“Good Eats, Nice Beats”
It isn’t often that a cute young lady goes to review a bar and is recited perfectly plagiarized poetry in broken English. That, I can say, was a wonderful start to a recent night out at the Morseland on well, Morse Avenue, in East Rogers Park. It was when I sat down at the high-top seating area surrounding the DJ station in the dimly lit yet funky lounge when I noticed a dark haired Eastern European stranger eyeing me in the corner while writing in a notebook. My first thoughts, naturally, were, “Is he writing a bar review, too?”
Three drinks and a steak, green olive, and feta cheese quesadilla later I came to find the answer. The Russian approached me in a polite yet confident manner and asked me if I would like to hear a poem written entirely for me out of his own admiration. My consent was instantaneous. The poem turned out to be a slightly altered version of the Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs hit from the sixties (think: he changed the wording from Little Red Riding “Hood” to “hat” to fit what I was actually wearing), but nonetheless, I was being admired. Then I sent the Russian on an “assignment” to, ahem, get him out of my hair and photograph everything and anything he could possibly find in the joint in order to help me with my bar review. He actually came back with some pretty good shots which you can see here.
So, while the Russian was distracted I took the opportunity to hit on, I mean, acquire necessary review information from the DJ Lokua, who spins every Wednesday night and waits tables at this same venue on others. He had the whole place grooving and his music actually put me in a trance. My favorite part of DJ Lokua’s spinning abilities was that he was so relaxed and comfortable with what he was doing that he would spin a little, then eat some french fries, spin some more, take a bite of his sandwich, take a drink, and change a computer setting. DJ Lokua brings in a different guest DJ to spin with him every week and this week it was Big Once, a guy who looked like he was focusing on his music as though it was rocket science.
Aside from the solid Wednesday night electronica spinning, Morseland offers a variety of musical experiences. Sunday and Monday nights always feature jazz (8pm and 9pm, respectively), with various singers and bands, and two Tuesdays of every month are nights when any ol’ bluesman can come and jam. To keep things interesting, entertainment on other nights of the week always varies, so check out the musical listings on the Morseland website when you are ready to head on over.
Morseland specializes in mint and lime inspired drinks, like the Cuban Mojito or the Caipirinha from Brazil. The drinks, however, don’t stop there. For those who like to take it easy(er), there is a wide array of draft beers that are ever changing, according to owner David Meihaus, which currently include the likes of Bell’s Amber, Fuller’s ESB, Guinness, Harp, Lagunitas IPA, Leffe Brune, PBR, Smithwick’s, Stella Artois, and Two Brothers Domaine DuPage.
The food here is pretty good, too. My last visit was my third time there and the second time in which I had a quesadilla. Although this time the tortilla was a bit too dry, their quesadillas are usually the best, because you can choose three fillings of your choice—for me a given is green and black olives. To this day, my dad is the only other person I know of that has ever put olives inside of a quesadilla, but they are now a food I cannot do without! In addition to the usual array of pub grub, Morseland offers Sunday brunch starting at 11am, and food delivery is also available.
Morseland has been owned by the same partners for over six years now, but prior to opening it in late 2003, it was gutted and remodeled inside. In its previous life, the space was called the Morseland Music Room, which was a fairly popular rock hangout with shows every night a la Elbo Room, Rockhouse and Reggie’s until closing in 2002. Prior to that, the place was a Chinese joint called On the Dow. Today’s Morseland now features a vintage oak bar topped with Brazilian slate, several hanging light fixtures, a tin ceiling, a new paint job, and various funky wall designs and hangings. It has a pretty wide stage, too, wrapped by heavy burgundy curtains.
By my opinion, Morseland is the gem of the neighborhood. From its exposed brick walls to the mixed crowd playing pool, to the variety of nightly entertainment, I would say that this place makes Rogers Park. Bonus: Morseland even has a nicely sized parking lot with free parking-in a word, amazing. For more information, check out the Morseland website.