UPchicago Bar Crawl: Roscoe Village

Even expert bar-crawlers (like ourselves) can run into a sticky situation or two. Like when we arrived on our Wednesday night Roscoe Village crawl to learn that many of the area’s bars don’t open until 8pm. Well, damn. Getting over that hiccup, though, we took on this West Lakeview neighborhood with gusto. A word to the wise, however… Roscoe Village can be a sleepy neighborhood on a weekday night. Don’t expect anything too crazy — well, unless you bring the crazy yourselves!

Liberty Lounge — Jackie Berkery
3341 N. Western Ave.

Liberty Lounge is a great dive that’s literally off-the-beaten-path. You may have driven past it down Western a million times, but it’s likely you never noticed it’s existence. We’ll, I’m here to tell you it’s time to take notice.

Liberty is one of those places that just naturally attracts a crowd of regulars. But unlike many local spots, I didn’t feel out of place when I walked through the door. There were no glares or judgements cast at the newbies from the veterans. How refreshing. Our group grabbed a seat at one of the several high-top tables in the front, observing as we settled in.

Star Wars memorabilia hang from the ceiling, an old pool table dominates the back of the room, and a flashy jukebox pumps tunes from the front. The decor is most certainly not the main attraction, though. It’s surely the friendly bartenders and the low-key atmosphere that keep people coming back. Well, that and the remarkably cheap beer!

Of special importance to the UPchicago team, Liberty is one of a handful of bars in the city that carry Malört, that unrelenting local liquor.

Liberty is the perfect mix of blue collar, hipster, and down home Chicago. It’s no-frills but warm, just the way I like my dives. So next time you’re hanging around Roscoe Village, step out of your normal routine and head to Liberty for a whiskey or two. This is the real Chicago. Alas, we couldn’t stay forever, and the night was young. Time for bar #2.

Hungry Brain — Gene Wagendorf III
2319 W. Belmont Ave.

Do brains not get hungry on Wednesdays? Our second attempt to start drinking at Hungry Brain was successful, we did get beer, but we were all alone. Is everyone at home watching Modern Family? Fine. Fine. Be that way. I don’t need you here to have a good time. The jukebox has Shellac, the Dead Guy is cold and the UPChicago crew are plenty fun.

The plus to drinking at the Brain when it’s relatively empty is that you have your choice of comfy couches and booths. The furniture here seems like it was bought from Heaven’s estate sale. It’s all retro kitsch in the greatest, most mismatchediest way. Throw in a book exchange, a Ms. Pac Man/Galaga machine and Arkanoid by the bathroom and I’m good.

Drinks are pretty cheap and the staff is always friendly, the rare exception to the latter being if you drop by on a Sunday night for Hungry Brain’s jazz series. That isn’t to say they spit on you when you walk in the door, but the bartenders have a tendency to get very Green Mill-hush-hushy at anyone speaking louder than sign language. That said, even on busy nights this isn’t the kind of establishment where you’re going to find anyone yelling above loud music and spewing trashy pick-up lines.

The ability to completely lose track of time without being hammered is one of the hallmarks of a great bar. There are some places you just want to relax at without thinking about anything in particular, and the Hungry Brain is perfect for such an evening. The art on the walls often looks like something puked-up from a high school class in complete mess-ism, but fuck it, that kind of stuff always looks better after a few drinks anyway. And on we go…

Beat Kitchen — Andrew Hertzberg
2100 W. Belmont Ave.

From the outside, the Beat Kitchen looks just about as Chicago Bar as you can get. Situated at the corner of Belmont and Hoyne Avenues, the playful fluorescent signage is comfortably inviting. My first experiences with the Beat Kitchen primarily dealt with the former part of their name. A great place for all ages or 17+ punk shows, it was a familiar destination on the weekends during my high school days. Every Chicago name from indie-crooner Andrew Bird to the Irish rabble rousers the Tossers and avant-garde metal Pelican have performed in their intimate setting. Unfortunately, our slightly delayed crawl start time meant we missed out on the live tunes that night. No worries. There’s always plenty of reason to go back, if not for the music, then for the weekly Tuesday night Underground Comedy showcase.

So with the music hunger unsatiated, we were at least able to dive into a booth and put a lid on another hunger. Goose Island Green Line and $3 Shiner specials were the drink choices of the night, as well as beers best concomitant: pizza. The 12-inch thin crusts are good to share for a group, with a build your own option that goes beyond basic toppings. For me, the crust could have been a bit crispier and the ingredients weren’t entirely loaded. Good enough for bar food, but definitely not a main attraction. Of note: menus come in old classic rock vinyl album covers. Very cool.

