their house because it's too messy and he's embarrassed?  Well, I bet it looked like the inside of Steve's bar.  Ugh.  We drank our beers, waved to the camera, and left.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bar #34: Windy City Lounge

4735 W. North Ave.
7:00pm, Wednesday, September 14
Price of Old Style: $2.50 cans

Windy City Lounge is the first bar we have been to that has been in a predominately African-American neighborhood.  It's in the Austin neighborhood on West North Avenue, which if you've lived in the city, is near some pretty rough areas of the city.

Some of you may wonder why we bring up race or nationality in the bars we review, and we think it gives you, the reader, a good gage of the different neighborhoods we are going to.  And if you ever feel like going to any of these bars, I think you may want to know what types of people will be there: white, black, Latino, gay, firefighter/cops, or even frat-boy douchebags...

So we walked in and no, this didn't happen...  There were just two guys in there playing pool.  We ordered an Old Style and started chatting with them.  It was Mark, the bartender, and Sam, a guy who has always lived in the neighborhood and has been coming to this bar since he was underage.  He also told us that back in the 80's this place was a big biker bar, and then eventually turned into a hang out for African-Americans.  It was called Shorty's for a while, and then about 10 years ago turned into Windy City Lounge.  They were telling us about how crazy the weekends get at the bar, about the free food the offer during the football games on Sunday, and were trying to convince my brother to have his bachelor party there.  We then got to playing pool, and my brother, who if you remember cannot beat me in darts, proceeded to hustle me, Sam, and Mark.  He was playing the best pool of his life, got a few breaks, and took our money.

Sam headed off to work (yes, work), and Mark asked us where we were going next.  Basically, he wanted to make sure we weren't going West...nope we were going back East, so we were okay.  Mark did say that he would be willing to take us around to other places in the 'hood if we ever wanted.  Sounds fun, but I think we'll just be back for that free food on Sunday...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bar #33: Sovereign Liquors

6202 N. Broadway Ave.
9:00pm, Wednesday, August 17
Price of Old Style: $2.00 cans the Sovereign sovereign? In the realm of serving cheap beer, very strong drinks, and having the best jukebox we have seen so far on this journey? Hell yes. The Sovereign rules.

We walked in and had the pleasure of meeting Matt the bartender, who has worked at the Sovereign for the last six years. As the last of the regulars shuffled out, we were the only ones in the bar. After pouring us each a shot of Jameson, Matt explained that there usually was a lull after the happy hour folk leave and the younger people show up at night. It seems like they do a good job avoiding each other. He informed us that the bar is popular with musicians, artists, and writers, and many of them live in housing walking distance from the Sovereign. Based on how freely the booze flows here, it doesn't take long for one to find inspiration.

Before the Sovereign was the bar it is today, it was a deli/butcher shop. Currently, the back of the bar has a jukebox (more on that later), a cooler with interesting board games, and pool table, but in the deli-days, that area used to be a large walk-in cooler. It's boarded up now, but there was a secret door that was in the back of the cooler that led to the frame shop/art gallery next door. Hmmm...why would someone need to sneak through a cooler to the store next door? I think we might have to talk to the owner to get some more details on that.

Guess which two games I haven't played...

So about this's one of those small jukeboxes that doesn't take much space on a wall, but it was stocked with some great music. It was about 25% 70's rock, and the rest were mix CDs made by the Sovereign staff and regulars! My brother spent about 20 minutes going through the options, yelling "WHO is 'Packer'? I have to meet this Packer guy...he has the best mix CD's!"

Around 10pm the bar got quite crowded, with hipster-types, and some Loyola students, and some younger regulars, including Justin, who also bartended at the Sovereign but was just grabbing a couple drinks. Justin was a great guy who filled the Packer void and chatted with my brother about music and Old Style. We kept on Matt assured us that Packer would probably be in later in the evening, but we didn't see him before we left. Packer - who ever you are, we will meet soon!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SIGN NO MORE #4: Granville Anvil

1137 W. Granville Ave.

Before we go to these Old Style bars, we usually do a little research...usually on Yelp. We were a little anxious about going to the Anvil, not because it was a gay bar, but because it was an "old man" gay bar that occasionally showed gay porn on the televisions.

We get to the Anvil, and no Old Style sign. Oh well. If anything, it would have made a good blog entry.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bar #32: Cunneen's

1424 W. Devon Ave.
8:00pm, Wednesday, August 17
Price of Old Style: $2.50 Old Style & Old Style Light (on special)

Cunneen's is named after Steve Cunneen, who opened the bar back in 1972. It's not a very big bar, with some tables in the fron windows up front and barely enough room for the pool table towards the back. The things that really caught my eye was the framed painting of the bar, the two chairs flanking the front door, and the impressive collection of vinyl that was behind the bar. No jukebox here - Steve and his bartenders play everything you hear, either from a record, CD or iPod.

