These five Historic Chicago Bars have withstood some of the Windy City’s greatest challenges, and welcomed some of its greatest traditions. And, many of these establishments survived one of nightlife’s greatest challenges, Prohibition. The Berghoff, Southport Lanes, Schaller’s Pump, The Back Room and Twin Anchors have stood the time for different reasons, but one thing they definitely have in common, is that they offer a good time.
The 113-year old establishment, located in the heart of the loop, was owned and inspired by the beer brewing West German immigrant, Joseph Berghoff. In its heyday, the bar sold beer for nickels and offered free sandwiches to their patrons. And, when the prohibition affected Chicago nightlife, Berghoff kept its doors open, functioning as a full service restaurant, also selling ’near beer’. In 1969, Berghoff abandoned its ‘Men Only’ policy after member of the National Organization for Women stood at the bar and demanded service.
December 28, 2005, it was announced that Herman Berghoff and Jan Berghoff were shutting down after 107 years of operation, and the doors officially closed February 28, 2006. The basement café reopened in April of the same year under the name of “17/West at The Berghoff.”
While the Berghoff family name has been divided, sorted and sold, the facility still manages to exhibit charm and appeal as a restaurant. The atmosphere is cozy and close, and the restaurant is ornamented with stylish woodwork. The authentic German cuisine, beer, and bar bites are only some of the glorious morsels that Berghoff has to offer. Wednesday evenings is known as ‘Flight Night’. You can try the ‘Beer Flight’ for $8, where you are able to taste five distinctive Berghoff brews. It is served with a mini-brat and sauerkraut. Also, for the same price, you can try the ‘Bourbon Flight’, which offers three feature bourbons, or a single pour of the house Bourbon.
The bad boy of nightlife, Southport Lanes once resorted to prostitution, so they could keep their doors open and alcohol flowing. The clandestine facility advertised upstairs ‘service’ by showcasing murals of nymphs on their downstairs walls. Those murals are still featured above the bowling pins.
Then, ownership changed hands, but Southport kept all of its non-sexual attractiveness. The tavern still has unique fixes such as handset pins by pin boys ( they are only one of ten bowling facilities in the country that still participate in this practice), low-priced drinks, and scrumptious food.
The site has a buffet area, pool rooms, bar rooms, a private room and a great deal of seating. Their daily specials include Bud cans for $2.50, free pool on Mondays, and special drafts for $4 on Wednesday.
The White Sox fan haven, Schaller’s Pump, has been serving cool cervezas for over 125 years. It is the oldest running tavern, opened originally in 1881, and it attracts those of the sporting and political variety. It’s a dive bar above the rest, showcasing a gathering of Sox paraphernalia, black and white accents, bullwhips -from the defected Union Stock Yard, a wooden bar along the northern wall, and low cost grub. The bar’s name derived from the fact that beer was literately pumped into the bar from a neighboring brewer’s giant casks.
This old school baseball bar was the hangout for five former Mayors prior to, during, and after, their reign. Schaller’s is so old school, in fact, that they don’t have a company website and probably never will. Rooted in comfort and tradition, the facility still commits to practices such as a live accordion player on Friday and Saturdays, Jeopardy on stage every weekday at 3:30pm, and old televisions with nuevo-flat screen fronts that broadcast all Sox and Cubs games.
The bread basket and crackers, given prior to your meal, are meant to suppress your hunger while you graze the appetizer-free menu. The menu, however, features delicious fare such as corned beef & cabbage, meatloaf, pork chops, seafood, liver sausage, and Schaller’s famous butt steak sandwich. Everything on the menu is only rated between $5 and $9. For the thirsty, there are three domestics on tap, and an assortment of whiskey.
The Twin Anchors
Located on Dearborn Parkway, the rib joint and tavern, The Twin Anchors has served the city for over 75 years, even serving musical legend Frank Sinatra on several occasions. The juke box-driven bar is housed in a building which dates back to 1881. Two members of the Chicago Yacht Club opened the waterhole, reviving it from its former glory as a speakeasy called, ‘Tante Lee Soft Drinks’.
Twin Anchors is a neighborhood bar that is known for its baby back ribs, timeless feel and its ‘Dirty Dancing’-like prohibitions, which is “Positively No Dancing.”While there is no dancing, there is still plenty of fun to be had at the highly acclaimed eatery. When you stop by, be sure to try the spicy and sweet Prohibition sauce or the Zesty “Soy”natra Sandwich- the vegetarian take on a sloppy Joe.
The Back Room
Stylish and vibrant, The Back Room is a 40 year enterprise that has made it their business to entertain with incredible live music every evening. Patrons walk a long brick path, and then they are greeted and led to the Showcase Lounge. From candlelit tables, customers are able to with torrent of talented jazz musicians.
The jazz house is different than others of its nature because it doesn’t allow standing. The clientele is expected to remain seated, so they can properly absorb hours of Chicago Jazz, Motown, Funk, R&B and Chicago Blues. The establishment prides itself on its upscale clientele, variety of musical features and romantic atmosphere. The cover is between $20 and $25, and drinks are $4 to $11.50.