“Time flies… when you’re having rum”
With that comfortable rec-room feel, the Ravenswood Pub has been a home-away-from-home for Andersonville residents since 1995, carrying on a tradition that dates back to the 1950s. Cheap beers and a friendly vibe makes Ravenswood Pub the perfect spot for a drink after work, pool leagues, kickball teams, as well as the more notable weekly Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament and the annual Adopt-a-Sailor event. What more could you want in a local?
Not to be confused with Raven’s in Lincoln Park, Ravenswood Pub can be found on Ravenswood Avenue, just south of Catalpa, Rosehill Cemetery and Fireside Inn, and across from the Metra tracks and the newest of two Rogers Park Montessori sites. There you’ll find a one-story, wooden building with brown-painted paneling and a door of bright white below a maroon awning depicting a raven wearing a tophat and sipping a cocktail. Step through the door and you’ll find a cozy barroom with gray carpeting, filled with regulars perched on high-backed, black vinyl barstools around a wooden rectangular bar. A framed presentation of concert tickets and beer signs hang upon the walls under eight flatpanel televisions with Jeopardy! during the day (ala Old Town Ale House), Chicago sports at night and NTN interactive trivia. Additional entertainment can be had from the video poker machines on the bar, that features a pretty good selection of 10 beers on tap and two dozen more in bottles, including Delirium Tremens, Sierra Nevada and Landshark Lager. Beware the 40 types of tequila, including the Patron tequila machine from which iced shots are doled out far too often for the common good. The pub doesn’t officially serve food, but you might be able to snag some cheese puffs and they periodically offer a complimentary homecooked spread, particularly during Bears games.
Beyond the main bar area is a spacious room with long banquet hall-style tables and chairs, a Centipede arcade machine and a free pool table. Opposite the billiards is yet another room with a comfortable leather couch, a fireplace and a few more low-slung tables. A side door from this room leads out to a long cement patio that features a smattering of white plastic tables and chairs and, more importantly, complimentary bag-o (cornhole), ala Weeds Tavern. The inevitable round of flippy-cup ensues, much to my dismay.
The building housing Ravenswood Pub once served as a horse stable and later a facility that serviced Metra trains from the tracks across the street back up until the 1950s. Since then, the building was transformed into a bar, known at different times as Alice’s and Iris’s. In fact, one of the former owners, Mrs. Iverson, is now over 100 and lives next door. She still pops in every now and then in her wheelchair to have a glass of wine, with the help of her family. The place has been operated as the Ravenswood Pub since 1995 and, in 2004, the bar was sold to current publican Ken Hancock, a regular that used to live around the corner, who runs the place with his wife Lisa.
Since he assumed ownership, Ken has been busy putting his own personal stamp on the establishment. The Ravenswood Pub is now most well known from its Rock-Paper-Scissors League, held every Thursday night starting at 10:00pm. Visitors can sign up and the winner takes home a gift certificate to Ravenswood Pub (of course). The idea was inspired by a tournament held in Las Vegas, particularly as Ravenswood Pub needed something to differentiate itself (even nearby Big Joe’s has turtle races on Friday nights).
The Ravenswood Pub has also become well known for its “Adopt-a-Sailor” program that it has run every Christmas since 9/11. Adopt-a-Sailor is a way for you and I to recognize the efforts of over 100 young Navy enlistees following their completion of basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes in Great Lakes, just north of Waukegan. For many of these young sailors that come from all over the country and who have just completed eight weeks of intensive training, this is their first time back in the civilian world. Local businesses and the 20th District Police Department donate goods and services for raffle prizes, and neighbors prepare a mondo dinner that doesn’t last long considering what these sailors are used to eating at the base…
Amateur sporting enthusiasts will also appreciate that Ravenswood Pub hosts pool leagues every Tuesday and Wednesday, and the bar sponsors the locally formed Chicago Kickball League that plays every Wednesday from May to October (two seasons). As you would guess, Ravenswood Pub attracts a predominantly friendly local crowd from the Andersonville neighborhood in which the bar is found. Even Billy Corgan used to come in while living down the street, before the Smashing Pumpkins hit it big (and before he bought his purple palace in Lakeview, not to be confused with the actual Purple Palace).
“The barmaid was friendly but not too over the top. The annoying part was when the WASSUP!!!! broad came over and blah blah blahed all over me and wanted to take a picture. Um, no. I dug it, I’ll be back, I’ll get shnockered.”– excerpt from EarthToDori S. on Yelp! (September 17, 2007)
Though my initial impression of Ravenswood Pub was that of a tiny dump, it is anything but. As another Yelp!(er) named James C. put it, “If you know where this place is, you know that this hidden gem is so amazing you want to hide it from the masses. It’s hard to explain but this place takes you in and adopts you, gets you drunk and feeds you most of the time. Then makes sure you have a jacket and sends you home to bed.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. If you like Ravenswood Pub, you might also like Higgins Tavern and Foley’s in Lakeview, and The Corner in Bucktown. For more information, check out the Ravenswood Pub website. Paper beats rock, boo-yah!