After getting our Old Style's from Collette, a sweet bartender who's been there for years, we could tell it's a family bar. No, there weren't little kids running around everywhere. What I mean is that the people in this bar are a true family... There were two couples in the 40s-50s playing cards at one of the front tables. Many of the bartenders have been there over 20 seemed like everyone was on a first name basis. I was later informed that another couple who was there is documented in a picture on the wall of them dancing on the bar at Cunneen's back in the 70's.

We chatted with a gentleman about the intriguing clock behind the bar that was adorned with the face of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, with a different, smaller clock underneath with his son's face on it. The man was convinced that the mayor handed out the clocks to city bars during his re-election years. Sounds like a great idea, but probably illegal. A great write-up on Cunneen's history by one of it's bartenders de-bunked that theory. The history of the clocks aside, the unique decorations got Cunneen's the "honor" of being in the Chicago Reader's "Best Of" issue this year.

After a little while we met Chris, who was one of the younger regulars, but had also designed the Cunneen's website...check it out. Also, he did some asking around and I guess the bars that have Old Style signs have to pay about $500 a year in insurance and permits just to keep them up! These are the kind of people we like running into...the ones who can get us information... thanks Chris! We're hoping to get back to chat with Steve one of these days, and I guarantee I will be drinking my Old Style in one of those comfortable chairs by the front door.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bar #31: Nisei Lounge

3439 N. Sheffield
10:15pm, Wednesday, August 10
Price of Old Style: $4 tall boys (every day)

The Nisei Lounge is a great bar. Period. Is it because we got free Old Style when we were there? Possibly. Is it because the owners are die-hard Cub fans? Sure. Is it because the Nisei Lounge has one of the most interesting histories in the 60+ years it's been open? Definitely.

The guys who run the Nisei Lounge get it...I think I like this place more for what they aren't than for what they are. What they aren't: the typical Wrigleyville bar...I don't need to get into details. Also what they aren't: a bar that feels like it needs to start selling the best craft beers to stay relevant. The Nisei Lounge still embraces what it has been throughout it's history. It has stayed in character all these years and let the neighborhood evolve around it.

The Nisei Lounge has been a staple in Wrigleyville for 60 years. The bar was named after the "Nisei", who are the American-born children of Japanese immigrants. Back in 1951, the bar opened mainly as a place that Japanese-Americans could meet without receiving any scrutiny, as feelings for the Japanese in the country wasn't quite favorable (Pearl Harbor) and vice versa (Hiroshima). For the next 50+ years the bar catered to the Nisei, Sansei (third generation), Cubs fans and the neighborhood regulars. The only thing more reliable in Wrigleyville was Yosh Kawano showing up in the Cubs clubhouse every day.

Two years ago, the bar was ready to close down...there were a number of newspaper articles written about it's demise, but at the last minute a couple of guys bought the bar and saved the day. The current Nisei is set up well and hasn't changed much over the years. The bar on the left still pours Sapporo on tap, serves $4 tall boy cans, and goes through as much Marlort as the Green Mill. There is a pool table in the back surrounded by tall tables, and real dart boards flanked by the restrooms on either side. When you walk in the front door, look for the "Memory Frame", which documents the bars near-demise and resurrection. They also have guest bartenders for charity every Thursday night.

The guys we met at the Nisei - Pat, Tim, and Doug, took care of us and spent a good amount of time talking to us about The Project. We really appreciated it, as they have helped spread the word about the blog. We taught Tim a new shot, and our friends Sarah and Mike got drunk. It was a great evening. Follow this bar on Facebook and's quite entertaining. Better yet, go to their bar. Especially if you are at a Cubs game...pass all those other places on Clark and look for the place on Sheffield with Nisei Lounge in neon and the Old Style sign over the door.

Now, if I was an experienced drinker in my younger years, I would have been at the Nisei Lounge all the time. Now that I am an experienced drinker, I have a wife and kid and am lucky to get out much at all. This is why we are doing this Project, tell you, the reader, about certain places that can't go unnoticed, that shouldn't be driven by. Cheers.

"Memory Frame"

Krausened Paper Towels?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bar #30 / R.I.P.: Margie's Pub

4145 N. Lincoln Ave.
9:15pm, Wednesday, August 10
Price of Old Style: $2.00 12 oz frosty mugs

Margie's is one of those bars that people refer to as a "dive bar", but it is hardly that. My first time at Margie's was when I was in my 20's, and the neighborhood along Lincoln Avenue has changed drastically in the last ten years. You still have some of the old standbys like the Bavarian Haus, Wild Goose, and the Grafton, but now there are a ton of new bars and restaurants that have opened up along that stretch. Margie's may still have some regulars, but on any given night they'll have a good crowd of younger locals taking advantage of the cheap Old Style on tap.

