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Sunday, June 26, 2011


The wife and I were in Geneva for a wedding this weekend, and driving through Aurora, this happened:

Unfortunately it was not open, so it is now my mission to come back to this mystical place in the near future. Crazy thing is, just north of this bar, was this:

These signs were inside the gates of the Geneva Construction company. How did they get so lucky? I may have to do some additional investigating...

Bar #11: Dram Shop

9pm, Thursday, June 23
3040 N. Broadway
Price of Old Style: $3.00 bottles

I'm not sure if the owner of the Dram Shop is a lawyer, or just very creative:

Dram (def): I small unit of liquor, usually in reference to whiskey
Dram Shop (def): legal term for a liquor store or bar that sells alcohol
Dram Shop liability (def): law in 38 states that makes the bar partially responsible for any injury caused by an intoxicated person who was at their establishment.

The Dram Shop is a classy dive located south of Belmont on Broadway Ave., a busy and congested part of Lakeview. What I mean by "classy dive" is that it really isn't a dive at all, just a great bar that doesn't try to be anything at all and reaps the benefits. When we arrived there, every bar stool was taken so we were regulated to a table in the back. On the back wall were pictures taken by the owner of the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention, except there was a note saying that his camera was confiscated during the riots, so these pictures were taken the next day of the aftermath. Not as exciting...

The bartender, Christian, was the hero of the night. Not only was he chatting up the patrons swilling their $2 PBR's at the bar, but every 10 minutes he would walk over to the jukebox to play some more tunes, and refill his stock of PBR from the cooler in the back. He even took some time to chat with me when I came up to the bar and ordered our drinks...solid bartender at a solid bar. He probably was the one who made the sign in the women's bathroom to remind them to watch out for flying darts...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bar #10: Wrigleyville North

8pm, Wednesday, June 23
3900 N. Sheridan Rd.
Price of Old Style: $3.00 bottles

Over the years, all the bars near Wrigley Field have morphed into one type of bar: Lots of flat screen TV's, over-priced domestic beer, loud pop music, and filled to capacity with 20-something year-olds that may or may not be rude, obnoxious suburbanites. It's all part of the "Wrigleyville" atmosphere. Every bar is the same, except for a few exceptions: Guthries (board games), The Gingerman (hipster), The Piano Man (dive), and Wrigleyville North (another dive).

Wrigleyville North labels itself as a "sports bar", but it looks like nothing has changed there in 30 years. It's in a prime location, less than a block from the Sheridan Red line stop, a few newer restaurants across the street. I'm sure it gets busy on game days because the beer is so much cheaper, but I would prefer The Piano Man as my cheap pre-game destination.

We purposely went on a day when there was no Cubs game, to get a true feel of the bar. It was Thursday, and it was pretty slow...only a few regulars were in there, and they were gone pretty soon after we sat down. It also didn't have much just looked like they said yes to every beer distributor who offered to put up a neon sign...they were everywhere!

There is a house band, Justus, that plays every Friday and Saturday night...they seem to be a country/Skynyrd band with a somewhat loyal following. What they may be, is the only band in Chicago who plays behind the bar - now this is an interesting feature!

I hit up the restroom before we left, and was greeted with this pearl of wisdom - if you can't read it, it says "Prison Sucks! And the sex is overrated...." Good to know...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bar #9: Jim's Time Out

7:00pm, Friday, June 17
746 N. James Lowell St., Milwaukee, WI
Price of Old Style: $2.75 a bottle

On Friday night, I was in Milwaukee to see an old friend who was in town from Hong Kong. I got to the hotel a little early, and decided to hit up a bar I haven't been to in ages, which was conveniently down the street.

Jim's Time Out (JTO) is like many Old Style bars out's a house that someone turned into a bar, except JTO is in the middle of downtown Milwaukee. It's amazing that it's still open, and if it was in any other city than Milwaukee, it would have been torn down long ago. It's a half block from the Milwaukee Public Museum, and that is how I became so familiar with it in my college days. I worked and interned at the museum while in school, and JTO was the place where we ended our day, along with the drug addicts and degenerates and college kids in the city. JTO wasn't a shady place, it just had a wide range of clientele.

A few buddies were picking me up, so I had time for a quick beer. I walk in and the place hadn't changed much at all. Curtains on the windows, a jukebox in one poker in another, one of these, and some interesting looking people sitting at the bar. Tom the bartender takes my order, and asks where I'm from (this is becoming a trend). I tell him I'm visiting from Chicago, and haven't been here in a while...and that much hasn't changed. He says, "yeah, I think we moved the video poker from there to over there....thats about it". Funny, I didn't notice.

