UPchicago Bar Crawl: Ukrainian Village
We might be having too much fun with our “neighborhood research.” But who is going to complain when your job includes competing in a ping pong tournament and reminiscing about Dinosaurs, that genius early 90s TV show.
This time it’s Ukrainian Village. Just south of Wicker Park, this West Side neighborhood gets its name from the Ukrainian immigrants that occupied the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Now, the neighborhood gets a lot of spillover from the neighboring Wicker Park and Bucktown as gentrification has taken over, but the area still maintains a very residential feel. Bars are tucked in on the corners of small side streets, and restaurants are modest in size and popularity. Ukie Village residents love their hood, and we can definitely see why.
And so it starts, this time at 7pm because those mean UPchicago founders wanted to couple the first bar with a staff meeting. Those tricksters… and we’re off!
Five Star — Brittany Clingen
1424 W. Chicago
Where can you find great deals on food and booze, a pool table, tattoo-inspired wallpaper, and a bunch of thirsty writers hanging from a stripper pole during an official “meeting”? The answer, my friends, is Five Star. This eclectic Ukrainian Village watering hole, to quote my lovely editor, Tessa, “has the feel of a biker bar but welcomes like a Wicker Park bar”. Whether you want to play pool in the back over a few beers, catch the last rays of summer sun on the patio-area out front, or dine on scrumptious pulled pork nachos in one of the large, leather booths, Five Star has a spot for everyone.
Five Star offers a great menu, complete with yummy appetizers and full course meals, all reasonably priced. I, personally, am no beer connoisseur. I’ll take a cocktail over a brew in a second! Fortunately, my fellow writers, all much bigger beer lovers than I, informed me that Five Star’s beer list is very respectable, with an impressive selection of imports, domestics, etc. I was far more interested in their equally extensive list of whiskey, bourbon, and scotch, but again, it was a Tuesday.
My favorite feature, by far, is the private party room in back, complete with two televisions (which, at the time were broadcasting videos of people skateboarding), fascinating yellow wallpaper plastered with tattoo-like images (a half-naked mermaid, for example), and… a stripper pole. This cozy room, which is completely lined by a comfy, leather booth-like bench that seats about 20, is a great spot for a private gathering of friends looking to get a little rowdy.
After a successful meeting and a few spins on the stripper pole, we were off to our second stop….
The Chipp Inn — David Frankel McLean
832 N. Greenview
Ukranian Village/Noble Square is my proverbial “hood” and I was an over zealous task master when insisting certain funky dens not be missed. I found myself putting my foot down the hardest on dear old Chipps Inn and thus earned a clue what bar I would review.
It’s important to note that while the waves of yuppy nation are crashing over Division street and seething gentrified foam at the heels of West and East Village, there are many “local” bars that serve as a stomping ground for the working class families of the area, past and present. This is only exacerbated on the weekends when vans full of middle aged suburban ex-residents come piling into their in-town favorites. Chipps Inn could be classified as one of these bars.
But don’t cringe from the consistently local crowd that occupies this friendly corner pub, they’re never anything but welcoming once they’ve sized up the Chicago Ave delinquents who found their hidden gem. The neon old style sign harks to our crawl like a lighthouse in a sea of residential darkness, the tininess of Greenview street making the place all the more intimate. There’s a bar and a pool room at Chipps, thats it. While two box set televisions duel over which baseball team sucks more, I insist on a Matilda as it’s really the only high mark beer occupying their tap. Tessa and I slip into the small pool room, negotiating the minuscule pool table so we can examine each black and white photo like archeologists. The bar goes back to 1897 and they document it well. A familiar aged gentleman decorated in bright red colors and weighed down in medals then greets us like an ambassador, as he may very well be for all the times I’ve seen him here. I look around and my fellow crawlers seem far too comfortable, the very reasoning behind my insistence now biting us in the ass. Up and at em crawlers, the night awaits.
Club Foot — Mary-Margaret McSweene
1824 W. Augusta
Step into this bar and try not to have vivid flash backs from middle school or elementary school, depending on your age. If a Taco Bell dog key chain, Spice Girls lollipops, or Beauty in the Beast Happy Meal toys don’t strike an emotional chord with you, you have bigger problems than finding a bar in Ukrainian Village. Your problem is, you don’t have a soul.
Club Foot is in a residential area, an out-of-the-way oasis from trendy hipster spots. It is awash in nostalgic and wacky memorabilia. To name a few: Rocky Horror Picture Show buttons, multiple PeeWee Herman dolls, Ernie and Bert plush toys, a boxing nun puppet, a wax bust of President Lincoln (teal colored, by the way), a porcelain Scrubbing Bubbles mascot, a Kevin McAllister doll, and Braveheart was playing on the TV. The décor was so unique and fun and brought on so many memories from the 80s and 90s, South Park figurines almost seemed an affront to my reminiscing.
The bar had a decent beer selection, along with bottled Wood Chuck Cider, which always makes me happy. The bartender was knowledgeable and friendly, and told me about 15% of the stuff in there was brought in by patrons. He pointed to a pair of Star Wars dolls he said were worth at least $400, but a regular at Club Foot felt the bar needed them more than he did. The bartender said the place starts hoppin’ on the weekends, with dancing and general carrying on, and there are lines for the Tetris console and 007 pinball machine. I suggest going first on a week night, when it’s less crowded and you can take a real gander at the goods. Bottoms up, kids. The “Ah, Real Monsters!” figurines mean something totally different a few brews in.
