Richard’s Bar (Bar, River West)

Photo Credit: Gene Wagendorf III

Location: 491 W. Milwaukee
Phone: (312) 733-2251

Even abbreviated bar crawls are trouble. You’d think that by hitting fewer places you’d be inclined to end the night on a more sober plane. Not so. Doesn’t help when you pre-game, and it certainly doesn’t help when you wind up at a place as cool as Richard’s.

It’s a huge cliche to note that walking through the doors of a given establishment is like stepping into a time machine, but sometimes cliches are called for. There’s a reason they’re cliches, after all. Richard’s Bar is such a place. For what is essentially nothing more than a neighborhood taproom the crowd tended to be a little more on the dressed-up side. Having visited on a weeknight I’ll assume everyone had just gotten off work and needed to blow off some steam. You know, relax with good friends, good music, a cigarette and a beer. A cigarette? Yes. Although Chicago’s smoking ban has been keeping smokers shivering in the cold for a few years now, the occasional cigarette and cigar makes an appearance at Richard’s. The bar even stocks an impressive selection of smokes behind the counter, right next to the 75¢ hard-boiled eggs and the beef jerky. Old school. Really though, who could begrudge a man a puff on his stogy while soaking in the sweet sounds of Louis Prima?

Which brings me back to the music. I’m a bit of a dick when it comes to jukeboxes in bar. Much as I love to be able to get lit and punch up Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie” at any given moment, internet jukeboxes make me cringe. A jukebox gives a bar character. The machine at Richard’s epitomizes this. For 5 bucks you can get yourself a full hour of Sinatra, Prima, Sam Cooke, Dean Martin< Otis Redding etc. As I was flipping through albums and punching numbers “That’s Amore” came on. Dan wandered over to say he’d thought about playing it but figured it would be too cheesy. I hadn’t played it either. Someone else had. Of course they had. And everyone enjoyed it. That’s the kind of place Richard’s is.

I have no complaints about this bar. The jerky was zesty. The drinks are cheap, definitely the kind of place you can lose yourself for a while and still have enough money not to piss your mugger off. Hell, something about this place made Peroni palatable. Or maybe that was the company. Hard to have a bad time with a crew that carries finger puppets around, you know, just in case.

This review first appeared in the River West Bar Crawl

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Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.

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