A young couple walk in the bar and order two shots of Jager for the road. Just got in town for a wedding. They do the shots and leave...Tom looks at me and says, "They looked 21, right?" Then an older guy walks in, and this exchange happens between him and Tom:

Tom: "Hey, you ain't locked up any more?"
Old guy: "Nope, just got out last Sunday..."
Tom: "Sure you need a drink?"
Old guy: " long as I blow a 0.0 when I get home I'll be alright."
Tom: "Right, because if you don't you'll be back in prison blowing dudes..."

Jim's Time Out, ladies and gentlemen.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

SIGN NO MORE #3: Wally's Lounge

Wally's Lounge was brought to our attention by one of our Facebook followers (, and he only knew the places as "Bottles & Cans". Unfortunately, the sign is down, and you wouldn't even know it's a easy to drive right by. Perhaps Wally wants it this way.

3017 W. Belmont Ave.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SIGN NO MORE #2: The Mutiny

The Mutiny is a legendary music venue, in that, if you are in a band, you could probably play matter how bad you are. I haven't been there in years, but the Old Style sign is gone and now there is a sign with a Canadian beer logo promoting art? Mutiny, what happened? Just kidding...I'm sure this bar is still awesome, but just a little less awesome than back in the day.

2428 N. Western Ave.

SIGN NO MORE #1: Stella's Sports Bar

In the past few years, a few bars have removed their Old Style signs for some unfortunate reason, and by using magic that is known as the Internet (and Google Maps), you can see the before and after (no photoshop). That's right--you're getting called out, bars!

935 N. Western Ave.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bar #8: Babe's On Milwaukee

10:30pm, Wednesday, June 8
4416 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Price of Old Style: $1.75 12 oz. mugs

Sometimes the quality of your evening out depends on who you sit/stand next to in a bar. I know friends that have met their future spouse in a bar, and friends that have gotten into rough fights in a bar. Right place, right time...wrong place, wrong time. Babe's is not a very interesting bar, but the man who I sat
next to changed all that. For blogging purposes, I was in the right place at the right time, but for the safety of myself and my family, I could have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Let's call him Aiden (not his real name, but the only name stuck in my head from the last post--I'm seriously terrified that he may come across this blog, track me down and kill me). My bro and I sit at the bar and order our Old Style. There is this guy next to us with a Kansas City Royals hat on, that, within 2 minutes, turns to me and says,
"Do you play tennis?"
"Um, on occasion..."
"Do you know you look like Jim Courier?"

Now, I have heard this many times before, and even a few days earlier mentioned this to my wife as Mr. Courier was at the French Open presenting the trophies to Nadal and Federer. I tell this guy I have heard this many times, and he seems very offended. I try to start conversation...notice the Royals hat and tell him I've been to Kaufmann Stadium and really like it.
"When did you go?", he asks.
"About 10 years ago--they didn't have as many seats in the bleachers as they do now."
"Really, what did it look like back then?" (not really asking me but quizzing me)
"Well, there were the fountains, and the three retired numbers on the scoreboard..."
"What numbers?"
"Who wore #10?"
"George Brett?"
"NO!!! Dick Howser wore #10...everyone knows Brett wore #5...what was the other number?"
"20, which was Frank White" (whew...lucky I knew that one)

So, Aiden asks me if we've ever been here before (my brother has made the wise decision to not say a word up to this point). We tell him we haven't and he tells us the same - sure, buddy. Then this exchange happens:

"So I write surveys for a living (?), mind if I ask you a survey question?"
"Sure, go ahead..."
"Who do you love more, your wife or your daughter?"
"Serious?", as in, what the hell survey is this question coming from, you weirdo...
"My daughter?"
"Your daughter? You love your daughter more than your wife?"

I turn to my brother, who is basically looking the other way and whistling at this point. Aiden then proceeds to lecture me on why this is the wrong answer, ending with,
"If my mother told me she loved me more than she loved my dad, I would never speak to her again..."

I'm pretty much fed up with this guy by now, but I make the dumb move of turning the tables on him:
"Let me ask you a question...who do you love the most?"
"I think that's a pretty personal question," he says.
"Are you f--king kidding me? What did you just ask me??!?!"
"Ok--an Irish girl..."
"Does she live in the city?"
"Does she know you love her?"
"Does she love you?"

Uh-oh. There it is... This was a bad idea, and I spend the next few minutes trying to convince him that things may change, and then pretty much end the conversation by turning to my brother, thanking him for the support.

