“Home of the Arts”
Dark. Dingy. Grungy. Perfect. A die-hard, bohemian clientele flocks to the Inner Town Pub every night of the week, which acts as their muse and matches their scruffiness. The Inner Town Pub takes its name in part from its location “inner-town,” otherwise known as the Ukrainian Village, and for its pub-like atmosphere conducive to the swilling of ale, art of conversation, open-mic, pool and dart matches, and remembrance of “The King.”
The Inner Town has fit in nicely in the gothic neighborhood that surrounds it since its opening in 1983. Previous to that, the bar was a Polish tavern and was a speakeasy during Prohibition. All in all, the present-day Inner Town Pub has been a bar for the last 100 years, here at the corner of Thomas and Winchester (one block east of Damen and two blocks south of Division). For those of you not used to bars in the Ukrainian Village, Humboldt Park or even Rogers Park, don’t fret over the black iron bars placed over the doorway and smallish windows. They’re only meant to keep out rogue elements after close – and you’re not a rogue element, are you? While the neighborhood is still a bit rough despite recent regentrification activity, patrons at the Inner Town are not. Just head through the metalworking and into this red-brick temple of nightlife for “cocktails” as suggested by the bright sign depicting a blonde with a nice rack walking in front of tenements.
Photo courtesy of Ramon CotaOnce you step inside, you’ll immediately get a warm sense at the Inner Town with its dim glow, laid-back barflies, cracked orange and white linoleum floor, pealing black ceiling, and tunes from the likes of Tom Waits, David Bowie, and several other artists I’ve never heard of. How satisfying it is that the music isn’t blared out from the jukebox in Gin Mill style. Lighting within this darkened chamber is emitted from a couple of ceiling fans, candles in stained glass holders, two backlit green signs with a nude woman (one on a crescent moon, one standing with flowing hair), orange string lights, two lights with owls at their base, and flashing “Welcome to Innertown” sign behind the bar. There is also an intriguing, backlit, stained glass panel depicting the Inner Town Pub emblem amongst oranges, reds, yellows, and blues in the back of the room under two mounted guitars. Running along the west side of the room is the old, red-vinyl padded bar itself with matching red-vinyl bar stools. Behind it is a fascinating array of bar-iana that includes a 60’s Elvis bust made into a lamp, a stuffed moose head framed by army helmets on posts, glassware that hangs upside down below a UN-endorsable collection of tiny country flags (and slightly larger American flag), a stuffed fish, a Hawaiian Elvis painted on the wooden door behind the bar, a battered white refrigerator, and a stone elephant set upon a loudspeaker next to the silent TV in the corner. The bar offers a basic selection of cheap beer, highlighted by domestic pints for $2, and does not serve food.
“More colorful characters per capita than any other bar in town”– Official Chicago Bar Guide (2001)
Photo courtesy of Joe TallaricoThe pleasant grunginess of the Inner Town Pub rivals that of other eclectic haunts like Gold Star, Friar Tuck, and Beachwood Inn, and was enhanced one night by the wet dog that came in and kicked up a fuss until it was petted. Overall, Inner Town feels like a cross between the Charleston and the Red Lion Pub, and could easily be located in Bucktown or the East Village in New York City for that matter. From Mike, the “urban cowboy,” mistreator of “Jo-Jo” and owner, and his free-drink favoritism to the endless banter of locals, the Inner Town Pub is one of the last, classic joints that truly embodies the neighborhood it serves. For more information, check out the Inner Town Pub website. Welcome to Inner Town.