Photo courtesy of Payton Chang
Like Gannon’s Pub further north, the Chipp Inn is one of the few places that reminds me of the now-defunct JT Collins. It’s a place where it is hard for anyone to feel out of place. Everything is cheap, even before the weekly specials, and the crowd is mellow and friendly. Add to that some pool, jazz and karaoke and you’ve got a pretty solid neighborhood tavern that dates back to 1897, serving as a speakeasy during Prohibition.
Though many mistakenly think it’s located in the East Ukrainian Village, Chipp Inn is actually located in Chicago’s Noble Square neighborhood, just east of Eckhart Park at the corner of Greenview and Fry in Noble Square. I’ve actually seen larger intersections when two back alleys come together… Anyhow, Chipp Inn is located in the base of an old, two-story wooden building with retro brown siding and a brick façade. The few front windows are choked with neon bar signs. Once inside, you’ll find a smallish room with walls of green and a gold-painted tin ceiling from which hang old-fashioned light fixtures. A battered wooden floor matches the bar that runs the length of the north wall in the front room with high-backed wooden barstools. The area behind the bar is chockers with so much Old Style and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer memorabilia that it gives even Lincoln Tavern a run for its money. Just beyond the bar are a pair of one-seater restrooms and beyond that is a tiny pool room where a game costs a very Charleston-like $0.50, and a smattering of additional seating lies across from the bar.
Chipp Inn features a surprisingly good selection of beer, with a handful on tap and a lot more in bottles. They even advertise Hamm’s and have a grab-bag special for under $2. What more could you want? Chipp Inn was actually the place where I celebrated the return of Bell’s Brewery to Chicago by drinking as much Kalamazoo Royal Amber as I could get my hands on once I realized they were back in the game. Chipp Inn doesn’t serve food, but you might be able to weasel your way into a bag of potato chips or a Slim Jim, they have an envelope full of delivery menus ala Guthries Tavern, and there’s a very good burrito joint around the corner on Ashland just north of Chicago. On the other hand, Chipp Inn does host an annual chili cook-off every November and regulars sometimes bring in food to share. How old-school is that? For entertainment, there’s an internet jukebox and a solitary, aerial TV just above the Bags machine (formerly Golden Tee and bowling) in the northeast corner of the room. Jazz is featured on Wednesdays and karaoke on Sundays. The annual spelling bee held in February provides much-needed winter entertainment, particularly as misspelled words require you to take a shot…
The crowd at Chipp Inn is just as you’d expect: a mix of young-ish, neighborhood Bohemians as regulars, who presumably avoid nearby Five Star, with its flashiness, and West Town Tavern for its steep prices. Cash is the only form of currency accepted here (and no ATM on the premises), but that shouldn’t be a problem as the booze is cheap, just don’t expect anything fancy. Strangely enough, Chipp Inn also hosts an annual spelling bee for adults every February – it’s just like those for kids, except that everyone is old and loaded.
Not much is known of Chipp Inn’s pre-Prohibition roots, but it is said that its legacy as a neighborhood tavern dates back at least 100 years. One can easily see why Chipp in is so beloved by those who know it, as it has everything you want in a local: a relaxed atmosphere, good beer selection, pool, jazz, and cheap—minus the bullshit all to common elsewhere. While other bars catering to the latest fads come and go, the Chipp Inn just keeps on keepin’ on. For more information, you’ll have to call Chipp Inn as they don’t have a website.