The somewhat oddly named “Ubaa and Old Crawford Inn” has been going strong since the bar and restaurant was established in 1939. Run by the same family during that time, Ubaa has satisfied the thirst and hunger of generations of local Skokians with excellent burgers and a surprisingly good beer selection. Ubaa is one of the only taverns in the entire suburb, self-described as the “World’s Largest Village,” and the relaxed mom and pop feel keeps the place popular.
Not to be confused with the UCLA Black Alumni Association, Unbanning Books Association of America or the Ugandan British Alumni Association, Ubaa is actually not an acronym. Rather, the bar used to be called “UBAR” until a city ordinance banned the use of “Bar” on any sign. Presumably in the spirit of “beauty in simplicity,” the owner simply changed the last letter of the pub’s name and “Ubaa” was born.
Ubaa and Old Crawford Inn can be found housed in the same one-story brick building at the southwest corner of Crawford and Harrison, which is the extreme northeast corner of Skokie. I’ve passed by the joint on numerous occasions, coming home from work, but only ventured inside for Sunday lunch following my first and only experience attending a bris… I’m not Jewish but a friend of mine is, and his son had to endure the painful, yet traditional ceremony on New Year’s Day 2006. It was an interesting ceremony: a rabbi, seemingly straight out of Seinfeld, hushed everybody and performed the “act” quite quickly after giving a brief history of the bris and the some of the rules involved, such as the proceedure having to be done no earlier than eight days after birth, even if it falls on the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, or any other Jewish holy day, and the bris can only be performed during daylight hours.
Anyhow, back at Ubaa, parking can be found in a tiny lot right in front of the tavern, which is impossible to maneuver your vehicle into a spot without driving on the sidewalk… though a bigger lot lies adjacent to the building – just mind the freestanding Old Style sign, chief. Once you’ve got your auto sorted, step through the wooden glass double doors and you can grab a seat at a wooden booth with checkered tablecloths in the “Old Crawford Inn” portion. This is the non-smoking section of the ale house, and is more family-friendly.
Otherwise, head through one of two more glass paned wooden doors, and you’ll find the main bar area where you can smoke (cigarettes are sold behind the bar). There you can’t miss the large, battered, wooden u-shaped bar that dominates the room and which the establishment was originally named after. The “ubar” is great, but it takes up a lot of space, leaving only seating around it at one of the wooden, high-backed chairs or at the lone cocktail table in the southwest corner of the room. You’ll also find a Golden Tee machine in northeast corner and a video pokie off to the left of the bar. UBAR is a good spot for watching the game as you can see all three televisions at the south end of the room from any seat in the house. Windows in the north and east walls look out over Harrison and Crawford, respectively, and are almost missed as they are set amongst a plethora of beer signs. A white drop ceiling rounds out the décor.
The kitchen at UBAR is located in the southwestern corner of the building, and offers traditional American fare consisting mostly of sandwiches and burgers, but also soups, chili and meatloaf – all of which are quite easy on the wallet. On my last visit, I had the buffalo chicken sandwich with hot sauce (you can also choose medium) and it was quite good, particularly as it was not as deep-fried as you find at John Barleycorn’s, Waterhouse and several other places, but lightly breaded and very tasty. Wash it all down from one of the dozen beers on draft, including Spaten, Blue Moon and Sierra Nevada, and more including Old Style can be found in bottles served from the large metal cooler within the “u.” All of the above is served to you by a very friendly waitstaff. My wife and I couldn’t get out of there without wishing everyone a happy new year about 10 times…
“This will be the establishment where I am going to buy my God Son Chuck his first brew.”– excerpt from by Nat on Centerstage Chicago (January 23, 2003)
Ubaa is like one of those old-school taverns that you find on the side of the highway in rural Midwestern areas. My mother’s aunt once owned a place just like Ubaa in Wisconsin, and I remember it fondly even though I was only there once as a child. The crowd is predominantly older locals, but a younger crowd descends as the night wears on. The atmosphere at Ubaa is very casual and low-key, and is quite conducive for political discussions and reminiscing. Overall, head to Ubaa and Old Crawford Inn for a great spot to grab some food, a couple of beers and whatever game happens to be on either after work or on the weekends. Ubaa? Hoo-haa!