"Hey, I at least got a picture of him..."

So, of course, before we leave, Aiden asks, "Who do you think I look like?"


Bar #7: Jefferson Inn

9:30pm, Wednesday, June 8
4874 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Price of Old Style: $2.75 drafts

The Jefferson Inn is a cozy little place on North Milwaukee Avenue. It's a few places down from the Gale Street Inn, which has some of the best ribs in the city, and next door to Edward Fox photography. I'm not sure of the quality of the pictures that Mr. Fox takes, but there's a statue of him outside the door (update: Ed Fox is long gone...the studio has been around since 1902).

Back to the bar, my brother and I walk in and it's pretty dead. Two women sitting at the bar in the front and that's it. There are a few booths next to the bar, and the back room is up a few steps, and also has a few nice booths, a flatscreen, and electronic darts. Looks like a good place to chill out with friends.

We order our Old Styles and the bartender asks us our names. She's probably in her late 20's/early 30's and is one of the most disproportionate people I have ever seen. She's barely fitting in the shirt she's wearing, with her boobs pushed up to her chin, but her curves end after her butt whatsoever. Sorry about the bartender critique - this won't be a regular feature of the blog - but this had to be noted. Anyway, she doesn't believe me that my name is Adam, because guys tell her that all the time. Why? Because her name is Eva. Oh, of course! I guess people at dive bars read a different Bible, or maybe they updated the names in the New-New version to make them trendy. If that was so, it would be Aiden, not Adam, and Eva.

Popcorn. There is popcorn behind the bar. Eva quickly fills us a bowl before we even ask - ok, this girl's alright. She convinces us that the bar will pick up after 10pm. We sure hope so, because America's Got Talent is on TV, and we're actually getting into it. Ten o'clock rolls around, and sure enough, people start filling up the place. A good number have just gotten off work at Gale Street Inn, and shots are being ordered. Must have been a rough night at work. No--the shots are being ordered by this guy that just walked in, and seems like a very happy drunk. He's an Indian dude, and reminds me a lot of Rajesh from Big Bang Theory (who can't talk to women unless he's drunk). Raj orders drinks for everyone in the bar, except for us (WTF - getting screwed by the regulars again), and then proclaims a number of times, "Oh man, who the f--k is gonna pay for all this?" We're done with our beers by now, and make our way out. We need to pass Raj to leave the bar, and we wonder if he'll offer us a drink. Nope - all we get is a "See you later, guys!" and a smile. No big deal for us...we had one more bar to hit, and man was it a doozy.

Bar #6: Murray's Tavern

8:30pm, Wednesday, June 8
5522 N. Elston Ave.
Price of Old Style: $2 bottles, $1 drafts

Murray's Tavern is a blue collar dive bar located in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, an area of Chicago mainly populated by city workers, firefighters and police officers. I used to pass this bar all the time on the way home from work, with its Old Style sign hanging high above the door, suspended from the roof. We pull up and see an unmarked police car sitting out front...this could be interesting...

As we walk in, all four people sitting at the bar turned and stared...once again, we're obviously not regulars. The jukebox did not screech to a halt, though. Sinatra kept on playing as we took our seats, with the bartender nowhere to be found. We look around the bar...pool table, electronic jukebox, piano, Murray's Flag, and tons of pictures of drunk people hanging behind the bar. There is also a picture of Murray behind the bar...may he rest in peace.

Ten minutes later, a woman came from out back and got us our beers, and by now the old man next to us is trying to balance a HUGE white plastic platter on his head. This guy couldn't be the undercover cop, right? You never know in Chicago...

Halfway though our beers, plastic platter is still not staying on old dude's head, and keeps on clanging on the ground. By this time, a group of four guys have come in, and there is Irish music blasting from the juke. At least it was drowning out the sound of the clanging platter. The Irish play list reaches it's crescendo with everyone (except us) singing "The Streets of New York" by the Wolfe Tones...hmmm, this is a more authentic Irish bar than most I've been to in Chicago that claim to be (i.e. Irish Oak, Irish Eyes, Hye Bar, Mystic Celt). Oh yeah, we don't mention our ancestors are Scottish.