On the night we were there, it was how I described...decent crowd of regulars and nons, with Diana working behind the bar. Diana has been working at Margie's for 9 years, and as she was explaining the Chicago Gems t-shirt she was wearing, she mentioned that the last day of the bar was going to be Sunday.

Wait, WHAT?

Yep. The bar was closing. Di told me that Margie hasn't been coming around for a few years, and her son was running things. He told all the staff the previous WEEK that he was closing the bar the following weekend...not much notice for anyone at all, which is just cruel, to Diana and everyone else who had been working there for years.

Well, after that depressing news, we discussed Old Style with Jason, who I'm not sure what category he was in - regular or "younger local", but he was a nice dude and bought us a round. Then the tamale guy came in, which was perfect timing because we were just about to order a $7 frozen pizza...

Another example of "all good things must come to an end..." A picture of Margie's Old Style sign was recently used in an article about Old Style leaving Wrigley Field.

So, I went back to Margie's on Sunday, and apparantely the last day was Saturday, because the Margie's sign was down and the door was locked. The Old Style sign is still up! I knocked on the door and an older man answered...was this Margie's son? Nope, just another employee who got shafted and now was stuck cleaning up the place one final time. He told me it was a sad situation for everyone, because now he had to find a new job or file for unemployment soon. He said the bar was already sold to someone else, but he wasn't sure if they were going to keep it a bar or tear down the building.

And the Old Style sign? "I have no idea...whoever bought us's up to them. The sign isn't ours to's a part of the building and has been longer than Margie's has been here."

I'm gonna get to the bottom of this...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bar #29: Grace St. Tap

3759 N. Western Ave.
8:00pm, Wednesday, August 10
Price of Old Style: $3.00 tall boys

The Grace St. Tap is another example of an Old Style Bar that was resurrected from the dead. A few years ago, this place was called Sally's Lounge and was pretty similar to the Sunnyside Tap right up the street: old bartenders, old clientele, serving up not much more than bad whiskey shots and cheap beer.

Sally's was bought out last year and changed to the Grace St. Tap. They didn't do much to the interior, but made some great new changes - mainly improving on the drink/beer list and having 7 nights of entertainment. Apparently Raunchy Bingo on Tuesdays is a big hit. They also have shots out of shot glasses made entirely of ice...does that mean you can whip the glass against the wall when you are done?

When we there there on Wednesday, they had a decent crowd and an guy playing acoustic guitar and singing covers...he wasn't bad. At least he had a loyal girlfriend there taking pictures... Chris the bartender took care of us, and also told us about their $5 PBR and a shot special...hmmm, I guess you can't drink Old Style all night. My brother was the lucky one who did the shot of Jameson...

We had to leave a little early to head to the next bar, but when we drove by later in the evening the place was packed...not bad for a Wednesday. Maybe these guys should buy Sunnyside Tap and revitalize another dying bar...they're doing a great job so far...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bar #28: The Brewery

3848 N. Harlem Ave.
11:00pm, Thursday, August 4
Price of Old Style: $2.75 bottles

We were a little worried when we got to The Brewery...the front door was locked and we piggy-backed in after a guy who had to press a buzzer to be let in. Was this an exclusive place? Buzzing to get in? But, after all, it was pretty late, and I'm sure they had a good reason to double check who comes into their bar.

Once we got in, the first thing that caught my eye were the Lotto machines - scratch offs! You could also buy regular Lotto tickets as well...we went to the machine, got $5 worth and sat down. That was the next great thing about this bar...the most comfortable damn bar stools I have ever sat in...the bartender later told us that the chairs were referred to as the "Black Hole" because you just get lost in them and never get up. I believe it!

We were unlucky with our scratch offs, except for my brother, who kept on winning a free ticket off his $1's, and kept redeeming them for his buck until he finally won nothing. Oh well, I guess The Project wasn't getting fully funded this night.

Our Lotto purchases did get us to talking with the bartender, Joanie. She was excited about The Project, and also told us she has been bartending at The Brewery for 22 years, but has been hanging around the bar since she was a little kid because her dad was a bartender there as well. Her story reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Tender Bar...

Joanie graciously showed us the back room, which is available for parties, and the beer garden, which is one of the nicest in the city. It's a HUGE beer garden, and Joanie planted all of the plants & flowers out there. It feels like someone's backyard...such a great place. The Brewery, in general, was a great place. We were there at 11:30 on a Thursday, but it felt comfortable, like a place that we could hang out at anytime and enjoy a beer and good company.