Although our server was attentive this night, I’ve met some bartenders in the past that don’t seem to really care about having your business. But it’s part of a certain charm to the place as well. Nearly hidden amongst the slough of tattoo shops on this corridor of Belmont Ave. allows the bar more of an edge than, say, Schubas, which — though only seven blocks away — is nearly a stone’s throw from Wrigleyville. All the same, we were left with a friendly goodbye on our way to the next destination.

Riverview Tavern — Tessa McLean
1958 W. Roscoe St.

From the owners of Seven Ten Lounge and Southport Lanes comes this laid back Roscoe Village Tavern touting good pub grub and a spacious bar to hang out and play a game of pool. Named after the Riverview amusement park formally located on Western Avenue, the bar has pictures displaying different posters and pictures from the park. Grab a booth or a seat at the long wood bar and grab a beer or cocktail. They’ve got nightly food and beer specials, so be sure to check those out.

Once you’ve grabbed a drink, head over to the juke box to pick your favorite tunes or even grab a seat outside if weather permits. It’s definitely a neighborhood bar with a chill attitude, so round up a group of good friends and enjoy a few drinks at Riverview. We did. And then we continued on.

Four Moon Tavern — Dan Bush
1847 W. Roscoe St.

As a Roscoe Villager, 4 Moon Tavern is my neighborhood joint. On a weeknight, it reminds me of a place I want to be when I am on the tail end of a cold. Okay, so I realize medicinal value doesn’t usually come to mind when one thinks of a bar. Yet, the low lights, wooden paneling and eccentric knick-knacks (See: Longhorn Cow Skulls and a 1940’s cash register), embody a vibe of comfort and familiarity.

The 4 moon Tavern is a step up from a dive bar. It’s littered with all the trappings of a hole-in-the-wall, especially its back room, where a vintage couch surrounds a table held up by a beer keg. But up front the bar patrons are immediately drawn to the hip blue glow above the pool table. And on the flip side of chill, the small bar gets packed on the weekends — a local Roscoe Village mix of young 20 something’s playing pool and business professionals watching ‘the game’. The crowd always grows in the summer, when 4 Moon Tavern opens its summer patio.

Four Moon Tavern is also known for its incredible home-style food menu –- highlights include homemade crab cakes, Sloppy Joes and 4 Moon Meatloaf. The bartender seemed almost motherly when she served me a bowl of their homemade tomato soup a few weeks ago. Every night the bar features a dinner and beer special, which is pulled from the dense 4 Moon beer list (over thirty types of brew!).

Underbar — Gene Wagendorf III
3243 N. Western Ave.

There comes a time on every pub crawl where people look around sleepily, the lights are getting brighter, someone shouts “last call” and everyone reaches for their wallets. Cabs get called and you say your goodbyes and then… you go to a 4AM bar! Because you’re an irresponsible prick who doesn’t work the next day! Because you have zero self respect! Or, in this case, because you’re just having that much fun with the wonderful people you’re out with. Yeah, that’s it.

Underbar is the perfect establishment for capping off a weeknight trounce through Roscoe Village. Though our numbers had dwindled (Andrew and I are the only ones who like fun, apparently) we were still having a blast and Underbar had exactly what we needed: cheap pints of PBR.

Normally bustling with activity on the weekends (especially those 5AM Saturdays), the bar was especially chill this evening. And by chill I mean Andrew and I were the only two patrons. No matter, the night was perfect. The beer was cold, the candlelight set the mood and we met at the middle of a string of spaghetti. Ok, some of that is true.

4am bars can often be written of as, at best, not trying very hard, and at worst, downright trashy. Not the case here. Underbar is just a pub where decent people hang out and good music is always playing. The staff tends to be warmer than you’ll find at most late-night spots and the old wooden bar has some really satisfying grooves in it. Activity started to pick up around three, but at that point the long trek home was looming large. Should I have just gotten into a cab? Would it have saved me from waking up at the O’Hare stop on the Blue Line? Did I have a great time?

Yes.

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Roscoe Village Bar Crawl in a larger map

About UPchicago Team

Urban Philosophy is a way of thinking that you develop when you’re a true city person. Whether you’ve spent your whole life living in Manhattan, or you just moved from small-town Iowa to the city of Chicago, the longer you stay, the more you come to understand what it means to live in a city. Our Urban Philosophy is that no matter who you are, where you are from, and what your likes and dislikes may be, there’s something for everyone in city life.

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