Where to find Cheap Booze and Good Food
I have alot of little projects going on here at S'C'&C. Some of them have been in the works for years while others come together rather fast. Originally today's post was going to be a blowout extravaganza but I've decided to turn it into a running series. Something I always thought of as fun is checking out the local dive bars in Chicagoland. There's quite a few if you're willing to leave the comfort of the Near Northside. Some of them even serve food and some of those spots even serve some pretty good food. Today’s post features five dive bars where the food is better than the cheap booze. Bar crawl!
Sunnyday Tap (Chicago, IL)
There's not many dives left on the Northside. You will find one up on Elston though. The Sunnyday Tap has been around here a long time. Exactly how long I'm not sure but the inside goes back to at least the 70's. Any Northside dives still around are most likely Polish though Sunnyday is a hangout for folks from the Balkan crowd. They serve food what seems to be once in a blue moon. I've tried to eat here on a few occasions and they never had a cook. They grill up the standards like Cevapi and kebabs. One time I got lucky and decided to try the Sunday special Serbian Hamburger. It's a minced patty that's grilled up and served with some warm lepinja and a big scoop of Eastern European butter. Fresh cut fries come served with all lunches and dinners but they suffer from a single fry. I actually expected something totally different as the picture of what I ordered was an actual burger. Nonetheless I enjoyed this meat forward plate of drinking food and the beer here is dirt cheap.
Serb Burger at Sunnyday Tap
Small World Inn (Chicago, IL)
What I mean when I say you need to head towards Indiana to find the dives is you gotta go south. The closer you get to the border the more dives there seems to be. The Eastside of the city has it's own little community and the bars are a big part of it. Small World Inn sits on the busy stretch of 106th street just east of the bridge. I've written about this Eastern European bar before over on Serious Eats. At some point during the past calendar year I became aware of a Tuesday night taco special. Small World's location on the Eastside puts it in the middle of the Chicagoland deep fried taco pocket. An area where you’ll find a few spots on both sides of the IL/IN border where they make tacos this way. None of that store bought hard shell crap in these parts. Corn tortillas are stuffed with ground beef and held together with toothpicks while they take a bath in the deep fryer until golden and crispy. Toppings (L,T,C) go on when toothpicks are taken out. Tuesday’s only.
Deep Fried Taco Night at Small World Inn
Crow Bar (Chicago, IL)
Just down the block towards the Skyway is this old time dive. I finally stopped in here for Corned Beef and Cabbage day over the Southside parade. An annual event at this longtime bar on 106th that once successfully sued the long gone Crobar on account of disruption from non stop calls of people trying to contact Crobar but calling the Crow Bar instead. I'm not sure how long they've been doing their St. Patrick's Day corned beef special but it's definitely a big tradition in the area. Tons of families packed both the bar and also the banquet hall next door. The corned beef is all you can eat and comes served with all the traditional fixings as well as potato soup and Irish soda bread. Impressive job with the tender corned beef considering they make 100’s of pounds in celebration of Southside parade day each year. That said they make it for the menu year round. Call ahead though. You never know.
Corned Beef and Cabbage at Crow Bar
Cookie's Restaurant (Minooka, IL)
Cookie's is way out in Minooka. I'm not even sure how I ended up here. It was a couple years ago and I was out this way for something and must've found this little dive popular with locals. Aside from the booze they seem to really like the Poor Boy sandwich from here. Not to be confused with a Po Boy from New Orleans. A Poor Boy is actually a hyper regional eat from around this way. There's a place outside of Joliet called Merichka's that's pretty famous for this sandwich. Other spots in the area serve them and I gotta say I liked Cookie's version much more than Merichka's. Maybe that was bc I was splitting this heavy hitter made with a semi ground steak patty (essentially ground beef) that's placed onto a long roll that's been slathered with garlic and butter if not margarine or something to the likes. They always seem to be served on 8 inch rolls thus are big plates of food. They're said to have derived as an option for those who didn't want to spend on a steak but still wanted to get full.
Poor Boy Sandwich at Cookie's
Andy & Sophie's (Joliet, IL)
Thursday's are Cabbage Roll Day at Andy & Sophie’s in Joliet. Best get there early bc we arrived at 1:00 and got the last of the batch. Upon walking in we easily brought the average weight of customers down about 100 lbs. Blue Collar America is alive and well in these parts. As for the owners they came to the area from Poland and bought the place in 1974. They still live upstairs. Sophie does the cooking and Andy does the schmoozing. He’s got lots of stories to tell but beware bc PG-13 they are not, and why would they be? This was like a peek into the 70’s. A spot stuck in another time.
a peek inside
The menu changes daily and the bartender daughter said the corned beef and cabbage on Wed. is the most popular. Interesting bc the cabbage rolls were killer. I planned on returning for some of that corned beef and more stories from Andy who’s pretty much a walking stereotype of an old Polish guy who owns a bar BUT he and Sophie are retiring in June. What a shame but also what an awesome ending for this couple who's run this bar for the last 44 years. You can catch their story on retirement HERE. Sophie will still be cooking her comfort food thru June. There's little doubt the new owner would change it up but you never know. Plus it wont be the same without the namesake couple.
Cabbage Rolls at Andy & Sophie's
See ya next time @chibbqking