Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Random pics, thoughts, observations, from Chicago

I just wanted to share some stuff from the trip to Chi-town Zig Zag and I made last weekend. After drinking heavily for the better part of Sunday, Zig and I were in need of sustenance. For absolutely no reason whatsoever I really wanted a Philly Cheesesteak. So, I hopped on the Interwebs and found what many called "the best and most authentic Philly in Chicago" at a place called Philly's best, so off we went.Just outside the restaurant we spotted this ancient Huffy. I'm not sure if it actually works or if it's just been sitting there since '73.

And here we are inside Philly's Best let's get a cheesesteak. This sandwich was fucking awesome. I've never been to Philly but I've been to Ocean City which is pretty close and this cheesesteak was pretty close to what I had there. It's all about the cheese, it's gotta be liquid white American cheese (or Cheez Wiz) to be right and the guys at Philly's Best have it figured out.
This wall had a ton of pictures, almost all of them autographed, of various celebrities. There was pics of reporters from Philadelphia as well as sports figures from Chicago. Before our lunch at Philly's, we spotted some dive bars to check out before hitting the road and coming back to the P. The first stop was Carol's Pub located at 4659 N. Clark. Just outside the bar we found this empty can of Icehouse. This is always the sign of a great bar.

Most reviews online said it was a great place for karaoke and I don't doubt that. There was a big stage where country and western (both kinds of music!) play. The crowd at 1 p.m. on a Monday was...interesting. When Zig and I walked in, both TV's were turned to Maury and cranked up pretty loud. The whole bar was watching, which is the first time I've ever seen that. Below is a pic from my perch at the bar. This place was a true dive. It smelled a little like farts and stale beer but compared with the other cookie-cutter sports bars and douchebag hangouts in the area, I would definitely make Carol's a regular stop if I were lucky enough to live in the Windy City and run the Chicago Bar Review. After a couple Bloody Mary's and a few Bud Lights we headed to our next stop, Max's Place.
No one leaves a bar quietly at 4 a.m.

Max's is about a one cigarette walk from Carol's and is located at 4621 N. Clark. Max's is way smaller than Carol's but had just as much atmosphere. There's a bar, a jukebox, booze, and that's about it. But to be a great dive bar, these are really the main ingredients. I only got one pic, from my seat at the bar, check it out below.

The outside shot is a pic I got from another site. In case you can't tell, that sign is made of wood and is hand-painted, something you don't see very often.

Cheers to Philly's Best for providing Chicago with an authentic cheesesteak and cheers to Max's and Carol's for providing the City of Broad Shoulders with two great dives to hang out in.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Burwood Tap

Picture stolen from online source. Obviously our trip to the Burwood was much colder and snowier. Great.Fucking.Place.
Located at 724 West Wrightwood Ave. in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Burwood is one of the oldest bars in the city. The bar has been in operation and owned by the same family since 1933. I'm not sure if it was a bar before Prohibition or not but that's still a long fucking time. The bar sits on the corner of Wrightwood and Burling Streets which gives the tavern its name.

My first experience at the Burwood was completely by chance, which I'll explain in a minute. PBR staffer and resident drunkest-guy-in-the-room Zig Zag and I went to the Bears-Jets game last Sunday and had made up a little route to walk that evening to hit up some bars. Needless to say after a three (3) hour drive that started at 7 a.m. and included Zig drinking endless amounts of beers and smoking a shitload of hitters, he was in pretty bad shape for the game. But thanks to a post-game shower and bottle of merlot things were looking a little better for the evening's festivities.

Our route had us stopping at the B.L.U.E.S. bar right next to Kingston Mines before going to the Galway Arms and whatever other taverns might present themselves on our walk. Unfortunately, the blues bar was closed so we headed towards Galway. To my amazement and somehow through the wine/beer/weed/no sleep induced fog that Zig was in, he spotted the Burwood as I almost walked right past it.

Upon entering, I could already tell that this was one of "those" places. The entire bar is awash in a red-maroon glow that was added to by the Christmas lights hanging above the bar. Hell, they might even have them there all year round for all I know, they wouldn't look out of place. The front bar seats about 20 (how many times have I said that?) and the bar in the back looked to be a little bigger. In between is a single pool table. There weren't very many people in the bar but I could see that area being pretty cramped if the place was packed. Which is exactly what the fine folks at the Chicago Bar Project thought as well.

Zig Zag and I settled in and started playing pool, while the regulars drank at the bar and watched the Blackhawks game. We had a pitcher ($9) and had a walk around. Among the things we found were an old-ass fire hydrant, some really old hockey equipment hanging above the pool table and most importantly this sign...
Now, according to the Chicago Bar Project, this price has increased to $30 per person but that's still a ridiculously good deal. I don't know about you but any time I've spent three hours at a bar I've spent at least $20. Furthermore, if I really wanted to go nuts and drink Johnnie Walker Blue, my tab would be way beyond that. I will take advantage of this one day, stay tuned.
Here's the small pool table area. This table played really well despite the fact that the old floor was entirely un-even. The table is a Brunswick which, I'm pretty sure are the best made tables available. I really like the copper corners on this one. This table looks just like the ones at Jillian's here in Peoria. The difference between them is that this one will actually get used because it doesn't cost a ridiculous amount of money to play on it, Jillian's you are fucked!
Here's the back bar area. I love all the woodwork in this place, it gives it a real welcoming feel. And below that, for some reason is Shawn Kemp. I'm not really sure what this picture is doing there but it reminded of several things. First, those early to mid-90's Sonics had some pretty good teams with Kemp and Gary Payton holding it down. Not to mention how sweet those jerseys are. It's a shame that the Supersonics no longer exist. At least we have this picture to remember them by.
Above is a pic of the bar from back in the day, pretty fucking sweet.
The aforementioned fire hydrant is pictured below. This thing was heavy as fuck. The floor underneath was a low spot in the pool table area, undoubtedly because of the weight of this thing. There was a ton of cool old stuff laying around in this bar but with all the regulars there on a Sunday night, I didn't want to look like a complete creep by taking pictures of everything.
After we had finished our pitcher, Zig and I headed to the Galway Arms, which reviews online said had live Irish music every Sunday night. Zig Zag, unbenknownst to me had been cranking hitters on the walk to the blues bar and the Burwood. This, of course led to him looking extremely fucked up. We walked to the Galway and I went to the bathroom while Zig found a table for us. When I came back the waitress informed that "I can't serve your friend, the bartender said he's too drunk." Congrats are in order for my boy Zig, I've never seen anyone get kicked out of an Irish bar for being too drunk until that fateful eve. So, we improvised and went back to the Burwood where the friendly waitress happily brought us a pitcher while Zig chowed down on some of the free food they had in the back room as well as shitload of free popcorn. This is another reason why I love this bar so much. Zig was fucked up, to be sure, but he wasn't causing any problems nor could he have if he tried. If it wasn't for the Burwood who knows where we would have gone. I might have had to drop his drunk ass off at the hotel and bar-hop solo.

So, cheers to Zig Zag for maintaining despite the circumstances and a very rare Double Cheers to the Burwood Tap for saving my night!

Oh, and next time we're leaving the dope at the hotel you drunk ass bastard!
Shot of the bar. It looks like copper but it's actually just laminated (or whatever you call it) wood.