I randomly found myself in the South End Wednesday night, and with the Cubs game on the radio and a few dollars in my pocket, I figured it would be best to stop in at Jan's.
First off, you should know that Jan's husband has been diagnosed with lung cancer. So, keep him in your prayers (if you do that sort of thing) or your thoughts (I think we all have those).
Wednesday provided a beautiful night for some late night scratch-offs and yet another devastating Cubs loss. When I walked in, there were only three people at the bar. One, I soon learned, was named Leland, who admitted he gambles "a lot."
"Not a winner, Leland," the bartender said.
"Damn. I've lost 60 dollars tonight."
Following that, Leland rambled on semi-incoherently about "notebooks" from "'47, '48 and '49" that he sold for $100 a pop. He told us they were actually worth $250 a piece. I'm still not sure what he was talking about but I think it was some kind of annual program for the Cubs. It didn't matter; ears were caught, and the bartender deftly slipped away.
I informed the bartender I won $4 on my $2 scratch-off.
"You sure?" she asked.
"The machine will tell you what it's made of," Leland chimed in.
Indeed, Jan's has a new machine that scans each scratch-off, ensuring that Leland-types can't pull any fast ones on whoever is behind the bar.
It's fitting that the most notorious Cubs bar in town also sells a ton of lottery tickets. The dream of winning is still alive and well at Jan's. And much like Cubs fans, these folks are in it for the love of the game.
Click below to read the original review.
First of all, let me just say that nights like last night are what makes writing this blog so fun. Many of the places I go to are fun and lively but rarely do I get the opportunity to learn as much about Peoria tavern history as I did last night. The description of this particular tavern will be at the end of this review but first I must provide you with some perspective.
Jan's Tap will turn 22 years old on August 4th. Now, that is not a particularly long time in terms of institution status but let me explain. Jan and her family have been in the bar business in Peoria for a very long time. Jan's parents used to own and operate Tina's Coach Stop. Back then, it was called the Rocky Glen. Jan and her siblings were raised in the house above the bar. Eventually, they sold it and it became the Coach Stop. Jan purchased her bar which has been a tavern for a very long time. So long in fact, that the name of the road on which it is located has changed. Jan's is located at 3404 W. Fremont Street in Limestone Township. This road used to extend across Kickapoo Creek but has long since been cut off. It was named Middle Road, and Jan's was called the Middle Road Tap. Jan told me a great story about how one of her regular's parents used to go to her parents' bar back in the day. Stories like this one is what makes Jan's and places like it so special. Not only did her parents own a bar but her great aunt and uncle did as well. They were the proprietors of Jimmy's on Farmington Road. Back then, it was called Vicary's Loading Dock. Another reason I have added Jan's to the Institution List is because of it's importance to the neighborhood. Jan's offers a more relaxed environment than the usual rowdiness that goes on just down the street at Jimmy Earp's. The neighborhood that surrounds Jan's is an island of tranquility compared to neighborhoods on the other side of Western. Driving around in the South End can be kind of depressing but when you pull up to Jan's, you will see that there are plenty of Peorians who still take pride in their homestead.
Jan is a huge Cubs fan, therefore Jan's Tap is a Cubs bar. It's not just a Cubs bar though. After all these are the old stomping grounds of one Jim Thome, you might have heard of him. The slugger and "Pride of Peoria" grew up right here in this very neighborhood. Jan's pays tribute to Jim by having the wall above the shuffleboard table covered, almost entirely in posters, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia most of which, has Thome's autograph. Jan told me that up until recently she had no Thome memorabilia from his current team the Minnesota Twins. When she told Jim's dad Chuck, he brought her a pennant with Thome's number 25 and the Twins logo. It hasn't been autographed yet but I'm sure the next time Jim gets a break from knocking the ever loving shit out of baseballs all across this country, he'll return to Jan's Tap and sign the pennant. As a side note, all this Thome memorabilia, despite the fact that it has the logos of the teams he has played for, flows perfectly with the Cubs goodies. Why is this? Well, you White Sox fans might not want to hear this but Jim Thome grew up a Cubs fan. It's just a damn shame that the Cubbies couldn't have picked him up but then again, Chicago Cubs history is cluttered with "damn shames" and "could a beens".
When you walk into Jan's the bar is on your left, with the shuffleboard table on the left wall. The back wall is filled with poker machines. The bar is lit by Cubs glass lights and there is a matching one that hangs above the pool table in the back room. One of the most unique things about Jan's is that they have lottery machines. You can play power ball, mega millions, or some cheap scratch offs if you're feeling lucky. In 2009 Jan's Tap paid out $118,284 in lottery winnings. That is a lot of 7-11-21's!
Jan's is also known as a great karaoke bar. On Friday and Saturday nights Jan's is packed with would-be singers doing their best to entertain the crowd. Just pick up the next issue of the Bar Paper and you'll surely see a picture of smiling faces crowded around the bar or singing along to the music.
The beers are cheap and they even have a small menu that consists of Philly cheese steak sandwiches, corn dogs, hot tamales and a few other items that fail me right now. Jan even provides wine, she's got Chardonnay and Merlot, both for two dollars. During every Cubs game, Jan's offers 25 cent hot dogs, if you want them to go it'll cost you a buck. As the sign says "Watch the Game With Us!" This pretty much says it all, Jan is one of the friendliest people I have ever met, even to Cardinal fans. She has been making sure that everyone in her bar has a good time all the time for over twenty years.
So, cheers to Jan, her bar, and Jim Thome, despite the fact that he played for the evil White Sox. Oh yah, one more thing GO CUBBIES!
M & W - $1.25 drafts
T & TR - $2.25 cans and bottles