In addition to being one of the most misspelled pub names in the city, the low-key Cunneen’s has become an East Rogers Park institution and a welcome outpost for tavern enthusiasts. With cheap beer, 50¢ pool and a conversation-friendly atmosphere, rest assured that there’s something for thee, whether you’re a student, laborer, professional, or retiree.
The watering hole in question can be found at the base of a three story, brown-brick apartment building at the northeast corner of Devon and Newgard Avenues. Though simply named “Cunneen’s,” you’ll find an even more humble Old Style sign with “Bottles & Cans” listed instead of the bar’s name, found elsewhere in white lettering on the forest green awning and stenciled in gold upon the windows.
Step through the plate-glass door and you’ll find a narrow room with a battered wooden floor, white-paneled drop ceiling and laminated wooden bar that runs the length of the western wall and serves up four brews on tap and 27 in bottles (including Schlitz, surprisingly, Schlitz). Pitchers run a recession-friendly $10.50-14.00 and all cocktails and beers run under $5. Cash only, please. The eclectic decor includes the finest faux wood paneling, a cigar store wooden Indian, Christmas lights, and black & white images of the Great Conflagration and the city’s past. A square, pink neon-rimmed clock hangs above the bar with the face of original Boss, Richard J. Daley. Inside the front windows overlooking Devon are a few plants and two coveted, thick wooden tables with church pew and wooden chair seating. This area is often claimed by regulars with a penchant for Scrabble and chess. Immediately opposite the front door are two mini La-Z-Boy chairs, suitable for reading the newspaper in.
Cheap beer and pitchers attract students and professors from nearby Loyola University as well as an older neighborhood clientele. For entertainment, music is provided by the bartender-spun tunes from CDs and, for a few of the old-school bar-hands, from their impressive vinyl record collection. If on, the TV features WGN and you’ll find cartoons and articles from The Onion posted in the john. If that’s not enough for ya, maybe a 50¢ game of pool will suit your fancy. Cunneen’s doesn’t have a kitchen, but they’ll be happy to order a pizza from Villa Palermo if you find yourself a bit peckish.
Cunneen’s was named after the original (and current) owner Steve Cunneen who, at the time of opening in 1974, was a medical school grad who decided to open the bar upon graduation with his buddies rather than to pursue a more “reputable” career, God love ‘im… And, for those of you Ed Holstein fans, he’s taken his bar apron and moved on, but the bearded Bill Savage with his Cubs hat and white towel and Maglite hanging out of his back pocket is still tending bar after 20+ years, but only on certain nights (if you’re lucky).
The crew from Forgotten Chicago
To many, Cunneen’s is a neighborhood tavern. To others, ‘Neen’s is a far north Woodlawn Tap-like dive bar. Whatever your perspective, downing a few (read: several) cheap beers is a great way to spend an evening or lazy afternoon during an old-fashioned Chicago winter, such as those we’ve been having lately. For more information, check out the Cunneen’s Website. Oi!