Happy Village — Phil Kranyak
1059 N. Wolcott
I forgot I was supposed to be writing about the Happy Village. I was too preoccupied. I hadn’t played table tennis in months, perhaps years, and the back room of Happy Village is home to a two-table ping-pong arena, giving a twist to the term “sports bar.” Happy Village has a technical two-drink minimum to play, but nobody said a word to us about it during our evening. I will try to do this proper, but for me the ping-pong was the focus of the night. The wonderful thing is, it didn’t seem like it was for everybody. I could see Happy Village becoming a place where the back room gets so crowded you can’t play, the front bar emptied in favor of waiting for your turn to bend it like Bergmann. This isn’t the case, however. As we went on a Tuesday, the bar wasn’t stuffed to the gills, but it hosted a respectable crowd. This group was fairly evenly split between the two rooms, with slight favor on the main bar area. It seems that Happy Village is a local bar to the core, and the table tennis, while used and appreciated, is only drooled over by ignorant visitors like myself.
The drink specials are exactly what you would expect and appreciate from a neighborhood Chicago bar from the 1960’s. Fancy cocktails are omitted in favor of cheap portions of Old Style, Pabst, and Hamm’s. These are delicious options, so get one and make a friend. We made conversation with patrons, bartender, and one particularly intense ping-pong player while at Happy Village. Friendly, easy conversation seems to be the norm there. They have a large patio out back with a pond, so make sure you check it out if the weather permits. The jukebox is always a point of contention for me. I am not a big fan of the kinds of music usually stocked into these machines. I rarely know the bands and never know the songs. Happy Village surprised me, however. Among the mix of unknown (at least to me, you probably know all of them) were lodged Tenacious D, the Gorillaz, and Dr. Dre’s Chronic. A few of those tracks could keep me nodding all night. And so you know, Richard Bergmann was a seven-time world champion of table tennis from Austria and was inducted into the International Table Tennis Hall of Fame as a founding member.
Innertown Pub — Gene Wagendorf III
1935 W. Thomas
Was the bartender working on a bonsai of some kind? Maybe that’s why they call Innertown “The Home of the Arts.” By they I mean, well, Innertown, but I guess that’s irrelevant. I’d been to this bar countless times before our Ukrainian Village pub crawl and never noticed that little slogan on the sign over the entrance. I kind of always thought a moniker like that would go to Rainbo Club, but I guess that’s a quibble. Sure, artists hang out here. And pool players. And drinkers. And anyone who likes to tinker with an old piano or read a bar dictionary.
Back up. A bar dictionary? I didn’t know those existed either. It wasn’t until UPchicago staff-writer Phil hijacked some hipster’s giant dictionary that I learned the term. The guy was cool about it and Phil was clearly a little embarrassed while he explained to us that he thought it was the bar’s copy. You see, the staff bar crawls can be a bit intimidating. Not because my fellow writers can drink me under the table, but because they’re used to hanging out in swanky ultra-literary places full of dictionaries and atlases and thesauruses and sun dials. That sort of thing puts me out of my element, apparently.
Grabbed some drinks and went to shoot pool. Free pool. David threw some Same Cooke on the jukebox, though whatever came after it was drowned out by Jackie playing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” on the old piano adjacent to the cigarette machine. Under a sign that read “Happy 4th of July.” And that’s Innertown- a hodgepodge of kitsch and weird pop culture, pictures of Elvis and glowing American flags and crisp gin and tonics. The prices are right and the people are mostly friendly if not occasionally indifferent. There’s one yellow-screened television in the corner that might be showing a game no one’s paying attention to, but it’s there if you need to check the score. The music is excellent but subtle, quiet enough for conversation but just loud enough to bob your head. Innertown is an excellent place to wind down your night and relax, or in this case, to grab another drink before heading on to the next bar.
Bar Deville — Caitlin Fitzgibbons
1958 W. Huron
What do you get to drink at a bar that has a lot of great beers? Well if it’s Bar Deville — not a beer. Bar Deville, French for “bar of the city,” has some of the best mixed drinks in Chicago, most inspired by Managing Partner Brad Bolt. When asked on our bar crawl if he was a bartender or a mixologist he replied, “I’m a bartender.” Bolt proves there is no need for fancy terminology to make a good drink. Based on my request that I like tequila and citrus flavors, I end up with what tastes like a more organic version of Big Star’s La Paloma — simple syrup, fresh lime and grapefruit, club soda — and yes my favorite, tequila.
Walking into Bar Deville feels like walking into a South Side basement. Wood paneled walls line the area around the bar along with a series of high backed booths. It all seems so simple. In fact, some people would probably walk in and walk out before they realized what an elegant dive bar Bar Deville actually is. The details of the interior reveal themselves gradually; delicate wood carving and large mirrors hang over the booths on the back wall. Walking towards the back there is a photo booth perfect for fun times with friends. The next room has a great pool table, large overstuffed leather couches — this is not a just a dive bar anymore.
Oh wait what’s that? You’re standing by the pool table and you hear some hot catchy beats coming from even further back in the bar, so you follow the sound and come across the lounge of Bar Deville where intimate groupings of vintage armchairs, settees and couches surround a dance floor and a DJ. Is there a better combination than what Bar Deville has to offer? Not for me, I also love the location of Bar Deville. Damen and Huron is just far enough away from the Violet Hour, the crowd is always a perfect size.
Map it out: