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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?

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you last weekend. It seems you've been spending a great deal of time at the local bars! Good job. I envy you.