Cardozo’s Pub is quite likely the least known bar in the Loop, due to its tiny entrance and its coffee shop vibe. On the other hand, Cardozo’s is the closest pub to City Hall, so all the lawyers and staffers know all about its retro vibe, cheap drinks, and inexpensive board of fare. When you’re hungry at lunchtime or thirsty after work and want to take a step back in time to the 80s in a way that’s easy on your budget, make sure to drop into Cardozo’s Pub.
Since 1979, Cardozo’s has operated from the north side of Washington Street, in-between LaSalle & Wells. A small green sign with white lettering advertises the pub, along with a white sign announcing its hours of operation from 10:30am to 10pm, Monday through Friday. Enter through the plate-glass door and you’ll find a carpeted stairwell with back-lit stained glass leading into the pub’s underground lair.
Once fully descended, you’ll find a surprisingly spacious, oak-paneled room (for such a small entryway), filled mostly with tall-backed, brown-padded wooden booths and low-slung wooden tables and chairs with green padding. Wood-paneled columns also feature mirrors to make the place look even bigger. Green-patterned carpeting, neon beer signs, a low concrete ceiling, and a white-stuccoed southern wall rounds out the decor. A backroom is separated from main area by French doors and features more low-slung tables and a flatpanel TV.
A wooden bar with a pinkish laminated top extends most of the way along the eastern wall, where you’ll find Jagermeister and five beers on tap, including Miller Lite for $2.50 and pitchers for $11, and Goose Island 312 and Guinness for $4.50. A colorful stuffed bass above the bar is kept company by two stuffed monkeys hanging from white track lighting. Two TVs can be found at either end, and an impressive array of glassware hangs above the bar. When that after-work pitcher gets the best of you, the restrooms are located through the western wall.
The menu features classic greasy spoon favorites ala Marquette Inn and Courtway Restaurant that includes fried chicken, French dip, chopped steak, London broil, and burgers, alongside an Italian section offering panini sandwiches, pasta, a good salad selection, and a few shrimp dishes. Waitresses with bread baskets in hand serve the tables, while you’ll find a few cougars behind the bar.
The crowd at Cardozo’s consists primarily of middle-aged Loop office workers that live in the suburbs who like to have a couple before heading home to the kids. On the other hand, if you pop in after the lunch crowd has dissipated, you’ll find an odd collection of inebriated lawyers, illicit meet-ups and tourists from St. Louis.
So, if you want a cost-effective, sit-down lunch option or drinks after work without the “scene” and free appetizers that include buffalo wings and sausages for happy hour, Cardozo’s Pub is your place and one of the last of its kind, now that its subterranean Loop brethren are gone (Alumni Club located in the Smurfit-Stone Container Building and J. Randolph’s Bar & Grill across the street). Cardozo’s Pub is now over 30 years old, though many claim that the place has been a bar since Prohibition, and it’s likely to be here for at least another three decades. If you like Cardozo’s Pub, you might also like Stocks & Blondes on Wells, Monk’s Pub on Lake and Coogan’s Riverside Saloon on Wacker. Whatever the case, make sure you stop by Cardozo’s Pub the next time you’re in the Loop. For more information, you’ll have to phone first as Cardozo’s Pub does not have a website. Salute!