My previous thought rings even more true when we finally get to talk to the bartender, Maeve. She is 100% Irish, and came to Chicago 7 years ago. She give my brother a bunch of places to go see in Ireland when he and his girlfriend travel there in September. Unfortunately she didn't know too much of the history of how Murray started the bar, but it's been around since 1953 (see picture of flag). We thought about asking the locals, but weren't sure they liked us, especially based off this conversation:

Drunk guy 1: Hey Maeve, take care of these guys...they look like a couple firefighters! (laughs)
Drunk guy 2: Firefighters? Maybe those guys that fly the shitty planes and drop water on forest guys. A tough of tough guys here. (more laughter)

No idea what that meant, but I'm sure they were making fun of us...and I'm positive that, if he were still around, Murray would not approve.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bar #5: Fuller's Pub II

11:30pm Wednesday, June 1
3203 W. Irving Park Rd.
Price of Old Style: $2.50 a bottle (baseball bat bottle)

This place wasn't part of the schedule, but when only one of three bars work out, you need to salvage the evening somehow. We did get our first Old Style sign that was out back. Not sure if we salvaged anything at this place, though.

The bartender was a man in his 50's, and not very talkative. To the left of us, a couple splitting a bucket of Old Style's (nice!) -- seriously, on a Wednesday night? Was it a date? Were they married? Just seemed odd... To the right of us were two middle aged women, not talking and watching Leno, which was on ALL the TV's. When the bartender wasn't serving anyone, which was 99% of the time, he took a seat at the bar to watch TV as well.

We took some time to document some of the decorations on the wall:

Where is Maguire University, you ask? I had no idea, so I looked it up... The story behind this "school" is 100,000x more exciting than the bar its pennant was hanging in.

Thank God they had some dart boards...real darts at that. My brother and I got the darts and had an EPIC match, with me pulling out the victory, and giving a shout out to someone who recently passed on.

So, all in all, pretty lame bar. But, if they didn't have the TV's on the late night talk shows, I would have missed this (which apparently was a rerun).

SIGN-FAIL: Fenix Lounge / Sofia's

11:00pm, Wednesday, June 1
4026 N. Pulaski

When I started compiling locations for the Project, this place was called the Fenix Lounge. Not too long ago, ownership changed hands and it is now called Sofia's and has one MAJOR change.



Breaks my heart.

Bar #4: The Levee

8:45pm, Wednesday, June 1
4035 W. Fullerton Ave.
Price of Old Style: $3.25 bottles

The Levee has the best bar in the city, and needs to be patented. It's unique curvature allows for someone to sit 8 barstools down from you and basically have a face-to-face conversation. The other face to my face was Dixie, a 62-year old African-American man who couldn't have been more than 5'1", 120 lbs, married a white woman back in the early 70's, was a huge Sox fan, loved Screwdrivers, seemed like he had a huge chip on his shoulder, but couldn't be a nicer guy.

The owner of the bar, Warren, with his deep bellowing voice, teased Dixie a number of times about his small stature, but it was all in good fun. Warren, noticing our new faces, wasted no time chatting us up to get to know us better. "You guys from around here?", he started with, and the conversation began.

We found out that Warren has owned The Levee for over 32 years, is an ex-Marine, and has lived in the Hermosa neighborhood his whole life. He has six kids, and his oldest, Kim, was tending bar this evening. He told us stories about coaching national championship 16-inch softball teams, his annual vacations to Mexico, and how he could get tickets for any team in the city. He's even inducted in the 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame! Warren is the main reason this place is still around...he creates an atmosphere that allows for great conversation, and then delivers with amazing stories. We could have stayed there all night.

Knowing we had other bars to visit, and needing a little change of pace, we strolled into the back room. I had actually been to this bar before, and I knew there was a basketball hoop hidden in the back bar area by the pool tables. Would Warren be up for a little bet? Of course he would... Best out of 10, lowest score buys the next round. Unfortunately, my brother didn't have quite the hot hand that Warren and I did (9 out of 10 for both of us), and lost the bet. We went back to our seats, and got ready to buy the next round, but Warren beat us to the punch and there were three shots of Jameson waiting for us at the bar. "Thanks for coming in, guys...hope to see you again". Cheers, Warren. We hope to be back soon.

Here is video of our contest, and by the way, this was the warm up...we were both pretty bad here. Check out the shot by Warren at 0:54 -- he definitely received a home-court bounce...

Other tidbits:

--There is a large bush outside the bar trimmed in the shape of a beer bottle.
--The barstools are from the old Soldier Field skyboxes, bought in an auction while they were renovating the stadium.

R.I.P.: Connie's and Johnnie's

8:30pm Wednesday, June 1
3745 W. Armitage Ave.

Door was locked. No Connie. No Johnnie. Neon signs in the windows, but it didn't look like anyone had been inside in a while. I called the number listed online, and it was just forwarded to a generic voicemail. Another one bites the dust...