I would compare The Brewery to one of our other favorite Old Style bars, The Levee. Very gracious bartenders, cool bar stools, a good amount of space, but still cozy and just a great neighborhood bar.

Bar #27: O'Malley's Pub

3215 N. Harlem Ave.
10:30pm, Thursday, August 4
Price of Old Style: $3.00 bottles

O'Malley's Pub is the antithesis of the Village Tavern. Hip-hop was blaring when we walked into this place, and it was definitely a younger crowd. The bartender was a younger guy, and he was doing some sort of weird dance for a group of girls so we decided to keep our distance and sit at one of the tables. Our buddy Joe the Cop joined us for a drink, and we just sat back and watched the scene unfold around us: guys desperately trying to hit on girls, rounds of shots being ordered, more bad music being played on the jukebox, lots of swearing.

If you are in your 20's and live in the neighborhood, this is a great bar...Village Tavern isn't for you. All the people in the bar were having a good time...even the three dudes sitting at the table staring at everyone.

Bar #26: Village Tavern

6912 W. Belmont Ave.
9:30pm, Thursday, August 4
Price of Old Style: $2.75 bottles

Upon walking into the Village Tavern, we hear Mr. Roboto was blaring on the jukebox: a good sign? Oh yeah... We bellied up to the bar at the only two bar stools that were open, and start talking to a guy next to us, Ralph.

Over the next half hour, we talked to Ralph about the neighborhood, Chicago parakeets, TV shows, movies that took place in Chicago, Ralph's awesome beach cruiser which was leaning up against the wall, and the Village Tavern.

Ralph was definitely a regular, but was very passionate about this place. He said it wasn't like the other bars in the could bring your wife to the Village Tavern and wouldn't worry about her getting hit on. It was a respectable place with respectable customers. It did seem like that type of bar, a decent blue collar neighborhood place that never has any trouble.

After we passed the "these guys are all right" test, Ralph told us he was a cop...hmmm, so that's why you had a fannypack? We knew lots of cops and firefighters lived in the area, so we weren't surprised. Ralph bought us another beer, and we talked some more, while more great 70's rock played on the jukebox. Ralph also confided that he was the one picking out the music, and we immediately bought him a beer before we had to leave for our next bar. It's the least we could do to thank him for his service to our city, and his hospitality at the Village Tavern.

Monday, August 8, 2011

R.I.P: ?????

3047 N. Kimball Ave.

Not sure what this place used to be called, but you can buy it for $139, much for just the sign?

R.I.P.: Belmont Tavern

3405 W. Belmont Ave.

Bar #25: Maria's Tap

5357 W. Belmont Ave.
9:00pm, Thursday, August 4
Price of Old Style: $1.00 12oz mugs (Tues & Thurs only)

As we were heading down Belmont towards Harlem Ave., we see it out of the corner of our eye: ANOTHER OLD STYLE BAR! And one that was definitely not on our radar--what neighborhood were we in? I did some research and it's in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood...I have lived in Chicago 12 years and have never heard of it.

We walk in, and the bartender is talking on the phone to someone (in Polish, of course :) ). She sees us, puts down the phone, gets our Old Styles and gets right back on the phone. There are 3 other regulars in the bar, just hanging out, not speaking to anyone. There is one older gentleman at the end of the bar who looks like he's either sleeping or dead (I apologize for no picture - I was a little nervous of the man sitting on my left). Anyway, we drink our beer, wave goodbye to the bartender and leave. Not sure the 3 guys at the bar even noticed we were there...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bar #24: Little Rascals Bar & Grill

4356 W. Belmont Ave.
8:00pm, Thursday, August 4
Price of Old Style: $2.75 bottles

Little Rascal's wears many hats: bar & grill, karaoke bar, sports bar, dive bar, melting pot. We experienced all of these except for the karaoke, which happens on Saturday nights.

The bar was surprisingly large, but everyone was at the bar when we walked in. A Chicago cop talking to an older woman who had her dog, Jasmine, in the bar as well. A middle aged couple, and a younger guy who was chatting up the bartender, who wasn't that busy. After a few minutes the cop was grilling the young guy, asking him what he's been up to. The guy tells the cop that he's been staying out of trouble, away from the gangs, and has a few job leads that look promising...

We finally got to talk to the bartender after a while...she was a young girl who couldn't have been more than 23 years old, and she was the only one running the bar. Renata moved to Chicago a month ago from Poland to live with her sister...she was able to find a job at Little Rascal's and works mostly days. I swear, 50% of the Old Style bars we've been to are Polish owned or have Polish bartenders.

Renata's friend asks for some food to go, so she goes into the back and pulls out some frozen french fries and chicken tenders. Dumps them into the hot oil and crisps them up perfectly. Renata is a month into the job, and she's already doing it all: The American Dream.